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Trump's Top Trade Nominees Have Strong Links to U.S. Beef and Growth Hormone Lobbies
By Lawrence Carter
Donald Trump's nominee to be the U.S. chief agricultural trade negotiator previously called for the U.S. to walk away from trade talks with the EU if it refused to drop its ban on beef reared with antibiotics and growth supplements, Energydesk can reveal.
The news could have implications for the UK's attempts to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S., with reports suggesting the U.S. agricultural sector wants to weaken UK food standards—including the ban on growth hormones—to help boost its meat exports.
Last week, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox refused to rule out reversing a ban on the import of chlorine-washed chicken during a visit to Washington to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal.
This resulted in a cabinet split as Environment Secretary Michael Gove insisted that the UK would not compromise on its food standards by dropping restrictions on chlorinated chicken.
Now, an Energydesk investigation has found that two of Trump's nominees for top agricultural trade positions have strong links to the U.S. beef and growth hormone lobbies. And that these powerful groups are already mobilizing in Washington to take advantage of the UK's need to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.
"Walk away" from talks
Gregg Doud, who was nominated for the top agricultural trade position by President Trump last month, authored a paper in 2013 arguing that the U.S. should "absolutely" walk away from trade talks with the EU if it refused to drop restrictions on U.S. meat imports.
Doud previously spent eight years working for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA)—a powerful lobby group that has identified Brexit as an opportunity to lift UK restrictions on the import of beef reared with substances that increase animal growth rate—such as hormones and beta agonists.
Energydesk can further reveal that Trump's nominee for the new role of undersecretary of trade at the U.S. department of agriculture, Ted McKinney, is a former director at Elanco Animal Health—a major manufacturer of growth hormones and beta agonists.
During last week's visit to Washington, Fox downplayed the significance of U.S. meat exports to any future trade deal between the UK and U.S.
But some U.S. trade experts believe that getting rid of barriers preventing the export of U.S. beef, pork and chicken will be a red line for the U.S. in any negotiations.
Speaking to Energydesk, Daniel Pearson, a senior fellow in trade policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, said that a post-Brexit deal will not happen if the UK is not willing to drop restrictions:
"The agriculture community here can prevent a UK-U.S. agreement from happening and probably would unless there's some significant progress on those issues. I can't see the Farm Bureau and the commodity organizations being willing to say yes, let's do a deal with the UK under the same terms that we have with the European Union."
No "safe level"
The U.S. maintains that beef and pork reared using hormones and beta agonists is safe and that the EU ban is simply a protectionist measure.
"The EU is making arguments that are not based on science, they're below the belt punches that are belied by the scientific facts," Nick Giordano, vice president of global government affairs at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)—a large industry group that focuses on free trade—told Energydesk.
"It would be over my dead body that a free trade agreement gets through the U.S. Congress that doesn't eliminate tariffs on food and agriculture products ... and non-tariff barriers."
The European Commission, though, maintains that there is insufficient evidence supporting claims that currently banned animal growth substances are safe.
In a 2009 assessment of evidence supporting a bid by the U.S. to establish a recognized safe intake level for the beta agonist ractopamine, the European Food Safety Authority found "weaknesses in the data" and concluded that "the study on cardiovascular effects in humans cannot be taken as a basis to derive an Acceptable Daily Intake."
Ted McKinney, the nominee to be the USDA's trade undersecretary, held the role of director of global corporate affairs at Elanco Animal Health—a major manufacturer of ractopamine—between 2009-2014.
In 2012, McKinney played a role in a successful bid to get the UN to adopt levels at which ractopamine should be considered safe.
The motion passed by just two votes and was strongly opposed by the European Union "on the grounds of persisting scientific uncertainty about the safety of products derived from animals treated with ractopamine."
McKinney was later recruited by Indiana's then governor, current Vice President Mike Pence, to serve in his cabinet.
As director of agriculture for Indiana, McKinney is a member of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)—which is calling for the U.S. government to eliminate barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, such as Europe's ban on growth hormones.
When contacted for comment by Energydesk, McKinney declined to comment—citing the ongoing nomination process.
Energydesk's investigation found that lobbying is already underway in Washington, as the U.S. agricultural sector seeks to ensure that the UK relaxes its restrictions on meat imports from the U.S. post-Brexit.
McKinney's former employers, Elanco, are funders of the Pork Alliance—a lobbying operation coordinated by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
Senate lobbying disclosures show that, in 2017, the NPPC has lobbied Congress; the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative regarding "lifting market access restrictions" to the UK.
"I don't think I'm the only one who's been on the other side of the pond, and who's been talking to U.S. and UK officials," the NPPC's Giordano told Energydesk.
Elanco failed to respond to multiple requests for comment.
Chief agricultural trade nominee, Greg Doud, spent eight years as chief economist for leading beef lobbyists, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
His nomination to be chief trade negotiator was warmly welcomed by his former colleagues.
"Gregg has been a friend and colleague for many years, and I can testify first-hand that America's cattlemen and women will be well-served by having Gregg at the table as agricultural trade deals are hammered out," said Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs.
The NCBA believes that Brexit offers an opportunity to finally begin exporting to the UK. Woodhall told CNBC that "A UK agreement will be a good opportunity for us to actually base trade on science rather than just a precautionary principle and undue fear."
"UK has been under the blanket EU restrictions where they will only take non-hormone, non-antibiotic treated beef," he added.
Doud's 2013 paper argued that the U.S. should walk away from trade negotiations with the EU if it refused to drop its restrictions on U.S. meat imports.
Citing the EU's bans on beta agonists and antibiotics, Doud said, "Are we prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if access is restricted via these other issues? We better be."
Referring to the European Union, he also said that "we all know who wrote the book when it comes to using non-tariff trade barriers to block imports and protect domestic markets."
When contacted by Energydesk to verify that this had been his position on trade with Europe, Doud said this was "accurate," but declined to comment further.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.