Merced County

To medschool, the verb defined

Submitted: Feb 29, 2008

American Dictionary of Flak

medschool, v.i. (see porkbarrel, v.i.): Possible origins Merced CA, first decade of 21st century. 1. To use a new university campus as an anchor tenant for a real estate boom impacting worst air quality basin in the nation, creating an involuntary laboratory for respiratory disease as a base for medical research in respiratory disease. 2. Promise first-rate medical care and abundant numbers of physicians by promoting a scheme for a medical school in one of the poorest areas in the US. 3. (pol) To distract the attention of popular discontent with the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the nation by promising universal economic and health benefits of establishing a medical school in the midst of an economic and environmental disaster. 4. (edu) To present a real estate boondoggle pretending to be a university campus as a potential medical school. 5. To create a public health and safety disaster to use as a basis for grant proposals to research its effects. 6. (US Congress) To wrap oneself in Hippocratic robes while doing harm. 7. To bury present problems in future fantasies. 8. (civic) To lie while fomenting a future project to avoid telling the truth about the present. 9. To claim that medical students will come to a university campus unable to recruit faculty and an adequate number of students and, despite an increasingly hostile natural, political and economic environment, doctors will stay in that environment, i.e. to evoke the peculiar mystical tradition of University of California administration that "Proximity is Destiny," when in fact proximity to UC Merced means higher density of traffic, air, water and politics.

Newsletter of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced
A Medical School at UC Merced‏
From: Dennis Cardoza (
Sent: Thu 2/28/08 2:15 PM

Dear Friends,
The entire Central Valley region suffers from a physician shortage and a lack of adequate healthcare resources. Recent reports tell us that the problem is worse than initially thought and likely to get far worse in the future. The best way to address this healthcare emergency is to promptly establish a medical education program at the University of California – Merced.

Though UC Merced is only five years old, it is critical that we begin to establish the medical education program now. The entire state of California is expected to face a shortage of up to 17,000 physicians by 2015, but in the Valley we are already facing a shortage. Valley residents are medically underserved with 87 primary care physicians per 100,000 people versus the statewide rate of 126 primary care physicians per 100,000. The number of medical specialists per capita is even lower when compared with other parts of the state.

These statistics highlight the seriousness of the problem and we are already in the process of building support for a medical education program at UC Merced. The University of California’s Health Sciences Advisory Council has recommended a 34 percent increase in medical student enrollments by 2020 to meet increasing demand for doctors. The Council also recognized that medical education programs need to be developed in the SJ Valley and the Inland Empire, where projected population growth rates are twice that of the rest of the state. There is strong evidence that new physicians choose to settle into full-time practice near where they train, so establishment of a medical school in the Valley would produce benefits for the health of the region.

The UC system understands the challenge of meeting our future healthcare needs and the community is coalescing around the plan to bring a medical school to UC Merced. The medical school will be founded on a community-based distributed model of medical education, utilizing current medical facilities in the Valley, as well as the resources of UC San Francisco and UC Davis. The first two years of medical education will be on the UC Merced campus, and the second two years of medical education will be in a clinical setting, with the first clinical campus slated to be at the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Center. More than twenty of the largest community hospitals and community health centers in the Valley are eager to collaborate with UC Merced to focus teaching and research on the community health needs of the region.

I am urging the UC Board of Regents to approve continued planning, provide a reasonable timeframe for initiation, and appoint a taskforce to devise a financing strategy for the development of the medical school at UC Merced. We must work collaboratively to establish the medical school and to address our region’s looming healthcare crisis.


Dennis Cardoza
Member of Congress

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Raptor, POW and Citizens group defeat RMP in court

Submitted: Feb 26, 2008

MERCED CA (February 26, 2008) – Petitioners San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water (POW) and Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources defeated Merced County and the Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP) in Merced County Superior Court.

In her decision on the suit against the Merced County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the RMP environmental impact report (EIR) in December 2006, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphreys ruled that, “Judgment be entered in favor” of the petitioners , Merced County certification of the EIR be “vacated,” and a peremptory writ of mandate be issues “under seal of this court ordering the County and RMP:

“a.Immediately on receipt of the Writ set aside and void its approvals of RMP and refrain from further approvals unless and until it undertakes further environmental review to correct the deficiencies in the EIR …

“b. Make and file a return to Court upon taking a final action to certify the EIR and reconsider the Project setting further what the County has done to comply with the Writ.”

Judge Humphreys ruled that in the absence of a development agreement and a community benefits agreement “that have not been drafted,” the project EIR was deficient “as an informational document,” therefore neither the public nor the county Board of Supervisors had adequate knowledge of the project to make a decision on the EIR.

Attorney Gregory Maxim, speaking on behalf of himself and co-counsel Julia Garcia, both of the Roseville law firm Sproul Trost, said: "This ruling is a great victory for both the citizenry of Merced County, and in support of the CEQA process. The Court's ultimate remedy in this ruling has made clear that the County failed in its mandates under law, and that the public was denied the opportunity to consider the full potential of environmental impacts of this project."

Lydia Miller, president of San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, said: “We are extremely grateful for the excellent representation Raptor, POW and the Citizens group received from Gregory Maxim, Julia Garcia, Sproul and Trost and Marsh Burch, Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney on this case. This decision revokes the EIR and associated approvals and forces the County and RMP back to the drawing board.”

For further information contact:

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center Attorney at Law
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax Sproul Trost LLP
(916) 783-6262 tel

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Protect Our Water

Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources

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Regarding sheds

Submitted: Feb 18, 2008

A number of years ago a state forester was interviewed concerning changes in the culture of his agency following the passage of the Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and kindred legislation regarding the forests. He said, "I knew I was in a different world when bureaucrats started talking about 'viewsheds.'"

The term 'viewshed' indicated that the public had made the aesthetic pleasure of looking at a stretch of forest unblemished by clearcuts a value in the resource bureaucracy by the late 1970's, not just a conservationist howl to the moon. The term, 'watershed,' is older:

"line separating waters flowing into different rivers," 1803, from water + shed. A loan-translation of Ger. Wasser-scheide. Fig. sense is attested from 1878. Meaning "ground of a river system" is from 1878.

Yesterday, in a meeting in Los Banos concerning funding for local management efforts in the state's many watersheds, an interesting conversation broke out regarding the state of San Joaquin Valley agriculture and its future. The vision put forth by a Merced County planning commissioner favored organic agriculture (the commissioner owns an organic farm) and local food system (the commissioner is also a boardmember of organizations advancing this vision).

A member of the group without vision put forth the view that the Valley could probably feed itself on about a third of the farmland now in cultivation but that the problem a planning commissioner ought to be "envisioning" is what will happen to the remaining two-thirds of the farm and ranch land, the economy of which -- as is certainly the case with the county's almond industry -- is based on large-scale exportation. Export-led growth, to eastern US markets and expanding to international markets has been the basis for the Valley's agricultural economy since the early years of the last century and the cropping pattern remains largely the same, although the populations of county seats and some of the other hamlets of that period have swollen enormously. The visionless viewpoint was also advanced that if the same amount of acreage in production today in the same crops, in the same concentration, attracting the same swarms of pests specific to those crops, were converted to organic orchards and rowcrops, it would do very little but destroy the organic market and many of the growers engaged in it. One also wondered silently how long it would be before "organic" pesticide regulations were relaxed to include pesticides perhaps not quite as organic as they were purported by their manufacturers to be.

The vision quest for consensus-based environmental reform through analyses that change from year to year, mirroring environmental disintegration, seems to some to be not a very serious enterprise.

At this point, the planning commissioner, demonstrating leadership skills, put a new term on the table, 'foodshed.' The purpose of this bit of jargon du moment seemed to be to return the conversation to watersheds, and grants for watershed coordinators, another of which the commissioner is writing to fund her valuable political work of going to more meetings where she will learn yet more vital analytical tools like the term, foodshed.

Fleeing the mindless Jargon Monster, another participant tried to address the problem of how to treat the land retired from farming so that the Valley will only grow enough food to feed itself -- and organically! Will it all go to housing?

Or should much of the retired land be preserved as open space, restored to wildlife habitat, provide better and cleaner groundwater recharge? it was asked. Later, it was recalled that on the west side at least, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of land that should be retired because they are full of toxic heavy metals as the result of totally reckless, resource-destroying irrigation, and that it would be hard to restore it to livable wildlife habitat. Facilitators returned the meeting to the topic of watersheds and whether the state should reinvest in watershed coordinator programs on the Merced River watershed.

Some in the room advanced the idea that the state agencies ought to spend the money on their own staffs to inventory and map the amount of land already in state easements through the State Lands Commission among other agencies and enforce existing laws and regulations rather than fund watershed coordinators who broker rather than share information concerning the Merced River watershed for their own financial gain. In other words, the evidence is in that these Reaganesque localizing, privatizing programs merely induce an annual grant-writing feeding frenzy inherently corrupting in local publics because the regulation of natural resources is properly and adequately only as a state function. Local publics ought to be monitoring state and federal governments to do their job in their areas. If it is necessary to go around elected officials in the pockets of finance, insurance and real estate special interests who pressure resource agencies, then it should be done. That is a function the public can do better than it can manage watersheds under the legal jurisdiction of state and federal resource agencies and the mandate of the Public Trust Doctrine.

Driving home from the meeting, through field after field in early preparation for another crop of cotton, participants realized they were driving through a 'fibershed,'interrupted occasionally by various 'cowsheds,' 'poultrysheds' and possibly one 'goatshed.'

Returning the next day to the problem -- What would happen to all the farm and ranch land retired if the Valley should swing away from export-led growth to a local food supply? -- another idea occurred to participants of the stimulating meeting in Los Banos: Why not speciessheds?

What about a vernalpoolshed? A San Joaquinkitfoxshed? A Californiatigersalamandershed? Why not a mangycoyoteshed? Despite a great deal of government policy to the contrary, empirical evidence suggests that wildlife species require wildlife habitat, in fact a good description of a speciesshed would be the natural habitat required by that species in order to live, have a home in the world.

So, now when one looks at a field of seasonal pasture containing vernal pools, cows, coyotes and other wildlife species, one knows he is actually looking at a multi-speciesshed, not a cattle ranch. And as the urban resident gazes across the street from his door, he realizes that he is observing an 'alleycatshed.' Downtown, one realizes he is looking at a 'decayingurbancentershed.' When observing the many half-finished new subdivisions that ring this town, one realizes he is looking at 'foreclosuresheds.'

Leaders like the planning commissioner, superbly trained by the Great Valley Center/UC Merced leadership programs, are constantly bringing us valuable new analytical tools like this, language that will permit our vision to soar and transcend reality, the present, the past and the future. so that we, too, may glide far above this 'littlebluemarbleshed' in a beautiful "Bullship."

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Sonny Star, the Gigolo Press, still claiming it got it right on RMP

Submitted: Feb 16, 2008

The Merced Sun-Star missed, mangled and mutilated the Riverside Motorsparts Pork story so badly in alliance with its advertisers bent on stupefying its readers that it still doesn't get it after all this time: Condren and the County changed the zoning on the land to give the planning department and whoever ends up with it almost unlimited powers to develop it as they please. Without that chunk of private property adjacent to the former Castle Air Force Base, now under County control, the base project cannot get foreign trade zone status. And without that status, many local rice bowls will be broken. Condren has a thousand acres to sell under the most permissible zoning available, regardless of the outcome of the CEQA case.

But, for Sonny Star, a new ensemble for another spring makes all last year's bad go away.

The Merced Sun-Star got exactly one story right throughout the approval process for Riverside Motorsports Park: a relatively small one about how approval for the track project hinged on the Merced County Board of Supervisors overriding the Castle Airport Land Commission's refusal to shrink the safety zone on the airport sufficiently so that on paper it would be "safe" to send planes into the Castle strip over the race track. This story evidently caused so much consternation in the chambers of commerce among those "decent" investors that the actual hearing on the override, Sonny Star showed up in force -- two reporters plus the managing editor. The result was a story that added to public confusion.

All the while, RMP was buying those inserts, the greatest campaign to bribe Sonny Star since UC Merced.

Sonny Star, Cameron does not say, endorsed the RMP project.

However, after the approval and Condren stiffed his local investors, Sonny Star printed all kinds of nasty rumors about him in a hit job rivalling the one they did on former DA Gordon Spenser. In both cases Sonny got all the news except any actual indictment, and in Condren's case, all the news came mysteriously after the supervisors had approved the project. In this regard, Sonny's coverage had as much political impact as Supervisor Diedre Kelsey's ex post facto "town hall meetings," which she conducted as if they had the force of public hearings on the project, when they did not.

Also, during the build-up to the project approval, Sonny steadily ignored or bashed opponents of the track, adopting an attitude toward the project as critical and illuminated as that of Carl Pollard, a Merced City councilman at the time, who mumbled things about "jobs" before the supervisors and planning commissioners from time to time.

"Trusting gang of county supervisors"? Badlands published a memo from Condren written over a year before project approval bragging about having four of the five in his pocket already.

"Decent bunch of racing enthusiasts"? While one of those blameless civic leaders, Kenny Shepherd, was managing RMP's Altamont Speedway, a local resident who opposed the reopening of that track was buzzed by helicopters while the project CUP was violated so many times that even the lords of Alameda County government, who frequently forget that that county's line extend over Altamont Pass, were moved to punitive action as residents sued.

The only mistake Condren seems to have made in his long con on Merced County and local investors was in his choice of lawyers, the bloviating Tim Taylor in the lead, whose reply brief in superior court boiled down to a lecture to the San Joaquin Superior Court judge appointed to hear the case: "Now dear," he seemed to say, "we all know that CEQA exists, but you and I know it doesn't really matter, don't we." Taylor and his associate on the RMP case left the firm now suing Condren, and left them holding a $150,000 bill. Presumably his lawyers are holding a million or two of shares in RMP. We have not heard yet from the managing partners in Taylor's new law firm.

Condren and Sonny Star both allege that the credit crisis is making it difficult to impossible for him to raise the necessary funds to build the track. This raises the question of the congressional district in which the project is located, represented by Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, which remains very close to having the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the nation (second only to Detroit at the moment, according to the lastest reports). Cardoza's political philosophy boils down to: "This office does not get involved in local affairs (although his office is located on the third floor of the County Administration building) except when it comes to making three attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act on behalf of my friends in finance, insurance and real estate." It is a very dubious proposition that Condren didn't see something like the credit crisis coming. The financial press was full of warnings as early as 2006 and Condren's intelligence is not as corrupted as either Cardoza's or Sonny Star's.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Merced Sun-Star
Condren caught sitting on his last limb...Steve Cameron
...A member of Condren's original investment group -- a decent bunch of racing enthusiasts who lost every penny and then were dumped from RMP entirely -- recalled something Condren confided in them quite early in this miserable affair.
"Merced County is the perfect place for the project," Condren told them, "because it's poor, they're hungry for any big new idea and they're dumb enough to approve anything."
Sadly, Condren's cruel analysis was correct, at least in part.
RMP did sail past a trusting gang of county supervisors who should have done a whole lot more homework.
He also found a lot of honest, hopeful Merced County business folk to rally around him -- promising the moon but later failing even to pay his bills.
It's ironic that Condren, who has masked so much of his business in a blizzard of confusing documents and legal mumbo-jumbo, now finds his ultimate exit speeded up by a group of angry attorneys.
Talk about justice with a smirk. This is it.
One of the first rules of the free-market jungle is never forgetting to pay your lawyers.
But our boy John did it, signing a promissory note for $147,000 to clear up his bills with the firm of Somach, Simmons & Dunn.
When he couldn't or didn't come up with the money, they sued...

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Public minutes of the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, January 28, 2008

Submitted: Feb 08, 2008

Washington School, Winton CA


Merced Irrigation District, 2
Granite Construction, 2
Santa Fe Aggregate, 1
East Merced Resource Conservation District, 2
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, 1
Merced County Planning Commission, 1
Landowners, 8
Stillwater Sciences, 1
Merced Sun-Star, 1
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, 1
Members of the public, 2-3

Ted Selb reported for MID: Pray for rain, the reservoir is down. The snow pack is at 100- percent normal for this time of year, MID hoping for another storm a little on the warm side to melt some low snow into the reservoir. Selb introduces Dan Pope, MID hydrological manager for Exchequer Dan, who will be in charge of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing of the dam.

Teri Murrison, the facilitator explains that CALFED is being dismantled and the watershed program is now being administered by the state Department of Conservation, which has expanded the watershed program to the entire state, from Modoc to Imperial counties.Murrison and John Brody are chairing the San Joaquin regional meetings for the statewide watershed program, which will be held in Modesto on Feb. 11 and in Los Banos on Feb. 15.

Murrison, an experienced facilitator and former watershed coordinator for the RCD and MRS facilitator, volunteered to facilitate the meeting for no fee. She focused the meeting “options for Merced River Stakeholders:”

1. Stop MRS?
Glenn Anderson, board member of the East Merced RCD, said that the feeling was unanimous to continue MRS.
The representative for Santa Fe Aggregate said MRS functions best as an information-sharing organization within the disparate interests representing all aspects of the river.
Commissioner Lashbrook said that if decisions are to be made, more defined governance is necessary. Anderson said MRS should continue the Merced River Restoration Project.

In fact, despite the controversy with Commissioner Lashbrook and the RCD, which has been going on for nearly a year, MRS has continued to meet on schedule, bi-monthly and no members, who are not also members of the board of directors of the RCD have called for stopping the MRS. Therefore, for some, there is a sense of redundancy about this topic.

Murrison read the 2003 MRS Mission Statement and Goals:


Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.
Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.
Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

Murrison recapitulated the history of MRS. Although now a Tuolumne County supervisor; she was the MRS facilitator for several years until 2006.

From 1999 to 2001, federal and state agencies and a grant from the Central Valley Project Improvement Act funded MRS and the MRRP, the science done by Stillwater Sciences. A technical advisory board was established including agencies, industry, the county, MID, MRS members and Stillwater.

The first phase (1999-2000) workshops were held, the TAC was established, private access was arranged, and goals and objectives for the MRRP were developed.

Phase II, EDAW consultants did baseline studies and various reports were released for public dissemination.

2001-2002: field studies and modeling was developed, design guidelines were establishing, geomorphic functions identified, specific strategies worked out for each of the five reaches of the lower river, the Wild on the Watershed tour was held, and the MRRP was released January 2002.

Murrison noted that the MRRP plan did not address water quality, land-use, education or water supply issues.

In 2001, East Merced Resource Conservation District received a watershed coordinator grant that allowed Murrison to become the MRS facilitator. The function of the EMRCD was to provide help facilitating for MRS. Murrison wrote the last Prop. 13 grant and the DOC watershed grants from 2001-2007.

Phase IV: CalFed grant for dredge-tailing reach baseline studies on fish and mercury, etc., 2005.

Lydia Miller noted that the MRS did other work as well: elimination of Water Hyacinth, and past restoration projects, for example the Robinson and Ratzlaff restoration projects, and had a lengthy set of meetings on the governance committee.

Joe Mitchell said restoration was too narrow a focus for MRS and was only looking at salmon and invasive species.

Commissioner Lashbrook said that recreational uses “always brought angst.”

Miller added that so did aggregate mining.

A representative from Granite Construction (aggregate miners) said that MRS was a good “sounding board.”

Murrison asked if this should be broadened to policy.

Participants agreed.

The Santa Fe Aggregate representative said that MRS was good for networking and for listening to the “range of considerations.”

Mitchell said that there were conflicts within the agencies, for example between salmon and stripped bass, and between and within agencies, for example conflicts between state Department of Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Taxpayers are asked to reclaim post-mining disasters, which irritated the recreationists, plus they didn’t get the option of access to the riverbank through private property, he said.

MRRP is a working document, not a “policy” statement. Several participants agreed that the agencies tried to assume MRRP was policy for purposes of their own projects.

Anderson brought up the topic of property rights v. public access.

Murrison brought up the topic of whether MRS was an advocacy or an information-sharing organization.

Miller said that MRS had advocated on the water Hyacinth issue when they met with the agencies to advocate; MRS developed a proposal for a town-hall meetings in each of the reaches and also a proposal for a river tender.

Mitchell said MRS needed to know when and how much 2-4-D the agencies were spraying on the hyacinth.

Murrison said there seemed to be some contention about the role of MRS.

Commissioner Lashbrook mumbled something about a “continuum” that Murrison interpreted as the phrase “a continuum from information-sharing to action.” Since becoming a planning commissioner, Lashbrook has patented a form of utterance that often escapes meaning unless one is “in the know” on the latest workshop phraseology.

Anderson asked if MRS could not conduct a formal way of “visioning.” (Anderson attends different workshops than the Commissioner does.) But, neither one of them, both members of the RCD board of directors, is pleased with the MRS as it is, as it functions now, and particularly as it functioned last year when MRS members voiced opposition to an RCD grant, of direct financial benefit to the commissioner, that claimed MRS support when it did not have it or any governance means for getting it.

Pat Bettencourt said she didn’t understand what Anderson meant by “visioning.”

Anderson replied that some people “envision” a parkway on the river. Others don’t. That’s two extremes. He proposed a set of meetings that got into each individual MRS member’s “wildest dreams for the river.”

Murrison returned the attention of the group to its mission and goals.

The Granite representative said they too had a vision.

Mitchell said that MRS had “knockdowns meetings on this,” and MRS found information was neutral; but nobody was to speak for the whole group.

Murrison noted that the group went through its mission and goals, word-by-word, defining each as they went along.

Anderson said he wanted a “revisitation” of the mission and goals.

The Santa Fe Aggregate representative said that the goal of MRS was sharing information: members have projects and it is unlikely that the whole group would approve any project.

Murrison described this as “the dog on the carpet – the long-term sticking point.

Mitchell said MRS has always recognized that nobody agreed with each other.

Miller said that the WOW tour was agreed on and carried out and that the governance committee agreed to meet for a year to conclude that there couldn’t be a voting structure in MRS because of disagreement.

Commissioner Lashbrook stated that three people on the governance committee were not happy “how that turned out.”

Miller said: “Then they should have challenged the conclusion. We speak up and have dialogue.”

Murrison noted that there was a difference “in communication styles.”

Mitchell noted that the “interests would pursue their interests no matter what.”

Murrison, who was facilitator at the time the governance committee met, said: “We agreed to pursue our own interests, knowing there were other forums to air those views.”

She then concluded that no one in the group wanted to disband MRS.

Commissioner Lashbrook said, “A lot of people don’t attend.”

Mitchell replied that there are no projects at the moment to draw them in or a grant.

Murrison said MRS members come to protect their interests.

Anderson said, “If there is something like an emergency on the river, it brings them in.”

Pat Bettencourt said that MRS changed its focus when the Black Diamond aggregate project (Wendell Reid, Modesto) went ahead without coming to the MRS. “There was a sense of loss of focus because we didn’t have a chance to look at it or the requirements for a permit. (Bettencourts and their partners, Santa Fe Aggregates, do bring projects to MRS for discussion.) “MRS functions best when everyone comes with their own interests, informs the group. MRS has had the credibility and influence to attract people to come to vet their projects.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that Merced County and most agencies have “backed out.”

We noted that county Planning Commissioner Lashbrook was present, along with two officials from MID and that a representative from the county Planning Department has been providing regular updates on river projects until this meeting, and that last year, as usual, state and federal agency representatives were usually in attendance.

Maia Singer, representing Stillwater Sciences, endorsed MRS input, saying that it was very important to Stillwater’s studies.

Murrison said there is no perceived threat that fewer landowners and agencies were dropping out.

Mitchell said that agency funding sources are also drying up (making it difficult to travel to Merced).

Commissioner Lashbrook started a sentence with, “If the group …” but became incoherent.

Murrison interpreted the commissioner’s utterance to have something to do with staff.

Anderson said that the salmon count was not good, after millions of dollars spent on restoring the run.

Selb of MID said the salmon runs are diminishing all along the coast and maybe the problem on the Merced River is not local.

Jill Ratzlaff said that state Department of Fish and Game badly botched the restoration project on her family project.

Mitchell said that stakeholders do try to pressure agencies to do the right thing.

Ratzlaff added that the agencies do not have enough follow-through on their restoration projects. She and Mitchell agreed that the agencies do not correct their mistakes.

Commissioner Lashbrook attempted to interject with a comment beginning, “We can’t …”

Mitchell said the lead agencies in restoration projects didn’t follow its own policies and didn’t follow through. Ratzlaff agreed that continuity was a big problem. Mitchell said, “When a project fails, there is no mechanism to make it right. There are X amount of dollars for reclamation (of old mining projects) and then they walk away.” He mentioned the Carson project, on which the created ponds would not hold water – “the designer should have been accountable to do it right.”

Murrison and Commissioner Lashbrook seemed to express a common frustration that the group couldn’t come together (return to the governance problem).

Mitchell asked why there was no enforcement on reclamation projects.

Murrison said that the other side of that question is that the MRS doesn’t make recommendations.

Pat Bettencourt said that the Ratzlaff problem was that the agency was telling her what to do. But how would the MRS members vote: by acre? Investment? Mines?
She disagreed that people did not attend MRS meetings because they could not vote. She said there was “spirited discussion” on the Bettencourt/Santa Fe Aggregate project. “This forum died because nothing was on the agenda.”

(What Bettencourt did not add was the reason that there was nothing on the agenda, which had to do with RCD facilitation of the meetings after Murrison left, and RCD began to plan to eliminate MRS.)

Murrison asked: “Do you want to continue?”

Anderson joked: “Let’s vote on it!”

Miller listed some upcoming projects: the MAGPI grant for studying area groundwater; a bird study with Natural Resource Conservation Service; FERC relicensing of the Exchequer Dam; a landowner mining project; another Black Diamond mining project; Bernie Wade’s mining project; a new Santa Fe Aggregate project; and the Schmitt mining project. She pointed out that the planning department is changing staff at the moment, perhaps explaining why someone from the planning department was not at this meeting. Jeff Wilson (planner) has come but a lot has been left off the table. She listed other projects ongoing: Fish and Game, Stillwater, the ag waiver on water quality.

Miller said that controversy around a project brings in the stakeholders and that ahead are: the county General Plan update; general plan updates for Ballico, Stevinson, Cressey and Snelling.

Singer said that when grants are written, they ought to include money for information sharing with MRS.

Pat Bettencourt said that the MRS process worked “very well in the latest debacle,” in which a coalition of stakeholders successfully opposed the last RCD grant.

Commissioner Lashbrook (whose personal income was affected by the rejection of that grant) stated: “If we had had a vote on May 19, we would have gone forward with that grant. I will not come to another meeting …” if stakeholders address a funder using MRS letterhead.

It is always foolish to predict the outcome of a vote and particularly foolish to predict the outcome of a vote of the group with know governance mechanism to vote, and even more foolish to predict that outcome when very, very few of the stakeholders present on March 19 had been provided a copy of the grant by Commissioner Lashbrook and her associate pork barrel-ettes.

Miller, who had written one of the letters under MRS letterhead, said she would not agree with Commissioner Lashbrook dictum, saying that the first sentence of the letter explained that it was written from members of the group.

Murrison showed us why she is a great facilitator at this moment, by suggesting, “Let’s do ‘parking lot.’” “Parking lot” is facilitator jargon for parking a hot issue on the sidelines for a while.

Miller said “parking lot” was what was done with MID use of aquatic pesticides and the Santa Fe Aggregate issue with the Williamson Act.

Mitchell said he didn’t agree with anyone using MRS – “only members.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that Gwen Huff (former RCD facilitator for MRS) thought she had an active, open agenda.

Murrison said that the MRS no longer has funding for a facilitator so “now it will be a stakeholder-driven process.”

Miller said that the MRS had been “disengaged” by the RCD staff, so this will be an improvement.

Murrison asked if MRS still wanted to meet bi-monthly. Stakeholders agreed.

Mitchell said that individual groups within MRS that have non-profit status could take grants forward … as long as they were for an information-sharing group.

Murrison mentioned an old grant proposal for holding town-hall meetings on each reach of the lower river, saying she thought it was within the scope of what everyone agreed on.

Pat Bettencourt asked where was the repository for the information. Murrison did an index and Stillwater has information.

Miller said MRS asked the RCD to make the binder of MRS information available – and it was not made available. She added that the MRS website got buried by RCD.

Commissioner Lashbrook said there was no money for it.

There was enough money for RCD to post the wrong date for the meeting now being held.

Anderson said, of the missing stakeholders, “Maybe they’ll be absent and they’ll ask us to change before they’ll be here.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that “the action people” are elsewhere.

Maureen McCorry said that there are now two groups but that the MRS here has a special place and that self-interest was the best reason to get people here. She added that she has seen that there are social and political repercussions to not attending the “right” MRS meeting. “There is a perception of an incorrect move …” she explained.

Miller added that there are political pressures surrounding the situation between MRS and RCD. “The public has to be cautious, but we’ve had good debate here.

The group decided would meet again at the Washington School from 6-8 p.m. on March 24.

Mitchell asked what happened “to the other website.” (There have been two MRS websites. The RCD announced the domain of one of them was for sale and have not been particularly diligent about keeping the other one up-to-date, although they have, at least until recently, been paid to do so.

Miller mentioned that the RCD has refused to release the binder, which serves as the repository for records of MRS proceedings.

Murrison said that grants require that the RCD hold that data. “But, now, you’ll have to facilitate yourselves,” she added.

Miller asked how much Murrison would charge to facilitate more MRS meetings.

Murrison said she would have to think about it. Miller suggested two more meetings.

At least two future agenda items were mentioned: an MID presentation of the FERC relicensing and a county planning department update on aggregate projects on the river.

The meeting adjourned.

Holly Bettencourt remarked later: “Rather than all this politics stuff, I think it would be good to talk about the river.

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Public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District meetings, December 13, 2007 and January 16, 2008

Submitted: Feb 06, 2008

December 13, 2007 meeting

RCD staff Karen Whipp announced that the agenda for the meeting was legally posted outside the RCD meeting room in the USDA building on Wardrobe Ave. She also said that staff doesn’t not send out staff reports on agenda items to either board members of members of the public because of time constraints. She said county and city boards do the same.

In fact, it is possible to get staff reports for all items on county Board of Supervisor agendas Friday afternoon before the meeting on the following Tuesday.

Lydia Miller said she requested the November staff reports in a timely manner (11:05 a.m. on the day of the board meeting). In attendance at the meeting, she got a copy of all staff reports at the meeting.

Whipp said she had the original copy of the resignation letter of Bernie Wade, former RCD president, who resigned both his position and his board membership at the November meeting.

The board approved the minutes.

Whipp said she had emailed the Nov. 21 minutes (to Miller??)

Whipp led the board through the latest spreadsheets on various RCD grants.

Wade’s letter was not in the minutes of the November meeting. It was explained that he gave the letter to them after adjournment of that meeting. However, Wade read his letter before adjournment. Yet his resignation was not on the November agenda.

Board member Karen Barstow wondered where to put Wade’s letter. Whipp informed her it would go in the minutes for the December meeting because it came in late.

Board member Glenn Anderson asked if Wade’s resignation would be the cause for an action item. Whipp said Wade’s resignation was to the county Board of Supervisors, not the RCD, so no.

Malia Hildebrandt gave her monthly report for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, beginning by saying that NRCS doesn’t yet have its new budget, so is working on another extension of the federal budget, therefore some local contracts will be lost if funding doesn’t come before the end of 2007.

The US Senate has passed the 2007 Farm Bill and it is now in conference committee. The old Farm Bill is extended until February 2008. Meanwhile, some funding has been sent to the local NRCS.

Regarding funds from state initiatives, NRCS has funded two replacements of diesel engines on farm sites, and funded windbreaks around dairies for dust reduction (PM10) and projects for spray reduction, wood chipping and tillage changes.

Anderson asked if there was an environmental issue when orchards heavily sprayed with pesticides have been chipped.

Hildebrandt said some at least were removed, chips from pruning were left in the orchard and that removal might be to a cogeneration plant.

Barstow remarked that prunings on almond orchards could run to one ton/acre.

Board member Bob Bliss said the ground was already sprayed and the prunings had been exposed to weather.

Board member Tony Azevedo, chairing the meeting, moved the subject to Animal Facility Operations issue: slabs, waste storage, pipelines, flow meters, gate valves, etc. lagoons, “anything to keep waste water on the dairy property. This is part of the whole Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, (which calls for) new standards.”

Board member Cathy Weber asked if most dairies were up to the standards.

Hildebrandt replied, “No.” However, she noted that the process was opening the eyes of dairy managers. The new standard is to spread manure equal to 1.6 times the nitrogen needed for the fodder crops. It used to be 2 times the amount needed. Today, dairies cannot have more cows than they had in 2005 – the gist of the new regulation (1.6 times to nitrogen need) means either less cows or more acreage. The intent is to get a better mix of clean and lagoon water. “We could use $5 million to help folks (dairies) out,” she said.

Anderson asked if community pipelines could be developed.

Hildebrandt replied that this involves negotiations with irrigation districts to make sure the flows stay separated.

Azevedo said dairymen (at least in his distinct, Stevinson) have to give written notice to the irrigation districts when they are going to pipe lagoon water off-site, and it takes place during restricted hours.

Hildebrandt said the NRCS is telling dairy managers to protect themselves about when and how wastewater goes off their property. She added that water conservation funds sunsetted this year but a new fund is being created, and that in the new Farm Bill perhaps there will be funds to support new applications.

Bliss suggested spreading the funds out at a lower percentage to reach more people.

Hildebrandt replied that that was tried to make special deals for dairies with limited resources and for new dairies, because the way the fund is structured its hurts those who cannot afford to make the upgrades.

Azevedo asked about wildlife.

Hildebrandt said there were funds for riparian habitat restoration along the Merced River, removing replacing rock and dirt and planting trees.

Weber (who lives in Snelling, full of dredge-tailing cobble) asked about projects for Snelling.

Hildebrandt said there was a project near the Kelsey property (Diedre Kelsey is a county supervisor and the family mines dredge tailings for aggregate). Hildebrandt said the project involved layering rock and dirt for better drainage.

Whipp said that the new grant proposal for a watershed coordinator would help coordinate local and state agencies for such projects.

Members of the public at this point wondered if a lack of funding wasn’t a worse problem than a lack of staff. The NRCS reports monthly to RCD, their reports appear to be up-to-date and organized and realistic.

Whipp informed the board that “we” held a watershed workshop meeting on December 12 for over 20 people who want to meet quarterly. RCD board member, RCD/Merced River Alliance staff, and Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook and Whipp prepared the agenda for the meeting. They are also working on a grant proposal.

The public wondered if the December 12 meeting was a public meeting. Public funds were used to organize it but not all members of the public were invited, even members of the public with well-known, long-term interests in the watersheds of eastern Merced County.

But MID, Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Cramer Sciences, Supervisor Kelsey, state Parks and Recreation, county Public Works and UC Merced were invited and the meeting was duly posted on the bulletin board at the UC Cooperative Extension office (where UCCOP staff were sure to see it).

Whipp and Commissioner Lashbrook said Ezio Sansone and Lynn Sullivan, two members of the Merced River Stakeholders, were very excited about the meeting because this new group, the Watershed Workshop, “will get projects done. It is a project-oriented work group.”

The public attending the RCD meeting – two members of the MRS – viewed this new workshop as simply the latest way RCD staff has devised to destroy the MRS, some of whose members wrote letters opposing that last RCD-staff grant to fund RCD staff.

Commissioner Lashbrook then said something incomprehensible about the Merced Area Groundwater Pool Interests. We would report this public official’s comments more fully if she would speak more clearly. She did add something about Stillwater Sciences and Merced River Alliance coordinator Nancy McConnell working on how to format a final report due in May. This report may be going to MAGPI. The commissioner also announced the upcoming California Women for Agriculture tour of the river, to be led by RCD staff, including the commissioner.

Commissioner Lashbrook continued, saying that the watershed kits (created by another MRA staffer, Terry McLoughlin) are now available for teachers and that a new one is now being assembled at the NRCS office. McLoughlin is now developing a new monitoring kit for groundwater.

The board moved on to nomination of the new president. Azevedo nominated Bliss. Bliss refused. Azevedo said, “We need experience. I haven’t been on the board that long – only three years.” (And he missed some meetings during that period.)

Anderson asked if it were the Year of the Woman.

Again, Commissioner Lashbrook makes a vague comment about “Johnny” Pedrozo having only been on the board of supervisors for two years and already he’s chairman.

Azevedo pleads a “full plate” and reluctance to doing a “half-assed job.”

Commissioner Lashbrook counseled Azevedo: “If you get your board right, it’s not so bad.” Whipp prepares the agendas, she added.

Azevedo said that the president has to make public appearances from time to time.

Commissioner Lashbrook asked Whipp if digital agendas weren’t available for the president. Whipp replied that some presidents have asked, others haven’t.

Bliss philosophized, telling a story about old tires, meant to illuminate the issue.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the trick was “to develop trust and hire the right people.”

Bliss said that Whipp was the best staffer RCD had ever had.

Whipp replied that she had been doing agendas “for controversial agencies for years.”

Commissioner Lashbrook qualified that remark, saying RCD is “only temporarily controversial.”

Anderson nominated Karen Barstow for president.

Bliss seconded, asking if Azevedo would serve as vice president and Weber as treasurer.

Weber declined, citing lack of experience with numbers and money.

Bliss commented: “You walk up the chain to become president, then you become a rabble rouser.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said Weber would not have to be the financial officer. She added that she would follow through with the grants although not being a state-RCD approved officer.

Whipp noted that nobody had ever been a secretary treasurer.

Azevedo said to leave it open until there are more members on the board.

Anderson said he came back on the board with no idea of becoming an officer. “I feel myself transitional,” he said.

Barstow said she was used to running meetings and philosophized that “everyone has to serve.” She asked Weber to be the secretary treasurer.

Weber said she had no business experience.

Azevedo said she was a housewife, wasn’t she?

Weber said she was a physical therapist but not into the business side of it.

The board voted Barstow president, Azevedo vice president.

The next agenda item called for the creation of a personnel committee.

Weber said she was concerned that the RCD was running out of funds. “How does the RCD function without funds?” she asked. She said McConnell told her Mariposa RCD had a personnel committee, therefore a couple of board members could form such a committee and look at the options, anticipate different funding scenarios. “We’ve never come to grips …” with the possibility the RCD will run out of funds in August 2008. “And if we get the DOCIII grant, how will we allocate it?” (What staff will the RCD pay?)

Barstow said the RCD doesn’t have “personnel.”

Weber said Whipp and Commissioner Lashbrook are “contractors.”

Whipp said it would be a good idea to have this committee to develop the scope of work for the upcoming contracts.

Anderson asked, “You mean job descriptions?”

Weber replied that would be part of it but that she didn’t know the full breadth of personnel committees, but one question she had was how to allocate the few funds the RCD may end up with. “We will run out of the bulk of our funds by August,” she said.

Azevedo asked if the personnel committee would look for funds.

Weber said: not for the board.

Whipp said she’d just written that job into the description of the personnel committee, adding that every group she has worked for had a personnel committee.

Azevedo said the board needed more members, otherwise it is the same people.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the DOCIII grant proposal is a personnel grant and that this new proposed personnel committee should come up with some options.

Weber said it would be an advisory committee.

Azevedo and Bliss moved and seconded for the personnel committee.

As far as the public could tell, the motion passed (RCD board voting is sort of a vague process.) But the public was unable to determine what members of the board would serve on the new committee.

Commissioner Lashbrook said it would be nice to have board members involved and bringing reports back to the board.

The public hoped for the sake of the board that these reports would be clearer than board member Commissioner Lashbrook’s reports to the board.

Azevedo asked Hildebrandt where farmers go to find a place on the river to dump riprap.

Hildebrandt referred Azevedo to an agency staff person “to look at it.”

Commissioner Lashbrook asked if concrete was “permittable” on the river.

Hildebrandt said “in some places.”

Azevedo said Stevinson farmers always kept it for floods.

Hildebrandt said “it needed a permit.”

Anderson said, “Suppose we know somebody is doing it?”

Hildebrandt said to contact the Army Corps.

Bliss said to Anderson, “So, you’re the little birdy.”

Whipp informed the board that staff has prepared a draft “work plan” or possibly a “draft narrative” or both for the DOCIII watershed coordinator grant proposal. However, somehow she failed to bring a copy. But Barstow, who had a copies, ran off some more. It is only eight pages of narrative. There was no attached list of what the grant is proposing to fund. The grant will cover all watersheds in the RCD sphere of influence (not just the Merced River). There is money to fund facilitation of only one meeting a year of the Merced River Stakeholders.

Commissioner Lashbrook commented, “…to kind of keep it going.”

The public in attendance wondered what the grant proponents are going to do for stakeholders, but presumably they feel that their new work group will be sufficient to bamboozle state officials deciding on grants.

Whipp said that most of the grant is “project oriented,” for the landowners.

Which landowners, the public present wondered.

Commissioner Lashbrook continued in a low mumble, “…assuming the MRS still wants us hosting one meeting a year.”

Whipp said staff is already “building an amended work plan.” It will be “project oriented, not meeting oriented,” she said, and staff is looking for five projects for collaboration with RCD. She mentioned the Sullivan Ranch restoration, educational programs with MID and county Public Works. However, Whipp added, staff doesn’t need to name the projects at this point. All they need to do is indicate it is a “project-focused proposal” in the preliminary stage.

Staff is thinking of a traveling watershed fair. “What it is will be decided by the RCD,” she said. There is also a brochure developed by the former RCD watershed coordinator, Gwen Huff.

Commissioner Lashbrook said something about adding permitting agencies.

Whipp added that people at the work group really wanted the information on permitting. “They are very much more focused on doing” … than RCD staff and board members would like the world to believe the Merced River Stakeholders are.. In fact, six months earlier a coalition of MRS members successfully stopped a grant to RCD, which has threatened the income flow of RCD staff, because the MRS coalition could find nothing in the grant that had anything to do with anything but income flow to RCD staff.

The public was bemused by seeing that Supervisor Kelsey had taken sides with RCD staff against the Merced River Stakeholders by attending the watershed workshop meeting in December. Like Commissioner Lashbrook, as a public official, some feel it is dumb politics for Kelsey to have attended invitation-only meeting (verging on the secret but with public funds) about the Merced River that do not involve notifying all the MRS members, which has the clear intent, if only for another staff-funding grant, to replace the MRS. But Ms. Kelsey has her own aggregate interests on the river. Nevertheless, her support for one side in a controversy over the lower river at large demonstrates once again that Kelsey doesn’t represent the river, only a handful of landowners in Snelling and staffers like Commissioner Lashbrook.

Whipp said the watershed-group newsletter would be called, “Watersheds Newsletter,” which would list the projects RCD is doing.

Anderson asked what the scope of the projects would be?

Commissioner Lashbrook replied that for homecoming festivals etc. “we would be there with our little dog-and-pony show.”

Whipp clarified: “But on the watersheds,” by which she meant: not only the Merced River.

Public members attending the meeting were not immediately aware of festivals along Deadman Creek, Dutchman Creek, Mariposa Creek and others – homecoming or otherwise – by the public is notoriously ignorant of such events, events like the December watershed workshop. Some thought a Homecoming Festival for recidivists could be held on the bank of Deadman Creek, near the county jail.

Anderson asked: with a local focus?

Commissioner Lashbrook replied: “We would have to get partnership with those communities.” It wouldn’t be like the Merced River Alliance with all its staff.

Whipp clarified again: the intent is to give citizens watershed monitoring experience and establishing protocols. They need good training.

The public wondered at the dimensions of the conflicts involved: staff is “creating” the equipment for this monitoring; state and federal agencies do monitoring; MRS members, which includes most of the landowners and aggregate mines on the lower river do not relish the thought of “citizens” – mainly middle schoolers – doing water monitoring on the river.

Anderson said that after this training, the RCD needs to keep the citizens involved. “You are looking for a particular kind of activist.”

Commissioner Lashbrook expanded, saying the object was “to train the trainer types to take it to the grassroots.”

Weber said the object was to coordinate all the testing and the agencies to determine who is doing what where. The program shouldn’t be duplicative. She asked if oxygen studies had been done everywhere.

Commissioner Lashbrook noted that storm water drainage was one of the least monitored in all the small communities. She said that the idea was for citizens to adopt a park, either upstream or downstream from human activity and track the e. coli impacts on the river. The farmers are already being monitored. But are “urban” areas. There are gaps in the monitoring, apparently.

The public wondered if, now that citizen water-monitoring kits of some kind have been created, at public expense, now a market must be found for them, regardless of need or local desire for more water monitoring.

Anderson said it would be necessary to work out some sort of monitoring protocol.

Commissioner Lashbrook said it had been hard to get the San Joaquin Monitoring Partnership going, but that UC Merced and Merced College were willing to help on this proposal. It would work well in a fourth through eighth-grade curriculum.

Whipp informed the board that only two staffers would be allowed to share in this grant. The grant is only a draft at this stage and that there would be many rewrites in the process. Remaining funding, however, is low and there are only about 36 hours of funding left for grant preparation. So, would the broad approve $3,200 for Whipp and Commissioner Lashbrook to finish preparing the proposal and provide one or two board members to review to 44-page final draft before submission? The draft would probably be done by December 31. It could be reviewed on New Years Eve.

Weber said she could review it on January 2.

Commissioner Lashbrook said staff was getting letters of support and partnership collaboration from groups like Grasslands RCD, Chowchilla River RCD and others.

The board voted unanimously to approve the $3,200.

The board moved on to discuss its five-year plan.

Anderson asked if the RCD mission statement was unique to this RCD or parallel to the state association of RCDs.

Commissioner Lashbrook said it was “from the CARCD template and is in alignment with most RCDs.”

Bliss asked if it needed tinkering.

Azevedo focused on #5: “to actively pursue funding.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that RCD staff had been doing NRCS outreach to farmers on the EQIP program funding. But that funding really meant getting this grant.

Anderson suggested taking the list of goals home to prioritize them.

Azevedo said he got an opportunity to see the mission statement.

A member of the public pointed out that the RCD mission statement is on the agenda page for the meeting.

Anderson moved to take the items home for individual prioritization. The motion passed.

The board said it would attempt to track down the RCD seeder and Azevedo would inspect it and report.

Anderson said RCD having equipment is a thing of the past.

Bliss said an RCD land plane had gone from Merced to Fresno in a year.

Anderson said that’s been privatized.

Azevedo said let’s see what the seeder looks like.

Barstow brought up the issue of the annexation (an addition to the RCD special district).

Commissioner Lashbrook said she thought the RCD missed the LAFCO deadline “for the money thing – we need to try to get some earmarks. About $2,700 is at stake and there might be further expenses.”

“Earmarks” from whom or what was unclear. A little provision in the county Mental Health budget perhaps? Or will it take an act of Congress to do “the money thing”?

Bliss said that the district excludes the city of Merced but “we get everything from the Grasslands to the mountains. If you take money from the USDA you’re in, whether you are signed up or not.”

Next the board turned to the issue of the Hilmar Cheese deep injection pumps. Azevedo said the company made a presentation. It is doing deep injection and the community had no input into the decision.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the EPA gave them a test permit. Azevedo said he’d learned that once it’s below 1,000 feet it is out of state jurisdiction and into federal (EPA). Anderson said the wells are below 3,000. Azevedo said it is injecting milk processing wastes under pressure. It might work in Texas, he said, but one California earthquake could make a mess. He repeated that nobody local had any input.

Commissioner Lashbrook said there was a little meeting in Modesto she went to, but she didn’t report on what was said at the little meeting.

The next item concerned RCD board participation in the county general plan update. Anderson sits on the agriculture focus group, Weber on the open space group. They invited board to provide input for them to carry back to their focus groups. (The general plan update process involves citizen input in focus groups. The oldest, most active environmental groups in the county, including the one that sued the county to force it to do its original general plan, are excluded from these focus groups because they have sued local governments for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. Worst of all, they have sued on UC Merced, which stimulated a real estate boom resulting in the county’s top national position for rate of foreclosure.)

Weber said the open space and habitat group was “a really good group and had state agencies in it.” It covers a lot of issues. She said if she’d known she’d have brought the text, which involves smart growth, oak woodlands and a grading ordinance. She said there was no ordinance involving agriculture-to-agriculture conversions (seasonal pasture to orchard deep-ripping).

Azevedo noted that if there is any change to the flow of water that will affect vernal pools, you have to have a permit. Bliss said a former RCD board member had man-made vernal pools.

Weber said assistant planning director Bill Nicholson was at the focus group, that everybody likes the idea of riparian habitat and that it is a “very good group.”

The next item was board recruitment. Anderson asked if they could recruit Hmongs and Hispanics.

The next item was about RCD relations with the MRS. Azevedo asked how well the two mission statements gelled. Bliss said that the RCD controls the lower half of the river. He said to leave the issue alone, see how it works out.

Commissioner Lashbrook said they needed to go beyond the mission statement to how the group is formed. She said RCD needed to revisit the issue if MRS goes ahead with its planned meeting at Washington School on January 23. Do they need Whipp to do email invitations and agendas. She said the RCD agreed to that.

Whipp questioned that, saying there is no money to do that work and that the board would have to pay her to do the notification. Weber asked how much. Bliss said to just give the MRS the list of addressed.

Lydia Miller, a member of the public in attendance and also a member of the MRS, said the MRS also wanted the archived MRS binders (of MRS business).

Whipp said the RCD needed to keep them.

Miller said, just for the meeting. “We’ll commit to bringing them back or give them to an RCD member attending the MRS meeting,” she said.

Bliss said, “We can’t turn loose of that stuff.”

Miller said that MRS archives belong to the MRS.

Then they returned to the Hilmar injection-well situation. It was suggested the board write a letter, but Azevedo was concerned about RCD liability – if it wanted to get involved. Barstow said she’d ask some of the Hilmar Cheese people at her Bible Study group.

The RCD December board meeting adjourned shortly after.

January 16, 2008 East Merced Resource District board meeting

Karen Barstow presides. Four members present. Tony Azevedo is absent.

Karen Whipp, RCD staff, announces that staff reports will not be available to the public before the meeting. Barstow said that board members receive their reports at the meeting. Whipp said she doesn’t get them ready before the meeting.

Board Member and county Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook said: “That’s the way we do it.”

Members of the public present noted that up until two months ago, Whipp had made reports available before meetings. They also noted that without reports being available before the meeting, the public was not able to make public comments on them and that board members we not competent to decide on them, either.

Whipp said RCD staff was going to submit a final proposal for the DOCIII grant (third round of state Department of Conservation grants) and a $6,000 bill at the end of January. Then she discussed the various budget spreadsheets (staff reports) and talked about “recoupments” and “invoice cycles.”

Cherchant dans La Larouse Elementaire (1956) il est decouvert:

Recoupment: n.m. Verification d’un fait au moyen de renseignements provenant de sources diverses. Procede particulier de leve des plans.

Board members and the public were not clear about what she was talking about because they had had no time in advance to study the spreadsheets. Whipp’s report, so to speak, was French aux vaches espanoles.

The next item was Bernard Wade’s resignation as president and from the board in November. Board member Bob Bliss asked if the board had to accept it. Whipp said it was properly submitted to the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors and that the RCD should write a letter to the supervisors requesting them to announce the vacancies on the RCD board.

Barstow asked if there were two vacancies.

Commissioner Lashbrook confirmed. Whipp said the supervisors had already advertised the vacancy for the other position. She added that the RCD could recommend board members to the supervisors. Weber said that if there is more than one candidate, it has to go to one of the election days this year.

Bliss and board member Glenn Anderson discussed adding American Indians or Hispanics because there were already women on the board. Weber said there was a notice board in Snelling where the announcement should be posted. Anderson said there were several notice boards in Hilmar. Weber said there should be more effort at outreach beyond a public notice in the Merced Sun-Star. Anderson suggested a press release.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the board should write to each supervisor for suggestions, noting that almost all of the board members are from Supervisor Diedre Kelsey’s district now. The board decided it was weakest in the Planada/Le Grand area.

Natural Resource Conservation District director Malia Hildebrandt was absent but sent a written report.

Commissioner Lashbrook, RCD and Merced River Alliance staff, said she had not written her report but had spent a lot of time grant writing in the last month and had conducted a watershed tour for the California Women for Agriculture. She added that they should know about the watershed grant by early March.

Anderson noted that the watershed tour was the final forum required by the last grant and that at least 30 of the 80 attendees were local, which was good, he thought.

Commissioner Lashbrook said that UC Merced showcased its local research into dairy groundwater monitoring, global warming and Blue oaks and the Sierra snow pack … “They got to do their commercial,” she said.

The tour went to the dam and the Kelsey aggregate mining project and observed vernal pools on graze land.

Weber said that Supervisor Kelsey had said during the tour that “you can’t deep rip without a permit,” but that we don’t have a grading ordinance that covers agriculture-to-agriculture conversions (which often involve deep ripping).

Commissioner Lashbrook wondered if something could be done with that in the general plan update.

Lydia Miller, a member of the public in attendance, said the county won’t report to the federal agencies on agriculture-to-agriculture conversions, whether deep-ripped or disked. The federal agencies require a permit but there is a question about how much or often they will enforce a violation. The county won’t agree to a grading ordinance on ag-to-ag conversion, she said.

Barstow asked the board if it wanted someone to address this issue at a later meeting.

Anderson said something about “the local culture.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said the CARCD has workshops on this issue and that Mariposa and Solano counties have grading ordinances.

Miller said the county was on notice about ag-to-ag conversions. She added that conversion from non-irrigation to irrigation agriculture should trigger an environmental impact report.

Merced River Alliance staff director, Nancy McConnell’s written report took another angle on the watershed tour, mainly pointed at burying the Merced River Stakeholders.

Whipp announced that the Feb. 11 Alliance dinner at Cathey’s Valley now had an expanded number of (new) participants and would be called, “Vision to Action.” She added that MRA staffer Terry McLoughlin was developing a new water monitoring kit for groundwater.

Anderson noted that groundwater changes through the season and depends to some extent on the irrigation techniques used.

Commissioner Lashbrook said that was why the RCD had to support the $5-million grant proposal of the Merced Area Groundwater Pool Interests to model how groundwater moves, where recharge is viable and where it isn’t.

Barstow canvassed the group to see where groundwater studies were being done. In her area, there were studies, she said. Bliss said he had been preaching groundwater recharge in his area for years but farmers don’t listen, they just want water. Barstow said recharge was another topic for a later meeting.

Staff announced there would be a water-monitoring training in Mariposa for the lower watershed volunteers on February 9. Anderson asked who it would be best to have there. Bliss said teachers. Anderson asked, agriculture or science teachers? Whipp said science teachers. Commissioner Lashbrook though ag teachers would be good, too. Anderson said UC Merced people and what about Merced College.

The next topic was the board’s ethics review, which involves board members watching a DVD and reading a book. Weber and Barstow decided how to break up the chapters so that individual members could make 30-minute reports on ethics in future meetings.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the state association of RCDs has a nice power point presentation on the state law of public meetings or Brown Act.

Commissioner Lashbrook asked about the Riverside Motorsports Park. Weber said the RCD had not taken a position on that project. Barstow said she thought it was going to go through.

Miller said the key was the foreign trade zone at the former Castle Air Force Base, which the base developers cannot get without the RMP project on adjacent land. But, if it doesn’t make it as a racetrack, it would become some other development project. The best thing would be for the supervisors to put it in an easement, she said.

Next, the board briefly discussed its five-year plan and the Hilmar Cheese deep injection wells, noting the wastewater is processed before it is injected but salinity is an issue. It was reported that the company planned to add three more injection pumps and the present one is down to 4,100 feet.

Staff reported that on January 25, the San Joaquin Regional Water Quality Control Board will have a 90-minute public presentation on the injection wells.

Anderson said there were 273 deep injection wells in Florida and that they are leaking into the Gulf. Those are also processed wastewater wells. Someone asked what relation the Hilmar wells have to groundwater studies. The RCD policy seems to be to study deep injection without mentioning Hilmar Cheese.

To recap the Hilmar Cheese wastewater situation for the casual reader of these public minutes, the Sacramento Bee did an expose on the amount of wastewater the company, which bills itself as the largest cheese factory in the world, was dumping into the groundwater around Hilmar, a small farming community in north Merced County, in the northern San Joaquin Valley. Note that neither of the local McClatchy Chain outlets dare to speak of Hilmar Cheese except in the most flattering terms. The Sac Bee articles resulted in the region water board finally fining the company several million dollars, which the company got reduced after the heat was off. But, either stung by this terrible call to accountability or according to a business plan already worked out, the company announced it was building its new plant in the Panhandle of Texas (“more friendly to business than California,” etc.) Meanwhile, the plant is pumping millions of gallons of treated cheese-plant wastewater are being deep injected into the ground.

Moving on to fund-raising, Anderson volunteered Tony Azevedo (absent) to hold professional fund-raising events at his ranch, which has facilities for it.

Next they moved to the subject of educating youth on endangered species. Weber said it was not realistic and that the way to go was with MRA staffer McLoughlin’s water monitoring kits. Commissioner Lashbrook asked if there should be outreach. Weber said the kits are the things. Barstow said RCD should help disseminate the kits and educate the community on them.

Anderson wondered if the grant should “feed Stillwater Science into the community.”

Weber said the grant had a component for that. Commissioner Lashbrook said it would be easy with the grant. Then she mentioned teachers and kits again before her cell phone rang.

Anderson said that confined livestock fits into this, too, and that “we all need enlightenment on this.

Weber said she is starting to work with landowners on riparian vegetation.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the RCD needs library cataloging. “We aren’t sure where things are.”

Then they discussed information it would be necessary to present new board members. The meeting broke down briefly into a multitude of contending themes: Anderson’s New Age library; Bliss’ belief there would be an east side canal; getting county planning staff to RCD workshops; suburban sprawl needs autos, no services in walking distance; and argument between Commissioner Lashbrook and Weber on the utility of the general plan focus groups.

Miller suggested the RCD should consider the field agricultural and conservation easements because it used to be a leader in conservation. She said biologist John Vollmar did good work with RCD, but it got turned around during the property rights hoopla and the incredible misunderstanding fomented by elected officials about the Williamson Act being mitigation for UC Merced. There is lots of funding for easements, she said, suggesting that the RCD should ask UC Merced or the state Department of Fish and Game about the strategic plan for easements to mitigate for UC Merced. Numerous mitigation banks are entering the market, she added. There is a distinction between agricultural and conservation easements and traditional land trusts favor agriculture and are adverse to species-habitat conservation easements, Miller explained.

Anderson said the RCD should be at the center of this “cultural transition, creating hybrids of agriculture and conservation.”

Commissioner Lashbrook interrupted this line of thought to say that the riparian initiative deadline is January 31 and the fund has $1.5 million for landowner incentives – full costs of restoration and $400/acre for 10 years to maintain. She added that (although her land is on the river) she doesn’t have any land “I can back off on” but she’d like to get her neighbors involved in the program.

Anderson said the board needed more maps to visualize their space. He mentioned an upcoming CEQA workshop organized by the WalMart Action Team. Commissioner Lashbrook referred to it as “for grassroots activists.” (County officials will also hold a CEQA workshop the same day.)

Miller said that last CEQA workshop her group organized was mainly attended by attorneys and land-use officials. So attendance varies.

Weber brought up a new Santa Fe Aggregate project to take 400 acres of dredge tailings down to grade level and assume nature will do the reclamation. She couldn’t define what “grade level” meant.

Merced County Planning Commissioner Lashbrook said the RCD is not set up to comment on land-use issues. It needs a steering committee.

Anderson wondered if the board couldn’t have a staffer do comments. (Certainly not a board member.) Weber and Whipp describe the runaround the planning department is giving them on getting project staff reports mailed to the RCD. Nobody checks the RCD post office box, evidently. Barstow said that as long as Planning Commissioner Lashbrook is already there, couldn’t she highlight the items for the RCD? Whipp said the RCD isn’t getting any environmental impact reports. Commissioner Lashbrook said the planning department doesn’t post any staff reports but offers to fax Weber staff reports.

Commissioner Lashbrook said the county had just hired a new lawyer to clean up the planning situation and make the county less “sue-able.”

Bliss and Anderson lurch off into a conversation that ends with Bliss saying a barracuda was caught off San Francisco two weeks ago.

Commissioner Lashbrook said how the grant proposal is expanded to the entire watershed in the RCD district, not just the river.

Miller said that the Merced River Stakeholders need the archive binder of MRS business for its January 28 meeting. (Advance: the RCD did not provide the binder.)

The rest of the meeting was about developing local food systems, a “buy fresh, buy local” campaign, a grant for obesity, enhancing the value of farms, and nostalgia about Korean vegetable gardens grown in human and animal wastes observed by one board member during the Korean War.

The meeting adjourned.

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What now?

Submitted: Jan 12, 2008

The level of failure

There is a theory about the American economy that it advances and recedes via speculative bubble these days. This seems to be particularly true of our regional economy in the San Joaquin Valley, with its unaffordable housing and nationally top rate of mortgage foreclosure, following the big boom in residential real estate speculation.

Southern California home builders, after tremendous growth during the boom, have suffering hundreds of millions in losses in the second half of 2007. However, their losses are not as severe as the losses of five San Joaquin Delta fish species that "continue marching toward extinction, according to new data released Wednesday, a result that some observers warn may signify a major ecological shift in the West Coast's largest estuary." The tremendous construction boom in Southern California, coming at the time Colorado River exports to the region was slowed by drought and new agreements among the states that take water from that river, put "excessive" pressure for the last five years on the Delta pumps, slowed only as a result of near extinction of species and lawsuits by environmental groups. Another problem in the Delta is deteriorating water quality, caused by urban and farm runoff. As it heads north on the west side of the Valley, the San Joaquin River has become an agricultural drainage sewer.

Farm and ranch land prices are also up. First, starting about a decade ago, demand from Southern California dairymen, who, having sold small dairies for large land prices there, bought large parcels and established even larger dairies here. This bubble, driven by the need to get money into land to avoid taxes, got bigger when local landowners started selling parcels to developers and buying more land. As home prices fall, agricultural land prices rise. We live in a complicated economy.

However, while dairy costs seem to be chasing milk prices (which received a hefty increase early last year) up to break-even dairy economics, rising almond prices signal business to buy orchards and to plant them in what is already by far the world's largest almond-producing area. Agriculturally, in the north San Joaquin Valley we are in the midst of an almond bubble. Yet, through the last 12 months, the same story appears periodically in the media. According to this story, honeybee hives are collapsing, their residents leaving in the morning and not returning at night. Although scientists have fixed their attention on this cause and that cause, the same story of hive collapse -- "CCD – colony collapse disorder – has resulted in a loss of 50 percent to 90 percent of beehives in the United States" -- ends with the scientific speculation that, "The evidence today is pointing to the effects of a complex chain of factors: pesticides, viruses and fungi and parasites such as mites."

Colony collapse disorder could be to the almond industry what the subprime mortgage credit collapse has been to the speculative housing boom.

If the speculative bubble in ethanol is added to the picture, perhaps we can understand a simple story told by a dairyman about feed supplies and prices. Dairies import a lot of corn from the Midwest. The prices for this corn, under pressure from the speculative boom in corn-based ethanol production, have been going through the roof. Dairies have been partly compensating by buying more alfalfa. In at least one instance, a local dairyman was unable to buy a field of west-side alfalfa because the alfalfa grower found it more economically advantageous to sell the amount of water necessary to finish the crop to a neighboring almond grower, who needed it to keep his trees alive and was evidently able to make it worth the alfalfa grower's while to sell it to him and lose a crop. Nevertheless, courts have ruled there will be up to 30-percent less pumping from the Delta this year than there was last year.

We had a recent series of storms that partially recharged Valley groundwater and dumped a great deal of snow in the Sierra. The drought would seem to be over. However, a warm rain up to 6,000 feet in early spring could convert the healthy snow pack into floods and breaks in our decrepit levee system rather than an adequate supply of water for Valley farmers, 25 million Southern California residents and Valley subdivisions dependent on surface water supplies. It is hard these days to know which weather gods to pray to for what, when. It is equally hard to blame those weather gods for an economy that lurches from boom to bust and back again without any respect for the natural resources that sustain both agriculture and urban communities.

"Long-range collateral damage" in the California real estate boom/bust economy has been our public education system. California is now

ranked 40th based on the likelihood students will thrive in school and have successful adult lives, according to Education Week newspaper's annual Quality Counts report.
It ranks high, however, when comparing students in Advanced Placement programs.
Children who live in poverty, whose parents are not fluent in English or do not have a college degree were among the factors that weaken a California child's chance for success, according to the report.
The state ranks 38th in the nation for academic achievement.
California fourth-graders ranked 48th in the nation based on their scores on a national reading test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Only 23 percent of California fourth-graders were proficient in reading, compared with 32 percent nationwide.
Those students also fell behind the national average in math, with less than 30 percent testing proficient, compared with a 39 percent U.S. average...

Our educational ranking has been going in the opposite direction of population growth over the last 40 years. Development does not pay for itself in this most essential category: public investment in children and young people at which California once excelled and was in the highest rank in the nation.

At the level of public higher education in the state, the governor has announced deep cuts in spending and the University of California and the State university system have announced tuition hikes, making, in a coming recession, public higher education less attainable than ever. One still hears the grand developer-driven hoopla around the necessity for UC Merced because of "tidal-wave 2" echoing in the hollowed-out economy. But the governor needs to cut the state deficit, which is growing as real estate prices fall. Real estate prices are falling because the speculative bubble burst. So, we must sacrifice investment in the real engine of growth, the resources for technological invention that exist in a well-educated workforce.

The illiteracy among home buyers, realtors and mortgage lenders, the simple inability to read small print, has had a large role in the global credit crisis.

It has been recognized, even by the state Legislature, that the real-estate "engine of growth" that has been driving California from bubble to bust to bubble again, sweeping many more modest but steadier economies before it, has had a gross impact on the state's environment. Last year, in an historic gesture, the Legislature declared itself against global warming. It also asserted the right "to adopt strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks." The federal Environmental Protection Agency denied California this right to do something more than what the federal government requires to clean up its own air quality, the worst in the nation. On the other hand, a Valley state senator is having to launch a political campaign to stop confirmation of the Hun's latest appointment to the state air board, a Fresno County supervisor with a strong record in support of air polluters.

Bank of America announced today it would take over California-based Countrywide Financial Corp., the nation's largest mortgage lender. BofA already had a $2-billion investment in the company, rumored for months to be on the brink of bankruptcy.

The takeover removes the threat that Countrywide could fail and wreak more havoc in the mortgage market, where loan defaults are soaring and federal policymakers have been struggling to limit the spillover in the economy.
The rescue of Countrywide could help calm the "crisis of confidence" that has slammed the financial system as the housing and mortgage markets have crumbled, said Brian Bethune of Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm in Lexington, Mass. "This will change perceptions."
Fear that the housing mess could drag the U.S. economy into recession has depressed the stock market in recent months and spurred the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates three times. On Thursday, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the central bank was ready to make further "substantive" moves to ease credit to help the economy.
In the case of Countrywide, policymakers had to be concerned about "a big domino going down," Bethune said..
For Countrywide, a takeover by a financially robust suitor is "a gift from heaven," said banking industry analyst Richard Bove of Punk, Ziegel & Co.

The stock market responded by falling another 267 points but: "Countrywide Financial Corp. founder Angelo Mozilo, one of the nation's highest-paid chief executives, stands to reap $115 million in severance-related pay if his troubled company is acquired by Bank of America Corp., regulatory filings show."

This is a failed chief executive -- a failed and overpaid chief executive -- who has driven his company to the brink of bankruptcy," said Daniel Pedrotty, director of the office of investment at the AFL-CIO. "I think shareholders are going to be especially outraged if he walks away with another pay-for-failure package."...
"He has driven the stock price into the ground and the company has been destroyed," Ferlauto said. "Their customers have lost their homes and he is potentially walking away with more than $100 million. For us, that's unconscionable enrichment.

It is possible that the result of this “take over” will simply be that the largest corrupt mortgage lender in the nation drags down the bank that had most to do with the agricultural development of the San Joaquin valley. It is also possible that if enough bubbles burst simultaneously in the north San Joaquin Valley, we may not live long enough to dig ourselves out of the collapse. These "possibilities," left to us by our leading public officials and special interests, are rotten. They harm our quality of life, our health, our economic futures and our childrens' futures are worse. Local politics, our own "art of the possible," has few good choices to make.

It’s no secret that Merced faces many steep challenges. Ours is among the poorest counties in California with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates and lowest levels of educational attainment. Poverty, substance abuse, and child neglect are daily realities for many of our children and neighbors. -- Merced County Human Services Agency Director Ana Pagan.

Merced was poorer than competing counties for the UC campus in the San Joaquin Valley. Maybe that was one of the deciding factors in locating it here -- the idea that it would have more positive economic and cultural benefit here than at an alternative site. In the short run, UC's largest impact on Merced has been to have acted the engine for growth of the highest foreclosure rate in the nation the worst series of assaults on state and federal environmental law and its enforcement in the history of those laws and the agencies enforcing them. In Merced, this was accompanied by a wholesale devaluation of anyone not in on the speculative boom. Local land-use officials and an endless parade of real estate boosters both promoted and believed in an instant transformation of the poor old agricultural economy of Merced. It didn't happen. It will take at least a generation for UC Merced to exert much positive economic influence here. Meanwhile, thanks to the spectacular extent of the bust in this region, it may take almost a generation for development to pick up steam again. Meanwhile, the county remains full of people who are not part of the famous "high-tech, bio-tech engine of growth" promised by UC and who are wondering what's next.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Sacramento Bee
Fish: Delta drop sparks fears of ecological shift...Matt Weiser

Bees: Steep population loss hits agriculture hard...Ngoc Nguyen

Modesto Bee
Report: California a tough place for children to get ahead
California ranked 40th in nation on likelihood students will find success...MERRILL BALASSONE

Los Angeles Times
U.S. denial of California emissions waiver criticized
Sen. Boxer, chairman of a Senate environment panel, says she might subpoena documents concerning possible White House interference...Margot Roosevelt,1,33705,print.story?coll=la-news-environment

Bank of America announces Countrywide takeover
The $4-billion deal removes the threat of a bankruptcy that could wreak more havoc in the mortgage market. Both firms' stocks decline...Walter Hamilton, Tom Petruno and E. Scott Reckard,0,786793,print.story?coll=la-home-center

Mozilo could reap $115 million
The Countrywide CEO's potential pay if his company is acquired rankles critics...Kathy M. Kristof,1,5951348,print.story?coll=la-headlines-business

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Ideas that won't be discussed at this weekend's California Women For Agriculture/UC Merced/Great Valley Center gala

Submitted: Jan 08, 2008

Below are two lengthy reviews of William Enghahl's Seeds of Destruction, a critical look at the political, economic and scientific history behind the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Once again they come to us through an indespensible website for people concerned with agribusiness science and the political economy behind it, For those of us trying to understand the complex relationships between agriculture, the environment, economics and science in order to better understand the San Joaquin valley, Engdahl's Seeds of Destruction sounds like a must companion book to Jeffrey Smith's Seeds of Deception. The recurring image of the American population acting as "lab rats" for a gigantic, unregulated experiment on the long-term impacts to health of a diet full of GMOs is daunting, as are the stories of corporate thuggery against scientists who have dared to raise any alarm. The specter of world domination of patented seed by a handful of gigantic corporations is chilling and should be of the highest interest in the San Joaquin Valley, where many of the political, economic, agricultural and chemical forms of agribusiness originated.

Badlands editorial board

F. William Engdahl's 'Seeds of Destruction'

Review By Stephen Lendman - 1-2-8

Part I of "Seeds of Destruction"

In 2003, Jeffrey Smith's "Seeds of Deception" was published. It exposed
the dangers of untested and unregulated genetically engineered foods most
people eat every day with no knowledge of the potential health risks.
Efforts to inform the public have been quashed, reliable science has been
buried, and consider what happened to two distinguished scientists.

One was Ignatio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at the University of
California, Berkeley. In September, 2001, he was invited to a carefully
staged meeting with Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, Mexico's Director of the
Commission of Biosafety in Mexico City. The experience left Chapela shaken
and angry as he explained. Monasterio attacked him for over an hour. "First
he trashed me. He let me know how damaging to the country and how
problematic my information was to be."

Chapela referred to what he and a UC Berkeley graduate student, David
Quist, discovered in 2000 about genetically engineered contamination of
Mexican corn in violation of a government ban on these crops in 1998. Corn
is sacred in Mexico, the country is home to hundreds of indigenous varieties
that crossbreed naturally, and GM contamination is permanent and
unthinkable - but it happened by design.

Chapela and Quist tested corn varieties in more than a dozen state of
Oaxaca communities and discovered 6% of the plants contaminated with GM
corn. Oaxaca is in the country's far South so Chapela knew if contamination
spread there, it was widespread throughout Mexico. It's unavoidable because
NAFTA allows imported US corn with 30% of it at the time genetically
modified. Now it's heading for nearly double that amount, and if not
contained, it soon could be all of it.

The prestigious journal Nature agreed to publish Chapela's findings,
Monasterio wanted them quashed, but Chapela refused to comply. As a result,
he was intimidated not to do it and threatened with being held responsible
for all damages to Mexican agriculture and its economy.

He went ahead, nonetheless, and when his article appeared in the
publication on November 29, 2001 the smear campaign against him began and
intensified. It was later learned that Monsanto was behind it, and the
Washington-based Bivings Group PR firm was hired to discredit his findings
and get them retracted.

It worked because the campaign didn't focus on Chapela's contamination
discovery, but on a second research conclusion even more serious. He learned
the contaminated GM corn had as many as eight fragments of the CaMV promoter
that creates an unstable "hotspot." It can cause plant genes to fragment,
scatter throughout the plant's genome, and, if proved conclusively, would
wreck efforts to introduce GM crops in the country. Without further
evidence, there was still room for doubt if the second finding was valid,
however, and the anti-Chapela campaign hammered him on it.

Because of the pressure, Nature took an unprecedented action in its 133
year history. It upheld Chapela's central finding but retracted the other
one. That was all it took, and the major media pounced on it. They denounced
Chapela's incompetence and tried to discredit everything he learned
including his verified findings. They weren't reported, his vilification was
highlighted, and Monsanto and the Mexican government scored a big victory.

Ironically, on April 18, 2002, two weeks after Nature's partial
retraction, the Mexican government announced there was massive genetic
contamination of traditional corn varieties in Oaxaca and the neighboring
state of Puebla. It was horrifying as up to 95% of tested crops were
genetically polluted and "at a speed never before predicted." The news made
headlines in Europe and Mexico. It was ignored in the US and Canada.

The fallout for Chapela was UC Berkeley denied him tenure in 2003 because
of his article and for criticizing university ties to the biotech industry.
He then filed suit in April, 2004 asking remuneration for lost wages,
earnings and benefits, compensatory damages for humiliation, mental anguish,
emotional distress and coverage of attorney fees and costs for his action.
He won in May, 2005 but not in court when the university reversed its
decision, granted him tenure and agreed to include retroactive pay back to
2003. The damage, however, was done and is an example of what's at stake
when anyone dares challenge a powerful company like Monsanto.

The other man attacked was the world's leading lectins and plant genetic
modification expert, UK-based Arpad Pusztai. He was vilified and fired from
his research position at Scotland's Rowett Research Institute for publishing
industry-unfriendly data he was commissioned to produce on the safety of GMO

His Rowett Research study was the first ever independent one conducted on
them anywhere. He undertook it believing in their promise but became alarmed
by his findings. The Clinton and Blair governments were determined to
suppress them because Washington was spending billions promoting GMO crops
and a future biotech revolution. It wasn't about to let even the world's
foremost expert in the field derail the effort. His results were startling
and consider the implications for humans eating genetically engineered

Rats fed GMO potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles and brains,
damaged immune systems, and showed structural changes in their white blood
cells making them more vulnerable to infection and disease compared to other
rats fed non-GMO potatoes. It got worse. Thymus and spleen damage showed up;
enlarged tissues, including the pancreas and intestines; and there were
cases of liver atrophy as well as significant proliferation of stomach and
intestines cells that could be a sign of greater future risk of cancer.
Equally alarming - this all happened after 10 days of testing, and the
changes persisted after 110 days that's the human equivalent of 10 years.

GM foods today saturate our diet. Over 80% of all supermarket processed
foods contain them. Others include grains like rice, corn and wheat; legumes
like soybeans and soy products; vegetable oils; soft drinks; salad
dressings; vegetables and fruits; dairy products including eggs; meat and
other animal products; and even infant formula plus a vast array of hidden
additives and ingredients in processed foods (like in tomato sauce, ice
cream and peanut butter). They're unrevealed to consumers because labeling
is prohibited yet the more of them we eat, the greater the potential threat
to our health.

Today, we're all lab rats in an uncontrolled, unregulated mass human
experiment the results of which are unknown. The risks from it are beyond
measure, it will take many years to learn them, and when they're finally
revealed it will be too late to reverse the damage if it's proved GM
products harm human health as independent experts strongly believe. Once GM
seeds are introduced to an area, the genie is out of the bottle for keeps.

Despite the enormous risks, however, Washington and growing numbers of
governments around the world in parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America and
Africa now allow these products to be grown in their soil or imported.
They're produced and sold to consumers because agribusiness giants like
Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgriSciences and Cargill have enormous clout to demand
it and a potent partner supporting them - the US government and its
agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture and State, FDA, EPA and
even the defense establishment. World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) patent rules also back them
along with industry-friendly WTO rulings like the February 7, 2006 one.

It favored a US challenge against European GMO regulatory policies in
spite of strong consumer sentiment against these foods and ingredients on
the continent. It also violated the Biosafety Protocol that should let
nations regulate these products in the public interest, but it doesn't
because WTO trade rules sabotaged it. Nonetheless, anti-GMO activism
persists, consumers still have a say, and there are hundreds of GMO-free
zones around the world, including in the US. That and more is needed to take
on the agribusiness giants that so far have everything going their way.

In "Seeds of Deception," Jeffrey Smith did a masterful job explaining the
dangers of GM foods and ingredients. Engdahl explains them as well but goes
much further brilliantly in his blockbuster book on this topic. It's the
story of a powerful family and a "small socio-political American elite
(that) seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival" -
future life through the food we eat. The book's introduction says it "reads
(like) a crime story." It's also a nightmare but one that's very real and

This review covers the book in-depth because of its importance. It's an
extraordinary work that "reveals a diabolical World of profit-driven
political intrigue (and) government corruption and coercion" that's part of
a decades-long global scheme for total world dominance. The book deserves
vast exposure and must be read in full for the whole disturbing story. It's
hoped the material below will encourage readers to do it in their own
self-interest and to marshal mass consumer actions to place food safety
above corporate profits.

Engdahl's book supplies the ammunition to do it and is also a sequel to
his earlier one on war, oil politics and The New World Order and follows
naturally from it. It covers the roots of the strategy to control "global
food security" that goes back to the 1930s and the plans of a handful of
American families to preserve their wealth and power. But it centers on one
in particular that above the others "came to symbolize the hubris and
arrogance of the emerging American century" that blossomed post-WW II. Its
patriarch began in oil and then dominated it in his powerful Oil Trust. It
was only the beginning as the family expanded into "education of youth,
medicine and psychology," US foreign policy, and "the very science of life
itself, biology, and its applications" in plants and agriculture.

The family's name is Rockefeller. The patriarch was John D., and four
powerful later-generation brothers followed him - David, Nelson, Laurance,
and John D. III. Engdahl says the GMO story covers "the evolution of power
in the hands of an elite (led by this family), determined (above all) to
bring the entire world under their sway." They and other elites already
control most of it, including the nation's energy, the US Federal Reserve,
and other key world central banks. Today, three brothers are gone, David
alone remains, and he's still a force at age 92 although he no longer runs
the family bank, JP Morgan Chase. He's active in family enterprises,
however, including the Rockefeller Foundation to be discussed in Part II of
this review.

F. William Engdahl is the author of Seeds of Destruction, the Hidden
Agenda of Genetic Manipulation just released by Global Research. He is also
the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New
World Order, Pluto Press Ltd.. To contact him by e-mail:

F. William Engdahl's
'Seeds of Destruction' - Part 2
By Stephen Lendman

William Engdahl's book is a diabolical account of how four
Anglo-American agribusiness giants plan world domination by patenting life
forms to gain worldwide control of our food supply and our lives. This
review is in three in-depth parts. Part I was published and is available on
this web site. Part II follows below.

Washington Launches the GMO Revolution

The roots of the story go back decades, but Engdahl explains the
science of "biological and genetic-modification of plants and other life
forms first" came out of US research labs in the 1970s when no one noticed.
They soon would because the Reagan administration was determined to make
America dominant in this emerging field. The biotech agribusiness industry
was especially favored, and companies in the early 1980s raced to develop
GMO plants, livestock and GMO-based animal drugs. Washington made it easy
for them with an unregulated, business-friendly climate that persisted ever
since under Republicans and Democrats alike.

Food safety and public health issues aren't considered vital if they
conflict with profits. So the entire population is being used as lab rats
for these completely new, untested and potentially hazardous products. And
leading the effort to develop them is a company with a "long record of
fraud, cover-up, bribery," deceit and disdain for the public interest -

Its first product was saccharin that was later proved to be a
carcinogen. It then got into chemicals, plastics and became notorious for
Agent Orange that was used to defoliate Vietnam jungles in the 1960s and
1970s and exposed hundreds of thousands of civilians and US troops to deadly
dioxin, one of the most toxic of all known compounds.

Along with others in the industry, Monsanto is also a shameless
polluter. It has a history of secretly dumping some of the most lethal
substances known in water and soil and getting away with it. Today on its
web site, however, the company ignores its record and calls itself "an
agricultural company (applying) innovation and technology to help farmers
around the world be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds
and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture's impact on our
environment." Engdahl proves otherwise in his thorough research that's
covered below in detail.

In spite of its past, Monsanto and other GMO giants got unregulated
free rein in the 1980s and especially after George HW Bush became president
in 1989. His administration opened "Pandora's Box" so no "unnecessary
regulations would hamper them. Thereafter, "not one single new regulatory
law governing biotech or GMO products was passed then or later (despite all
the) unknown risks and possible health dangers."

In a totally unfettered marketplace, foxes now guard the henhouse
because the system was made self-regulatory. An elder Bush Executive Order
assured it. It ruled GMO plants and foods were "substantially equivalent" to
ordinary ones of the same variety like corn, wheat or rice. This established
the principle of "substantial equivalence" as the "lynchpin of the whole GMO
revolution." It was pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, but was now law, and
Engdahl equated it to a potential biologically catastrophic "Andromeda
Strain," no longer the world of science fiction.

Monsanto chose milk as its first GMO product, genetically
manipulated it with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), and marketed
it under the trade name, Posilac. In 1993, the Clinton FDA declared it safe
and approved it for sale before any consumer use information was available.
It's now sold in every state and promoted as a way cows can produce up to
30% more milk. Problems, however, soon appeared. Farmers reported their
stock burned out up to two years sooner than usual, serious infections
developed, and some animals couldn't walk. Other problems included the udder
inflammation mastitis as well as deformed calves being born.

The information was suppressed, and rBGH milk is unlabeled so
there's no way consumers can know. They also weren't told this hormone
causes leukemia and tumors in rats, and a European Commission committee
concluded humans drinking rBGH milk risk breast and prostate cancer. The EU
thus banned the product, but not the US. Despite clear safety issues, the
FDA failed to act and allows hazardous milk to be sold below the radar. It
was just the beginning.

The Fox Guards the Henhouse

Engdahl reviewed the Pusztai affair, the toll it took on his health,
and the modest vindication he finally got. Already out of a job, the
300-year old British Royal Society attacked him in 1999 and claimed his
research was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and
that no conclusions should be drawn from it." It was another blow to a
distinguished man who deserved better than what Engdahl called a
"recognizable political smear" that also tarnished the Royal Society's
credibility for making it. It had no basis in fact and was done because
Pusztai's bombshell threatened to derail Britain's hugely profitable GMO
industry and do the same thing to its US counterpart.

As for Pusztai, after five years, several heart attacks, and a
ruined career, he finally learned what happened after he announced his
findings. Monsanto was the culprit. The company complained to Clinton who,
in turn, alerted Tony Blair. Pusztai's findings had to be quashed and he
discredited for making them. He was nonetheless able to reply with the help
of the highly respected British scientific journal, The Lancet. In spite of
Royal Society threats against him, it's editor published his article, but at
a cost. After publication, the Society and biotech industry attacked The
Lancet for its action. It was a further shameless act.

As a footnote, Pusztai now lectures around the world on his GMO
research and is a consultant to start-up groups researching the health
effects of these foods. Along with him and his wife, his co-author,
Professor Stanley Ewen, also suffered. He lost his position at the
University of Aberdeen, and Engdahl notes that the practice of suppressing
unwanted truths and punishing whistleblowers is the rule, not the exception.
Industry demands are powerful, especially when they affect the bottom line.

The Blair government went even further. It commissioned the private
firm, Grainseed, to conduct a three-year study to prove GMO food safety.
London's Observer newspaper later got UK Ministry of Agriculture documents
on it that showed tests were rigged and produced "some strange science." At
least one Grainseed researcher manipulated the data to "make certain seeds
in the trials appear to perform better than they really did."

Nonetheless, the Ministry recommended a GMO corn variety be
certified, and the Blair government issued a new code of conduct under which
"any employee of a state-funded research institute who dared to speak out on
(the) findings into GMO plants could face dismissal, be sued for breach of
contract or face a court injunction." In other words, whisleblowing was now
illegal even if public health was at stake. Nothing would be allowed to stop
the agribusiness juggernaut from proceeding unimpeded.

The Rockefeller Plan - "Tricky" Dick Nixon and Trickier Rockefellers

Richard Nixon took office at a time of national crisis. Along with
the Vietnam morass, the economy was in trouble after the "golden age of
capitalism" peaked in 1965 and corporate profits were declining. The
globalization phenomenon began at this time when American companies and the
nation's wealthiest families found investing abroad more profitable than at
home because more opportunities were available outside the country.

Food was one of them and was about to be renamed "agribusiness."
Engdahl called it "a paradigm shift" with one man having the most decisive
role - former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller "who deeply wanted to be
President" but had to settle for number two under Gerald Ford.

He and his brothers ran the family's Rockefeller Foundation and
various other tax-exempt entities like the Rockefeller Brothers Trust.
Nelson and David were the most influential figures, and their power center
was the exclusive New York Council on Foreign Relations. Engdahl states: "In
the 1960s the Rockefellers were at the power center of the US establishment
(and) Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (was) their hand-picked protege."
It was a marriage made in hell.

Enter the "crisis of democracy" or as right wing Harvard professor,
Samuel Huntington, called it, an "excess of democracy" at a time masses of
ordinary citizens protested their government's policies. It captured media
attention, posed a threat to the country's establishment, and had to be
addressed. In 1973 it was at a meeting of 300 influential, hand-picked
Rockefeller friends from North America, Europe and Japan. They founded a
powerful new organization called the Trilateral Commission with easily
recognizable member names.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was its first Executive Director, and other
charter members included Jimmy Carter (who became David Rockefeller's
favored 1976 presidential candidate over Gerald Ford), George HW Bush, Paul
Volker (Carter's Fed Chairman) and Alan Greenspan who was then a Wall Street
investment banker.

The new organization "laid the basis for a new global strategy for a
network of interlinked international elites," many of whom were Rockefeller
business partners. Combined, their financial, economic and political clout
was unmatched. So was their ambition that George HW Bush later called a "new
world order." Trilateralists laid the foundation for today's globalization.
They also followed Huntington's advice about democracy's unreliability that
had to be checked by "some measure of (public) apathy and non-involvement
(combined with) secrecy and deception."

The Commission further advocated privatizing public enterprises
along with deregulating industry. Trilateralist Jimmy Carter embraced the
dogma enthusiastically as President. He began the process that Ronald Reagan
continued in the 1980s almost without noticing its originator or placing
blame where it's due.

In 1973, Nixon was in office with Kissinger his Svengali. One
observer described him at the time as "like sludge out of a swamp without a
spark of soul, a slip of life, a kind of ghoul (and) a sort of
lubricant (to keep the ship of state running)." So he did by "tak(ing)
complete control (of) US foreign policy" as both Secretary of State and
National Security Advisor. Further, he "was to make food a centerpiece of
his diplomacy along with oil geopolitics."

In the Cold War era, food became a strategic weapon by masquerading
as "Food for Peace." It was cover for US agriculture to engineer the
transformation of family farming into global agribusiness with food the tool
and small farmers eliminated so it could be used most effectively. World
agriculture domination was to be "one of the central pillars of post-war
Washington policy, along with (controlling) world oil markets and
non-communist world defense sales." The defining 1973 event was a world food

The shortage of grain staples along with the first of two 1970s oil
shocks advanced a "significant new Washington policy turn." Oil and grains
were rising three to fourfold in price when the US was the world's largest
food surplus producer with the most power over prices and supply. It was an
ideal time for a new alliance between US-based grain trading companies and
the government. It "laid the groundwork for the later gene revolution."

Enter what Engdahl called the "great train robbery" with Kissinger
the culprit. He decided US agriculture policy was "too important to be left
in the hands of the Agriculture Department" so he took control of it
himself. The world desperately needed grain, America had the greatest
supply, and the scheme was to use this power to "radically change world food
markets and food trade." The big winners were grain traders like Cargill,
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Continental Grain that were helped by
Kissinger's "new food diplomacy (to create) a global agriculture market for
the first time." Food would "reward friends and punish enemies," and ties
between Washington and business lay at the heart of the strategy.

The global food market was being reorganized, corporate interests
were favored, political advantage was exploited, and the 1990s "gene
revolution" groundwork was laid. Rockefeller interests and its Foundation
were to play the decisive role as events unfolded over the next two decades.
It began under Nixon as the cornerstone of his farm policy, free trade was
the mantra, corporate grain traders were the beneficiaries, and family farms
had to go so agribusiness giants could take over.

Bankrupting them was the plan to remove an "excess (of) human
resources." Engdahl called it a "thinly veiled form of food imperialism" as
part of a scheme for the US to become "the world granary." The family farm
was to become the "factory farm," and agriculture was to be "agribusiness"
to be dominated by a few corporate giants with incestuous ties to

Dollar devaluation was also part of the scheme under Nixon's New
Economic Plan (NEP) that included closing the gold window in 1971 to let the
currency float freely. Developing nations were targeted as well with the
idea that they forget about being food-sufficient in grains and beef, rely
on America for key commodities, and concentrate instead on small fruits,
sugar and vegetables for export. Earned foreign exchange could then buy US
imports and repay IMF and World Bank loans that create a never-ending cycle
of debt slavery. GATT was also used and later the WTO with corporate-written
rules for their own bottom line interests.

A Secret National Security Memo

In the midst of a worldwide drought and stock market collapse,
consider Henry Kissinger's classified memo in April, 1974. It was on a
secret project called National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) that
was shaped by Rockefeller interests and aimed to adopt a "world population
plan of action" for drastic global population control - meaning to reduce
it. The US led the effort, and it worked like this - it made birth control
in developing countries a prerequisite for US aid. Engdahl summed it up in
blunt terms: "if these inferior races get in the way of our securing ample,
cheap raw materials, then we must find ways to get rid of them."

Kissinger's scheme was "simpler contraceptive methods through
bio-medical research" that almost sounds like DuPont's old slogan, "Better
things for better living through chemistry." Later on, DuPont dropped
"through chemistry" as evidence mounted on their toxic effects and a
changing company in 1999 began using "The Miracles of Science" in their
advertising. The Nazis also aimed big and sought control. Population culling
was part of it that for them was called "eugenics" and their scheme was to
target "inferior" races to preserve the "superior" one.

NSSM 200 was along the same idea and was tied to the agribusiness
agenda that began with the 1950s and 1960s "Green Revolution" to control
food production in targeted Latin American, Asian and African countries.
Kissinger's plan had two aims - securing new US grain markets and population
control with 13 "unlucky" countries chosen. Among them were India, Brazil,
Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia, and exploiting their resources depended on
drastic population reductions to reduce homegrown demand.

The scheme was ugly and pure Kissinger. It recommended forced
population control and other measures to ensure strategic US aims. Kissinger
wanted global numbers reduced by 500 million by the year 2000 and argued for
doubling the 10 million annual death rate to 20 million going forward.
Engdahl called it "genocide" according to the strict definition of the 1948
UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
statute that defines this crime legally. Kissinger was guilty under it for
wanting to withhold food aid to "people who can't or won't control their
population growth." In other words, if they won't do it, we'll do it for

The strategy included fertility control called "family planning"
that was linked to the availability of key resources. The Rockefeller family
backed it, Kissinger was their "hired hand," and he was well-rewarded for
his efforts. It included keeping him from being prosecuted where he's wanted
as a war criminal and could be arrested overseas like Pinochet was in the UK
when he was placed under house arrest in 2006.

Besides his better-known crimes, consider what he did to poor
Brazilian women through a policy of mass sterilization under NSSM 200. After
14 years of the program, the Brazilian Health Ministry discovered shocking
reports of an estimated 44% of all Brazilian women between ages 14 and 55
permanently sterilized. Organizations like the International Planned
Parenthood Federation and Family Health International were involved, and
USAID directed the program. It has a long disturbing history backing US
imperialism while claiming on its web site it extends "a helping hand to
those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a
disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country."

Even more disturbing was an estimated 90% of Brazilian women of
African descent sterilized in a nation with a black population second only
to Nigeria's. Powerful figures backed the scheme but none more influential
than the Rockefellers with John D. III having the most clout on population
policy. Nixon appointed him head of the Commission on Population Growth and
the American Future in 1969. Its earlier work laid the ground for
Kissinger's NSSM 200 and its policy of extermination through subterfuge that
was based on a "decades old effort to breed human traits" by the Nazi
"Eugenics" process.

The Brotherhood of Death

Long before Kissinger (and his assistant Brent Scowcroft) made
population reduction official US foreign policy, the Rockefellers were
experimenting on humans. JD III led the effort. In the 1950s, while Nelson
exploited cheap Puerto Rican labor in New York and on the island, brother JD
III conducted mass sterilization experiments on their women. By the
mid-1960s, Puerto Rico's Public Health Department estimated the toll -
one-third or more of them of child-bearing age (unsuspecting poor women)
were permanently sterilized.

JD III expressed his views in a 1961 UN Food and Agriculture
Organization lecture: "To my mind, population growth (and its reduction) is
second only to control of atomic weapons as the paramount problem of the
day." He meant, of course, its unwanted parts to preserve valuable resources
for the privileged. He was also influenced by eugenicists, race theorists
and Malthusians at the Rockefeller Foundation who believed they had the
right to decide who lives or dies.

Powerful figures were behind the effort as well as leading American
business families. So were notables in the UK then and earlier like Winston
Churchill, John Maynard Keynes and others. Alan Gregg was as well as
Rockefeller Foundation Medical Division chief for 34 years. Consider his
views. He said "people pollute, so eliminate pollution by eliminating
(undesirable) people." He compared city slums to cancerous tumors and called
them "offensive to decency and beauty." Better to remove them and cleanse
the landscape.

This was policy, and it was "key to understanding (the Foundation's
later efforts) in the revolution in biotechnology and plant genetics." Its
mission from inception was to "(cull) the herd, or systematically (reduce)
populations of 'inferior breeds.' " The problem for supremacists is too many
of a lesser element spells trouble when they demand more of what the
privileged want for themselves. Solution - remove them with lots of ways to
do it from birth control to sterilization to starvation to wars of

These ideas were American, they took root 100 years ago, noted names
backed it like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harriman, and they later influenced
the Nazis. Hitler praised the practice in his 1924 book, "Mein Kampf," then
used it as Fuhrer to breed a "master race." Supreme Court Justice Oliver
Wendell Holmes also supported it, and consider his 1927 decision in Buck v.
Bell. He ruled Virginia's forced sterilization program was constitutional
and wrote: "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute
degenerate offspring for crime....society can prevent those who are
manifestly unfit from continuing their kind....Three generations of
imbeciles are enough." This from a noted Supreme Court Justice that would
have horrific consequences still in play. It "opened the floodgates" for
sterilizing many thousands of women considered "subhuman" detritus and in
the way.

JD III was right in step with this thinking. He was nurtured on
Malthusian pseudo-science and embraced the dogma. He joined the family
Foundation in 1931 where he was influenced by eugenicists like Raymond
Fosdick and Frederick Osborn. Both were founding members of the American
Eugenics Society. In 1952, he used his own funds to found the New York-based
Population Council in which he promoted studies on over-population dangers
that were openly racist. For the next 25 years, the Council spent $173
million on global population reduction and became the world's most
influential organization promoting these supremacist ideas.

But it avoided the term "eugenics" because of its Nazi association
and instead used language like birth control, family planning and free
choice. It was all the same, and before the war Rockefeller associate and
family Foundation board member, Frederick Osborn, enthusiastically supported
Nazi eugenics experiments that led to mass exterminations now vilified. Back
then, he believed this was the "most important experiment that has ever been
tried" and later wrote a book. It was called "The Future of Human Heredity"
with "eugenics" in the subtitle. It stated women could be convinced to
reduce their births voluntarily and began substituting the term "genetics"
for the one now out of favor.

During the Cold War, culling the population drew supporters that
included the cream of corporate America. They backed private population
reduction initiatives like Margaret Sanger's International Planned
Parenthood Federation (IPPF). The major media also spread the notion that
"over-population in developing countries leads to hunger and more poverty
(which, in turn, becomes) the fertile breeding ground for" international
communism. American agribusiness would later get involved through a policy
of global food control. Food is power. When used to cull the population,
it's a weapon of mass destruction.

Consider the current situation with the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) reporting sharply higher food prices along with severe
shortages, and warned this condition is extreme, unprecendented and
threatens billions with hunger and starvation. Prices are up 40% this year
after a 9% rise in 2006, and it forced developing states to pay 25% more for
imported food and be unable to afford enough of it.

Various explanations for the problem are cited that include growing
demand, higher fuel and transportation costs, commodity speculation, the use
of corn for ethanol production (taking one-third of the harvest that's more
than what's exported for food) and extreme weather while ignoring the above
implications - the power of agribusiness to manipulate supply for greater
profits and "cull the herd" in targeted Third World countries. Affected ones
are poor, and FAO cites 20 in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Latin America and
two in Eastern Europe that in total represent 850 million endangered people
now suffering from chronic hunger and related poverty. They depend on
imports, and their diets rely heavily on the type grains agribusiness
controls - wheat, corn and rice plus soybeans. If current prices stay high
and shortages persist, millions will die - maybe by design.

Fateful War and Peace Studies

Engdahl reviewed how American elites in the late 1930s began
planning an American century in the post-war world - a "Pax Americana" to
succeed the fading British Empire. The New York Council of Foreign Relations
War and Peace Studies Group led the effort, and Rockefeller Foundation money
financed it. As Engdahl put it: they'd be paid back later "thousands-fold."
First though, America had to achieve world dominance militarily and

The US business establishment envisioned a "Grand Area" to encompass
most of the world outside the communist bloc. To exploit it, they hid their
imperial designs beneath a "liberal and benevolent garb" by defining
themselves as "selfless advocates of freedom for colonial peoples (and) the
enemy of imperialism." They would also "champion world peace through
multinational control." Sound familiar?

Like today, it was just subterfuge for their real aims that were
pursued under the banner of the United Nations, the new Bretton Woods
framework, the IMF, World Bank and the GATT. They were established for one
purpose - to integrate the developing world into the US-dominated Global
North so its wealth could be transfered to powerful business interests,
mostly in the US. The Rockefeller family led the effort, the four brothers
were involved, and Nelson and David were the prime movers.

While JD III was plotting depopulation and racial purity schemes,
Nelson worked "the other side of the a forward-looking
international businessman" in the 1950s and 1960s. While preaching greater
efficiency and production in targeted countries, he schemed, in fact, to
open world markets for unrestricted US grain imports. It became the "Green

Nelson concentrated on Latin America. During WW II, he coordinated
US intelligence and covert operations there, and those efforts laid the
groundwork for family interests post-war. They were tied to the region's
military because friendly strongmen are the type leaders we prefer to
guarantee a favorable business climate.

>From the 1930s, Nelson Rockefeller had significant Latin American
interests, especially in areas of oil and banking. In the early 1940s, he
sought new opportunities and along with Laurance bought vast amounts of
cheap, high-quality farmland so the family could get into agriculture. It
wasn't for family farming, however. The Rockefellers wants global
monopolies, and their scheme was to do in agriculture what the family
patriarch did in oil along with using food and agricultural technology as
Cold War weapons.

By 1954, PL 480, or "Food for Peace," established surplus food as a
US foreign policy tool, and Nelson used his considerable influence on the
State Department because every post-war Department Secretary, from 1952
through 1979, had ties to the family through its Foundation: namely, John
Foster Dulles, Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance.

These men supported Rockefeller views on private business and knew
the family saw agriculture the way it sees oil - commodities to be "traded,
controlled, (and) made scarce or plentiful" to suit the foreign policy goals
of dominant corporations controlling their trade.

The family got into agriculture in 1947 when Nelson founded the
International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC). Through it, he introduced
"mass-scale agribusiness in countries where US dollars could buy huge
influence in the 1950s and 1960s." Nelson then allied with grain-trading
giant Cargill in Brazil where they began developing hybrid corn seed
varieties with big plans for them. They would make the country "the world's
third largest producer of (these) crop(s) after the US and China." It was
part of Rockefeller's "Green Revolution" that by the late 1950s "was rapidly
becoming a strategic US economic strategy alongside oil and military

Latin America was the beginning of a food production revolution with
big aims - to control the "basic necessities of the majority of the world's
population." As agribusiness in the 1990s, it was "the perfect partner for
the introduction....of genetically engineered food crops or GMO plants."
This marriage masqueraded as "free market efficiency, modernization (and)
feeding a malnourished world." In fact, it was nothing of the sort. It
cleverly hid "the boldest coup over the destiny of entire nations ever

Creating Agribusiness - Rockefeller and Harvard Invent USA

The "Green Revolution began in Mexico and spread across Latin
America during the 1950s and 1960s." It was then introduced in Asia,
especially in India. It was at a time we claimed our aim was to help the
world through free market efficiency. It was all one way, from them to us so
corporate investors could profit. It gave US chemical giants and major grain
traders new markets for their products. Agribusiness was going global, and
Rockefeller interests were in the vanguard helping industry globalization
take shape.

Nelson worked with his brother, JD III, who set up his own
Agriculture Development Council in 1953. They shared a common goal -
"cartelization of world agriculture and food supplies under their corporate
hegemony." At its heart, it aimed to introduce modern agriculture techniques
to increase crop yields under the false claim of wanting to reduce hunger.
The same seduction was later used to promote the Gene Revolution with
Rockefeller interests and the same agribusiness giants backing it.

In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson also used food as a weapon. He wanted
recipient nations to agree to administration and Rockfeller preconditions
that population control and opening their markets to US industry was part of
the deal. It also involved training developing world agriculture scientists
and agronomists in the latest production concepts so they could apply them
at home. This "carefully constructed network later proved crucial" to the
Rockefeller strategy to "spread the use of genetically-engineered crops
around the world," helped along with USAID funding and CIA mischief.

"Green Revolution" tactics were painful and took a devastating toll
on peasant farmers. They destroyed their livelihoods and forced them into
shantytown slums that now surround large Third World cities. There they
provide cheap exploitable labor from people desperate to survive and easy
prey for any way to do it.

The "Revolution" also harmed the land. Monoculture displaces
diversity, soil fertility and crop yields decrease over time, and
indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides causes serious later health
problems. Engdahl quoted an analyst calling the "Green Revolution" a
"chemical revolution" developing states couldn't afford. That began the
process of debt enslavement from IMF, World Bank and private bank loans.
Large landowners can afford the latter. Small farmers can't and often, as a
result, are bankrupted. That, of course, is the whole idea.

The "Green Revolution" was based on the "proliferation of new hybrid
seeds in developing markets" that characteristically lack reproductive
capacity. Declining yields meant farmers had to buy seeds every year from
large multinational producers that control their parental seed lines in
house. A handful of company giants held patents on them and used them to lay
the groundwork for the later GMO revolution. Their scheme was soon evident.
Tradition farming had to give way to High Yield Varieties (HYV) of hybrid
wheat, corn and rice with major chemical inputs.

Initially, growth rates were impressive but not for long. In
countries like India, agricultural output slowed and fell. They were losers
so agribusiness giants could exploit large new markets for their chemicals,
machinery and other product inputs. It was the beginning of "agribusiness,"
and it went hand-in-hand with the "Green Revolution" strategy that would
later embrace plant genetic alterations.

Two Harvard Business School professors were involved early on - John
Davis and Ray Goldberg. They teamed with Russian economist, Wassily
Leontief, got Rockefeller and Ford Foundation funding, and initiated a
four-decade revolution to dominate the food industry. It was based on
"vertical integration" of the kind Congress outlawed when giant
conglomerates or trusts like Standard Oil used them to monopolize entire
sectors of key industries and crush competition.

It was revived under Trilateralist President Jimmy Carter disguised
as "deregulation" to dismantle "decades of carefully,
food safety and consumer protection laws." They would now give way under a
new wave of industry-friendly vertical integration. Supported by a public
campaign, it claimed that government was the problem, it encroached too much
on our lives, and it had to be rolled back for greater personal "freedom."

Early in the 1970s, agribusiness producers controlled US food
supplies. They'd now go global on a scale without precedent. The goal -
"staggering profits" by "restructur(ing) the way Americans grew food to feed
themselves and the world." Ronald Reagan continued Carter's policy and let
the top four or five monopoly players control it. It led to an unprecedented
"concentration and transformation of American agriculture" with independent
family farmers driven off their land through forced sales and bankruptcies
so "more efficient" agribusiness giants could move in with "Factory Farms."
Remaining small producers became virtual serfs as "contract farmers."
America's landscape was changing with people trampled on for profits.

Engdahl explained a gradual process of "wholesale merger(s) and
consolidation....of American food production....into giant corporate global
concentrations" with familiar names - Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM),
Smithfield Foods and ConAgra. As they grew bigger, so did their bottom lines
with annual equity returns rising from 13% in 1993 to 23% in 1999. Hundreds
of thousands of small farmers lost out for it as their numbers dropped by
300,000 from 1979 to 1998 alone. It was even worse for hog farmers with a
drop from 600,000 to 157,000 so 3% of producers could control 50% of the

The social costs were staggering and continue to be as "entire rural
communities collapsed and rural towns became ghost towns." Consider the

-- by 2004, the four largest beef packers controlled 84% of steer
and heifer slaughter - Tyson, Cargill, Swift and National Beef Packing;

-- four giants controlled 64% of hog production - Smithfield Foods,
Tyson, Swift and Hormel;

-- three companies controlled 71% of soybean crushing - Cargill, ADM
and Bunge;

-- three giants controlled 63% of all flour milling, and five
companies controlled 90% of global grain trade;

-- four other companies controlled 89% of the breakfast cereal
market - Kellogg, General Mills, Kraft Foods and Quaker Oats;

-- in 1998, Cargill acquired Continental Grain to control 40% of
national grain elevator capacity;

-- four large agro-chemical/seed giants controlled over 75% of the
nation's seed corn sales and 60% of it for soybeans while also having the
largest share of the agricultural chemical market - Monsanto, Novartis, Dow
Chemical and DuPont; six companies controlled three-fourths of the global
pesticides market;

-- Monsanto and DuPont controlled 60% of the US corn and soybean
seed market - all of it patented GMO seeds; and

-- 10 large food retailers controlled $649 billion in global sales
in 2002, and the top 30 food retailers account for one-third of global
grocery sales.

At the dawn of a new century, family farming was decimated by
corporate agribusiness' vertically integrated powers that surpassed their
earlier 1920s heyday dominance. The industry was now the second most
profitable national one after pharmaceuticals with domestic annual sales
exceeding $400 billion. The next aim was merging Big Pharma with Big food
producing giants, and the Pentagon's National Defense University took note
in a 2003-issued paper - "Agribusiness (now) is to the United States what
oil is to the Middle East." It's now considered a "strategic weapon in the
arsenal of the world's only superpower," but at a huge cost to consumers

Engdahl reviewed the "revolution" in animal factory production that
EarthSave International founder and Baskin-Robbins heir, John Robbins,
covered honestly, thoroughly and compassionately in two explosive books on
the subject - "Diet for A New America" in 1987 and "The Food Revolution" in
2001. They were both stinging indictments of corporate-produced foods -
horrifying animal cruelty, unsafe foods, unsanitary conditions, rampant use
of anti-biotics humans then ingest, massive environmental pollution, and new
unknown dangers from genetic engineering - all allowed by supposed
government watchdog regulatory agencies that ignore public health concerns.

Agribusiness was on a roll, government supports it with tens of
billions in annual subsidies, and the 1996 Farm Bill suspended the Secretary
of Agriculture's power to balance supply and demand so henceforth
unrestricted production is allowed. Food producing giants took full
advantage to control market forces. They crushed family farmers by
over-producing and forcing down prices. They also pressured land values as
small operators failed. It created opportunities for land acquisition on the
cheap for greater concentration and dominance.

Next came integrating the Gene Revolution into agribusiness the way
Harvard's Ray Goldberg saw it coming. Entire new sectors were to be created
from genetic engineering. It would include GMO drugs from GMO plants in a
new "argi-ceutical system." Goldberg predicted a "genetic revolution
(through) an industrial convergence of food, health, medicine, fiber and
energy businesses" - in a totally unregulated marketplace. Unmentioned was a
threatening consumer nightmare hidden from view.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The
Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Mondays at
noon US Central time.

Dylan Ford is the author of the proposal at , a
website devoted to an idea that could provide an avenue to address pollution
issues, food safety, social justice, prison reform and healthcare.

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Brookhaven Guidance Package comment letter, Dec. 11, 2007

Submitted: Dec 17, 2007

The Merced County Board of Supervisors voted not to approve this project, one more attempt in the county to turn small farm villages into upscale commuter labor camps. For this act of sanity we probably have the foreclosure crisis to thank. However, the letter below lays out the arguments against this kind of project well. --eds.

December 11, 2007

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street, 3rd Floor
Merced, CA 95340

Re: The Brookhaven Guidance Package/Public Hearing December 11, 2007
Via: Hand Delivered
Dear Members of the Board,

There are eight compelling reasons why you should reject the Brookhaven Guidance Package:

1) This is a proposal in search of a need: Depending on the week, Merced County is currently 1, 2, or 3 for subprime lending foreclosures. We also hold the distinction of leading the nation in providing unaffordable housing for our demographic profile.
Creating affordable housing for Bay Area commuters is not the same as creating affordable housing for folks who attempt to live and work in this community: hence the embarrassing, national distinction. Finally, according to experts from the Building Industry Association – the inventory of homes in Merced County will take at least three years to absorb – and then only after the current slump is over. Assuming the same (unprecedented) flurry of speculation that brought us to this crippling point today, this could be a very, very long time. In the best case, BIA (Land of Oz) scenario – five years at a bare minimum to absorb the current inventory (not including pre-approved developments in the pipeline) while assuming the best of markets. Alternatively, economists further away from the Valley estimate fifteen to twenty years for us to fully recover and to fully absorb our current housing surplus. We trust that Merced County has finally learned the painful lesson that building more residential housing developments is not tantamount to bolstering economic development in the county; in point of fact, it is an inverse relationship.

2) So, what is the rush? The County and the City of Los Banos are currently in the process of updating their General Plans. Whether a phased in operation or not there is simply no need to support a proposal that leaps in front of two relevant policy directives that will certainly arrive well before a need to build more homes.

3) Compact Growth? Improved revenue sharing agreements, not prospecting on an additional 396 acres for 253 unneeded homes in unincorporated Merced County is not in sync with our current General Plan. Combined with the recent approval for the Turlock Golf and Country Club, the county is creating islands of urban growth on productive farm lands and open spaces – contravening the clearly stated goals in our current General Plan (Land Use Chapter,Objective 1.A: Compact urban development boundaries which utilize land efficiently and reduce conflicts with agricultural and open space lands).

4) A Guidance Package Isn’t Simply A Study: It is the first approval to invest thousands upon thousands of dollars in a project. Moreover, as part of this package “study” what constitutes Volta’s current SUDP is expanded. The investment in time, money, and advancing the concept of an expanded growth boundary in turn provides the rationale for future approvals. There is a built in momentum which cannot be denied.

5) Volta’s infrastructure issues will not be solved by more houses: Whether or not the area of Volta needs a Community Plan or a better way to arrange its infrastructure for water and sewer with a reconfigured service district is a separate issue from deciding whether or not to approve this guidance package. Moreover, simply requiring developers to study a problem is not tantamount to fixing it or to collecting the fees that represent the cumulative impacts on our already severely impacted roads, water supply, air, ag and open space. As recent as last week, a Merced County developer successfully petitioned the Merced City Planning Commission to delay road repairs – a condition for approval of this project. This should be reason enough to pause. Finally, BIA representatives have publicly cried foul when other communities and this county in particular has attempted to collect fees for impacts that were created and yet not paid for during the housing boom – at a time when –literally -- billions were made in this county by private interests. Yet, Merced County residents are stuck with empty houses and rapidly deteriorating road systems.

6) Listen to the Community: Although the Volta community does not have a MAC, according to staff, 40 people showed up to a meeting to discuss this issue in a community that does not exceed several hundred. Respect their comments. They do not see the need, but they clearly anticipate the impacts.

7) The Williamson Act Preserve: Not only does land contracted through the Williamson Act need to be considered in land use decisions, but lands within The Preserve require special consideration. I quote from Christopher J. Butcher of the University of California at Davis from The Forgotten Intent of the Williamson Act, where he used Merced County as one of his case studies: “By incorporating land into an agricultural preserve, new procedural hurdles are attached to development of the land and additional restrictions are placed on the government and landowner’s entitlement for use.” (page 48).

8) This Guidance Package Obfuscates Rather Than Clarifies: This particular guidance package earns an “A” for exceeding vagueness or an “F” for meeting its own objectives. According to the consultants preparing this proposal:

The purpose of this Guidance Package is to clarify the project goals and milestones and establish both the expectations and responsibilities of all participants. This document will accomplish this by clarifying the relationships and roles of various participants in the planning process and the expectations and parameters of their individual efforts.

One cannot read this and fully comprehend what is being proposed.

In closing, we don’t need this project. Careful consideration of any one of these points should be sufficient to reject this project – it doesn’t meet Volta’s needs or those of the county.

Thank you for your consideration.
Maureen McCorry
on behalf of Valley Land Alliance, et., al
P.O. Box 158
Planada, CA 95365

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Clean air vigil at the Air Board, Tuesday, Dec. 18

Submitted: Dec 17, 2007

Be there or be square!

For Immediate Release:
December 17, 2007

Contact: Melissa Kelly-Ortega, (209) 261-7109, Lisa Kayser-Grant (209) 769-2233


Community Leaders to Hold Clean Air Vigil

Advocates Will Urge Air District to Plan for Attainment of State Health Based PM 2.5 standards At Tuesday Workshop

Fresno, CA — On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will be holding the first of a series of workshops to discuss their proposed State Implementation Plan. This Plan serves as the roadmap for attaining federal standards governing fine particulate matter pollution. The standards used in the plan, however, are no longer considered adequate to protect public health by either the federal Environmental Protection Agency or the California Air Resources Board. Community leaders will be urging the air district to amend the proposed plan to include a strategy for reducing fine particulate pollution to the levels currently considered to be protective of public health.

Community members will hold a vigil in remembrance of all those who have died and those who still suffer from the effects of breathing dirty wintertime air - PM 2.5. According to the Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies, the cost of air pollution averages $1,000 per person per year, and represents the following:

460 premature deaths among those age 30 and older
23,300 asthma attacks
188,000 days of school absences
3,230 cases of acute bronchitis in children
3,000 lost work days
325 new cases of chronic bronchitis
188,400 days of reduced activity in adults
260 hospital admissions
More than 17,000 days of respiratory symptoms in children

What: Vigil with community members

When: Media Availability: Tuesday, December 18 at 5:30 p.m. and throughout the workshop.
Air District Workshop: 6:30pm

Where: In front of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District:
Central Region Office, 1990 E. Gettysburg Ave., Fresno


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