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