Posts by:

Robert Martin

Robert Martin

Director of Food System Policy

Center for a Livable Future

Ralph Loglisci 1971-2016

Ralph-radioThe food journalism and advocacy reform community lost an important member on January 8 when Ralph F. Loglisci succumbed to injuries sustained in October 2014. He was hit by a car while crossing the street in San Francisco, where he was attending a board meeting of the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN). At the time, Ralph was the Director of Digital Engagement and Outreach for FERN.

I first met Ralph when I was recruiting staff for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production that was just getting off the ground in late 2004. The Commission, Read More >

The USDA Is Gonna Do What?

320px-Chicken_vaccination-wikicommonsThe outbreak of several Asian-origin Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (HPAI) viruses is still wreaking havoc for industrial egg and turkey integrators. And the USDA has a vaccination program that’s supposed to address HPAI—but it’s naïve at best or ludicrous at worst.

It’s difficult to keep up with advancement of the HPAI viruses‑H5N2, H5N8, and H5N1—and difficult to keep up with the related data collected by the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As of mid-to-late July, 223 separate reported incidents had affected more than 49 million birds. Fewer than 9,000 of the birds have been grown in small, so-called “backyard” operations. Read More >

47 Million And Counting

512px-Chicken_Farm_034This blogpost was co-authored with Claire Fitch.

Industrial egg and turkey integrators are in the midst of a catastrophic outbreak of several Asian-origin Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (HPAI) viruses: H5N2, H5N8, and H5N1. It is difficult to keep up with the advancement and data collected by the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), but as of June 9, 222 separate reported incidents had affected more than 47 million birds. Fewer than 8,000 of the birds have been grown in small, so-called “backyard” operations. The remainder are from commercial, industrial Read More >

Poultry Contracting and Tournament Pricing

The Delmarva Peninsula

The Delmarva Peninsula

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future was one of the sponsors of the recent Annapolis Summit 2015 organized and conducted by The Daily Record and The Mark Steiner Show on WEAA-FM. I attended the summit, and asked Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh a question about poultry contracting and the tournament pricing system (which I’ll explain later) that is common in the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The number of broilers produced in the United States has increased 1,400 percent since 1950, while the number of poultry growing-operations has declined by 98 percent [1]. Approximately 525 million broilers are raised annually on the Eastern Shore alone, which is nearly 6 percent of the nation’s production on .05 percent of U.S. landmass. Those birds produce 42 million cubic feet of waste a year, enough to fill the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building weekly. [2] Read More >

Remembering Brother Dave Andrews

Brother Dave Andrews, 2007

Brother Dave Andrews, 2007

A great friend of the Center for a Livable Future and a persistent and effective advocate for sustainable agriculture has passed away. Brother David Andrews, former director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, and a senior policy person at Food and Water Watch, passed away on January 5. In recent months, he had experienced some serious health issues but had been doing a bit better Read More >

Beef Tax, Take Two

Exhibit by  Oregon Cattle & Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU

Exhibit sponsored by Oregon Cattle and Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU

My blogpost last week, “Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style,” highlighting the problems of the federally sanctioned beef tax (commonly referred to as the “beef checkoff”) drew an analysis from Kendal Frazier, the chief operating officer at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). (See the comments section for his response.) He may not remember me, but I have interacted with Kendal periodically over the years when he was an agriculture reporter in Kansas, as well as working public relations for the Kansas Livestock Association, and I worked first at the Kansas Farmers Union and then as communications director for then Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman. Read More >

Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style

The Beef Checkoff Program is funded by  a beef tax on producers.

The Beef Checkoff Program is funded by
a beef tax on producers.

Most consumers are familiar with the advertising campaigns promoting specific diet choices—for example, “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” featuring the baritone voice of Hollywood actor Sam Elliott, or “Got Milk?” or “Pork, the Other White Meat.” All these campaigns seek to influence consumer choices and increase demand for the specific promoted commodity, often at the expense of the other choices. But do you know how these multimillion dollar advertising campaigns are funded? Few people do.

These campaigns are funded by a mandatory tax on producers. In the case of beef cattle, there is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)–sanctioned $1 fee levied on every head of cattle sold in the U.S., with a comparable amount levied on imported beef. This tax Read More >

Immigration Reform Requires Food System Reform

Child of a migratory farm laborer, cabbage crop, Texas, 1942

Child of a migratory farm laborer, cabbage crop, Texas, 1942

President Obama and the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate have all declared that reform of the United States’ unfair and broken immigration system is on their respective agendas for this year. While Speaker John Boehner and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have backtracked somewhat recently, the interest in reforming the current fiasco is there.

It has been estimated by Farmworker Justice that there are 4.5 million farm workers and family members in the United States, and that up to 75 percent of them are undocumented. Read More >

The New Farm Bill: Did It Make History?

farmbillnowrally01The old adage “all good things come to those who wait” likely won’t apply to the recent House and Senate Conference Committee that is passing the Agriculture Act of 2014. For months, work on this farm bill has dragged on, past the expiration of the law it replaces. It has been necessary to use extensions of the expiring law in order to keep programs running and to prevent the underlying agriculture law from 1949 from going into effect, along with the dire consequences predicted if that were to happen.

The five-year, 959-page bill cuts approximately $23 billion in farm programs (although the Congressional Budget Office puts the figure slightly lower at $16.6 billion) through three cuts to three types of programs. The first cut is $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Read More >

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production: 5-Year Follow-Up

Concentrated animal feeding operation

Each year, Americans raise and slaughter approximately 10 billion animals, primarily for domestic consumption. Most consumers, however, have no idea how the meat they purchase at the supermarket is produced since the advertising is so misleading: images of happy cows in pasture producing milk and chickens being raised in spacious buildings while the company CEO walks among them making sure they are eating a healthy diet. Read More >