Not since the Great Depression have Americans been so concerned about food security in this country. At the same time, demand for more and better food to feed the hungry around the world is exploding. U.S. agriculture, and especially agriculture in the Southeast, is prepared to ramp up production to meet the demand. Exports are at an all-time high. Yet, devastating funding cuts from state legislatures across the nation over the past two years have threatened our ability to develop better crops, advance food safety and improve packaging and shipping technology. Earlier this week, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee released proposed cuts to agriculture that, if passed, will endanger the U.S. food system.Food and shelter Nothing is more important to Americans than keeping a roof over their heads and food on their dinner tables. In the proposed Continuing Resolution that will determine budgets for the remainder of the 2011 calendar year, Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are asked to shoulder disproportionate cuts. The resolution would cut $5.21 billion, or 22.4 percent, from agriculture-related programs and operating budgets during the remaining seven months of FY-2011. This is more than double the 10.3 percent cut proposed in overall non-defense discretionary spending. The burgeoning federal deficit must be brought under control. Few Americans disagree. Getting the deficit under control means all departments of the federal government must tighten up. However, necessary cuts should be shared equally among all areas of federal government and ensure the least amount of damage to the American way of life.These proposed cuts would mean massive job losses, weaken our food supply, damage our research and education system and keep agriculture from helping grow the U.S. economy. These cuts could eliminate close to $6 million from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alone. Land-grant universities across the country will face similar cuts. The U.S. agriculture industry relies on the land-grant university system to provide research, development and training shared equally and openly among producers. Unlike other industries that employ proprietary research and development organizations, this public system of research and education was designed to give all involved in producing our nation’s food supply equal access to innovations that help feed the nation and protect the environment.Impact at home These are funds we rely on to conduct vital research in crop development, environmentally sound practices, water protection and food safety. These funds provide needed local education to agriculture producers, nutrition information for families and 4-H programs for more than 160,000 Georgia youths. Coupled with the 24-percent cut in state funds we have faced over the past two years and a proposed additional 4 percent state funding cut in July, this 10 percent cut in federal funds will further cripple our research and Extension programs to Georgia.In Georgia, the agriculture sector of the economy has been a stabilizing force amid a stormy economic outlook. Exports are strong. Demand and prices are high. We must be positioned to meet the demand and capitalize on this economic opportunity. Every federal agency should do their fair share of belt tightening to rein in the deficit. We are willing to do our fair share. But exacting a 22 percent cut on programs that make up just 2 percent of the federal budget is far from fair.
The document has been signed by the Netherlands’ ministries for finance, foreign trade and development co-operation, and social affairs and employment.The signatories also include charities Oxfam Novib, PAX, Amnesty International Netherlands, Save the Children Netherlands, World Animal Protection and environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu.The signatories said they would co-operate on six projects – to be announced next year – aimed at boosting the impact of pension funds.The development of the covenant for sustainable investing for pension funds was co-ordinated by the Social and Economic Council (SER), which has supported similar agreements with insurers and banks.The pension fund of chemicals giant DSM and KLM’s scheme for ground staff have already announced that they have signed the document.The €1.6bn Pensioenfonds Gasunie said that it may sign if the – as yet unknown – participation costs turn out to be reasonable.The signatories must factor the OECD guidelines – stipulating how pension funds must trace and report risks – into their ESG policy within two years.A yet-to-be-established monitoring committee will check how schemes honour their commitments. More than 70 large Dutch pension funds with combined assets of almost €1.2trn have signed a covenant with NGOs, trade unions and the Dutch government pledging worldwide co-operation on sustainable investment.The aim of the agreement is to exert worldwide influence on policies and outcomes related to human rights, labour conditions and the environment through pension funds’ combined investment clout.By mapping risks and negative impacts of investments, based on the UN’s Guiding Principles for businesses and human rights and OECD guidelines, companies must provide pension funds with a better picture of where human rights violations and environmental damage occur.This would enable pension funds to mitigate risks and use their influence for solving problems, using the expertise, experience and networks of the other participants in the covenant.
Dear Editor,I would like to issue a call to all my fellow Guyanese: to rethink, from a fresh perspective and on the national level, the situation in which we find ourselves, and make an effort to resolve, once and for all, the relationships we share, so that we can really join together and contribute to the mutual development of our people.This would entail each of us, of whatever political persuasion, community or grouping we identify with, putting aside our several interests and differences, and striving to find a way by which we could cooperatively make the greatest contribution to our national progress.We all know that our most unsurmountable obstacles relate to whatever political and ethnic group we belong to, and so this must lead us to realise that these are the areas in which we must make the greatest efforts to achieve national cohesion.It is clear that our politicians have been the greatest villains in both of these areas, as we carry on the policy of “Divide and Rule” that we have inherited from our colonial past; from the “Winner takes All” system that has been the code of our own political culture since our Independence; and the “We and Them” tradition that they have encouraged among our two main races, which has permeated all other areas of our lives.I have always decried the tradition of our political interaction in Parliament, which I feel has been directed by the term identifying the Members of Parliament on the losing side as the “Opposition”, which has been responsible for those members believing that they are doing their duty when they simply oppose. It would be such a boon to our progress if all our elected representatives should cooperate and work constructively on the various projects towards fulfilling the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them by our people.I would now appeal to the present Opposition to bite the bullet and make an unprecedented effort to change this parliamentary culture by doing their part in bringing into reality the co-operative nature of our Republic, which I am sure will earn them kudos from all Guyanese.I also issue an appeal to all Guyanese to always bear in mind that colour is skin-deep, and we should strive assiduously to remove this scourge of racial prejudice, which is the greatest hindrance to our national aspirations.If I should venture the solution to this problem, I would like us all to consider the only permanent answer is that we should earnestly strive to spread love among our people. All other attempts at unity are only perfunctory and temporary, and will fizzle out eventually.May God bless our nation, and help us to achieve this national peace and progress.Sincerely,Roy Paul