EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
Election Day Brought Some Good News for Food
Americans didn't only vote for president and other elected officials last week.
Through state and local ballot measures, advocates scored impressive wins on nutrition, animal protection and farm regulation. Numerous states passed minimum wage increases that will be especially important for food system workers.
Mike Jacobson, founder and president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has been at the forefront of good nutrition policy for decades. He shared these glad tidings from the front lines of the fights against Big Soda: "Huge public health victories that will save thousands of lives and millions of dollars!"
- San Francisco: Local Measure V passed with 62 percent of the vote, with all votes counted. The excise tax on distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages (at least 25 calories per 12 ounces) will be at a rate of 1 cent per ounce. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2018.
- Oakland, Calif.: Measure HH passed with 61 percent of the vote, with all votes counted. The tax will be 1 cent per ounce. The law takes effect July 1 of next year.
- Albany, Calif.: Measure O1 passed with 71 percent of the vote, with all votes counted. The tax will be at a rate of 1 cent per ounce. The law takes effect immediately once the city council adopts an ordinance declaring the vote results.
- Boulder, Colo.: Ballot Issue 2H passed with about 54 percent of the vote, with most of the ballots counted. The excise tax on distributors will be 2 cents per ounce on beverages with at least 5 grams of added sugar per 12 ounces. The law takes effect next July 1.
- Cook County, Ill.: The county council passed a 1 cent per ounce tax on soft drinks, taking effect next July 1.
New Rules for Factory Farms, No Free Pass for Agriculture
Over at the Humane Society of the United States, President Wayne Pacelle also has some victories to share:
In Massachusetts, voters approved Question 3 by an astonishing “yes” vote of 78 percent to 22 percent. It is the fourth anti-factory farming ballot measure we’ve waged, and, with each one, we’ve increased our margin of victory as well as the actual reach of the measure. The first anti-confinement ballot measure came in 2002 in Florida where we banned gestation crates with a very comfortable 55 percent majority. In 2006, we pushed an Arizona measure to ban gestation crates and veal crates, and won in a landslide with 62 percent. Two years later, in a high-water mark for our cause, we helped shepherd Prop. 2 to passage in California, winning 63.5 percent of the vote, on a measure to ban extreme confinement of laying hens, breeding sows and veal calves. The Massachusetts measure, which eclipsed our Prop. 2 margin by more than 13 points, not only stops extreme confinement of those species, but applies the same standard of animal welfare to the sale of eggs, pork or veal, no matter where they are produced.
In Oklahoma, we crushed State Question 777, despite a multi-million-dollar campaign by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Pork Producers Council and other animal agriculture commodity groups. Their measure, referred to the ballot with the vast majority of state lawmakers favoring it, sought to amend the state constitution to bar future limitations on the conduct of agriculture in Oklahoma, unless there was “a compelling state interest.” Political observers didn’t give us much of a chance to prevail, but we secured a huge margin of victory, defeating it with a 60.3 percent “no” vote. We ran up the score in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, but we also won in suburban and rural counties throughout the state. We worked to assemble a great coalition that included the Five Civilized Tribes, Save the Illinois River, the League of Women Voters and so many others. We welcomed family farmers, local governments, and key politicians into our campaign, including the three prior governors – Republican Frank Keating and Democrats Brad Henry and David Walters. It was the second time we stopped the Farm Bureau from trying to erode the rights of Oklahoma voters. Twelve years ago, on the same ballot that we overcame their opposition and outlawed cockfighting, and we defeated a constitutional amendment that would have essentially prevented any animal welfare reform from appearing on a statewide ballot. We take great hope from the fact that Oklahoma’s citizens saw through this measure.
Minimum Wage Hikes
Workers in fast food chains and elsewhere in the food system will benefit from minimum increases enacted in numerous jurisdictions. Here's a rundown from the Associated Press.
With Congress unable to agree on an increase in the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, numerous states and cities have taken action on their own. In this election, Arizona, Colorado and Maine voters approved measures phasing in a $12 minimum hourly wages by 2020. In Washington state, where the minimum wage is $9.47 an hour, voters approved a measure to raise it to $13.50 an hour by 2020.
These results give us much reason to celebrate and even more for which to hope. In the days ahead, we’re likely to see an even greater emphasis on state and local advocacy from across the food movement.