October 25, 2013

CLF Week in Links: Livestock, Farm to School, Farm Bill and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

tom-toles-2013CLF Report and a cartoon. The Washington Post ran a cartoon by resident cartoonist Tom Toles, and we think it sums up very well the gist of the event we held on Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. At the press event we released our analysis of progress—or lack thereof—in the area of industrial food animal production since the Pew Commission’s report was released in 2008. In five years, there have been some small steps forward, but not nearly enough. The Washington Post and NPR The Salt provided good coverage, as did many other outlets. It’s heartening to see this issue taking hold in so many media channels. Maybe now we can get some traction in Capitol Hill, at the FDA, and at the USDA.

Farm to School. October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the creative connections taking place among schools and local food growers across the U.S. Our own food policy council expert Mark Winne, a senior adviser at CLF, wrote about this very sweet success story in California, where an orange grower found a new market—local schools. Follow the organization on Twitter via @FarmtoSchool.


Guest Gary Nabhan. In the middle of the week, we were fortunate to have a guest lecture by Gary Nabhan, an award-winning writer and conservation scientist based in Tucson. He spoke with us about climate uncertainty and its effects on human health, particularly those of indigenous communities in his neck of the woods, southern Arizona, where 50 percent of Native Americans have adult onset diabetes. While I can’t say it was exactly cheering to listen to Gary warn about the “nutritional cliff” (the real fiscal cliff, he says), water scarcity, or other looming food crises, it was good to have someone else bring a new perspective to our work. Gary’s devotion to culturally-appropriate and place-based foods is compelling, and I hope the food system community continues to hear his messages. His most recent book is Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

Chicks versus babies. In his New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof brings a new perspective to the question of eating poultry, based on his boyhood growing up on a farm in Oregon: “I have to say that poultry are far from the nitwits we assume — and of the two-legged folk I’ve met over the decades, some of the most admirable have been geese.”

GE salmon. If we can’t get the FDA to block approval of genetically engineered salmon, the next step is to form a coalition of retailers who refuse to sell it. According to this Washington Post article, “Some of the nation’s most recognizable chains — including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target — have agreed in recent months to steer clear of the fish… Activists are pressing Kroger, the country’s largest grocer, to make a similar commitment.” If the FDA approves GE salmon, it will be ignoring some serious problems with the application for approval: all of the safety testing was done by the developer, there has been little transparency about the methods used, and there are serious questions about sustainability with developing the genetically-engineered fish eggs in the U.S., raising the fish in the highlands of Panama, and shipping them back to the U.S. market where mislabeled salmon has been a nightmare for consumers.

Solution to male chick genocide? The Spiegel Online International tells us about the “Lohman Dual,” a new breed of the domestic chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus, a small sensation in the agricultural industry. The bird is the first so-called dual-purpose chicken. The breed supplies both eggs and meat: The female animals of the breeding line reportedly lay 250 eggs a year, while the males make respectable broilers—meaning a bird fit for broiling—at an age of 70 days, unlike the male chicks of other egg-laying breeds, which are routinely killed right after hatching either by being thrown alive into macerators to be ground up or suffocated with CO2.

Farm bill moving fast? House and Senate conferees are preparing to meet in the coming days to hash out their differences on the farm bill, and things may move fast. The King amendment threatens to supersede state laws on many fronts, including sustainable agriculture, consumer protection, health, fire safety, environment, labor, and animal welfare concerns. Shockingly, the King amendment could go either way, particularly if it comes to a vote. See the list (below) of farm bill conferees and please tweet, make a call, or send a letter expressing your opposition to the King amendment or any “compromise” language. At the very least, please tweet a plea to vote NO on the amendment to Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) and Frank Lucas (R–Okla.) (On Twitter via @stabenow and @RepFrankLucas).

Food Day finale. Food Day was yesterday, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has done a terrific job growing this campaign. Congratulations to everyone who’s participated in the events around the U.S.

HuffPost Food for Thought. Food For Thought, a new HuffPost section in partnership with Chipotle, will focus on wellbeing and sustainability and will examine our attitudes toward food, asking where our food comes from and how it’s produced. Already, the site is filled with posts from experts in the food systems field, and I was pleased to see that our friends at EcoCentered are among some of the first posts.

Soon to Boston. In just one more week, several CLF colleagues will be headed to Boston for the American Public Health Association’s annual conference. Presenters will include Roni Neff, Dave Love, and Jillian Fry, and I will be moderating a panel. Every year, research and programs focused on food systems feature brightly at the conference. I take this as a good sign that the public health community understands how important it is to do systems thinking when it comes to health and food.

Farm Bill Conferees 

U.S. House of Representatives


Frank Lucas (OK-3), Chairman of House Agriculture Committee

Steve King (IA-4)

Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)

Mike Rogers (AL-3)

K. Michael Conaway (TX-11)

Glenn Thompson (PA-5)

Austin Scott (GA-8)

Rick Crawford (AR-1)

Martha Roby (AL-2)

Kristi Noem (SD-At Large)

Jeff Denham (CA-10)

Rodney Davis (IL-13)

Steve Southerland (FL-2)

Ed Royce (CA-39)

Tom Marino (PA-10)

Dave Camp (MI-4)

Sam Johnson (TX-3)


Collin Peterson (MN-7), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee

Mike McIntyre (NC-7)

Jim Costa (CA-16)

Tim Walz (MN-1)

Kurt Schrader (OR-5)

Jim McGovern (MA-2)

Susan DelBene (WA-1)

Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA-35)

Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Marcia Fudge (OH-11)

Eliot Engel (NY-16)

Sander Levin (MI-9)

U.S. Senate


Debbie Stabenow (MI), Chairwoman of Senate Agriculture Committee

Patrick Leahy (VT)

Tom Harkin (IA)

Max Baucus (MT)

Sherrod Brown (OH)

Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Michael Bennet (CO)


Thad Cochran (MS)

Pat Roberts (KS)

Saxby Chambliss (GA)

John Boozman (AR)

John Hoeven (ND)

 Cartoon: Tom Toles, Washington Post, 2013.

Photo of Gary Nabhan: Michael Milli, 2013.

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