January 31, 2014
Almost there on the farm bill. On Wednesday, the House passed a farm bill after spending weeks in negotiation with the Senate working out their differences. The Senate may pass it by the end of this week or early next. There is not much to like about this bill, which will provide generous crop insurance to large-scale farmers while weakening the safety net for the poor among us. Eighty-nine Democrats, including Steny Hoyer, Maryland’s 5th congressional district, and John Delaney, Maryland’s 6th congressional district, voted to cut the food stamp program by $8 billion. That means that approximately 850,000 households will lose about $90 in monthly benefits under the change—but the bill allocates an extra $200 million at food banks. I was pleased, however, to see that the King Amendment, which called for a federal pre-emption of state laws that could have wiped out state agriculture laws (existing and future) on a wide range of consumer, animal welfare, environmental, labor, and other concerns, is not included.
Meatless in Philly? From a story in Philadelphia Magazine: “The Philly-based animal rights organization, the Humane League, just launched an initiative urging the School District of Philadelphia to take up the Meatless Monday cause in its own cafeterias. The objective: to get public schools to offer an entire menu of vegetarian options—and only vegetarian options—every Monday, every week of the school year.” If this initiative takes hold, it could benefit thousands of Philadelphia schoolchildren who will have the opportunity to sample vegetarian meals and experience first-hand that there are alternatives to meals with meat.
Livestock on drugs. Our own Tyler Smith is quoted in this Prevention story about a recent NRDC report. The NRDC drew attention to an FDA report that investigated the 30 antibiotics approved for use in food-animal feed; the report states that misuse for growth promotion or disease prevention of 18 of those types of antibiotics create high risk for increasing antibiotic resistance in humans. Why is the FDA failing to take appropriate action on antibiotics? I fear the agency, which is charged with protecting the public’s health, has been hobbled by the political influence of Big Ag and Pharma corporate giants.
Happy trails, Henry Waxman. Rep. Henry Waxman (D–CA) has announced he will retire from the House of Representatives at the end of the year. This is a blow to public health. Concerning the misuse of antibiotics in food animals, he pushed back against Republican claims that there isn’t enough evidence to regulate this practice.
Chipotle and Superbowl. Our Senior Policy Adviser Bob Martin is quoted in this New York Times story about Chipotle’s new animated series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” which will air on Hulu during the Superbowl. The film takes a satirical look at industrial-scale farming. Chipotle’s slogan is “Food With Integrity,” and Bob suggests in the story that consumers are making a difference in the way companies like Chipotle do business through what he calls “regulation by retail.”
The State of the Union. This post by the Union of Concerned Scientists does a nice job addressing the good, the bad, and the missing in President Obama’s speech this past Tuesday. He got it right about climate change, got it mostly wrong about natural gas and fracking, and failed to address our dysfunctional food and farm policies.
Food justice. This Truth-Out story addresses an issue we’ve been very close to at CLF: justice for food workers. The reporter interviews journalist Michael Pollan, who has been vocal in his support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization dedicated to improving working conditions and wages for tomato pickers in Florida.