January 23, 2015

CLF Week in Links: Governor Hogan, Lots of Manure, and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Manure lagoon at a dairy farm

Manure lagoon at a dairy farm

Bad news in Maryland. New Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has wasted no time rolling back environmental protections in this state. On his first day, he killed new farm regulations aimed at helping clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The restrictions were aimed at reducing how much poultry manure farmers are allowed to apply to their fields; the manure is rich in phosphorus, which runs off the fields into Bay tributaries, where it becomes pollution and creates dead zones. The governor has clearly sided with Eastern Shore poultry farmers—at the expense of one of our most important natural resources. More info from Tim Wheeler is in the Baltimore Sun.

Good news in the valley. Last week a federal judge ruled that a dairy CAFO in Yakima Valley, Washington, has polluted groundwater through its irresponsible use of cow manure. The plaintiffs won on all counts, with the court ruling that the nitrate pollution from the CAFOs is endangering the public health of the nearby community. Finally! According to this story from the Yakima Herald, “A March 23 trial in Yakima will determine how much pollution Cow Palace is causing, the extent of any threat and what steps should be taken as a remedy, which could range from ordering the dairy to line all its lagoons to determining damages on behalf of the plaintiffs.” Cow Palace has 11,000 cows that create more than 100 million gallons of manure annually.

Meatless Monday in NYC. Yesterday was an exciting day for the Meatless Monday campaign, for whom we serve as a technical adviser. New York City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, along with several animal welfare advocates, held a rally at City Hall in support of officially recognizing Meatless Monday in the city. The goal of the resolution in New York, as in all cities where it’s been made “official,” is to encourage—but not mandate—residents to go vegetarian or vegan at least one day per week. We’ll update our Twitter account with news from that rally as it is published.

Again, a national food policy. Inspired by the State of the Union, Mark Bittman had another excellent column in the New York Times about the pressing need for a national food policy. While acknowledging that we need a comprehensive plan that addresses all aspects of the food systems, he singles out a few issues: antibiotics in the food supply, greenhouse gas emissions created by agriculture, and labeling.

School lunch news. It is a sad day when the data show that more than half of our public school students are now living in such a state of poverty that they qualify for free or reduced lunches—and that sad day is now. This story from the New York Times addresses the work done by the Southern Education Foundation to bring this distressing fact to light. In 2000, 38 percent of public school students were eligible; in 2013 that number had risen to 51 percent. As Mark Bittman stressed in the column I just mentioned, one of our number one priorities as a nation should be getting healthy food to people who are food insecure.

A bright spot. This Atlantic story explains how herbs and essential oils might be viable replacements for antibiotics when it comes to preventing disease in food animals and helping them to grow. The prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections is rising rapidly. Let’s hope that if our government can’t protect us by regulating the out-of-control use of antibiotics on the farm, farmers themselves will see the gain and wisdom of replacing antibiotics with rosemary and oregano.

Prevent wasted food. Two CLF researchers, Roni Neff and Ruthie Burrows, placed a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun this week reminding us that a composting program doesn’t go far enough in terms of dealing with wasted food. What we really need to do, in addition to efforts such as composting, is prevent food from being wasted in the first place.

Coursera begins. CLF’s free online food system course, “An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health” began this week, with more than 7,000 students enrolled. Check out this blogpost by Meg Burke for more information.

Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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