November 29, 2005

Freeport paper provides further coverage of Asian Carp situation

I've done a lot of carping about the recently announced proposal from Sen. Mike Jacobs to provide $900,000 tax dollars to Shafer's Fisheries, Inc. Some commenters have attempted to defend the proposal but have fallen far short, in my estimation. (see comments here if you like to read very long comments)

The facts as they're known are these: A few species of fast growing carp, collectively referred to as Asian Carp due to their origin, are threatening to wreak havoc in area rivers, particularly the Illinois river. They consume vast amounts of vegetation, causing massive damage, and also eat food sources critical for other species of fish at a voracious rate threatening to crowd them out. The Silver Carp has the rather spectacular trait of leaping out of the water like a missle when stimulated by boat motors, posing the odd chance of a boater being taken out by a carp.

They're a nasty invasive species which can really mess up or destroy the ecology of rivers, and if they spread to the Great Lakes, they would eventually dominate them as well, and there would be little if anything that could be done about it.

State and federal funds have been already been spent to construct an electronic barrier across a stategic stretch of river near Romeoville in order to prevent the movement of these pests into Lake Michigan, and they are seeking more funds to make the barrier permanent.

I recently received a link to a very good piece about this issue in The Journal Standard Online, a newspaper covering the Freeport, IL area from, shall we say, a source very close to the Senator.

It quotes the Senator, a Shafer's Fisheries official, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife manager and provides a few new tidbits about the issue.

What it doesn't do is provide any information that suggests Jacobs' measure to give this $900,000 gift to Shafer's is justified. Read the piece here.

What we learn is:

The guy from Shafer's agrees that the fish are a threat and urges us to believe everything we hear about the fish.

Getting smacked by a huge carp is a "serious health question."
"If you get hit with one of these fish, it's the equivalent of being hit by a bowling ball," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline. "It presents a very serious health question."
Importantly, Shafer's is ALREADY set up and processing the carp and selling the by-products.
"It's a very low-cost protein source," said Mike Schafer, owner of Schafer's Fisheries Inc. Last year, his company shipped 1 million pounds of Asian carp, and he expects to sell 50 percent more this year.
Then to the relevant passages...
Jacobs is now poised to turn the terror into an economic boon.

"I want to find a neat boutique way of putting local people to work and keep them working," Jacobs said. When the legislative session opens in January, Jacobs will propose a public-private venture and request $900,000 in state funds for Schafer's Fisheries, the largest wholesale fish supplier in the Midwest.
OK. First I'd like to know how simply GIVING a company nearly a million dollars of tax revenue is a public/private partnership. I may be missing something here, but isn't that a public gift? A loan of start-up funds might be a public/private partnership. But an outright giveaway? Can someone please explain where the "partnership" is in this?

Harvesting and trying to thin the populations of this destructive species is in the public interest. No question there. But Shafer's is ALREADY harvesting these carp and turning them into profitable by-products. By expanding their effort and harvesting and processing more fish into more products, Shafer's will be positioned as the ONLY business atop what supporters of Jacobs' proposal have called a "multi-billion dollar industry." So what's the public's interest in giving them nearly a million increasingly scarce tax dollars? Investors will be lining up to get in on this, and banks would unquestioningly find this a sound business loan. Why give them all this tax money?
"We have to find an end-use for this fish," Jacobs said. "I think that this is a home-grown problem and this is a home-grown solution."
Ha! "Find an end use."? There already IS an end-use and his friends the Shafer's are producing it. And I for one, don't like this "home-grown" solution which seems as if it was "grown" in a booth one night at some restaurant.
Schafer, who recently started production of an organic fish fertilizer, is considering several options to create and fill the market for Asian carp including a protein extraction plant, a frozen fish pattie and vacuum-packed carp.

"In America," Schafer said, "the carp is looked at as trash fish. But in Europe and the Oriental countries, it's not looked at that way."
This is really great news. Seriously. It isn't often that a commercial solution to a public problem presents itself so clearly. I can't think of a better example of a "public/private" partnership that a company which is able to establish a world-wide market, make a profit, pay workers, pay taxes, and while doing so, at least have some positive impact on, if not solve, a public problem. What could be better?

In this instance, we're truly fortunate that such a situation exists. But why a politician has to volunteer to give away our tax money into the happy arrangement is unknown.

Jacobs will introduce legislation to include the Asian carp on the bidding list of approved vendors for prisons.
I'm not 100% clear what this means. Any guesses? It appears that he's proposing to feed carp to already demoralized prisoners. Wouldn't that run astray of the cruel and unusual punishment clause

Citing river activist Chad Pegracke.
At first, Jacobs was skeptical, but he said that if Pegracke tells a senator there's a problem, "You can take it to the bank as a problem."
That's an unfortunate euphemism, but let's hope that's true for Shafer's...without Jacobs volunteering our help.
As Jacobs has learned more about the Asian carp crowding out other fish from their terrain, multiplying and growing quickly as it moves, he has become convinced this will be one of his key issues.
Jacobs doesn't expect any opposition, except possibly in reaction to the expense. He said he would also support any effort to have the Asian carp listed as a Title Three food source for humanitarian food aid worldwide.
Well, he's exactly right on the first point. I doubt anyone objects to the goal here, or that something should be done. And he's certainly right to realize people would question the need for this givaway. But if Shafer's wants him to help clear the way for a larger market for their products, that's fine and a legitimate effort.

But I saved the best for last...
He said an Asian carp will make an appearance with him during a press conference at the Illinois State House so that people won't have to imagine the culprit.

"I know this is an odd political issue," Jacobs said. "This is not really a sexy issue, but it is highly important."
I won't even comment on this in hopes that you might.

Lest defenders again attempt to change the issue, I again state the two questions that I feel must be asked and answered on this issue:

Why should state taxpayers shell out $900,000 very scarce tax dollars to a private company to expand an existing for-profit venture when said company could easily rais the money from private investors and/or banks?
IF the state has to get involved at all, which I maintain it doesn't, and if as you say this industry will be prosperous and self-sustaining, why must this be an outright GIFT to this company, rather than a loan as it properly should be?


At 11/29/2005 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, would you quit beating a dead carp?

At 11/29/2005 12:38 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Wow - the next time I am cruising on the IL River with my yacht or swimming in its polluted waters, I will thank GOD that Mike Jacobs kept me and my luxury boat safe from getting slapped by that thar "big bowling ball sized" fish!

That is exactly how I want my tax dollars spent - preventing tragedies such as this from occurring.....

At 11/29/2005 1:00 PM, Blogger diehard said...

What's the 900,000 thou for? A new boat?

At 11/29/2005 4:04 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon... your apathy is a poltician's best weapon. Who cares about a measley $900,000, right? A few hundred thousand there, a few million here. No big deal. Until they try to raise your taxes or you find yourself in need of assistance and find the programs been zeroed out of the budget.

At 11/29/2005 5:31 PM, Blogger billyclinton said...

Man, I was fishing for Cat in Arkansas with some high pals when suddenly two big Asian Carps flew out of the water and thwacked Bobby Jo Minton and I right in the head!

These are nasty predators! I used to think this issue was a joke until that experience.

I am writing to urge Illinois' elected officials and the EPA to be vigilant about this problem.
First, turn up the electricity in those fences, and Second, get moving on those Carp processing plants to give our local fisherman some kind of incentive to catch those nasty villains of the deep.

At 11/29/2005 5:47 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

"Ode to Bobby Jo"

They carried old Bobby off
all covered with tarp.
Did the booze finally get him?
Nope, a big Asian carp.

Well, one interesting tidbit I gleaned from the many articles about this carp problem is that apparently they won't bite a hook. This seems dubious to me, but it's possible. At any rate, it would seem that the only efficient way to harvest them would be with netting.

We don't have to hope Shafer's gets going on this as the article cited in the post reveals that they already ARE doing this.

I too hope Shafer's gets all the financing they need from investors in order to expand the operation. Hell, I might even get in on the action.

Once they're up and running, and marketing their many products in many markets all over the world, they'll be in tall clover. And by the sound of it, they won't be hurting for a supply of carp.

But we sure don't need to give them a dime, let alone $900,000 to do it.

After all, as some would say, that's damn socialism. What happened to free market capitalism, the power of the marketplace, truth, justice, and the American Way?

At 11/29/2005 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Shafer's Fisheries ALREADY get a good sized grant from the state recently? For an additional $900,000 investment the taxpayers of should be issued stock!

Not to be “carping”, but since this thread's all about pork barrel, it might also be wise to ask how much corporate welfare Mikey Jacobs wants to heap onto the proposed hog operation for East Moline? Wanna bet the price-tag there is even higher? And if Mikey Jacobs is telling you the packing house jobs will be union - it's a lie, so hopefully we'll get to the point where labor understands what he's all about too. Mikey Jacobs is all for scab labor!

So folks, remember Mikey Jacobs crying on TV the night John G and Daddy gave him his current job. I’d wager those tears are small ones compared to what he'll cry if the working people of our area actually begin to understand his real allegiance.

At 11/29/2005 7:50 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm not sure it's reasonable to accuse Sen. Jacobs of being anti-union. That seems quite a stretch, especially in light of the many union contributions to his campaign fund.

At 11/30/2005 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sen Mike Jacobs was a card-carrying member of three different local unions growing up. Gimme a break. Can we quit making hack-job attacks on the facts once in awhile?

At 11/30/2005 1:34 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

While it may be a stretch to label Jacobs anti-union, likewise, trying to argue he's pro-union simply because he belonged to a few in the past doesn't necessarily mean anything either.
Reagan was president of the screen actors union, and we all know how much he did for unions.

But while Jacobs may be big businesses best friend, when it comes to issues of interest to unions, it would be very unlikely he'd buck them.

At 12/02/2005 7:26 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Name me one stinking job Mike Jacobs ever worked at while holding a union card so I can believe...... and I really doubt you can!

At 12/02/2005 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Case IH and a few more... I worked with him at Case!

At 12/02/2005 1:27 PM, Anonymous shoppy said...

Well then, you could certainly tell us what what it was that Sen. Jacobs did at Case/IH. What was his position? What were his job responsibilities?

Those jobs were very desirable and very hard to get. Think his Dad had anything to do with getting him in there?

At 12/03/2005 7:33 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

I do not believe Mike Jacobs ever worked in a union job at Case or anywhere. Mike's age is a factor here -- there were WAY too many guys on lay off with the UAW on a master recall list when Mike was of the age to try for any of the jobs there..... What did he do -- work as a scab replacement worker or some kind of temp thru Republican connections down there (which none of those entitle him to union status of course)?

Nice try but no cigar anon. I am not buying your crap. Tell me more with more convincing details.

Since Mike thinks his opponent should provide his resume and who pays his bills etc., I think Mike Jacobs needs to clear up the confusion on his supposed Union membership status. He constantly claims in public he belonged or belongs to multiple unions yet I have never seen one "stinking" shred of evidence to prove his claims?

I don't believe he has ever belonged to any union anywhere - how could he if he has never applied for a job or competed as a candidate to get a job anywhere in his life? Mike Jacobs is in his early forties. His years of work experience outside college in the late 80s and 1990s fall when the rustbelt has massive lay offs in all the factories and no hiring happened for new young workers......

I bet Mike's never had any callous or blisters on his hands from any sweat or real labor of any type!!! Betcha a steak dinner at Blue Ribbon!

At 12/03/2005 11:11 AM, Blogger quiet said...

Maybe - something smells alright and it is not just the pork plant being built in EM....


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