Things Are A Mess - Or Does It Just Appear That Way?

May 1, 2006
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Things Are A Mess — Or Does It Just Appear That Way?

The Bush administration’s voter satisfaction poll numbers are embarrassingly low and continue to drop, but still not quite as bad as the poll numbers for the U.S. Congress.

Each political party is trying to make the case that the other is corrupt, incompetent to govern and is not leading the country in the right direction. Pundits are piously pontificating and liberally offering their opinions about everything, whether it is a subject in which they are knowledgeable or not. The tone of public discourse is dour, negative and blameful. Democrats are calling for change, and Republicans are working to change their image.
This macro image of political thought is leading many to conclude that Democrats could take control of both the House and Senate when the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007.
However, microanalysis of the situation gives a different picture. Although the November election applies to all 435 House seats, only 25 to 30 are thought to really be at play, meaning they will have very competitive races. Republicans currently have a 30-seat advantage.  Democrats would have to win virtually all the competitive races to regain control of the House.  In other words, Democrats would have to pick up 16 seats. In the Senate, there are 17 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one Independent that are up for re-election. Of the 33 seats being contested, only two Democrats, one Republican and one Independent have announced they will not seek re-election. Again, for Democrats to regain control of the Senate they would have to have an overwhelming victory, a net gain of 7 seats in the November elections.
The microanalysis is the prevailing predictor of the outcome in four out of five elections — 80 percent of the time — but in one of five elections, there is an overwhelming groundswell that results in a “throw the bums out” victory for the minority party. The last time such a thing happened, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” made a clean sweep of the House with a 54-seat swing going from Democrats to Republicans. Microanalysis had suggested there would be a gain of 25 seats for the Republicans, not even half of the actual results. Although unlikely, this could be a “throw the bums out” year.
Trade Negotiations
The WTO negotiations also appear to be a mess, but may not be in such a state of disarray as a macroanalysis would suggest. It is true, there have been numerous deadlines that have come and gone, and the latest deadline, which was set for April 30, was not met either. Until now, the deadlines have been soft targets that, if not met, would not stop the negotiations from going forward. The real deadline is December 31, 2006, the date by which the president must submit a trade agreement to Congress.
Existing law provides authority for the president to negotiate trade treaties and present the total agreement to Congress, which must then approve or reject the total agreement without change or modifications. This authority for the president and restriction on Congress expires on June 30, 2007, and the trade agreement must be presented to Congress six months prior to expiration. This is a hard deadline.
All the talk about the current WTO round of trade negotiations being dead is simply not accurate.  There is time for completion of the round but not much more time to waste.  These semi-public, closely watched and widely reported negotiations are fraught with diplomatic and geopolitical pressures on both domestic and global fronts. The 142 member nations of the WTO protect their positions trying not to give too much too soon. Usually they only come together when real deadlines loom on the horizon, and that will probably happen again in the next few months.
There are great gains to be had for the U.S. dairy industry if a new agreement is reached. All export subsidies will be eliminated by the year 2013. Most economists believe that removal of these world market price-depressing subsidies will result in world market prices rising to the U.S. price surface. Dairy farmers and marketers of finished dairy food products and ingredients could be very competitive in the world trade arena, and world trade of dairy products is expected to significantly increase, a win-win situation for the U.S. dairy industry — higher prices and increased sales.
Dairy farmers, manufacturers and marketers should be doing everything possible to encourage our negotiators to successfully complete a new agreement. Because of export subsidies and the resulting depressed world market prices, many have demagogued the opportunities for dairy exports. A new paradigm is now in order; a new vision of a global market with increased access to the markets of developing countries must be pursued. The U.S. dairy industry needs to prepare for this new thought process.
Now is the time to do the analysis, to test the results and to prepare for global access — U.S. policies and government programs should be designed to improve and enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. dairy industry.
Tip Tipton, chairman and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Tipton Group, is the former CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.
FOOD’S DRIVING FORCES
IFT show takes you behind the latest innovations in the food industry.
“Everything eaten is affected by food science and technology — influenced during its production, distribution, storage, preparation or elsewhere,” says James Klapthor, media relations manager for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Whether fresh or frozen, boxed or bottled, trucked, shipped or flown, food science and technology is involved at some time in some way.”
Experience this magnitude at the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo, June 24 to 28 in Orlando, Fla., the largest annual food science forum and exposition in the world. Thousands of food scientists, suppliers, marketers, reporters and others from around the globe annually attend the convention, attracted by the promise of encountering the driving forces behind the latest innovations and information affecting consumers, growers, processors, regulators and researchers who make the U.S. food supply the most diverse of any in the world.
Experts from industry, government agencies, and research institutions will provide insight in hundreds of presentations covering topics ranging from new products to nutrition, from food defense to bird flu. Some 1,000 companies utilizing 250,000 square feet of exhibition space will present their latest innovations for making food more fun, functional, nutritious, appealing and accessible to all.
Leading the way will be the Food Network’s “Good Eats” guru Alton Brown, who will open the expo on Sunday, June 25. Brown is part science, part history, part tools and always exciting.
For a comprehensive list of sessions and exhibitors, visit www.ift.org.

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