Crony Environmentalism

Al Gore, a career “public servant,” reportedly became a billionaire just a few years after leaving his last government job as vice president of the United States.  He achieved this miracle, according to news reports, through various “green” business deals.  Such deals are always proprietary and few details about them ever become public.  They usually involve the ancient mercantilist practice of bribing politicians for a special favor or subsidy.  The bribe-giver becomes wealthy, and the politicians granting the favor/subsidy have the funds to finance the next campaign.  Let’s call it crony environmentalism.

A rare glimpse of how crony environmentalism works was recently revealed in a November 12 article in the Baltimore Sun entitled “$1 could lease state’s $2.8 million farm.”  The article was about an “agreement” to be presented to the State Board of Public Works between one Cleo Braver, an “environmental lawyer-turned-organic farmer” and the state government.  Ms. Braver is also described as having donated “more than $40,000” to various Democratic Party campaigns in recent years, including $6,000 in the most recent governor’s race.  The same politicians she gave all this money to sit on the State Board of Public Works that is being asked to grant her this massive subsidy.[amazon asin=0761526463&template=*lrc ad (right)]

The “agreement” that was reportedly reached between Braver and the administration of Maryland’s Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, was to lease to her a 255 acre farm in Kent County, Maryland that is worth almost $3 million for $1/year.  In addition, she will be given $500,000 in state tax money and her proposed “food hub” for the distribution of agricultural produce will be nonprofit, which is to say, it will not pay taxes.

The ostensible purpose of all this is to establish a “food hub” on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that can “distribute organic and sustainably produced food.”  Ah yes, there are the magic words:  organic and sustainable.  That makes everything kosher in the eyes of Cleo Braver, an “advocate for green farming techniques.”  She claims there are “food deserts” in the region that lack “healthy food.”  What nonsense.  When pressed by a committee of the state assembly, Braver even admitted that “organic farming would not be required” for her hugely-subsidized “food hub” but would only be encouraged. [amazon asin=0307338428&template=*lrc ad (right)]

There are of course many food distribution hubs on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  They are privately-owned, capitalistic, and unsubsidized.  And they distribute “organic” as well as non-organic food as consumer demand dictates.  There is no need at all, in other words, for a government-subsidized food hub there.  It will only allow Cleo Braver become wealthy by unfairly competing with the already-existing businesses.  The Baltimore Sun quoted Ed Bush, the general manager of one of the existing food hubs, who said:  “She would have a substantial advantage over the regular taxpaying Joe who – if we want to build our business – we have to pay for it in cash.”  Exactly right, Ed.

Ms. Braver also owns an organic farm in Kent County, Maryland.  This means that she can sell her goods to the food hub that she also owns, thanks to the massive government subsidy, and “pay herself what she thinks is fair value,” said Mr. Bush.  “Prices should be set by the market” instead, he told the Baltimore Sun.  Amen, Brother Bush.

Corruption, cronyism, and socialistic central planning of agricultural markets, hidden by the rhetoric of “green farming,” is what Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley calls “smart growth” policy.  Crony environmentalism would be more descriptive.  So-called smart growth is a very dumb, and very corrupt idea.

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