USDA Denies Request to Delay Almond Rule

This stinks like a dead skunk in the road. Big agriculture finds another way to bankrupt the small farmers (who can’t afford to comply). And it’s so politcally correct: "they are looking out for the consumer". If you want to see the background story, read this: I Love California Almonds, but…

Link: USDA Denies Request to Delay Almond Rule –


A new rule requiring all California almonds to be pasteurized will go into effect Sept. 1, despite farmers’ requests to postpone the provision for six months, federal agricultural officials said.

The growers, represented by the California Almond Board, said they needed the extra time to get the necessary equipment and processes in place to avoid an interruption in the flow of nuts to market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to implement the rule stemmed from salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.

Farmers’ worries about being able to meet the rule’s requirements, particularly when faced with an expected bumper crop of 1.33 billion pounds of almonds this year, were taken into consideration, but public health was the main concern, federal officials said.

"While we understand the Board’s concerns, USDA also wants to ensure that the quality and safety of almonds and almond products in the marketplace continue to improve," Robert Keeney, deputy administrator of the department’s fruit and vegetable programs, wrote in a letter to the Almond Board dated Thursday. "These goals require measures to help reduce the potential of a third salmonella outbreak linked to almonds."

Almond production in the United States has surged as the nut’s popularity increases among health-conscious consumers, and California has dominated world production. The state’s 6,000 almond farmers expect their crop to fetch $1.4 billion this year.

Followers of raw food diets and shoppers who prefer unprocessed, organic nuts protested the government’s original pasteurization decision and organized a national letter-writing campaign asking the USDA to reconsider.

The pasteurization process, also used to sterilize milk, juice and eggs, typically exposes the shelled and hulled nuts to a moist burst of steam, which heats their surface to about 200 degrees, killing any pathogens. An alternative sterilization process sends the almonds into a chamber where they’re sprayed with a gas.

The USDA advised the Almond Board that almonds may be treated by facilities with pasteurization processes that haven’t received the board’s final approval. This would ease some concerns growers had about not having adequate facilities to pasteurize the nuts in time to meet the deadline, board officials said.

"The USDA has been receptive to hearing the implementation concerns the industry has, which mostly revolved around logistics, and the USDA has pledged their assistance," said Richard Waycott, the board’s president and CEO.

Some industry representatives still opposed the move, saying there was little input from consumers, who might switch to imported raw almonds that don’t fall under the same regulations.

"The public had no opportunity to get involved in this process," said Will Fantle, research director at the Wisconsin-based farm policy group Cornucopia Institute.

Beautiful Image: Ayers Rock

Link: Earth Shots » Ayers Rock by Juan Iglesias.


Juan Iglesias says:

One of the most important and impressive sacred places in the aboriginal culture.

I was born in Oviedo (Spain), in 1971. I studied Biology at the Oviedo University. I worked during many years in brown bears (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus signatus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) research projects. Now I’m freelance wildlife photographer since 1994, especialized in wildlife and landscapes, but also travel and other reports.

Equipment: Canon EOS 1 D + Canon EF 16-35 f:2.8L

A History of the American Environmental Movement

Link: Environmental Movement History

  • July 4, 1845: Henry David Thoreau moved to Walden Pond.
  • 1847: George Perkins Marsh gave a speech to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. He called attention to the destructive impact of human activity on the land, especially through deforestation. He advocated a conservationist approach to the management of forested lands. The speech was published in 1847. It became the basis for his book Man and Nature or The Earth as Modified by Human Action, first published in 1864 and reprinted many times thereafter.
  • 1864: Posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, in which Thoreau called for the establishment of "national preserves" of virgin forest.
  • 1864: Congress passed legislation giving Yosemite Valley to the state of California as a park.
  • 1866: The word "ecology" was coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel.
  • 1876: Appalachian Mountain Club founded
  • 1869: John Muir moved to Yosemite Valley.
  • 1872: Congress passed legislation making Yellowstone the world’s first official National Park.
  • 1872: Congress passed the now-infamous Mining Law under which companies and individuals may buy the mining rights for public land thought to contain minerals for $5 per acre or less.
  • 1886: Audubon Society founded
  • September 25, 1890: Congress passed legislation establishing Sequoia National Park, California
  • October 1, 1890: Congress passed legislation establishing Yosemite and General Grant National Parks, California.
  • 1891: Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, empowering the President to create "forest reserves." This created the legislative foundation for what became the National Forest system.
  • June 4, 1892: Sierra Club incorporated with John Muir as President
  • 1893: President Benjamin Harrison created the 13 million acres of forest reserves including four million acres covering much of the High Sierra.
  • 1898: Gifford Pinchot was appointed chief of the Division of Forestry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, begining an era of scientific forestry where, theoretically, clear-cutting was to be abandoned.
  • 1901: First Sierra Club outing (to Tuolomne Meadows)
  • 1903: Teddy Roosevelt visited Yosemite with Muir
  • 1905: California legislature agreed to return Yosemite Valley to federal control
  • March 15, 1910: The amazing Lakeview Gusher started spewing crude oil into the air of the San Joaquin Valley in California. Oil shot into the air at an estinated 125,000 barrels a day from a column of oil and sand 20 feet in diamter and 200 feet high (6 meters by 60 meters). The gushing continued at a reduced rate for 18 months and released approximately 9.4 million barrels. According to the San Joaquin Geological Society website, "Preachers and their flocks prayed that oil might not cover the earth and bring about its flaming destruction." Half the oil was captured and processed but the rest flowed into local rivers, agricultural land, the air and the water table.
  • 1913: Congress authorized the dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
  • 1915: California legislature authorized $10,000 to start planning and construction of the John Muir Trail
  • 1916: National Park Service founded with Stephen Mather as President
  • January, 1935: The Wilderness Society was founded. In the first issue of their magazine Living Wilderness, editor Robert Sterling Yard wrote, "The Wilderness Society is born of an emergency in conservation which admits of no delay. The craze is to build all the highways possible everywhere while billions may yet be borrowed from the unlucky future."
  • October, 1948 An atmospheric inversion in Donora held the town under a cloud of gas from the Donora Zinc Works. Twenty people died. Public outcry over the incident forced the federal government to begin studying air pollution, it’s causes, effects, and how to control it. This led to the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, the ancestor of the Clear Air Act of 1970 (see below).<
  • 1949: Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold published posthumously. LI>1952: David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Under his leadership, the Club became America’s foremost environmental protection organization.
  • 1955: As a result of public pressure, the federal government dropped plans for a dam in Dinosaur National Monument. Building on the momentum generated by this success, the Wilderness Bill, drafted by Howard Zanhiser, was introduced into Congress by Hubert Humphrey and John Saylor.
  • 1962: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson published. The book alerted the general public to the dangers of pesticides, particularly the dangers to humans. Yet she remained in the tradition of Muir, summarizing her main argument, "The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man."
  • 1964: The Wilderness Act passed, establishing a process for permanently protecting some lands from development.
  • 1965: The Sierra Club brought suit to protect New York’s Storm King Mountain from a power project. The case established a precedent, allowing the Club standing for a non-economic interest in the case.
  • June, 1966: Sierra Club published full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times and Washington Post against building a dam that would flood the Grand Canyon. The next day, the IRS hand-delivered a suspension of the Club’s tax-exempt status. This action boosted the Club’s prestige and membership and helped in the fight to save the Canyon. The ad in question said simply, "This time it’s the Grand Canyon they want to flood. The Grand Canyon."
  • 1968: Grand Canyon dam plan killed.
  • 1969: Santa Barbara Oil Spill — Oil from Union Oil’s offshore wells fouled beaches in Southern California and aroused public anger against pollution.
  • 1969: National Environmental Policy Act passed and Environmental Protection Agency created. In this, the first major U.S. environmental legislation, Congress declared: "that it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."2/ NEPA 101(a), 42 U.S.C. 4331(a).
  • 1970: Clean Air Act passed, greatly expanding protection began by the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955.
  • April 22, 1970: Earth Day
  • 1972: DDT banned in US.
  • 1972: Water Pollution Control Act passed over President Nixon’s veto. The final tally was overwhelming: 52 to 12 in the Senate, 247 to 23 in the House.
  • Dec. 28, 1973: The Endangered Species Act was passed. In the famous decision of 1977 (see below) the Supreme Court validated the principles of this Act. Since then, it has become one of the most powerful tools in the continuing effort to protect the environment in the U.S.
  • June 15, 1977: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 1973 Endangered Species Act and stopped construction of the Tellico Dam.

    In 1975, Law professor Zygmunt Plater and student Hiram Hill filed the first petition under the Endangered Species Act. They called on the Department of the Interior to list the snail darter as an endangered species. The snail darter is a small fish that lives in the Little Tennessee River below the Tellico dam site.

    In 1976, zoologist David Etnier, who discovered the snail darter, joined Platner, Hill and others in filing a lawsuit to stop construction of the dam.

    On May 25, 1976, a judge ruled that it was too late to stop the project. The government had already spent $80 million and the dam was almost finished. But the plaintiffs appealed and on June 15, 1977, in the case of Tennessee Valley Authority vs. Hill et al., the Supreme Court ruled to suspend construction. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in his opinion, "It is clear that Congress intended to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction whatever the cost."

    It was important that such an insignificant species became the test case for the Act. It allowed the argument to proceed without the sort of emotion that would have been raised if some cute or famous species had been the first listed. Though opponants of environmental protection made many jokes about it, the decision over the snail darter made the Supreme Court’s decision completely unambiguous. It doesn’t matter whether people love the animal in question, or even know of it’s existence. Extinction of species is bad and should be avoided.

  • August, 1978: President Carter declared an emergency at Love Canal. The Love Canal scandal alerted the country to the long-term, hidden dangers of pollution of soil and groundwater.
  • March 28, 1979: Three Mile Island nuclear power plant almost had a meltdown, giving the nuclear power industry a permanent black eye.
  • 1980: Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, designating over100 million acres of parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.
  • April 26, 1986: The Number Four reactor at Chernobyl suffered a disastrous explosion and fire. Thirty-one pople died in the days after the accident and many thousands were subjected to radiation. The nuclear power industry has never recovered from the effects of the publicity given to this, the worst nuclear accident to date.
  • March 24, 1989: Exxon Valdez disaster.
  • September 28, 1994: Mono Lake — court decided minimum stream flows must be maintained.
  • 1994: Unocal diluent spill discovered. — An 8.5 million gallon spill of diluent was discovered at Unocal’s Guadalupe oil field. This is the second largest known spill in California history — so far. (See above, 1910, for the largest.)
  • Dec. 10, 1997: A 23-year-old woman named Julia Butterfly Hill climbed into a 55-meter (180 foot) tall California Coast Redwood tree. Her aim was to prevent the destruction of the tree and of the forest where it had lived for a millennium.
  • September 17, 1998: David "Gypsy" Chain was killed by a tree felled by employees of Pacific Lumber/Maxxam Corporation. Chain was in the forest protesting the destruction of some of the last remaining old-growth redwood trees in the world.
  • December 18, 1999: Julia Butterfly Hill came down from Luna after concluding a deal with Pacific Lumber/Maxxam Corporation to save the tree and a three-acre buffer zone.
  • February 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol comes into effect. Almost all countries in the world are now pledged to reduce the emission of gasses that contribute to global warming.
  • A Critique of “An Inconvenient Truth”

    Global Warming Hoax (can they be objective with that name?) points out some problems with Al Gore’s movie and slide presentation, according to their set of facts. I wholeheartedly agree with one conclusion from the report — see below.

    Link: Global Warming Hoax: Facts and Fictions of Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth"

    The only way to reduce atmospheric CO2 would be to have solar panels on the roof of every house and building, windmills in every yard and electric cars in every driveway. It is something we will have to do anyway because someday the fossil fuels will run out. Doing these things will not require the political will that Al says people need to have. People will be more than happy to convert because it will save them the ridiculous amounts of money that people spend on home utilities and gasoline.

    via Chris A.

    Beautiful Image: Morning Glow

    I spent some time backpacking in the San Juan Mountains in my younger days. This photo captures the beauty that I saw.

    Link: Earth Shots » Morning Glow by Tad Bowman

    San Juan Mountains

    Tad Bowman says:

    This photograph was taken at sunrise in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. A storm had come throught that night and the remaining clouds caught the glow of the new sun for the day. Equipment: Canon EOS 1ds MII, 24-70 L Series Zoom Lens Tad Bowman

    Save-A-Watt Makes Sense in Energy

    Thomas Friedman discusses a proposal by Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy. "Save-a-watt" would reward utilities for the kilowatts they save customers by improving their energy efficiency rather than rewarding them for the kilowatts they sell customers by building more power plants. Excerpts below.

    Link: The mother of all energy paradigm shifts by Thomas Friedman

    Rogers’ proposal is based on three simple principles. The first is that the cheapest way to generate clean, emissions-free power is by improving energy efficiency. Or, as he puts it, "The most environmentally sound, inexpensive and reliable power plant is the one we don’t have to build because we’ve helped our customers save energy."

    Second, we need to make energy efficiency something that is as "back of mind" as energy usage. If energy efficiency depends on people remembering to do 20 things on a checklist, it’s not going to happen at scale.

    Third, the only institutions that have the infrastructure, capital and customer base to empower lots of people to become energy efficient are the utilities, so they are the ones who need to be incentivized to make big investments in efficiency that can be accessed by every customer.

    "The way it would work is that the utility would spend the money and take the risk to make its customers as energy efficient as possible," he explained. That would include installing devices in your home that would allow the utility to adjust your air-conditioners or refrigerators at peak usage times. It would include plans to incentivize contractors to build more efficient homes with more efficient boilers, heaters, appliances and insulation. It could even include partnering with a factory to buy the most energy-efficient equipment or with a family to winterize their house.

    "Energy efficiency is the `fifth fuel’ – after coal, gas, renewables and nuclear," said Rogers. "Today, it is the lowest-cost alternative and is emissions-free. It should be our first choice in meeting our growing demand for electricity, as well as in solving the climate challenge."

    Because energy efficiency is, in effect, a resource, he added, in order for utilities to use more of it, "efficiency should be treated as a production cost in the regulatory arena." The utility would earn its money on the basis of the actual watts it saves through efficiency innovations. (California’s "decoupling" system goes partly in this direction.)

    At the end of the year, an independent body would determine how many watts of energy the utility has saved over a predetermined baseline and the utility would then be compensated by its customers accordingly.

    That is how you produce a more efficient energy infrastructure at scale. "Universal access to electricity was a 20th century idea – now it has to be universal access to energy efficiency, which could make us the most energy productive country in the world," he added.

    Pulling all this off will be very complicated. But if Rogers and North Carolina can do it, it would be the mother of all energy paradigm shifts.

    Thrilling Ride

    Here’s a link to a short video with a big surprise. Unfortunately, we don’t see what happened immediately after but it couldn’t have been pretty unless that switch has Harry Potter magic in it. Click on the image below.