U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue listens to a question from a Wisconsin farmer during a town hall meeting at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Photo: John Hart/Wisconsin State Journa/100619 dairy farms
Photo: John Hart/Wisconsin State Journa/100619 dairy farms

The Jolt: An ag researcher’s reply to Sonny Perdue

Andrew Crane-Droesch is now a data scientist with the University of Pennsylvania Health System. But until a few months ago, he was a research economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working in Washington D.C. He’s got an op-ed in today’s Washington Post that starts like this:

Out of the blue, in August 2018, agriculture secretary George “Sonny” Perdue announced that my agency and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would relocate from Washington, D.C., to some yet-to-be-determined location. He claimed that this would lower costs and bring us closer to “stakeholders.” That stated justification was a fig leaf for the administration’s true intentions. We didn’t need to sit next to a corn field to analyze agricultural policy, and Perdue knew that. He wanted researchers to quit their jobs.

The administration had demonstrated its hostility to our agency. Their proposed 2020 budget halved our staff from 329 to 160, slashing “low priority research” areas like food assistance programs and conservation efforts. The department had started requiring us to add disclaimers to our scientific journal publications, even those that passed peer review, undermining the authority of our own work.

Most specifically, Crane-Droesch writes, Perdue wanted to put a lid on critical data. For instance, the agriculture secretary has proposed restricting access to food stamps. But a USDA research paper showed that such assistance programs “were often a positive multiplier for local economies.”

And then there’s that inconvenient paper that showed the 2017 tax cut would give “the biggest benefits to the wealthiest farmers.”

***

Military officials are cutting loose details of how three 3rd Infantry Division soldiers were killed and three others were injured during a training accident at Fort Stewart early Sunday morning.

The six 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team soldiers were riding in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it rolled over into water at about 3:20 a.m., said Fort Stewart spokesman Lt. Col. Patrick Husted. An addendum from the Washington Post:

The Fort Stewart incident comes as more than a dozen American service members have been killed in training exercises in the past year. The death toll has prompted calls from military families and congressional leaders for improved training standards and practices.

According to a Washington Post count, fatalities in training exercises outnumber combat deaths 4 to 1.

***

After two quarters of fundraising that have failed to stave off challengers in the Democratic race for U.S. Senate, Teresa Tomlinson has called in reinforcements. Her campaign said Monday that Steve Leeds will be Tomlinson’s national finance chair. Leeds is a longtime fundraising specialist whose experience in U.S. Senate campaigns ranges from Max Cleland in the 1990s to Michelle Nunn, who lost to Republican David Perdue in 2014.

***

When you take their money, you also take up a small slice of their opinions. Republicans are targeting Jon Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Race No. 1, for his acceptance of a cash contribution from former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Barksdale.

Barksdale, who ran against Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson in 2016, has has revealed himself to be something of a conspiracy buff. From a Twitter message Barksdale wrote on Sept. 12:

With the appropriate 9-11 reflections behind us, let’s remember that the real takeaway from 9-11, as w/ Kennedy assassination, is that our Gov’t is hiding something from us, as corrupt powers manipulate us into wars. We need govt working for Americans; not $ and foreign powers.

We do not know whether Barksdale, like President Donald Trump, believes Ukraine to be ground zero for interference in the 2016 presidential contest – rather than Russia.

***

Stacey Abrams will interview former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice on Wednesday at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts, where the former Obama administration official will discuss her newly-released memoir. You can find the details here.

***

Over at the Saporta Report, David Pendered tells us that a proposed state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has had no impact on the airport’s recent credit rating:

The rating was applied to the pending sale of an anticipated $255 million in bonds to refinance existing debt, according to the Sept. 27 rating action by Moody’s Investors Service. On Oct. 16, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously to approve the bond package and sent the authorization immediately to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for her administration to initiate the sale of bonds.

Which is sure to encourage another attempt by state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, to pushhis takeover legislation come January.

***

Posted earlier this morning by one of your Insiders:

Six months after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law allowing companies to grow and sell medical marijuana in Georgia for the first time, the program remains stalled because he and other top politicians still haven’t appointed members of a commission to oversee the expansion.

Aides to Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston haven’t said why there’s no members yet for the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. But until they do, the expansion is effectively sidelined.

The legislation, House Bill 324, gave the seven-member commission vast oversight over the state’s medical marijuana operation, including picking which businesses can grow the plant and developing the licensing requirements that retailers must meet to sell it.

Meanwhile, the first field of hemp in Georgia has taken root.

***

Suddenly, the U.S. abandonment of that little piece of real estate in northern Syria becomes even more disturbing. From the New York Times:

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country’s border. He says he wants the Bomb.

***

This morning brings some data points indicating that impeachment is already having an impact on the national electoral scene. First, there’s the following paragraph from the National Journal -- which could give Georgia Democrats some hope of taking at least one of two U.S. Senate seats in November 2020:

Four Republican senators were outraised by their Democratic challengers in the third fundraising quarter, with three of them representing battleground states (Iowa, Maine, and Arizona) that Republicans will need to win to maintain power. And in North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis raised only $1.2 million, an underwhelming sum for a senator facing a credible primary threat and an expensive general election ahead. All four swing-state senators also are viewed unfavorably by their constituents according to new quarterly Morning Consult polling, underscoring the sudden shift in support away from Republicans.

And from the Gallup organization:

Amid House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine, a near-record-high 34% of Americans cite the government, poor leadership or politicians as the most important problem currently facing the U.S. This latest reading marks an 11-percentage-point increase since September and is just one point shy of the all-time high Gallup has recorded for mentions of government, from February, after the government shutdown ended.

Meanwhile, Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. has fallen back to 28%, primarily because Republicans are less likely to be satisfied. Satisfaction overall has returned to the level seen during and shortly after the nation's longest federal government shutdown last winter. While partisans' satisfaction with the country's direction differs greatly, Democrats and Republicans each view the government as the nation's top problem.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X