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Room for debate and the pesticide bullies

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The New York Times has asked Craig Cox, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, to weigh in on agriculture policy in its Room for Debate series.  The topic:  Farm Bill, Beyond the Farm.  The Times asks:

The farm bill, being debated in the Senate this month, is felt far beyond the cornfields of Iowa. It’s about what we grow, but it’s also about what we eat and how we live. On the potato chip aisle, Americans are seeing the farm bill’s market pressures. On the scale at the doctor’s office, we are seeing its health effects. It fuels the growth of agribusiness, and also sustains small farms. It dictates foreign food aid, school lunches and nutrition programs like food stamps. It can encourage stewardship of the land, or not. In this sprawling legislation, what is missing that should be added? What is in the bill but should be eliminated?

Cox answers with Cut the Debt, and Focus on Health

Nutrition assistance programs that help hard-working families put food on the table must be strengthened, along with investments in research, organic agriculture and access to local, healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables. Equally important are conservation programs, which help farmers control soil erosion and protect drinking water. These programs have been cut every year since 2002, but we need them now more than ever.

Farmers need a safety net, but so do working families and the environment. We can have both, but only if Congress fundamentally reforms the farm bill.

It’s worth reading all the contributors, especially Food Democracy Now!’s Dave Murphy:

In order to meet the serious challenges of the 21st century, U.S. agricultural policy in the farm bill must shift from its focus of creating cheap commodities and artificially propping up income for farmers, toward implementing best agricultural practices for sustainable and organic production methods.

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That consumers have the right to know what’s in and on their food is about the least threatening proposition in the modern food system.  But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual release of toxic pesticide contamination on fresh produce has many industrial agriculture lobbyists fretting, especially a front group called the Alliance for Food and Farming.

For two years this group has waged a campaign to force USDA to package its pesticide data with industry talking points that downplay pesticide risks and consumers’ concerns. Yesterday, EWG’s Thomas Cluderay updated his investigation into the Alliance for Food and Farming’s agrichemical lobbying efforts.

Table Scraps:

- EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook gave a well-received speech last Friday at the Food and Agriculture Communications Symposium.. Here’s the video and reaction from ag press.

- Food and Farm columnist Alan Guebert savages the US beef check-off program.

- The Climate Hawks, a group of hunters and anglers fighting climate change, offers 8 questions for climate skeptics.

- Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser writes in TheAtlantic online that access to “good, healthy food should be a basic human right.”

Tweet of the day

@michaeljnelson The Wizards at Kraft are finally catering to those of us who prefer our beverages in solid bar form. Thanks, Milk Bite.pic.twitter.com/zDN1bkEL

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