Farm Bill | Food & Water Watch - Part 4
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Blog Posts: Farm bill

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 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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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

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…

May 21st, 2012

The Corporate Hijacking of America’s Land-Grant Universities

By Tim Schwab

This post originally ran on Civil Eats


Unfortunately, today these public institutions are increasingly serving private interests, not the public good. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now flowing from corporate agribusiness into the land-grant university to sponsor buildings, endow professorships and pay for research. One land-grant university, South Dakota State, is headed by a man who sits on Monsanto’s board of directors.  

The influence this money purchases is enormous. Corporate money shifts the public research agenda toward the ambitions of the private sector, whose profit motivations are often at odds with the public good. It strips our public research institutions of the time, resources and independence needed to pursue public-interest research that challenges the status quo of corporate control over our food system or that offers farmers alternative agricultural systems to monocultures and factory farms.

Industry-funded research routinely produces results that are—surprise, surprise—favorable to industry. This “funder effect” produces a well-documented bias on research while weak conflict-of-interest policies throughout academia (including at many scientific journals, which don’t require full disclosure of funding source) mean agribusiness’s pervasive influence over public research is basically unchecked. Read the full article…

April 27th, 2012

Farm Bill Update

Food Policy Director Patty Lovera

Patty Lovera, Assistant Director and Food Policy Director, Food & Water Watch

By Patty Lovera

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 farm bill. The next step in the process is for the bill to go to the Senate floor. We do not know when that will happen, although the Chair of the committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), says it will be in “a few weeks.” 

Overall, this is not the fair farm bill we have been fighting for, although there are a few bright spots (mostly on existing programs that were threatened but survived.) The Senate bill cuts support for nutrition programs that feed the neediest families, fails to provide an adequate safety net for farmers when prices are low and costs are high, and does nothing to address the power of big agribusiness over farmers and consumers. While it increased funding for some local food systems and organic farm programs, the funding for these programs remains about one out of every thousand dollars spent by this bill.

The Senate Agriculture committee kept the bill secret for months and only released it to the public less than a week before it was passed out of committee. Over a hundred amendments were listed when the committee met to consider the bill, however many of them were never introduced for a vote. Some of the potential amendments would have been dramatic improvements to the bill, such as Senator Grassley’s packer ban amendment and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-New York) amendment to fund research into non-GE seeds and animal breeds, but these were not put up for a vote. Read the full article…

February 7th, 2012

Big Poultry? Big Problem.

Watch our executive director, Wenonah Hauter, talk at TEDx Manhattan about the abuses suffered by poultry farmers like Valerie Ruddle — and why we need to continue the fight for a fair farm bill.


Update: The entire day of presentations from TedXManhattan is available online here and on DVD. The TEDxManhattan DVD is free for noncommercial educational purposes and can be ordered by emailing [email protected].

Speakers for the day were:

Patty Cantrell – Regional Food Systems
Marianne Cufone – Recirculating Farms Coalition
Mitchell Davis – James Beard Foundation
Wenonah Hauter – Food & Water Watch
Howard Hinterthuer – Center for Veteran’s Issues
Michelle Hughes – Greenmarket/GrowNYC
Fred Kirschenmann – Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag/Stone Barns Center
Robert Lawrence – Center for a Livable Future/Johns Hopkins University
Paul Lightfoot – BrightFarms
Gary Oppenheimer – AmpleHarvest.org
Wayne Pacelle – Humane Society of United States
Cara Rosaen – RealTimeFarms.com
Urvashi Rangan – Consumer Reports
Stephen Ritz – Green Bronx Machine
Kavita Shukla – Fenugreen
David Wallinga – Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Bios can be found on the TEDxManhattan website.

The Glynwood Institute has also created Dinner and Some Ed, a website and project to encourage consumers to host a sustainable meal and enjoy discussions around TED and TEDx talks on sustainable food. For more information, please contact Diane Hatz, Diane Hatz or phone 646-495-6086.

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January 18th, 2012

McFarmwashing?

By Darcey Rakestraw

McDonald’s new ad campaign hit twitter earlier today with a promoted hashtag, #MeetTheFarmers. It’s a clever way of promoting the campaign, but some, like Andy Bellatti over at Grist, are calling the ads “farmwashing.”

One of the company’s videos addresses how a handful of producers in one area of the nation provide 80 percent of the lettuce American’s eat. But is this a good thing? It’s certainly not good for food safety, since one mishap in a large facility or farm can get spread far and wide. We’ve seen this several times over the past few years, like in 2006, with a massive recall of spinach found to contain E. coli. Salmonella-tainted peppers and peanut butter soon followed. And in 2010, over half a billion eggs from just two factory farms were recalled. At least 14 Americans died and many thousands became ill from those four major outbreaks thanks to mistakes that made it into the food supply.

It’s not good for consumers or farmers to have a system with so few players. McDonald’s ad campaign gives us a good opportunity to talk about how the farm bill affects what we eat, every day.

What do you think about McDonald’s new ad campaign?

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December 22nd, 2011

Five Outrageous Food Stories of 2011

By Rich Bindell

Natural flavors in foodThere’s never a shortage of interesting and incendiary stories about food issues to choose from at the end of the year. This year is no exception. As we continue to build our campaign to improve the Farm Bill in 2012, we can see examples of why this work is so important just by taking a look at some of the most outrageous food stories of 2011…

1. Attack on Food Safety Budgets

2011 started out with a bang; our food safety programs got banged up by threatened budget cuts. In addition, we witnessed a number of food recalls due to contamination that threatened public health with serious illness and, in some cases, even death. It’s not a surprise that a large and complex food system such as ours requires an aggressive approach to food safety. Unfortunately, federal and state governments’ ability to use that strategy was weakened when food safety budgets were slashed. While the meat and poultry inspection program at USDA escaped relatively unscathed, the Food and Drug Administration didn’t fare as well. FDA’s budget only allotted about half of what it needed to put the newly passed Food Safety Modernization Act into action. In 2012, Congress needs to get their food safety priorities in order. Read the full article…

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