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First Farm Bill Hearing, Chipotle or the Heart Attack Grill

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Welcome to EWG’s Policy Plate, where we plan to serve up a daily helping of food and farm news during the 2012 farm bill debate.

Today the Senate Agriculture Committee held its first hearing on what the members hope will become the 2012 farm bill. The hearing focused on the bill’s energy provisions, but what got our attention was the latest report of behind-the-scenes Congressional machinations trying to attach a subsidy-laden farm bill to any must-pass legislation. Congress appears to be moving forward with a relatively clean extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the “doctor fix” of Medicare reimbursement rates. What’s troubling are press reports that Sens. Max Baucus and Kent Conrad are scheming to attach their vision of a farm bill to the payroll tax cut.

Everyone would like to see the farm bill get renewed this year, but it must be one that addresses the interests of farmers and eaters equally. What the ag lobbies and their Congressional patrons fear is that open debate – especially in the House – will unsheathe the long knives aimed at cutting subsidies for profitable mega farms. Jamming a farm bill through in an undemocratic process mirroring last fall’s failed “secret farm bill” is no way to address America’s badly broken food and farm system.

Today’s hearing did have its high points, including Sen. Tom Harkin’s smart words on nutrition assistance:

“Food-stamp president” is a badge of honor that the U.S. takes care of its people.

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Table Scraps:

- The good folks at the Iowa Environmental Council think that connecting subsidized revenue guarantees for farmers to conservation requirements is an idea that has merit.

- USDA announced today that the European Union and the United States have reached an agreement that as of June 1 will allow organic products certified in either place to be sold as organic in the other.

- EWG alum Brendan DeMelle released leaked documents exposing oil industry funding of the climate-change-denying Heartland Institute. A Heartland representative gave a presentation at this year’s Farm Bureau convention titled “Global Warming and Agriculture: Separating Facts from Fiction.”

- Grist broke the news that Monterey County, Calif. is saying no to the pesticide and known carcinogen methyl iodide.

- In the wake of Chipotle’s attention-getting Grammy ad, some in the industrial agriculture lobby are taking shots at universally beloved and hardcore family farm advocate Willie Nelson for his involvement.

- A man had an apparent heart attack while eating at Las Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery – and that he won’t order Death By Chocolate for desert.

-  Michele Simon writes on her Appetite for Profit website that with enrollment in food stamps increasing, USDA should require retailers to fork over their purchase data in order to better evaluate nutrition intake.

- Scott Faber, a long-time food and farm policy advocate, has joined the Environmental Working Group as Vice President for Government Affairs.

Tweet of the day:

@tomphilpott: Machiavellian re Faber! I like it.

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