Tag Archives: Dept. of Agriculture

Visualizing Trump Country

Several readers have sent me an infographic from The American Prospect, titled “Mapping Corruption.” It’s stunning–not because we didn’t know, or at least assume, what has been going on, but because being faced with a comprehensive overview is just overwhelming.

The introductory text invites exploration of the details–agency by agency.

The Trump administration has brought its brand of corruption and self-dealing to every agency in the federal government, and it’s hard for anyone to keep on top of it all. We’ve mapped it out for you. Click on any agency building below, and unlock an extensive dossier of the activities happening inside.

For each agency, there is a list, detailing the corrupt activities undertaken by that agency by Trump’s administration, and even more telling, a description of the particular “best” person Trump has placed in charge of that part of our government.

We have heard a fair amount about several of them–Betsy DeVos and her campaign to destroy public education, Bill Barr who has shamed the Department of Justice–but there are several lesser-known figures who are equally slimy. Take Sonny Perdue, at the Department of Agriculture–the first agency in the alphabetical list.

As governor of Georgia, after issuing an order prohibiting gifts worth more than $25 to state employees, Perdue accepted sports tickets, airplane flights, and other gratuities valued at over $25,000.

He signed a tax bill with a last-minute tweak that saved him $100,000 on an already-completed land sale. One of the legislators backing that bill had worked part time for Perdue on his personal legal business.

As a founder or part-owner of more than a dozen agribusiness companies, Perdue collected $278,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1996 and 2004.

In his campaigns for political office, Perdue received large contributions from the likes of Monsanto and Coca-Cola.

In a 2014 article, Perdue dismissed efforts by “some on the left or in the mainstream media” to connect extreme weather events to climate change. “Liberals,” he wrote, “have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”

Under “Quick and Dirty”–the abbreviated portion of the agriculture section–we see that Perdue appointed former agribusiness executives and lobbyists, and what the report says is an “unusual number” of Trump campaign workers without obvious qualifications, to the Department’s management. Those officials have authorized sharply higher line speeds for slaughterhouses; they’ve cut back on USDA meat-safety inspections; and they’ve allowed some large operations do handle their own inspections–with low-wage workers.

The department has also proposed denying food stamps to three million people who currently rely on them, and has rolled back a number of environmental, health and safety regulations.

The Trump administration may oppose welfare for those lazy bums on food stamps, but in the longer, more detailed portion of the report, we learn about the handout recipients of whom they approve:

Perdue’s Agriculture Department has distributed more than $28 billion in emergency relief to farmers injured by the administration’s trade war with China. This program has been massively tilted toward multinational agribusiness companies. More than $62 million, for example, has gone to the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, owned by a pair of billionaire brothers who have served prison time for bribing hundreds of government officials in their native country of Brazil.

A couple of other items from the list:

Perdue undid a set of newly adopted rules meant to keep agribusiness giants from engaging in price-fixing and other forms of collusion at the expense of farmers or consumers. He effectively eliminated the unit (known as GIPSA) responsible for enforcing the anti-fraud regulations that remained, making it part of an office dedicated to marketing and public relations.

The Agriculture Department went to bat for Dow Chemical in pressing China to accept its genetically modified, herbicide-resistant corn seeds. With that victory secured, Dow spun off its agriculture business into a new subsidiary, Corteva, which is now the top corn seed producer in the Asia-Pacific region.

The department reinterpreted the Clean Water Act to let farmers use previously forbidden chemical pesticides and fertilizers at the risk of contaminating local waterways.

The infographic has similar lists for every agency of the federal government. Click through and see for yourselves. And weep….