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By Brian Barth
If there is one thing Tuesday's elections reinforced, it is that city folks and country folks are firmly rooted on opposite sides of America's partisan divide. Farmers are traditionally a conservative bunch and they have flocked to President Trump, even when it is questionable that it's in their best interests to do so.
The president's trade wars have caused the export value of certain crops, most notably soybeans (America's biggest ag export) to plummet. And his stance on immigration stands to have a profound impact on the cheap foreign labor that farmers rely on, which is already in short supply. These are but a couple of the issues that figured heavily in closely contested rural races.
Incumbents are listed first below, while the winner (where known at press time) is underlined.
1. Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Kevin Cramer (R) – North Dakota Senate
Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent in this extremely rural state which exports huge quantities of soybeans to China, hoped that the farmers hurting from the President's trade war would help propel her to victory. If any farmers did jump ship, their numbers were not enough to overcome her opponent, a Trump protégé who has expressed support for the trade war.
2. Jon Tester (D) vs Matt Rosendale (R) – Montana Senate
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Democratic incumbent leads his opponent by a mere 1,000 votes. Tester is one of two organic farmers in Congress, so a loss here would be a major blow to the movement. If he wins, it will at least be in part due to his ability to connect with the state's many farmers and ranchers.
3. John Faso (R) vs. Antonio Delgado (D) – New York 19th House District
John Faso, a member of the House Ag Committee, which is heavily sympathetic to the interests of industrial agriculture, was always an odd fit with this Hudson Valley district, an area known as a mecca for organic farmers—one agricultural demographic that tilts heavily to the left.
4. Steve King (R) vs. J.D. Scholten (D) – Iowa 4th House District
Scholten's longshot campaign to defeat the notoriously racist incumbent leaned heavily on his family's deep farming roots in the area. He traveled the countryside in a used Winnebago converted into a campaign bus, often stopping at farms and grain elevators to ask for farmers' support. This transformed the race from a sure win for King—the district is extremely conservative—into a nail-biter. In the end, however, King squeaked out a victory.
5. Jeff Denham (R) vs. Josh Harder (D) – California 10th House District
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Republican incumbent leads his opponent by less than 1,500 votes. This Central Valley district is known as a haven of corporate agriculture, which typically tilts right. But it is also home to a large Hispanic population, which supplies the labor force for the farms. Whether the left-leaning immigrant community will tip the scales for the Democrat remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.