4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 18, 2003
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Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
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necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
So moderates of
the world unite! We
have nothing to
lose but our
- New York Times columnist Thomas
Friedman, in his Sunday column on
conflict in the Middle East, as
reported by The New York Times.
COLIN DALY ' HE MICIGAN DALY
Singin' bye, bye, American pie
JESS PISKOR JOIN THE PISKOR
SUTTONS BAY -
Jim Nugent is an
easy man to like.
His broad smile and
loud, contagious laugh
are only overshadowed
by his lively blue eyes
and his insightful mind.
Seated in his warm rural
farmhouse he sits and
sips tea, talking about agriculture. Some-
where in his 50s, Nugent and his wife,
Toddy Rieger, own 76 acres of prime cher-
ry orchards. Farming is in their blood and
their passion for and knowledge of the sub-
ject is immediately apparent.
Discussing the economic pressures
small farmers face the conversation quick-
ly turns to free trade agreements like the
proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas
and what it means for small farmers.
"Northwest Lower Michigan is the best
place in the world to grow tart cherries,
there is no place better suited," explains
Nugent, whose second job (most farmers
these days need two jobs to stay farming)
is working with the regional agricultural
research extension office. He tells me that
acre for acre, no place on Earth can pro-
duce more high-quality cherries than the
area's rolling hills and sandy soils.
Nugent doesn't fear any other U.S.
region out competing the local cherry
industry. And currently he shouldn't: The
Grand Traverse region produces about 50
percent of the world's supply of tart cher-
ries. However, what really worries Nugent
is competition from countries that exploit
labor and the environment for short-term
profit and U.S. trade policies that encour-
age this behavior.
"In the short run it might be more effi-
cient to grow cherries elsewhere, but only
if you define efficiency very narrowly,"
Rieger says. It might be cheaper at first
blush, but that ignores the real costs of
pollution, soil degradation and worker
exploitation in foreign countries, not to
mention the irreplaceable potential loss of
small farms and the associated open space
in the United States. Nugent says, "Right
now maybe some (foreign nations) can
maybe grow fruit cheaper, but look at what
it does to their land and to their people."
Hardly an isolationist, Nugent seems
upset not that other countries might out-
compete U.S. farms, but that it is such an
exploitative process. Rieger sums it up this
way, "They are destroying their land to
For example, farmers in China "com-
pete" with U.S. small farmers by not
accounting for the negative externality of
pollution, by unfairly paying their workers
an exploitative wage, by permanently
depleting fertile land, by benefiting from
the artificially cheap price of fuel for
cargo ships and semi-trucks, by profiting
from the free good of the U.S. interstate
highway system and by selling to monopo-
listic chain supermarkets that refuse to
deal with local farmers.
U.S. farmers pay at least minimum
wage and use environmentally sound poli-
cies to limit chemical use and maintain
soil health and cannot compete with coun-
tries that pay workers less than 25 cents a
day and farm property until it is dead and
then move on to the next field. It is no
wonder why fruit from China and other
nations is cheaper.
Free trade agreements with these nations
make it hard, if not illegal, to regulate these
abuses. Attempts to even out the playing
field with tariffs or subsidies are consistent-
ly denied and as a result, nations with
deplorable labor and environmental records
can undercut farmers that behave ethically.
In Michigan, free trade agreements cut
the bottom out of both the apple and
asparagus markets in the last decade. Once
two of Michigan's most important export
crops, now suburban development is
springing up where golden delicious
apples once grew as farmers sell land to
pay off increasing debt. This suburban
growth - unlike small farms - uses up
more tax dollars than it provides, depleting
township coffers and clogging roads.
Damaging farming practices, tacitly
encouraged by free trade agreements, have
led to irrevocable loss of fertile land. Del-
egates are meeting in Miami this weekend
to work to ratify the FTAA. As it stands
today, the FTAA would unite 34 nations in
a free trade agreement, eliminating tariffs,
but with no significant labor and environ-
mental protections. Protesters will go as
well, to demand - among other things -
that agriculture is preserved forever.
Nugent explains that, "We need poli-
cies that will produce food not just today,
but in the next generation. We are going to
need farms 500 years from now, and to get
that, we need sound policies today."
Otherwise, all that will remain will be
barren, dead polluted fields where third
world farms used to grow, and sprawling
suburban development where U.S.
orchards once fed the world.
Piskor can be reached
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MSA out of touch with
students, needs leadership
To THE DAILY:
Juniors and seniors: When are you going to
tell the Michigan Student Assembly that it needs
to focus on your interests? Do you remember
reading about MSA working on student issues
and getting things done around campus? This
week's elections are an opportunity for you to
remind MSA that you do want things better.
If I were you, I would look at this year so far
and ask, "What has MSA done for students?"
and wouldn't be able to answer the question. I
would ask why the only times MSA has been in
the Daily have involved debates that they have
absolutely no affect on. Every term MSA candi-
dates campaign on doing things for students and
nothing seems to have even been worked on this
year. Now they finally make the front page, but
it's for forgetting to check to see if a branch of
the student government existed? Shameful.
I would submit myself to the reality that stu-
dent government can't actually accomplish
things, except for the nagging fact that "it has"
lingers. MSA got the fall break two years ago.
MSA got wolverineaccess open until 2 a.m.
instead of midnight. MSA got the Central Cam-
pus Recreation Building open longer, got an
extra $73,000 from the University Board of
Regents for student groups ... and all in a one-
year span, two years ago.
Freshmen and sophomores: Ask a junior or
senior about MSA two years ago. They probably
will vaguely remember reading about MSA and
some guy named "Matt Nolan" all the time, and
while getting e-mails from him may have been
annoying, they also remember being thankful to
see MSA actually working on things they want-
ed to see done! Haven't you guys noticed that
MSA is hardly ever in the Daily for working to
make campus better anymore?
The political fights remain, always have
and always will because student government
is, well, government. That doesn't preclude
you from doing your jobs, MSA. The MSA
president is supposed to have a strong working
relationship with the Central Student Judicia-
ry, let alone even checking to see if they are in
existence (MSA rushes to appoint judicial board,
11/17/03) ... this kind of neglect is inexcus-
able for someone who fought for and is privi-
leged to be the primary representative of
being the few who are chosen from the student
body to represent your interests. They fight
hard to get there; why can't the current repre-
sentatives realize that their political battles
don't mean jack in the end and that making
campus better for students does matter? Spend
half as much time representing as you did
campaigning and the improvements on this,
campus would once again be visible.
If I were voting in the MSA elections this
week, I'd for damned sure use those votes to
send a message to MSA that this kind of con-
tempt for the role of representing student inter-
ests is unacceptable. Students did that once, and
the results speak for themselves.
Former president, Michigan Student Assembly
Appointing judges against
To THE DAILY:
I was surprised by the Daily's article on
the Michigan Student Assembly appointing
new justices at the most recent Steering
Committee meeting (MSA rushes to appoint
judicial board, 11/17/03). The reason for my
surprise is that, under the constitution, the
compiled code, which govern MSA, and
Procedures Manual for Central Student
Judiciary, the assembly cannot under any
circumstances appoint justices. The new
justices must be appointed by a committee
consisting of two current justices, two
members of MSA and one person who is
not a member of student government, as
discussed in the CSJ manual of procedures.
Based on the recommendations of this com-
mittee, the MSA general assembly confirms
the appointments. Therefore, the Steering
Committee's actions are not constitutional
under the current rules for the assembly,
and thus the fall elections cannot be con-
firmed. Any student who does not like the
outcome of the election would be wise to
challenge the certification for this reason.
Furthermore, there are seven justices from
last term who have not finished their terms.
The assembly does not have the right to dis-
miss these individuals from the court, at
least not without a formal trial. Perhaps if
they were to look in last year's minutes,
instead of rushing to action, they would
executives several times during the next
week, but I was never contacted back.
Obviously, we were never able to appoint
and confirm a new set of justices, and thus
three vacancies went unfilled. Now it
appears that MSA has lost track of those
remaining justices and it superceding its
authority to make a quick fix that is
undoubtedly beneficial to the current execu-
tive board. It is unfortunate the downward
spiral that started with Boot and Glassel has
continued with the current executive board.
Perhaps in the future, the Students First
Party and MSA in general will listen to the
other branches of government and attempt
to address their concerns, instead of needing
a crisis to get their attention.
Former chiefjustice, Central Student Judiciary
Student workers responsible
for low Borders wages
TO THE DAILY:
The local Borders Books and Music strikers
are striking for higher wages because they don't
want to have to compete against those willing to
work for lower wages, namely students. If they
succeed, the result will be discrimination
against students. Why and how? Students are
willing to work for $6.50 an hour but if the
union is able to achieve $9 an hour, employers
will only hire those that they can get the most
productivity from with the least hassle. Every
employer knows that hiring students entails
concerns such as class schedules, study time
changing from week to week and wanting off
when school is not in session. But this is a uni-
versity town so at higher rates of pay employers
will attempt to eliminate these concerns; thus,
they will systematically discriminate against
students. The problems are not between work-
ers and management, but between student
workers and non-student workers. This is a
classic example of one class of workers seeking
job security over another class of workers.
It is naive for career workers to expect high
paying work in low-skilled jobs in a university
town. The solution is not to picket at Borders,
but to protest local government polices that keep
higher skilled jobs from coming to Ann Arbor
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