Tell Congress: Vote No on Clovis for USDA Chief Scientist

Sam Clovis, Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist.

GR: The USDA Chief Scientist must be a scientist. The USDA evaluates the safety of outdoor activities including farming, logging, ecosystem protection, herbicide use for weed control, and many more. The person in charge of the evaluations must understand the methods used for measurement and analysis and must understand the certainty or lack of certainty of the results. Sam Clovis has no experience in scientific methods. Trump selected his other appointees based on political connections and not qualifications. Clovis may be the worst of the worst. The Union of Concerned Scientists has given us some information to use in protest of Clovis’ appointment.

“President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a vocal climate change denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis’ nomination represents an abandonment of America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers who depend on the USDA to provide sound scientific guidance on the pressing challenges facing our nation’s food system. Moreover, Clovis’ history of denying climate change and peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories calls into question his capacity to make informed, objective, and sound investments for the future of American agriculture.

“Scientists and experts around the country are signing this letter to demand that the USDA chief scientist have a strong scientific background in order to fulfill the demands of this crucial position.

“Add your name to this letter urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to stand by its commitment to scientifically informed governance by voting no on Sam Clovis for USDA chief scientist.

“Learn more about the case against Clovis, and read the nine questions the Senate should ask of Clovis. Check out our Sidelining Science Since Day One report.” Union of Concerned Scientists.


GR:  Contact your Senators and ask them to reject the Clovis appointment. You could also contact Senator Pat Roberts, chairman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Tell your Senators that Sam Clovis falls far short of the standards of chief scientist. While he holds a Doctorate of Public Administration, his professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience. The USDA chief scientist must have a strong scientific background to administer scientific programs and make crucial decisions on food safety, agricultural productivity, and emerging threats to public health. Dr. Clovis lacks grounding in the scientific process and is not equipped to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.

There are some excellent smart phone apps that simplify contacting congress. I’m trying out “Congress” by Eric Mill my phone. Seems pretty good so far.

Pruitt’s EPA Cedes Pesticide Oversight to Corrupt USDA

GR: Corrupt interaction between U. S. government agencies and pesticide manufacturers poisons people, pets, plants, and wildlife. This has been true in the past, but there is a looming flash flood release of toxic chemicals under Trump.

“Internal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents show that Administrator Scott Pruitt has effectively relinquished the EPA’s oversight of pesticide safety to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) senior vice president of government affairs.

“More than 700 pages of emails and other records show that Pruitt and other EPA officials consulted closely with agribusiness interests and top officials at the USDA on the decision not to ban chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that has been shown to harm children’s brains at even very low levels, according to The New York Times.

“In response to the Times report, the EPA issued a statement Monday maintaining that Pruitt relied on the “USDA’s scientific concerns with methodology used by the previous administration” to go against the agency’s own scientists who had pushed for a full ban of the pesticide.

“The emails, on page 301, show that top political appointees made edits to the chlorpyrifos petition as it awaited Pruitt’s signature, in order to reverse the ban of the pesticide recommended by career EPA scientists.” –Environmental Working Group (Continue reading: Pruitt’s EPA Cedes Pesticide Oversight to Agriculture Department).

Poison Papers: Monsanto Knew PCBs Were Toxic for Years But Sold Them Anyway

GR:  Monsanto is facing enormous financial penalties for their continued production and sale of toxic chemicals. This post (and earlier stories) discusses PCBs. Other reports describe similar indefensible production and sale of ecosystem destroying and cancer causing herbicides. I guess that once the company directors decided that profits were more important than the health and life of people and natural systems, they would sell any profitable chemical they could produce. The company strategy includes controlling government regulations and regulators.

“Washington could have an ace up its sleeve in its major lawsuit against Monsanto over PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination throughout the state.

“Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of PCBs, which was used for paints, electrical equipment and other products, from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979 due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can have adverse skin and liver effects in humans and can also linger in the environment for many decades.

“But according to documents published by The Poison Papers project, a new online archive of more than 20,000 documents obtained from federal agencies and chemical manufacturers, Monsanto possibly knew as early as the 1960s—at least a decade before the federal ban—that PCBs were harmful to public health and the environment but continued to manufacture and sell the widely used product anyway.

“Washington assistant attorney general Bill Sherman told the Guardian that the archive contained information the state was previously unaware of.

“If authentic, these records confirm that Monsanto knew that their PCBs were harmful and pervasive in the environment, and kept selling them in spite of that fact,” he said. “They knew the dangers, but hid them from the public in order to profit.”

“Sherman cited a particular Monsanto pollution abatement plan from October 1969 that was published in the Poison Papers archive. A section of the plan titled, the “damage to the ecological system by contamination from PCBs,” states: “The evidence proving the persistence of these compounds and their universal presence in the environment is beyond questioning.”

“Further, the document says that “direct lawsuits are possible” because “customers using the products have not been officially notified about known effects nor [do] our labels carry this information.” –Lorraine Chow (Continue: Poison Papers: Monsanto Knew PCBs Were Toxic for Years But Sold Them Anyway).

The first piece of Trump’s wall is set to go through a Texas wildlife refuge

GR: Destroying a nature refuge to satisfy a campaign promise is probably more than Trump’s fellow phobes wanted. But there is no limit to the damage Trump will do to get some approval. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the harm from such a wall. Perhaps we can help some of Trump’s supporters see the truth by sharing this bit of nasty outcome.

An official told the Texas Observer that construction would “essentially destroy the refuge.”

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

“U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has begun preparations to construct the first leg of the Trump administration’s border wall through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in South Texas, according to the Texas Observer.

An Ocelot seen at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge near Alamo, Texas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge comprises 2,088-acres along the U.S.-Mexico border, and was established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds.

“Federal officials told the Texas Observer that the wall would consist of an 18-foot levee wall that would stretch for three miles in the wildlife refuge. The construction plan would require building a road south of the wall, as well as clearing land on either side. Such construction would “essentially destroy the refuge,” an official told the Texas Observer.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is home to 400 bird species, 450 types of plants, half of all butterfly species found in North America, and such rarities as the Indigo Snake and Altamira Oriole shown here.

“Congress is still debating funding for the billion-dollar wall, but a federal official told the Texas Observer that funds could be transferred from within the Department of Homeland Security to pay for construction at the refuge. Construction within the refuge could begin as early as winter of 2018.” –Natasha Geiling (The first piece of Trump’s wall is set to go through a Texas wildlife refuge)