Hungry to Finish Food Policy Leftovers

Thursday, October 6, 2016

When the election is (finally) over, the next Administration will have a grocery list of food and farm policy priorities to address, ranging from unregulated farm pollution to overuse of antibiotics in animal production.

Regardless of who’s in office, big food and farm policy priorities – which also include hunger, obesity, and the fate of food and farm workers – will command the attention of the next President.

The food movement [RS1] has undeniably made progress in recent years, as Michael Pollan reports in an article for the New York Times. For example, Pollan cites tough new rules that limit the sale of junk food in schools.

Other important food and farm policy achievements include reductions in hunger, important changes to food and menu labels, new food safety rules, a trans fat ban, new animal welfare rules, greater access to healthy foods, clean water protections, farm subsidy reforms, and new farm worker protections. While we have a long way to go, the evidence shows American eating habits have changed for the better.

But, as Pollan notes, several important challenges remain for the next Administration. Among the biggest: farm pollution. Although agriculture is the biggest source of water pollution in rivers and streams and one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, policymakers continue to give farmers a free pass to pollute – even while providing them $15 billion in annual farm subsidies, courtesy of taxpayers. 

The next Administration will also have to implement the new law mandating GMO disclosures, as well as new rules to protect poultry producers. Food chemicals remain largely unregulated. Voluntary efforts to limit the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture aren’t working. Many food and farm workers are not being paid a living wage.

There is clearly unfinished business and, as Pollan confirms, there are powerful forces aligned against food and farm policy reform. But, food policy and food choices have never been more salient, especially for younger consumers. While there’s room for growth, the food movement has never been stronger, thanks to the leadership of groups like Food Policy Action, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Humane Society.

So, bring on the leftovers! We’re hungry for more change.



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