unrigging the game

The original article has links to the legislation that’s mentioned.

== Unrigging the game ==
(from Gristmill)

Unrigging the game
11:29 AM
In today’s Victual Reality I discussed how a few companies dominate U.S. food production, and how their market girth weighs heavily on efforts to rebuild local-oriented, environmentally and socially responsible food networks.

Now I’d like to add a few words on what might be done to remedy the situation.

First of all, it’s important to note that heavily consolidated food markets rig the game to favor large-scale, industrial-style farming. As companies like Cargill and Tyson have grabbed more and more control over food production in the past 30 years, they’ve systematically dismantled local infrastructure and concentrated their operations in a few regions.

The withering away of local processing and distribution facilities dramatically boosts the costs of small-scale farming. The celebrated meat farmer Joel Salatin, who runs Polyface Farm in Virginia, estimates that regulations that force him to ship his cows to a distant USDA-approved processor add a dollar per pound to the retail price of his beef. Huge feedlots concentrated in places like Kansas, a beef-processing center, don’t face those costs.

I believe the local-agriculture movement — which, despite its surging popularity, still only supplies a fraction of our food needs — will be severely constrained by these factors going forward.

I can think of two policy ideas that might remedy the situation. First, we need a return to competitive markets in the food industry, and that means breaking up the food giants — or at least regulating away the advantages conferred by their girth. One step in the right direction is the Competition Bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). There’s a movement afoot to build the Harkin proposal into the farm bill by adding a “competition title.” That move deserves support.

But curtailing the anti-competitive practices of the giants won’t be enough rebuild local food infrastructure. Forty years of federal policy that favor their interests has given them an enormous competitive advantage that won’t be easily legislated away. The infrastructure they tore down will not reappear as if by magic. Small farmers don’t have the cash flow to finance the rebuilding of local slaughterhouses, canneries, milk processing plants, and the like. To redress the loss of such things, we need public investment, and that leads to a second policy proposal.

Henry Herrera and Katherine Mendenhall of the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group have come up with an elegant idea [PDF]: create a funding stream, within the farm bill, for regional and local food-infrastructure projects — indexed directly to the commodity payments now flowing to large-scale farmers who produce corn and soy for the global food (and increasingly, energy) industry.

They propose committing a dollar to infrastructure projects for every $100 now going to commodity support. Between 1995 and 2005, the federal government doled out $129 billion to growers of corn, soy, cotton, and other commodity crops. If the Herrera/Mendenhall proposal had been in place, that would have meant $129 million in investment funds for local infrastructure over that period — which would have literally amounted to a rounding error compared to the commodity payments, but given a significant boost to sustainable food.

The proposal has a certain Machiavellian appeal: No one seriously thinks that commodity payments will dry up in the 2007 farm bill, so let’s at least leverage their momentum to create funding that’s actually constructive.

How would such a program be administered? Here are Herrera and Mendenhall:

Eligible organizations will include non-profit organizations and for-profit small businesses that would institute and uphold commitments to local and regional food distribution and promotion while also maintaining transparent fair trading for all parties involved.
So in addition to adding a “competition title,” the time has come to add a “reinvestment title” into the farm bill, providing funding for infrastructure projects equal to 1 percent of commodity subsidies.

Unhappily, this idea remains on the fringes of the policy debate, and to my knowledge isn’t part of the agenda being pushed by major environmental and sustainable-ag groups. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plant its seed in the minds of policy makers now.

Please harangue your representatives about these topics as soon as possible. You can reach them here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

five mistakes not to make in dns

Worth reading.

== Five Basic Mistakes Not to Make in DNS ==
(from O’Reilly Network Articles)

DNS has managed to keep the Internet afloat for decades, but it spend a lot of its time handling junk requests that should never have escaped from a local WAN. Ron Aitchison has a list of five basic things that every DNS administrator should take care of to keep DNS a happy infrastructure.

Technorati Tags: ,


Just saw this fly by. Thought you might be interested…

== Graphical Toolkits for OS X: wxPython ==
(from O’Reilly Network Articles)

In this new MacDC series, Jeremiah Foster presents an overview of graphical toolkits for Apple’s OS X. This first article looks at wxPython, including installation instructions and breaking down some sample code. If you’ve been wanting to use your Python programming skills to develop for OS X, you’ll want to learn about wxPython.

Technorati Tags: , ,

adobe rose

If you’re ever in Sellwood on a Saturday afternoon – lunch at the Adobe Rose is really good. We had a salmon taco special and flautas. They also have margaritas that come in pint glasses, on the rocks. That was the main reason *we* went there, but I imagine the food would taste just as good without the tequila.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

customer service

“That’s What We’re Here For”
Sunday, 9:50 AM
by Mark Graban
My main point here I think is “Tech Support should NOT be part of the normal process.”

I needed to register for an internal company tech support website (for teleconference support) and was trying to log in to the website. I have a card here with the following info:
Owner Name
Owner Number
Conference Code
Leader PIN
To log in to the website, it asks for “Owner Name” and “Password.” Since nothing I has says “Password” I tried the “Leader PIN.” Didn’t work. It says “If you are visiting here for the first time, click on forgot password.” The “forgot password” screen wouldn’t recognize me as a valid user, so it was time to call tech support.

Turns out, tech support had to give me a 4-digit “Web PIN” to be able to start the registration process. I went to another screen and created a “User Name” and “Password.”

I got kicked back to the main screen, the place that says “Owner Name” wants you to enter the “User Name” or it doesn’t work (these are two different things).

I said to the tech support rep, “You know, the website is very confusing. I’m good with computers and I couldn’t figure it out because things are labeled wrong on screen and it seems every new user has to make a tech support call, which costs us all money.”

The tech support rep was sort of irritated and said, “Well sir, that’s what we’re here for.”

I told her, “It shouldn’t be that way, I’m just trying to help, if you don’t want to do anything to fix the website, then fine.”

I can’t imagine the tech support rep passing any of this along because, in a way, the poorly designed and poorly implemented website is job security for her and her co-workers. Fewer tech support calls probably means somebody loses their job.

It’s too bad that organization can’t have everyone on the same team in a way that improves quality (and reduces cost) for the company and the customers. How many people tolerate a bad process out of self-interest and/or fear? Management’s job is to create an organization where people aren’t paralyzed by fear, where they aren’t punished for doing the right thing.
Please check out my main blog page at http://www.leanblog.org Check out the new LeanBlog Podcast at http://www.leanpodcast.org

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

talk idea

What does it take to get a technical user group started and then sustained? We started with bribery (free books!) and a great talk from a local expert, followed with many pitchers of good beer. And lots of home-baked cookies. Now we have a group that meets every month and always has interesting things to talk about.

I’d like to present a case-study that describes my experience with the Portland PostgreSQL Users Group. I’ll list our starting ingredients and motivation, describe the methods we used to get people to the meeting, and the tactics to keep people coming back. I’ll draw on some popular books (i.e. _The Tipping Point_, Martha Stewart’s _Entertaining_, Douglas’ _PostgreSQL_), feedback from our members and members of other successful user groups, and maybe an academic paper or two on community building.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Emissions slowly begin to drop ?

I guess I should have read the whole article first. There are plenty of fun wording issues to ridicule…


U.S. Greenhouse Emissions Slowly Begin to Drop
Source: GreenBiz.com
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2007 — In the EPA’s annual national greenhouse gas inventory, the agency has found that overall emissions during 2005 increased by less than one percent from the previous year.

The drop follows a steady increase over the last 15 years, when greenhouse gases climbed 16 percent between 1990 and 2005.

The Department of Energy reports that greenhouse gas emissions have risen an average of 1.2 percent per year each year.

guerilla project facilitation

From a thread that came up today on ‘post-mortems’:

I’ve been searching around for a replacement term for a long time:

After Action Reviews

Neither really roll off the tongue, but they feel a little better than post-mortem.

But really – the questions to ask are the most important:

What did we learn?
What are we going to do better next time?
What are we going to do?
If there’s a problem, what changes will solve it?
And what is the commitment to make that change?

Technorati Tags: ,