• Continuing to make available its wisdom on all things agricultural (coming on the heels of their exposes of greedy American cotton growers stealing markets away from Third World farmers), the New York Times now is chastising the U.S. International Trade Commission for its efforts on behalf of the American catfish industry.

    "A final flourish of hypocrisy to crush the Vietnamese catfish industry under a mountain of protectionism," the Times editorial laments in condemning the commission's action against dumping of inferior Vietnamese catfish on the U.S. market.

    A case "brutally rigged by American fishing and political interests," it says. "An appalling demonstration to striving commercial nations that all the talk of globalization has not reined in the old power politics of marketers in the United States, Europe, and Japan."

    Oh, it gets better: "A campaign that threatens to ruin (the Vietnamese industry) is rooted in myopic greed and blatant xenophobia. In one Orwellian tactic, labels for the fillets imported from Vietnam – genuine, obvious catfish – were denied the use of that very word in our markets by a well-timed amendment slipped into a Congressional appropriations bill." (Their fish must be labeled "basa" or "tra.")

    And then they top it all off by labeling the U.S. industry "protectionist bottom feeders."

    The Times editors, who doubtless wouldn't deign to let a bite of catfish past their ever-so-refined lips, oughta be sentenced to a diet of the Vietnamese "genuine, obvious catfish." Ugggh.

  • It is one of the mysteries of the age that Branson, Mo. has become the entertainment mecca that it is when it's so @#$%* difficult to get there.

    After three and a half hours on winding, mostly two-lane Hwy. 65 from Conway, Ark. to Branson, trailing a pokey RV that's got a string of vehicles backed up for half a mile, one is ready for a giant-sized Prozac. And Hwy. 65 is just a warm-up for the glacial-paced, bumper-to-bumper traffic on Branson's main drag, Rte. 76.

    You'd think, with 7 million visitors a year, they'd have every route coming into the place four-laned.

  • And isn't it supposed to get cooler as one travels northward? When we arrived in Branson a couple of Sundays back, it was 105 degrees. Back home in Clarksdale, Miss., a balmy 95.
  • Another stake in the hearts of the anti-pesticide contingent: A $2 million study by University of Minnesota researchers, analyzing pesticide exposure among farm families, found very low exposures for those who "exercised good judgment and followed label instructions."

    Unlike many studies based on questionnaires, this one actually measured pesticide residues in the urine of participants. Three major pesticides were measured: 2,4-D; glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup); and chlorpyrifos (the active ingredient in Lorsban). A high percentage of the treated fields were within 100 yards of the farm family's house.

    The vast majority of exposures "were orders of magnitude lower" than levels approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    "The analysis showed that it can be erroneous to assume that just because someone lives on a farm, they will have appreciable pesticide exposure," the researchers noted.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com