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Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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Blog Posts: June 2012

June 19th, 2012

Farm Bill in Progress: Senate’s Farm Bill Vote-o-rama

By Patty Lovera

We need a Farm Bill that is as good for farmers and the land as it is for eaters.

The Senate headed home last weekend with no clear indication of how they would tackle the farm bill. There was no agreement on how they would handle the nearly 300 amendments introduced. Then, Monday evening, the deal was announced: they would start a “vote-o-rama” to consider only 73 of the amendments. There were some important amendments on the list of 73 that would make the farm bill stronger and some that would make it significantly weaker.

The biggest disappointment was that the list included no amendments on competition in livestock markets, including an amendment by Senator Grassley that would have banned the ownership of livestock by meatpackers. One bright spot on the list was an amendment by Senators Sanders and Boxer to allow states to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. On Tuesday, 30 amendments were voted on by the full Senate, leaving 43 more to get through on Wednesday before a final vote on the entire bill.

We picked six amendments that we think are particularly important. Three of them were up for a vote on Tuesday. Here’s what happened: Read the full article…

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June 18th, 2012

Rio+20: Sponsored by Coca-Cola?

By Darcey Rakestraw

This conference brought to you by...Coca-Cola?

Our “woman” on the ground at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, International Policy Director Darcey O’Callaghan, sent us this picture from a dining hall at the conference. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. It puts this new action by our friends at Friends of the Earth International into perspective, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, PepsiCo was just honored last week with a prestigious award from the Stockholm International Water Institute for water efficiency. Check out what our Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and Board Chair Maude Barlow had to say about that here (hint: nothing good whatsoever.) 

It’s not too late to tell the U.S. representative to the conference, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to protect our common resources—like water—as a public trust.

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June 15th, 2012

Ohio and Alabama Stand Up Against Fracking

fracking for natural gasBy Katherine Boehrer

This week we are celebrating two big successes in Ohio and Alabama, where citizens worked together to protect their public lands and water from the dangers of fracking operations. The victories came after local groups and environmental organizations banded together to demand more public involvement in local decision making regarding shale gas drilling.

Thanks to a dedicated group of activists in Ohio, the Muskigum Watershed Conservancy Board announced that they would not be considering water sales for use in fracking operations until a study is completed by the USGS and the Board reviews its water sale policy. 

After a recent sale of 11 million gallons to Gulfport Energy, the grassroots group Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save our Water enlisted the help of activists from Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, the Buckeye Forest Council, the Ohio Environmental Council, and other grassroots groups to go before the board’s governing panel of judges, demanding more citizen participation in the water sale process and expressing their concern about the use of public water for fracking. After hearing what they had to say, the judges and the board expressed interest in having more public involvement in decision making in the future. Later that week, they made the announcement that they would halt water sales for use in fracking until more information is gathered.  Read the full article…

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Corporations, Universities and You

By Tim Schwab

Food & Water Watch recently published the report Public Research, Private Gain, which outlines how corporate agribusiness is purchasing influence at our nation’s land-grant universities. With hundreds of millions of dollars paying for university research, faculty chair endowments, naming rights at buildings and consulting contracts with professors, there is no shortage of examples of the ways in which corporate money is distorting the science and corrupting the public-interest mission of these schools, which seem more interested in partnering with corporations than with farmers or consumers like you and me.

The report was not received well by university administrations, who either defended the status quo or, incredibly, suggested that millions of dollars of corporate money was having no influence over the independence of their research.

While administrators are taking a defensive posture, some professors are saying that enough is enough. This week, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which represents tens of thousands of professors, released a set of principles and practices designed to counter the corrupting influence that industry influence can have and address the pervasive conflicts of interests in academia. Read the full article…

June 13th, 2012

Farm Bill In Progress: Important Amendments You Need to Know About

By Patty Lovera

Take action now for a Fair Farm Bill!

From the absurd (ending the federal food stamp program and taking on Canadian geese) – to the outright irrelevant  (aid to Pakistan and protecting the Pentagon budget), amendments have flooded the Senate for consideration in the farm bill. Nearly 300 amendments have been introduced so far, and, currently, lawmakers are working to come up with an agreement on the number of amendments to allow. They’re expected to decide on Monday and the bill will be picked back up next week.

Food & Water Watch’s policy team has been diligently poring over the hundreds of pages of amendments and is working to let Senators know which ones put consumers and family farmers before the moneyed interests of Big Ag and Food. Most importantly, we need to ensure that imported products are subject to strong food safety regulations, livestock producers are protected from market manipulation, the nutrition safety net is preserved, and investments in local food systems, organic farming and a diverse seed supply are made.   

Specifically, we oppose these two amendments:

  • Senator McCain’s amendment (S. Amdt. 2199) that would repeal a provision from the 2008 Farm Bill that created a USDA inspection program for domestic and imported catfish. This is a simple provision to protect consumers from potentially dangerous fish imported from Asia where food safety standards are lax. Even U.S. catfish farmers are asking for more inspection. Read the full article…
June 11th, 2012

To Truly Fix Food System, the Farm Bill Should Restore Fair Markets

By Wenonah Hauter

We need a Farm Bill that is as good for farmers and the land as it is for eaters.

The Farm Bill debate is currently in full-swing in the U.S. Senate this week. The sprawling legislation covers food stamps, subsidies, international food aid, research grants — it literally dictates what and how we eat. And right now, the Farm Bill gives all the power to the biggest food companies, which they wield with impunity over farmers and consumers. But an amendment to the bill – the Packer Ban, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) – could begin to address this unfair advantage that giant food companies have over farmers.

A tiny number of corporations sit between fewer than a million full-time farmers and 300 million eaters. Only a handful of companies sell seeds and fertilizer to farmers, buy their crops and livestock, process the fruits of farmers’ labor into manufactured food, and sell it at a declining number of gigantic supermarket chains. Those that sell supplies and equipment charge farmers high prices. Meanwhile, the processors and meatpackers that buy from farmers pay low, and consumers see a smaller number of choices at often-higher prices at the grocery store. Read the full article…

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Fracking and Farming Don’t Mix

Issue Brief: Fracking and the Food System

Read our issue brief: Fracking and the Food System

By Katherine Boehrer

We already know that fracking threatens human health, the environment, and our communities. But it could also have a negative impact our food system and the farmers who work to feed our nation.

Spills of toxic fracking chemicals can contaminate groundwater and cropland. These leaks could be harmful to livestock as well – last September StateImpact’s Susan Philips reported on a case in Pennsylvania in which 28 beef cattle encountered fracking fluid that seeped out of a holding pond. Those cows gave birth to 11 calves the following spring, but shockingly, only three calves survived. Across the country livestock exposed to toxic fracking chemicals have been killed or sickened.

On top of direct losses, areas that frack could see a lack of consumer confidence in the safety of their food, as news of contamination spreads. They could also see an increase in competition for water from oil and gas companies, as fracking requires millions of gallons of water per well.   Read the full article…

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June 8th, 2012

Governor Canoodling with Agribusiness? What You Can Do About It

By Wenonah Hauter

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

If you ever thought that the farm bill was just about agricultural subsidies and food stamps, think again. Not only does the farm bill dictate what we eat—it also establishes whom our nation’s leaders are listening to on issues far beyond food.

Right now the farm bill benefits a few large corporations, like Perdue, thanks to policies that help big agriculture companies keep getting bigger. The four largest companies in each industry slaughter nearly all the chicken and beef we eat, process two-thirds of the pork, sell half the groceries and process about half the milk in the United States. This is no accident. It’s the result of policies, largely outlined in the farm bill, which Congress has passed on behalf of these large companies for decades.

Nothing showcases this often-murky relationship between Big Ag and our political leaders more than emails revealed between Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland (and likely presidential contender in 2016) and poultry giant Perdue, Inc.

The emails we obtained through a Public Information Act request show that Perdue profits from chicken sold in California and Michigan are going to exert inappropriate power over O’Malley through intense lobbying efforts on everything from poultry litter incineration to the cases that a university law clinic engages in. Read the full article…

June 6th, 2012

I (Frack) NY? New Yorkers Aren’t Laughing

By Seth Gladstone

Just when you thought the Big Oil and Gas lobby’s slick and aggressive marketing efforts couldn’t get any more absurd, they come out and top even themselves. In a sly reference to New York State’s iconic “I Love NY” tourism promotion campaign, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York gives us this: a sad attempt at humor (we think) that fails miserably.

Indeed, New York State has long been a mecca for local, domestic and international tourists seeking the plentiful array of wonderful outdoor activities – from skiing in the Catskill Mountains, to apple picking in the Hudson Valley, to waterskiing on the Delaware River – that make the state a truly unique year-round destination. Certainly the thousands of small business owners throughout the state that rely on the tourism industry to make a living value the well-earned reputation New York has garnered as a traveler’s delight.

To think that the oil and gas lobby might attract tourists to New York State with the image of an obtrusive, polluting gas rig dominating the horizon couldn’t be more ridiculous. Their cluelessness – or perhaps their arrogance – must not go unnoticed by the residents and elected officials of New York.

That’s why we’re asking you to join us in letting Governor Cuomo know that we are looking to him to protect New York’s valuable tourist industry from fracking. Urge Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York.

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What Does the Mass Slaughter of 500,000 Pigs in Chile Have to Do with the U.S. Farm Bill?

By Darcey Rakestraw

Think you can’t do anything about factory farms? Think again—and sign our petition telling your Senator to support the Packer Ban amendment to the Farm Bill.

Whether you are a die-hard carnivore or a card-carrying member of an animal welfare organization, this story will affect you. And it ties into work we’re doing to demand a fair farm bill that “busts” the meat trusts that built the factory farm system.

In Chile, a conflict erupted when local residents escalated months of protests over the smells and pollution emanating from a factory farm in their town. The conflict ended with the facility’s employees fleeing—with half a million pigs left there over five days without food or water. The plant has been shut down, and those pigs—the ones that remain—will be slaughtered en masse.

Why were half a million pigs concentrated into this factory in the first place? It’s no secret that the U.S. has exported its factory farm model around the world. And U.S. agricultural policies have helped meat processors get even bigger, consolidating meat production in the hands of these few giant players who use animals from factory farms. (Check out our Factory Farm Map to learn more about how meat production has become more consolidated in the U.S.) Read the full article…

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