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Farmers and the Estate Tax Myth

"The Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest agricultural lobbying group, has featured estate tax repeal among its key legislative priorities for many years. The current president, Zippy Duvall of Georgia, recently responded to President Trump’s tax reform plan, stating that, “Eliminating the estate tax will free farmers to invest in the future of their family businesses rather than selling off their land and legacy when a family member dies.”

The Farm Bureau is joined by national and state commodity groups, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council, in their continuous estate tax repeal campaign. This message has penetrated Republican orthodoxy deeply, and remains on President Trump’s stump speech checklist of policies to help “forgotten rural America.”

But, like so many issues in today’s political landscape, instead of offering any clear data or empirical evidence to back up their rhetoric, agriculture industry groups and their political allies are simply pushing policies that favor a massive wealth transfer. They are actively working to dismantle government spending that supports the poor, the working class, and rural communities in favor of gigantic paydays for the super-rich."

Cheap gas and a good economy is deadly on the roads.
On average, an 1% increase in vehicle miles traveled means a 4% increase in crashes due to more congested highways and more drowsy drivers. So if Americans drive 5% more, there will be on average 20% more crashes.

Chart Crashes – Fatalities, Injury Crashes and Property Damage 2006-2015

Car crashes are strongly influenced by the total number of vehicles miles traveled per year. On average every 1% more miles driven equals 4% more crashes. Vehicle miles are up 4.9% since the recession, and crashes are up 17.3% This is why car crashes dropped so dramatically during 2009 and 2010, during the height of the recession when many people were out of work and could not afford to drive as much per year.

Not seen on this chart is but shown is an associated chart is how much safer cars have gotten between 2006 and 2015 -- in 2005, 70.1% of crashes were property damage, 29.2% were injury, and 0.6% were fatal. By 2015, car had become safer with 72.2% crashes involving only property damage, 27.2% involving injuries, and 0.5% involving fatalities.

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2006–2014 (Final File) and 2015 Annual Report File (ARF); National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates
System (GES) 2006–2015

Ash trees disappearing across Pennsylvania

"The outlook is grim, but not hopeless."

"The emerald ash borer has devastated a research plot of 2,100 ash trees at the edge of Penn State's University Park. Kim Steiner, currently director of The Arboretum at Penn State, in 1978 planted seeds from green ash trees to understand how species adapt to their environments. The ash plantation is the largest collection of green ash germplasm at one location in the world and could play a significant role in saving the species."

"We have about 15 trees remaining that show little or no die-back from emerald ash borer," Steiner said. "They look pretty healthy, and we know that most of them have been attacked because they have exit holes where the adults have emerged after feeding on the inner bark."

"Any level of genetic-based resistance could be something to build on to save the species, she said."

"Penn State molecular geneticist John Carlson is looking at the genetic mechanisms by which surviving trees might be battling the insects. He has seen some biochemical or genetic responses. He and Steiner have been talking with DCNR officials about planting Penn State's lingering ash trees on state forest lands and in private forests."

"Some trees inoculated with eggs from the ash borer actually seem to kill beetle larvae, according to research by Jennifer Koch at the U.S. Forest Service Laboratory in Delaware, Ohio."

"DCNR plans to treat about 200 trees across Pennsylvania's 20 state forest districts, try biological controls at 10 sites and protect three seed orchards."

30 Years of Nitrogen Fertilization in Spruce-Fir Forest – CompassLive

"Rocks and sediments bind up almost 98 percent of all nitrogen. The remaining 2 percent is in motion, part of a global chemical cycle that includes humans, bacteria, plants, and the atmosphere.
“Plants need nitrogen to grow,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Steve McNulty. “However, excess nitrogen can harm plants.”

"Nitrogen and sulfur can combine with oxygen to form nitrogen or sulfur oxides. These compounds become part of the atmosphere, where they react with water vapor and other elements. Eventually, the nitrogen and sulfur – now in the form of nitric and sulfuric acid – fall to the ground with the rain drops."