Five minutes with the Fringe
Sixty seconds on Sierra County:
Monday there was a meeting of the Board of Supervisors Natural Resources, Building and Planning
Committee. You might think such a committee would meet primarily to construct ways we could make a living from our local natural resources, and maybe even plan to build a house once in a while.
But, no, no, they were meeting to talk about a medical marijuana ordinance. In a lot of cow counties, this is a report which would end on a sad note. That is not the case in Sierra County.
To be sure, the committee didn’t spend a lot of time talking about how we could all find a living by meeting the growing market for medical cannabis, and before long, recreational cannabis. That’s a giant leap from 1950, where most county residents live; some locals still refer to medical cannabis users as “hop heads”. The committee didn’t leap that far, indeed, it didn’t leap at all, it approached the issue seriously, and taking plenty of input from the community. Instead of rushing through the ordinance, the committee will take input for the next 30 days.
Instead of the terrible Tehama ordinance, the county is looking at something a lot more friendly to the many medical cannabis users and growers. It’s still a far cry from admitting that medical cannabis brings a small living for a lot of people, and the county could benefit much more from the ganja that’s grown here. People elsewhere in California make decent, honorable and completely legal wages from doing what farmers do: growing things. The cry for the marijuana ordinance came as a result of a cultural war; even the experts agree that the Tehama style ordinance does nothing to prevent the worst growers. We could bring money into the county for a change. But, culturally, that’s still too big of a challenge.
It remains to be seen what kind of ordinance we will finally arrive at, but the key thing is that the supervisors are willing to listen to the average guy. I’ve attended supervisor level local government for a long time, and I’ve never been anywhere where the county governors are so open to input from residents. That’s one of the many good things about Sierra County.
To growers of medical marijuana: in this, and in all things, endeavor not to be an asshole, my children. Don’t expose other people to your gig, for their comfort and your safety. That way you won’t piss off your neighbors, and you won’t get weedjacked by someone who really is as bad as you imagine you are. Also, bloat not thy ego with the size of your garden; weed grows almost everywhere, it takes the might of the United States Government to keep it from being a common roadside weed.
Sixty seconds on California
Probably the only real drawback to Sierra County is that it in California. In addition to building code and air and water quality rules which do little to alleviate problems and much to confound small business people, miners, ranchers, loggers and indeed anyone who wants to make a living by working hard, there are the firearms laws. California is among the worst of states for the freedom to own modern firearms.
A lot of decent folks have thrown up their hands and pulled up stakes for freer places. You might think we’re losing wacko militia types, but nope, just folks who like to own and shoot firearms, and who see the 2nd Amendment as a promise. Who is not moving to avoid strict gun laws? Criminals, who not only don’t worry about gun laws, but who actually, like California democrats, prefer a docile and unarmed population.
California democrats persist in their efforts to erase the image of firearms as tools of patriots and self reliant people, and plant the image of “ghost guns” and other forms of the New Boogieman. I guess if you don’t demonize gay people you have to find something else to be righteous over. Self protection, sport, and recreation seem odd things to “target” to me.
New bills, all from Democrats, of course, target BB guns, and insist they be made brightly colored or transparent. This is so people don’t get scared! Guns can be scary to people! It’s also so, we hope, cops don’t keep shooting kids, thinking they are armed, but restricting consumer choice in air rifles isn’t going to make up for crappy training and police state laws: cops shoot and tazer kids all the time who have hair brushes, cell phones, and even puppies in their hands. Punishing gun owners, once again, isn’t going to fix a busted society.
I hate to nag, but we need to either wring a better deal for places where rural culture persists, or attempt to leave the madness of California under the Democrats, a state only a little less bad than under the Republicans, who think building dams creates water and keeps it from being wasted in the ocean.
Three minutes on the Farm Bill
The House passed the Farm Bill, though it still needs to pass the Senate at this writing. Likely it will hit the senate in the first two weeks of February. The names of the farm bill have changed, Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, Food, Conservation and Energy Act, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. This just goes to show that no matter whatever other ingredients it contains, there is always plenty of bullshit in the farm bill. This current manifestation is the mongrel descendant of what started as a great idea: the New Deal. That was way back when the government was in the business of actually helping its citizens.
In its current form the bill weakens the food stamp program, using a rationale only a Republican could understand. See, Republicans are terrified poor people might get more than they deserve. They are generally willing to allow our national spy agencies to spend at least $56 billion (no one really knows for sure) to spy on us each year, and squander between $4 and $6 TRILLION on a pointless war in Afghanistan, but not on hungry Americans. The Republican plan is to force people to work to get food stamps, which legislatures must certainly know most can’t do, since there are no jobs. Tucked into the Farm Bill is a social experiment to lower the wages for all Americans by forcing people to either work part time for next to nothing, or to steal and fill jails. All from a bill named “farm”.
The bill also switches farmers from direct subsidies, meaning sometimes paying a farmer more not to grow a crop than to grow it, and switch instead to a “crop insurance” or “crop-gap” subsidy system. Paying farmers not to grow crops sounds like socialism.
But it isn’t, it’s prudent food planning. Paying farmers not to grow crops has several advantages:
- It is good for land to lie fallow, it allows the soil to recover from the kind of chemical farming we do in the US.
- Not farming all available land saves billions of tons of carbon from going in to the air. Modern farming is very petroleum intensive.
- The easiest way to regulate crop prices is to influence production.
- Leaving some land fallow provides a buffer against a really traumatic assault on our food supply from the inevitable attack by an insect, or more likely a rust or fungus, to kill all of the monocrops we so stupidly base our agriculture on.
- Opponents of farm subsidies point out that wealthy farmers benefit disproportionately from subsidies, and some source quote that the average farm family enjoys a 25% better living that the average of all families. I’m not sure what value there is to that number. In the first place, a relatively few agribusiness firms do very well, but far more farm families are not making it at all, that’s the problem with “average” numbers, they hide a lot of detail. Further, many farm families keep their adult children on site, helping to run the farm or ranch. Those people, if figured as their own households, would bring the average down.
Hormel and other huge corporations strongly support the current bill, but that might be very bad news for small farmers.
They don’t support something we all should support: better food labeling. The big producers whine because the government wants them to tell where, geographically, the meat lived on the hoof. A whole lot of American beef products were grown, slaughtered, and processed in Argentina, Mexico and elsewhere. One of the major beef exporters is India, where the cow is sacred and can’t be slaughtered, but where buffalo, a cow like animal, is not sacred.
We should all be eating beef, pork, and chicken from local places, where we know the farmer. Unfortunately, the Farm Bill does nothing to help us buy the excellent beef grown in the Sierra Valley, and nothing to encourage small, organic, locally raised chicken, pork and beef. True, no one in the county could begin to satisfy the local need for protein; we live a lifestyle, with a population that is subsidized, as everything is, by oil. But, we could have local markets even if the price would be higher than at Costco. But, no, not a bill for that kind of farm.
The Bill also provides money for “conservation” aims, as “conservation” groups figured prominently in the negotiations. What that will translate to, we can’t be sure, but it is clear that agriculture is going to be held to stricture pollution standards.
The FB also provides some money for “renewable and recycled chemical” energy; it isn’t clear what exactly that refers to, but probably not to us. It continues a biofuel program and provides money to research and feasibility work. It gives money to biofuel crops, which would take petroleum to grow and harvest, but which uses less fuel to bring to the processor and far less money to harvest. That won’t help us. It isn’t clear if Sierra County and the Loyalton Cogen plant will benefit or not.
We’ll see what’s left of the bill when the Senate is done with it.
That’s it for this week; good luck!