Posts tagged ‘Agriculture Department’

If You Want to Worry About Something Other Than This Election....

From the WSJ:

A Midwestern metropolis is under attack from an unseen enemy, with victims pouring into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with telltale wounds.

“Right now I don’t even want to go outside to get the paper,” said 82-year-old Chuck Heinz, a retired manufacturing manager whose upper torso is peppered with dozens of welts.

Megan Kinser, who has been attacked at least two dozen times, goes out only when she has to. “It makes me nervous,” said the 32-year-old pharmacy assistant.

The culprit: Pyemotes herfsi, otherwise known as the oak leaf itch mite.

The eight-legged pest causes intense itching in humans. Native to Central Europe, researchers believe it made its U.S. debut in the 1990s in Kansas City and has since spread to many parts of the Midwest, with outbreaks happening every three to eight years. Nearly invisible to the eye at 1/100th of an inch, the mites are back in full force.

“You can’t see them, they’re microscopic and before you know it they’re under your skin,” said Jared Mayberry, marketing director of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland Park, Kan.

People are being told to wear hats and cover most of their skin when they go out and to jump in the shower as soon as they go inside. And to avoid walking under red oaks, particularly pin oaks.

But with at least 3.5 million pin and other red oak trees in the Greater Kansas City area, according to a 2010 estimate by the Agriculture Department, that may be easier said than done.

The arachnid becomes of most concern to humans in the fall, after it spends all summer feasting on the larvae of a gall midge, a fly that nests in oak leaves.

The itch mites eventually tumble to Earth this time of year—as many as 300,000 a day per tree.

Worst of Both Worlds

Those who support a strong regulatory state argue that only the government has the power and the incentives to make sure products are safe.  Anarcho-capitalists like myself argue that where consumers demand high-quality or assurances of safety, the market will provide it as competitors, always alert for ways to differentiate themselves, will seek out ways to create a brand around safety or security (see Volvo, for example).  If those competitors gain market share, then others will have to emulate them.

The Bush Administration has, at least for mad cow disease, chosen to take the worst of both of these worlds, resisting calls for the government to test more than 1% of the beef while actually barring private firms from competing on the basis of better testing.

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows
for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef.

But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.

meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat
and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive
test, too.

Basically, Creekstone's competitors are asking to be protected from having to respond to innovation by their competitors.  Their response is roughly equivalent to Barnes and Noble saying in 1998, "Amazon should be banned from selling books on the internet because if they do so, we may have to bear the cost of doing the same."  No shit.  Deal with it.

Again, regulation is being used to protect companies from the cost of full competition.