the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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sam clovis withdraws nomination for agriculture department chief scientist

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credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP

We’ve written about his preposterous nomination before due to his sheer inadequacy for the job and thankfully Sam Clovis has finally withdrawn his nomination for chief scientist of the agriculture department. Clovis is a climate change sceptic and was just another cog in the anti-science Trump administration. However make no mistake, his lack of qualification for the job is not why he withdrew his nomination. Clovis wrote to president Trump this week saying that he ‘did not want to be a distraction’ after it was revealed that he had communication with George Papadopoulos  who admitted to the FBI that he lied about his work with Robert Mueller as part of the investigations into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Clovis who had not yet been confirmed by the senate would have faced presumably intense scrutiny on his Russian connections by the Senate agriculture committee had he not withdrawn.

Either way, Clovis’ withdrawal is good news for the department of agriculture’s science department, perhaps their next pick will be an actual scientist suited to such an important governmental position.


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monsanto sues arkansas over dicamba ban

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credit: flickr/Alternative Heat

In the most recent development in the dicamba scandal Monsanto have filed a lawsuit in Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court, suing state regulators for blocking dicamba for the 2018 growing season. The herbicide is controversial to say the least, increasing yields in resistant crops but simultaneously killing all other life in the region through drift which subsequently caused serious conflict between neighbours. Monsanto’s argument basically claims that the states ban is depriving Arkansas’ farmers. However many farmers are compelled to use the weedkiller only in a bid to keep up with their neighbours. It’s a race to the toxic bottom.

“The weeds have become so difficult to manage that some farmers don’t see any way that they control them without this,” says Bob Hartzler, a weed specialist at Iowa State University. “If you feel that way then you’re probably willing to take on some higher-level risk.”

Dicamba was introduced to the market because Monsanto’s previous money maker RoundUp has become ineffective against many weeds as they have adapted over decades of exposure. This line of argumentation in favour of adoption of the even more toxic dicamba isn’t particularly convincing as far as I am concerned irrespective of Monsanto’s safety claims.

Unlike glyphosate… dicamba comes with a major liability: it tends to combust in conditions of high heat. That’s why no one has really used it, even though the chemical has been around for years—until Monsanto’s low-volatility version promised to change that. But some evidence suggests that XtendiMax may be more unstable than Monsanto acknowledges. There have been widespread reports of crop damage—as many as 1,000 in Arkansas this year so far, according to the Associated Press. Conventional (non-modified) soybeans are extremely sensitive to dicamba, and farmers are alleging that their fields are being damaged by their neighbors’ applications.

To read the full article click HERE.


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bad news for those of you following the dicamba issue…

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The EPA has finally announced its decision on dicamba last week. The department, headed by Scott Pruitt has decided to allow farmers to continue to spray the weed killer on Monsanto soybean and cotton crops. With increasingly widespread use of roundup and other weed killers, many invasive weeds have become resistant over time. Dicamba is marketed as a product that can replace these now ineffective weed killers. There is no mention of what is to happen when Dicamba also fails to be an effective weedkiller, although if we keep spraying our food and environments with poison, we may not be around to have to contend with this problem. (After all, there is significant evidence to suggest that the use of pesticides over the last few decades has lead to a rapid increase in colony collapse and pollinator deaths.)

The use of dicamba is not just a problem for the animals and people who end up as the eventual consumers, or for the farmer who chose to employ it on their land. It’s toxicity be confined within the borders of a particular piece of land and there is a huge risk of drift into neighbouring farms. Diamba cannot be contained just the latest EPA regulations are a feeble attempt to do just that. This is the text of their October 13th press release:

EPA has reached an agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont on measures to further minimize the potential for drift to damage neighboring crops from the use of dicamba formulations used to control weeds in genetically modified cotton and soybeans. New requirements for the use of dicamba “over the top” (application to growing plants) will allow farmers to make informed choices for seed purchases for the 2018 growing season.

“Today’s actions are the result of intensive, collaborative efforts, working side by side with the states and university scientists from across the nation who have first-hand knowledge of the problem and workable solutions,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Our collective efforts with our state partners ensure we are relying on the best, on-the-ground, information.”

In a series of discussions, EPA worked cooperatively with states, land-grant universities, and the pesticide manufacturers to examine the underlying causes of recent crop damage in the farm belt and southeast.  EPA carefully reviewed the available information and developed tangible changes to be implemented during the 2018 growing season. This is an example of cooperative federalism that leads to workable national-level solutions.

Manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to label changes that impose additional requirements for “over the top” use of these products next year including:

  • Classifying products as “restricted use,” permitting only certified applicators with special training, and those under their supervision, to apply them; dicamba-specific training for all certified applicators to reinforce proper use;
  • Requiring farmers to maintain specific records regarding the use of these products to improve compliance with label restrictions;
  • Limiting applications to when maximum wind speeds are below 10 mph (from 15 mph) to reduce potential spray drift;
  • Reducing the times during the day when applications can occur;
  • Including tank clean-out language to prevent cross contamination; and
  • Enhancing susceptible crop language and record keeping with sensitive crop registries to increase awareness of risk to especially sensitive crops nearby.

Manufacturers have agreed to a process to get the revised labels into the hands of farmers in time for the 2018 use season. EPA will monitor the success of these changes to help inform our decision whether to allow the continued “over the top” use of dicamba beyond the 2018 growing season. When EPA registered these products, it set the registrations to expire in 2 years to allow EPA to change the registration, if necessary.

EPA Website 

These new regulations do not address the issues of drift in any substantial way. Farmer David Wildy, who has first hand experience of having his soy crops destroyed by Dicamba drift from a neighbouring farm, in an interview with NPR earlier this month spoke about how Dicamba use is dividing rural communities. The inability for farmers to control the drift in any meaningful sense means that there is no guarantee that neighbours will not have their crops and livelihood destroyed (not to mention the toxic  effects that it has on wildlife ecosystems, soil and water health, and human health).

Most worryingly, as the risk from drift increases, more and more farmers in cotton and soy farming regions will be more increasingly likely to adopt Dicamba resistant crops and subsequently adopt Dicamba as a means of weed control. Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy unsurprisingly welcomed the new regulations and expects the use of Dicamba to double this coming year as a result.


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learn about the history and anthropology of mead with this awesome mead-zine

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Check out this awesome zine about making mead sent to us by our friend Jonathan Tanis. It starts with an introduction contextualising fermentation as a political act which is both democratizing and embraces the commons, bubbling away with “unrealized possibility” for forming human connections and alliances. It then moves on to explain the historical and anthropological contexts of mead making. Humans have been consuming honey for nearly 9,000 years and mead has featured heavily throughout our civilizations. Naturally there are also instructions and a recipe for brewing your own mead at home!

This is a fascinating and inspiring read full of history, art, poetry and politics, and as the authors say, in this time of global strife and agitation, make mead, not war.

If you or somebody you know is an artist, poet, academic or farmer, and would like to  get involved with future Culture & Agriculture or Agropunk zines, please contact Jonathan at justjontanis@gmail.com.


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pick for chief scientist of the usda…is not a scientist

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photo credit: Alex Hanson 

Sam Clovis, Trumps nominee for chief scientist of the USDA, is not a scientist, he does however, question the scientific consensus that climate change is a result of human activity.

“I have looked at the science,” Clovis said, “and I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed. And a lot of what we see is junk science.”

So, there we have it, the guy who will be responsible for the USDA’s $3 billion budget, which, among other things, funds research to assist in mitigating the effects of climate change on farmers and ranchers, doesn’t believe in climate change. What we see here is the epitome of fake news in the Trump era, when a man, who is not a scientist can be elevated to the position of chief scientist of a department, which relies on scientific data for much of its operations, you have to admit that reality is finally stranger than fiction. Clovis is utterly unqualified for this position, a common theme in the Trump administration, which may pose some barriers to his confirmation in the senate. The senate hearing has not yet been scheduled yet, but if Clovis is successful, it could have devastating and long-term effects on the sector.

Click HERE to read the full article.


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black farmer from charlottesville address the subtle racism that he faces in his community.

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credit: facebook/Sylvanaqua Farms

Chris Newman is a farmer in Charlottesville working towards a sustainable, healthy and organic future for his family and community. Yet despite this, Chris, as a black man faces racial profiling and discrimination on a regular basis. He has been attracting a lot of attention lately due to his recent facebook post that called out the counter-protests that took place after the white nationalist protest against the removal of a confederate monument saying that he felt “far less bothered by the flag wavers in this picture [above] than this town’s progressives assuming its race problem has nothing to do with them.”
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ICE to undocumented Farm Workers: “You should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder. You need to be worried.”

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As we know, farm workers are one of the most essential parts of the food supply chain. Without their dedication and hard work, the food they produce would never reach our table. In the US, the vast majority of farm workers are undocumented and so are constantly subject to persecution, low wages and deportation.  The United Farm Workers have been fighting for years for rights for undocumented farm workers to gain citizenship, but they have not yet won their fight. Raids on farm workers are happening at a faster rate than ever before and undocumented farm workers constantly live life in fear of deportation.

In the words of acting ICE Director Homan to undocumented immigrants including those feeding us and our communities, “You should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder. You need to be worried.”

Farm workers and their families are constantly worried that they will be next and are often targeted on the basis of their race. As hate and fear are finding footholds all over the country, now is the time to support our farm workers and farming communities. The UFW are working to educate workers about their rights and continue to campaign on behalf of undocumented farm workers in a bid to secure residency rights for these essential  members of our community, some of whom have been working hard and paying taxes for over 20 years.

To find out more  about the work being done by the United Farm Workers, or to donate to this important cause click here