Friday, July 18, 2008

The Tomatoes are Coming!

So glad to see the return of those killer tomatoes, now that the FDA has declared its gigantic Ooops. Seems there isn't a connection directly between cases of salmonella breaking out all over and the fruit on your salad.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, the farmers are crying to send you their tomatoes, while Ms. Presidente Fernandez slapped almost 50% tariffs on exported veggies. While I agree with keeping food from becoming scarce and sympathize with efforts like India's to keep staples from becoming scarce, there is another side to the programs. In Argentina, the farmers were being separated from a needed source of income, and they fought against it successfully.

After watching its glamorous female president and the all-powerful farming lobby fight each other to a standstill, Argentina was stunned yesterday by one of the most dramatic political betrayals in living memory.

A crisis which has seen months of protests and threatened to starve the cities as the country's legendary gauchos battled against new taxes on agricultural exports, ended with a crushing Senate defeat for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that left her seven-month-old government severely weakened.

At the end of an 18-hour debate on the new tax bill, the final word came from her closest political ally, Vice-President Julio Cobos, who was close to tears as he cast the deciding vote against his boss. Their dispute centres on plans to raise the tax on soy exports, Argentina's main foreign currency earner, to almost 50 per cent. But it is being seen as a harbinger of the way in which the global food crisis could destabilise governments worldwide.

The real importance of the farmers' victory was clear on the streets outside Congress. Hundreds of government supporters who had gathered to await the outcome of the vote screamed "assassin, assassin" at the building, which was guarded by riot police. In a nearby park, farming supporters who had watched the debate on a big screen chanted: "Argentina, Argentina" as the heads of the four main agricultural organisations embraced.

The U.S. has so little domestic agricultural community that our viewpoint doesn't take that export into account. When we see those luscious fruits and vegetables, they are quite likely to be the exports the Argentinian and other countries' farmers are growing for us. We don't for the most part depend on the foodstuffs for an income.

As the article notes, growing crises in food prices are making an unsettled atmosphere in countries where the conflict is between the nation's needy and their main industries. Ms. Fernandez was protecting her country from a threat of scarcity, against the perceived interests of a large segment of economic activity.

Your tomatoes are on their way.

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