November 21st, 2011
The Obama Administration is caving to meatpacker interests and many Democratic members of Congress aren't standing up for independent livestock producers.
By Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
[Originally posted at Huffington Post]
While the big news among good food activists has been the unsettling possibility that a secret farm bill could be snuck into the Super Committee’s recommendations and passed with no public input, Republicans have furtively dealt a crippling blow to family farmers and consumers. This week, House Republicans included language in a budget bill that gutted the fair livestock rules that have languished for more than 80 years. Once again BIG MEAT has derailed the commonsense protections that allow small livestock producers to compete and check the abusive practices of the poultry industry.
The 2008 Farm Bill included reforms to protect small and medium-sized farmers who raise cattle, hogs, and chickens from unfair treatment at the hands of meatpackers and poultry companies. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration proposed rules (known as the GIPSA Rule, after the agency) to protect poultry and hog farmers from unfair contract terms – like retaliating against poultry and hog growers who speak out about abuses – and ensured that cattle and hog producers could get a fair price from meatpackers for their livestock.
Nearly three years later, the fair livestock rules have been shredded and there is plenty of blame and shame to go around. The Obama administration failed to show leadership on this issue and reneged on President Obama’s campaign pledge to “fight to ensure family and independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and transparency in prices.”
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack caved to meatpacker money and power by issuing significantly watered down rules – after nearly 18 months of foot dragging to issue the final rules at all. USDA’s final proposal indefinitely postponed any efforts to protect independent cattle and hog farmers and issued a much weaker set of protections for contract chicken and hog farmers. Many Democratic Senators on the Agriculture Committee – including Chairman Debbie Stabenow from Michigan – stood on the sidelines and refused to stand up for livestock producers in their states. Read the full article…
November 18th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
Right now, some members of Congress are pushing hard for “regulatory reform” that would make it next to impossible for the federal government to create any new regulations. Their anti-regulatory battle plan attacks on two fronts: the REINS Act and the Regulatory Time-Out Act. While their rhetoric conveniently claims these bills would address issues of money, jobs and inefficiency in government, their main goal is to kill all regulations, even those regulations that are tantamount to public safety.
The “reforms” that some members of Congress are trying to pass could strip federal agencies of their ability to update meat and poultry inspection, safe drinking water standards and even fair competition in the marketplace among food producers —basic functions of government that shouldn’t be tied into the political dysfunction of the past several years.
Remember the Food Safety Modernization Act that became law early this year? This recalibration of the FDA’s food safety program should enable federal regulators to catch up to modern challenges in food production, including provisions that protect against pathogens like Listeria and Salmonella in produce and processed food. We’ve had recent outbreaks of both, complete with massive product recalls. The Regulatory Time-Out Act would push these critical regulations off for another year.
Imagine, for a moment, that your drinking water wasn’t monitored or that food processors were no longer properly inspected for safety. Life without these protections in place would be very different, indeed. While the public would go unprotected, the powerful corporations would get to operate as they please, with no one reigning in practices that could damage the environment or public health. No matter what folks think about the budget deficit or job creation, most would agree that there are basic functions best performed by the government – and protecting common resources like food and water are pretty high on that list.
The claims made about creating jobs and saving money by deregulating powerful industries are rhetoric, not reality. We need regulations to safeguard our food, water and natural resources. These are basic protections that ensure public health and safety, not a source for savings.
November 16th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
You know Jillian Michaels as the now-famous inspirational trainer (and former overweight consumer) from The Biggest Loser. Did you know that the main reason she has been able to maintain her healthy body is from eating organic foods and staying FAR AWAY from processed food products? It sounds like Jillian is well aware of the problems that burden our corporate-controlled food system, run by giants like Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson and Nestlé. If only the show could focus on that part of a better health strategy, it could really teach people about the critical importance of the Farm Bill in improving our food and our health as a nation.
Wait a minute… that gives us an idea!
America has already opened its collective consciousness to the lessons of The Biggest Loser. The show’s contestants are close to our hearts for good reason: they’ve allowed us to examine ourselves and how we view our own health. But, now it’s time to welcome a new group into the fold and follow them as they head down a path toward self-improvement and healing. Only this time, the contestants aren’t playing for themselves, but for everyone who depends upon a healthy food system.
Welcome to the Biggest FARM BILL Loser. Read the full article…
November 10th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
The USDA has once again failed to protect independent farmers from the companies that control our broken food system. They have sent part of the much-debated GIPSA rule over to the White House for final approval – without critical parts of the proposed rule that are needed to equalize competition for independent cattle and hog producers in the livestock marketplace. While there may be some positive changes in the rule for the poultry industry (see more detail in the statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter), it is clear that those companies who have solid control over the livestock market also have a lobbying arm that exerts solid control over the current administration.
In 1921, the U.S. government came to the conclusion that something needed to be done about the lack of competition in the meatpacking industry that was allowing a few companies to dominate the market. Congress passed a law called the Packers & Stockyards Act and the USDA created the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rule to address the problem. The problem is that they have never enforced the law. What good is a seatbelt if you don’t use it? Read the full article…
November 9th, 2011
So… you think you’re a foodie, do ya? Well, why not test yourself? We invite you to take our Fair Farm Quiz and determine your Fair Food IQ.
What is a farm exactly? Is it that picturesque locale on the label of a supermarket brand of cheese or is it more like an industrial production scene, complete with conveyor belts and widgets?
Did you know? Read the full article…
Posted in Agricultural policy
,Genetically engineered food
August 31st, 2011
From across the country, stories and pictures have been pouring in. Typically, the cow suits get all the attention, but our organizers are meeting fascinating people who are accomplishing amazing feats in the world of food. Their stories are truly inspiring. Find out what’s happening along the Fair Farm Bill campaign trail. These are just a sample of the conversations we’re having as we continue to cover 20 states in 34 days. Keep checking back with us, and be sure to visit our event page on Facebook and check out our gallery photos.
Read the full article…
July 22nd, 2011
By Rich Bindell
Gallup released the results of a poll about Americans’ eating habits this year compared to last, and the results aren’t so great. According to the poll, “Adults’ health habits have been worse in each of the past three months compared with the same months in 2010.” With the healthy food movement getting stronger each year, it seems surprising that we fell 1.4 points in our index score. But, the problem doesn’t lie simply in percentages of people who make healthy food choices. In his blog on Salon.com, David Sirota describes the reason our nation is food challenged. While he does a great job of breaking down a giant portion of the problem, he misses a great opportunity to suggest steps we can take toward a solution. Read the full article…
June 21st, 2011
By Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
[Original post appears at Change.org]
President Obama made a promise back when he campaigned in farm states. He needs to keep it.
The President told farmers that his administration would help fix the rules that allow the meat industry to take advantage of the people who raise the animals Americans eat. But, under pressure from Big Meat, the Obama Administration has failed to implement the fair farm rules (also known as GIPSA rules, named for the branch of the USDA that would oversee the rules, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration).
Fair farm rules and GIPSA might sound wonky, but implementing them is crucial to leveling the playing field for farmers. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. If we want to move towards a more sustainable and regional food system, we need a fair market. We need to start fixing the nuts and bolts of what keeps farmers from being able to fairly market their products. And consolidation of the food industry is one of the major factors in why our food system is dysfunctional. Read the full article…
May 27th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
While this weekend is supposed to encourage us to pause and think about those who have served or continue to serve our nation, it’s not unlikely that you could end up grilling out at someone’s house over the next few days. Since Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off for summer for many of us, it’s the perfect time to discuss the USDA’s big change to their refrigerator magnet of recommended cooking temperatures for meat. Well, it’s not that big, actually; technically it’s more of an update for pork.
The USDA is changing the recommended cooking temperatures for all thick, whole cuts of pork (roasts, chops, from 160 degrees to 145 degrees with a resting time of three minutes. That means that the thickest part of the meat has to reach 145 degrees and then have three minutes of rest time. This will allow for safe meat consumption, which really means that it will properly kill the pathogens and be microbiologically safe. Read the full article…
May 25th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
Necessity might be the mother of some inventions, but certainly not all of them. In other words: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Perhaps, we should leave room for difference of opinion on the definition of necessity. For some, it seems to reflect the notion that Mother Nature just isn’t quite efficient enough.
Take meat, for example. We’re used to getting meat from actual animals that are raised on farms (or hunted, depending upon where you’re from) and that are born from the wombs of their mothers. Apparently, this is no longer necessary, thanks to the work of biologist and tissue engineer Vladimir Mironov from the Medical University of South Carolina, who believes that we might soon be able to “grow” our own meat. Mironov is involved in the bioengineering of “cultured” or “in-vitro” meat or, as I am calling it, “In-meatro.” Is Mironov another scientist who humbly desires to help solve global hunger or is he blinded by the thought of becoming more efficient than nature? Read the full article…