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USDA to Stop Handing Out Farm Subsidies to Anyone Not ‘Actively Engaged’ in Farming

USDA to Stop Handing Out Farm Subsidies to Anyone Not ‘Actively Engaged’ in Farming

Until now, farm subsidies have been available to many people who have never set foot on a farm

The USDA will reconsider exactly who is eligible for a farm subsidy.

The United States Department of Agriculture will soon stop providing farm subsidies for anyone who is not “actively engaged” in farming, a loophole which has allowed “wealthy executives, celebrities, and others to get subsidies even if they never set foot on a farm or don’t need the taxpayer-funded assistance,” simply by engaging in so-called general partnerships with actual farmers, reports Politico.

The new guidelines, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Politico, will require the organization to define exactly who qualities as a farmer, and give those rightful beneficiaries access to billions in farm subsidies.

“The reality is that this has been a loophole that has been utilized by folks in [business] partnerships to allow for many, many, many people to qualify as actively engaged [in farming] when in fact they might only be engaged in a conference call or in a very narrow sense participating in decision-making in a farming operation,” said Vilsack. “We will close that loophole to the extent that we can.”

Among those who currently receive farm subsidies include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, according to an Environmental Working Group report.

“I think you’ll probably see a lot of folks who in the past have been in an office in, say, a big city, who had an interest in a farming operation for tax purposes who will not be getting the benefits that they got before,” Vilsack told Politico.


Farmer in Chief

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration–the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact–so easy to overlook these past few years–that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

In addition to the problems of climate change and America’s oil addiction, you have spoken at length on the campaign trail of the health care crisis. Spending on health care has risen from 5 percent of national income in 1960 to 16 percent today, putting a significant drag on the economy. The goal of ensuring the health of all Americans depends on getting those costs under control. There are several reasons health care has gotten so expensive, but one of the biggest, and perhaps most tractable, is the cost to the system of preventable chronic diseases. Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. It is no coincidence that in the years national spending on health care went from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, spending on food has fallen by a comparable amount — from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent. While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health. You cannot expect to reform the health care system, much less expand coverage, without confronting the public-health catastrophe that is the modern American diet.

The impact of the American food system on the rest of the world will have implications for your foreign and trade policies as well. In the past several months more than 30 nations have experienced food riots, and so far one government has fallen. Should high grain prices persist and shortages develop, you can expect to see the pendulum shift decisively away from free trade, at least in food. Nations that opened their markets to the global flood of cheap grain (under pressure from previous administrations as well as the World Bank and the I.M.F.) lost so many farmers that they now find their ability to feed their own populations hinges on decisions made in Washington (like your predecessor’s precipitous embrace of biofuels) and on Wall Street. They will now rush to rebuild their own agricultural sectors and then seek to protect them by erecting trade barriers. Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third. But it turns out that too much food can be nearly as big a problem as too little — a lesson we should keep in mind as we set about designing a new approach to food policy.

Rich or poor, countries struggling with soaring food prices are being forcibly reminded that food is a national-security issue. When a nation loses the ability to substantially feed itself, it is not only at the mercy of global commodity markets but of other governments as well. At issue is not only the availability of food, which may be held hostage by a hostile state, but its safety: as recent scandals in China demonstrate, we have little control over the safety of imported foods. The deliberate contamination of our food presents another national-security threat. At his valedictory press conference in 2004, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, offered a chilling warning, saying, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”

This, in brief, is the bad news: the food and agriculture policies you’ve inherited — designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so — are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute. The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation. The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken. Markets for alternative kinds of food — organic, local, pasture-based, humane — are thriving as never before. All this suggests that a political constituency for change is building and not only on the left: lately, conservative voices have also been raised in support of reform. Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer that “this is a conservative cause if ever there was one.”

There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done — fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.

How We Got Here

Before setting out an agenda for reforming the food system, it’s important to understand how that system came to be — and also to appreciate what, for all its many problems, it has accomplished. What our food system does well is precisely what it was designed to do, which is to produce cheap calories in great abundance. It is no small thing for an American to be able to go into a fast-food restaurant and to buy a double cheeseburger, fries and a large Coke for a price equal to less than an hour of labor at the minimum wage — indeed, in the long sweep of history, this represents a remarkable achievement.

It must be recognized that the current food system — characterized by monocultures of corn and soy in the field and cheap calories of fat, sugar and feedlot meat on the table — is not simply the product of the free market. Rather, it is the product of a specific set of government policies that sponsored a shift from solar (and human) energy on the farm to fossil-fuel energy.

Did you notice when you flew over Iowa during the campaign how the land was completely bare — black — from October to April? What you were seeing is the agricultural landscape created by cheap oil. In years past, except in the dead of winter, you would have seen in those fields a checkerboard of different greens: pastures and hayfields for animals, cover crops, perhaps a block of fruit trees. Before the application of oil and natural gas to agriculture, farmers relied on crop diversity (and photosynthesis) both to replenish their soil and to combat pests, as well as to feed themselves and their neighbors. Cheap energy, however, enabled the creation of monocultures, and monocultures in turn vastly increased the productivity both of the American land and the American farmer today the typical corn-belt farmer is single-handedly feeding 140 people.

This did not occur by happenstance. After World War II, the government encouraged the conversion of the munitions industry to fertilizer — ammonium nitrate being the main ingredient of both bombs and chemical fertilizer — and the conversion of nerve-gas research to pesticides. The government also began subsidizing commodity crops, paying farmers by the bushel for all the corn, soybeans, wheat and rice they could produce. One secretary of agriculture after another implored them to plant “fence row to fence row” and to “get big or get out.”

The chief result, especially after the Earl Butz years, was a flood of cheap grain that could be sold for substantially less than it cost farmers to grow because a government check helped make up the difference. As this artificially cheap grain worked its way up the food chain, it drove down the price of all the calories derived from that grain: the high-fructose corn syrup in the Coke, the soy oil in which the potatoes were fried, the meat and cheese in the burger.

Subsidized monocultures of grain also led directly to monocultures of animals: since factory farms could buy grain for less than it cost farmers to grow it, they could now fatten animals more cheaply than farmers could. So America’s meat and dairy animals migrated from farm to feedlot, driving down the price of animal protein to the point where an American can enjoy eating, on average, 190 pounds of meat a year — a half pound every day.

But if taking the animals off farms made a certain kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm, became a pollutant — factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution. As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution — animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete — and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feedlot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer the latter is remedied not at all.

What was once a regional food economy is now national and increasingly global in scope — thanks again to fossil fuel. Cheap energy — for trucking food as well as pumping water — is the reason New York City now gets its produce from California rather than from the “Garden State” next door, as it did before the advent of Interstate highways and national trucking networks. More recently, cheap energy has underwritten a globalized food economy in which it makes (or rather, made) economic sense to catch salmon in Alaska, ship it to China to be filleted and then ship the fillets back to California to be eaten or one in which California and Mexico can profitably swap tomatoes back and forth across the border or Denmark and the United States can trade sugar cookies across the Atlantic. About that particular swap the economist Herman Daly once quipped, “Exchanging recipes would surely be more efficient.”

Whatever we may have liked about the era of cheap, oil-based food, it is drawing to a close. Even if we were willing to continue paying the environmental or public-health price, we’re not going to have the cheap energy (or the water) needed to keep the system going, much less expand production. But as is so often the case, a crisis provides opportunity for reform, and the current food crisis presents opportunities that must be seized.

In drafting these proposals, I’ve adhered to a few simple principles of what a 21st-century food system needs to do. First, your administration’s food policy must strive to provide a healthful diet for all our people this means focusing on the quality and diversity (and not merely the quantity) of the calories that American agriculture produces and American eaters consume. Second, your policies should aim to improve the resilience, safety and security of our food supply. Among other things, this means promoting regional food economies both in America and around the world. And lastly, your policies need to reconceive agriculture as part of the solution to environmental problems like climate change.

These goals are admittedly ambitious, yet they will not be difficult to align or advance as long as we keep in mind this One Big Idea: most of the problems our food system faces today are because of its reliance on fossil fuels, and to the extent that our policies wring the oil out of the system and replace it with the energy of the sun, those policies will simultaneously improve the state of our health, our environment and our security.

I. Resolarizing the American Farm

What happens in the field influences every other link of the food chain on up to our meals — if we grow monocultures of corn and soy, we will find the products of processed corn and soy on our plates. Fortunately for your initiative, the federal government has enormous leverage in determining exactly what happens on the 830 million acres of American crop and pasture land.

Today most government farm and food programs are designed to prop up the old system of maximizing production from a handful of subsidized commodity crops grown in monocultures. Even food-assistance programs like WIC and school lunch focus on maximizing quantity rather than quality, typically specifying a minimum number of calories (rather than maximums) and seldom paying more than lip service to nutritional quality. This focus on quantity may have made sense in a time of food scarcity, but today it gives us a school-lunch program that feeds chicken nuggets and Tater Tots to overweight and diabetic children.

Your challenge is to take control of this vast federal machinery and use it to drive a transition to a new solar-food economy, starting on the farm. Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop subsidies are prohibited from growing “specialty crops” — farm-bill speak for fruits and vegetables. (This rule was the price exacted by California and Florida produce growers in exchange for going along with subsidies for commodity crops.) Commodity farmers should instead be encouraged to grow as many different crops — including animals — as possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm, the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides.

The power of cleverly designed polycultures to produce large amounts of food from little more than soil, water and sunlight has been proved, not only by small-scale “alternative” farmers in the United States but also by large rice-and-fish farmers in China and giant-scale operations (up to 15,000 acres) in places like Argentina. There, in a geography roughly comparable to that of the American farm belt, farmers have traditionally employed an ingenious eight-year rotation of perennial pasture and annual crops: after five years grazing cattle on pasture (and producing the world’s best beef), farmers can then grow three years of grain without applying any fossil-fuel fertilizer. Or, for that matter, many pesticides: the weeds that afflict pasture can’t survive the years of tillage, and the weeds of row crops don’t survive the years of grazing, making herbicides all but unnecessary. There is no reason — save current policy and custom — that American farmers couldn’t grow both high-quality grain and grass-fed beef under such a regime through much of the Midwest. (It should be noted that today’s sky-high grain prices are causing many Argentine farmers to abandon their rotation to grow grain and soybeans exclusively, an environmental disaster in the making.)

Federal policies could do much to encourage this sort of diversified sun farming. Begin with the subsidies: payment levels should reflect the number of different crops farmers grow or the number of days of the year their fields are green — that is, taking advantage of photosynthesis, whether to grow food, replenish the soil or control erosion. If Midwestern farmers simply planted a cover crop after the fall harvest, they would significantly reduce their need for fertilizer, while cutting down on soil erosion. Why don’t farmers do this routinely? Because in recent years fossil-fuel-based fertility has been so much cheaper and easier to use than sun-based fertility.

In addition to rewarding farmers for planting cover crops, we should make it easier for them to apply compost to their fields — a practice that improves not only the fertility of the soil but also its ability to hold water and therefore withstand drought. (There is mounting evidence that it also boosts the nutritional quality of the food grown in it.) The U.S.D.A. estimates that Americans throw out 14 percent of the food they buy much more is wasted by retailers, wholesalers and institutions. A program to make municipal composting of food and yard waste mandatory and then distributing the compost free to area farmers would shrink America’s garbage heap, cut the need for irrigation and fossil-fuel fertilizers in agriculture and improve the nutritional quality of the American diet.

Right now, most of the conservation programs run by the U.S.D.A. are designed on the zero-sum principle: land is either locked up in “conservation” or it is farmed intensively. This either-or approach reflects an outdated belief that modern farming and ranching are inherently destructive, so that the best thing for the environment is to leave land untouched. But we now know how to grow crops and graze animals in systems that will support biodiversity, soil health, clean water and carbon sequestration. The Conservation Stewardship Program, championed by Senator Tom Harkin and included in the 2008 Farm Bill, takes an important step toward rewarding these kinds of practices, but we need to move this approach from the periphery of our farm policy to the very center. Longer term, the government should back ambitious research now under way (at the Land Institute in Kansas and a handful of other places) to “perennialize” commodity agriculture: to breed varieties of wheat, rice and other staple grains that can be grown like prairie grasses — without having to till the soil every year. These perennial grains hold the promise of slashing the fossil fuel now needed to fertilize and till the soil, while protecting farmland from erosion and sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

But that is probably a 50-year project. For today’s agriculture to wean itself from fossil fuel and make optimal use of sunlight, crop plants and animals must once again be married on the farm — as in Wendell Berry’s elegant “solution.” Sunlight nourishes the grasses and grains, the plants nourish the animals, the animals then nourish the soil, which in turn nourishes the next season’s grasses and grains. Animals on pasture can also harvest their own feed and dispose of their own waste — all without our help or fossil fuel.

If this system is so sensible, you might ask, why did it succumb to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs? In fact there is nothing inherently efficient or economical about raising vast cities of animals in confinement. Three struts, each put into place by federal policy, support the modern CAFO, and the most important of these — the ability to buy grain for less than it costs to grow it — has just been kicked away. The second strut is F.D.A. approval for the routine use of antibiotics in feed, without which the animals in these places could not survive their crowded, filthy and miserable existence. And the third is that the government does not require CAFOs to treat their wastes as it would require human cities of comparable size to do. The F.D.A. should ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock feed on public-health grounds, now that we have evidence that the practice is leading to the evolution of drug-resistant bacterial diseases and to outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning. CAFOs should also be regulated like the factories they are, required to clean up their waste like any other industry or municipality.

It will be argued that moving animals off feedlots and back onto farms will raise the price of meat. It probably will — as it should. You will need to make the case that paying the real cost of meat, and therefore eating less of it, is a good thing for our health, for the environment, for our dwindling reserves of fresh water and for the welfare of the animals. Meat and milk production represent the food industry’s greatest burden on the environment a recent U.N. study estimated that the world’s livestock alone account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined. (According to one study, a pound of feedlot beef also takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce.) And while animals living on farms will still emit their share of greenhouse gases, grazing them on grass and returning their waste to the soil will substantially offset their carbon hoof prints, as will getting ruminant animals off grain. A bushel of grain takes approximately a half gallon of oil to produce grass can be grown with little more than sunshine.

It will be argued that sun-food agriculture will generally yield less food than fossil-fuel agriculture. This is debatable. The key question you must be prepared to answer is simply this: Can the sort of sustainable agriculture you’re proposing feed the world?

There are a couple of ways to answer this question. The simplest and most honest answer is that we don’t know, because we haven’t tried. But in the same way we now need to learn how to run an industrial economy without cheap fossil fuel, we have no choice but to find out whether sustainable agriculture can produce enough food. The fact is, during the past century, our agricultural research has been directed toward the goal of maximizing production with the help of fossil fuel. There is no reason to think that bringing the same sort of resources to the development of more complex, sun-based agricultural systems wouldn’t produce comparable yields. Today’s organic farmers, operating for the most part without benefit of public investment in research, routinely achieve 80 to 100 percent of conventional yields in grain and, in drought years, frequently exceed conventional yields. (This is because organic soils better retain moisture.) Assuming no further improvement, could the world — with a population expected to peak at 10 billion — survive on these yields?

First, bear in mind that the average yield of world agriculture today is substantially lower than that of modern sustainable farming. According to a recent University of Michigan study, merely bringing international yields up to today’s organic levels could increase the world’s food supply by 50 percent.

The second point to bear in mind is that yield isn’t everything — and growing high-yield commodities is not quite the same thing as growing food. Much of what we’re growing today is not directly eaten as food but processed into low-quality calories of fat and sugar. As the world epidemic of diet-related chronic disease has demonstrated, the sheer quantity of calories that a food system produces improves health only up to a point, but after that, quality and diversity are probably more important. We can expect that a food system that produces somewhat less food but of a higher quality will produce healthier populations.

The final point to consider is that 40 percent of the world’s grain output today is fed to animals 11 percent of the world’s corn and soybean crop is fed to cars and trucks, in the form of biofuels. Provided the developed world can cut its consumption of grain-based animal protein and ethanol, there should be plenty of food for everyone — however we choose to grow it.

In fact, well-designed polyculture systems, incorporating not just grains but vegetables and animals, can produce more food per acre than conventional monocultures, and food of a much higher nutritional value. But this kind of farming is complicated and needs many more hands on the land to make it work. Farming without fossil fuels — performing complex rotations of plants and animals and managing pests without petrochemicals — is labor intensive and takes more skill than merely “driving and spraying,” which is how corn-belt farmers describe what they do for a living.

To grow sufficient amounts of food using sunlight will require more people growing food — millions more. This suggests that sustainable agriculture will be easier to implement in the developing world, where large rural populations remain, than in the West, where they don’t. But what about here in America, where we have only about two million farmers left to feed a population of 300 million? And where farmland is being lost to development at the rate of 2,880 acres a day? Post-oil agriculture will need a lot more people engaged in food production — as farmers and probably also as gardeners.

The sun-food agenda must include programs to train a new generation of farmers and then help put them on the land. The average American farmer today is 55 years old we shouldn’t expect these farmers to embrace the sort of complex ecological approach to agriculture that is called for. Our focus should be on teaching ecological farming systems to students entering land-grant colleges today. For decades now, it has been federal policy to shrink the number of farmers in America by promoting capital-intensive monoculture and consolidation. As a society, we devalued farming as an occupation and encouraged the best students to leave the farm for “better” jobs in the city. We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America — not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.

National security also argues for preserving every acre of farmland we can and then making it available to new farmers. We simply will not be able to depend on distant sources of food, and therefore need to preserve every acre of good farmland within a day’s drive of our cities. In the same way that when we came to recognize the supreme ecological value of wetlands we erected high bars to their development, we need to recognize the value of farmland to our national security and require real-estate developers to do “food-system impact statements” before development begins. We should also create tax and zoning incentives for developers to incorporate farmland (as they now do “open space”) in their subdivision plans all those subdivisions now ringing golf courses could someday have diversified farms at their center.

The revival of farming in America, which of course draws on the abiding cultural power of our agrarian heritage, will pay many political and economic dividends. It will lead to robust economic renewal in the countryside. And it will generate tens of millions of new “green jobs,” which is precisely how we need to begin thinking of skilled solar farming: as a vital sector of the 21st-century post-fossil-fuel economy.

II. Reregionalizing the Food System

For your sun-food agenda to succeed, it will have to do a lot more than alter what happens on the farm. The government could help seed a thousand new polyculture farmers in every county in Iowa, but they would promptly fail if the grain elevator remained the only buyer in town and corn and beans were the only crops it would take. Resolarizing the food system means building the infrastructure for a regional food economy — one that can support diversified farming and, by shortening the food chain, reduce the amount of fossil fuel in the American diet.

A decentralized food system offers a great many other benefits as well. Food eaten closer to where it is grown will be fresher and require less processing, making it more nutritious. Whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience: regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks. When a single factory is grinding 20 million hamburger patties in a week or washing 25 million servings of salad, a single terrorist armed with a canister of toxins can, at a stroke, poison millions. Such a system is equally susceptible to accidental contamination: the bigger and more global the trade in food, the more vulnerable the system is to catastrophe. The best way to protect our food system against such threats is obvious: decentralize it.

Today in America there is soaring demand for local and regional food farmers’ markets, of which the U.S.D.A. estimates there are now 4,700, have become one of the fastest-growing segments of the food market. Community-supported agriculture is booming as well: there are now nearly 1,500 community-supported farms, to which consumers pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly box of produce through the season. The local-food movement will continue to grow with no help from the government, especially as high fuel prices make distant and out-of-season food, as well as feedlot meat, more expensive. Yet there are several steps the government can take to nurture this market and make local foods more affordable. Here are a few:

Four-Season Farmers’ Markets. Provide grants to towns and cities to build year-round indoor farmers’ markets, on the model of Pike Place in Seattle or the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. To supply these markets, the U.S.D.A. should make grants to rebuild local distribution networks in order to minimize the amount of energy used to move produce within local food sheds.

Agricultural Enterprise Zones. Today the revival of local food economies is being hobbled by a tangle of regulations originally designed to check abuses by the very largest food producers. Farmers should be able to smoke a ham and sell it to their neighbors without making a huge investment in federally approved facilities. Food-safety regulations must be made sensitive to scale and marketplace, so that a small producer selling direct off the farm or at a farmers’ market is not regulated as onerously as a multinational food manufacturer. This is not because local food won’t ever have food-safety problems — it will — only that its problems will be less catastrophic and easier to manage because local food is inherently more traceable and accountable.

Local Meat-Inspection Corps. Perhaps the single greatest impediment to the return of livestock to the land and the revival of local, grass-based meat production is the disappearance of regional slaughter facilities. The big meat processors have been buying up local abattoirs only to close them down as they consolidate, and the U.S.D.A. does little to support the ones that remain. From the department’s perspective, it is a better use of shrinking resources to dispatch its inspectors to a plant slaughtering 400 head an hour than to a regional abattoir slaughtering a dozen. The U.S.D.A. should establish a Local Meat-Inspectors Corps to serve these processors. Expanding on its successful pilot program on Lopez Island in Puget Sound, the U.S.D.A. should also introduce a fleet of mobile abattoirs that would go from farm to farm, processing animals humanely and inexpensively. Nothing would do more to make regional, grass-fed meat fully competitive in the market with feedlot meat.

Establish a Strategic Grain Reserve. In the same way the shift to alternative energy depends on keeping oil prices relatively stable, the sun-food agenda — as well as the food security of billions of people around the world — will benefit from government action to prevent huge swings in commodity prices. A strategic grain reserve, modeled on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, would help achieve this objective and at the same time provide some cushion for world food stocks, which today stand at perilously low levels. Governments should buy and store grain when it is cheap and sell when it is dear, thereby moderating price swings in both directions and discouraging speculation.

Regionalize Federal Food Procurement. In the same way that federal procurement is often used to advance important social goals (like promoting minority-owned businesses), we should require that some minimum percentage of government food purchases — whether for school-lunch programs, military bases or federal prisons — go to producers located within 100 miles of institutions buying the food. We should create incentives for hospitals and universities receiving federal funds to buy fresh local produce. To channel even a small portion of institutional food purchasing to local food would vastly expand regional agriculture and improve the diet of the millions of people these institutions feed.

Create a Federal Definition of “Food.” It makes no sense for government food-assistance dollars, intended to improve the nutritional health of at-risk Americans, to support the consumption of products we know to be unhealthful. Yes, some people will object that for the government to specify what food stamps can and cannot buy smacks of paternalism. Yet we already prohibit the purchase of tobacco and alcohol with food stamps. So why not prohibit something like soda, which is arguably less nutritious than red wine? Because it is, nominally, a food, albeit a “junk food.” We need to stop flattering nutritionally worthless foodlike substances by calling them “junk food” — and instead make clear that such products are not in fact food of any kind. Defining what constitutes real food worthy of federal support will no doubt be controversial (you’ll recall President Reagan’s ketchup imbroglio), but defining food upward may be more politically palatable than defining it down, as Reagan sought to do. One approach would be to rule that, in order to be regarded as a food by the government, an edible substance must contain a certain minimum ratio of micronutrients per calorie of energy. At a stroke, such a definition would improve the quality of school lunch and discourage sales of unhealthful products, since typically only “food” is exempt from local sales tax.

A few other ideas: Food-stamp debit cards should double in value whenever swiped at a farmers’ markets — all of which, by the way, need to be equipped with the Electronic Benefit Transfer card readers that supermarkets already have. We should expand the WIC program that gives farmers’-market vouchers to low-income women with children such programs help attract farmers’ markets to urban neighborhoods where access to fresh produce is often nonexistent. (We should also offer tax incentives to grocery chains willing to build supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods.) Federal food assistance for the elderly should build on a successful program pioneered by the state of Maine that buys low-income seniors a membership in a community-supported farm. All these initiatives have the virtue of advancing two objectives at once: supporting the health of at-risk Americans and the revival of local food economies.

III. Rebuilding America’s Food Culture

In the end, shifting the American diet from a foundation of imported fossil fuel to local sunshine will require changes in our daily lives, which by now are deeply implicated in the economy and culture of fast, cheap and easy food. Making available more healthful and more sustainable food does not guarantee it will be eaten, much less appreciated or enjoyed. We need to use all the tools at our disposal — not just federal policy and public education but the president’s bully pulpit and the example of the first family’s own dinner table — to promote a new culture of food that can undergird your sun-food agenda.

Changing the food culture must begin with our children, and it must begin in the schools. Nearly a half-century ago, President Kennedy announced a national initiative to improve the physical fitness of American children. He did it by elevating the importance of physical education, pressing states to make it a requirement in public schools. We need to bring the same commitment to “edible education” — in Alice Waters’s phrase — by making lunch, in all its dimensions, a mandatory part of the curriculum. On the premise that eating well is a critically important life skill, we need to teach all primary-school students the basics of growing and cooking food and then enjoying it at shared meals.

To change our children’s food culture, we’ll need to plant gardens in every primary school, build fully equipped kitchens, train a new generation of lunchroom ladies (and gentlemen) who can once again cook and teach cooking to children. We should introduce a School Lunch Corps program that forgives federal student loans to culinary-school graduates in exchange for two years of service in the public-school lunch program. And we should immediately increase school-lunch spending per pupil by $1 a day — the minimum amount food-service experts believe it will take to underwrite a shift from fast food in the cafeteria to real food freshly prepared.

But it is not only our children who stand to benefit from public education about food. Today most federal messages about food, from nutrition labeling to the food pyramid, are negotiated with the food industry. The surgeon general should take over from the Department of Agriculture the job of communicating with Americans about their diet. That way we might begin to construct a less equivocal and more effective public-health message about nutrition. Indeed, there is no reason that public-health campaigns about the dangers of obesity and Type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be as tough and as effective as public-health campaigns about the dangers of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. The public needs to know and see precisely what that sentence means: blindness amputation early death. All of which can be avoided by a change in diet and lifestyle. A public-health crisis of this magnitude calls for a blunt public-health message, even at the expense of offending the food industry. Judging by the success of recent antismoking campaigns, the savings to the health care system could be substantial.

There are other kinds of information about food that the government can supply or demand. In general we should push for as much transparency in the food system as possible — the other sense in which “sunlight” should be the watchword of our agenda. The F.D.A. should require that every packaged-food product include a second calorie count, indicating how many calories of fossil fuel went into its production. Oil is one of the most important ingredients in our food, and people ought to know just how much of it they’re eating. The government should also throw its support behind putting a second bar code on all food products that, when scanned either in the store or at home (or with a cellphone), brings up on a screen the whole story and pictures of how that product was produced: in the case of crops, images of the farm and lists of agrochemicals used in its production in the case of meat and dairy, descriptions of the animals’ diet and drug regimen, as well as live video feeds of the CAFO where they live and, yes, the slaughterhouse where they die. The very length and complexity of the modern food chain breeds a culture of ignorance and indifference among eaters. Shortening the food chain is one way to create more conscious consumers, but deploying technology to pierce the veil is another.

Finally, there is the power of the example you set in the White House. If what’s needed is a change of culture in America’s thinking about food, then how America’s first household organizes its eating will set the national tone, focusing the light of public attention on the issue and communicating a simple set of values that can guide Americans toward sun-based foods and away from eating oil.

The choice of White House chef is always closely watched, and you would be wise to appoint a figure who is identified with the food movement and committed to cooking simply from fresh local ingredients. Besides feeding you and your family exceptionally well, such a chef would demonstrate how it is possible even in Washington to eat locally for much of the year, and that good food needn’t be fussy or complicated but does depend on good farming. You should make a point of the fact that every night you’re in town, you join your family for dinner in the Executive Residence — at a table. (Surely you remember the Reagans’ TV trays.) And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week — a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year. Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes.

Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.

I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community. The fact that surplus produce from the South Lawn Victory Garden (and there will be literally tons of it) will be offered to regional food banks will make its own eloquent statement.

You’re probably thinking that growing and eating organic food in the White House carries a certain political risk. It is true you might want to plant iceberg lettuce rather than arugula, at least to start. (Or simply call arugula by its proper American name, as generations of Midwesterners have done: “rocket.”) But it should not be difficult to deflect the charge of elitism sometimes leveled at the sustainable-food movement. Reforming the food system is not inherently a right-or-left issue: for every Whole Foods shopper with roots in the counterculture you can find a family of evangelicals intent on taking control of its family dinner and diet back from the fast-food industry — the culinary equivalent of home schooling. You should support hunting as a particularly sustainable way to eat meat — meat grown without any fossil fuels whatsoever. There is also a strong libertarian component to the sun-food agenda, which seeks to free small producers from the burden of government regulation in order to stoke rural innovation. And what is a higher “family value,” after all, than making time to sit down every night to a shared meal?

Our agenda puts the interests of America’s farmers, families and communities ahead of the fast-food industry’s. For that industry and its apologists to imply that it is somehow more “populist” or egalitarian to hand our food dollars to Burger King or General Mills than to support a struggling local farmer is absurd. Yes, sun food costs more, but the reasons why it does only undercut the charge of elitism: cheap food is only cheap because of government handouts and regulatory indulgence (both of which we will end), not to mention the exploitation of workers, animals and the environment on which its putative “economies” depend. Cheap food is food dishonestly priced — it is in fact unconscionably expensive.

Your sun-food agenda promises to win support across the aisle. It builds on America’s agrarian past, but turns it toward a more sustainable, sophisticated future. It honors the work of American farmers and enlists them in three of the 21st century’s most urgent errands: to move into the post-oil era, to improve the health of the American people and to mitigate climate change. Indeed, it enlists all of us in this great cause by turning food consumers into part-time producers, reconnecting the American people with the American land and demonstrating that we need not choose between the welfare of our families and the health of the environment — that eating less oil and more sunlight will redound to the benefit of both.


Food Politics: The Influence of Meat & Dairy Industry on Government, Education, News, Media & Health Professionals.

Collection of Clips, Quotes & Links to Reports on How the Animal Agriculture Industry Influences Politics, Government, News Media, the Education School System, Health Professionals & Organizations in order to Promote their Products (ie. red meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, seafood)

A 2016 report in TIME: “Experts Say Lobbying Skewed the U.S. Dietary Guidelines”.
Excerpts: “While many doctors and scientists have applauded some of the new guidelines—especially the recommendation to eat less added sugar—they also say some of the guidelines, which received mixed reviews, are out of step with the latest medical research, particularly when it comes to the consumption of red and processed meat
The guidelines are issued by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA)—the agency in charge of strengthening America’s farming, food and agriculture industries—and Health and Human Services (HHS) …
But while the final guidelines carry forward some of the recommendations outlined in the Advisory Committee’s report … they also deviate substantively from them.
Some experts contend the discrepancies between the two documents are, at least in part, the result of industry influence. “The current system opens the guidelines up to lobbying and manipulation of data,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, when asked why the Advisory Committee’s report is subject to changes from USDA and HHS. “The USDA’s primary stakeholders are major food producers and manufacturers,” he adds.
The question of meat.
The absence of a top-line message about limiting red and processed meat has many experts, including spokespeople from the American Cancer Society, criticizing the guidelines. Studies have repeatedly linked heavy meat consumption to higher rates of heart disease, premature death and cancer. The Advisory Committee’s scientific report lumped red meat in with processed meats—stuff like salami and hot dogs—and said that a healthy diet would mean eating “lower” amounts of these foods in order to prevent chronic diseases.
By contrast, the final guidelines list red meat alongside seafood, poultry, and other protein sources as elements of a “healthy eating pattern.” … They stop short of an explicit recommendation to eat less of it.
Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard and one of the experts who served on the Advisory Committee, says the meat industry has historically had “huge influence” on USDA …”
Other experts agree: “telling TIME that the discrepancies between the Advisory Committee’s report and the final guidelines are evidence that USDA and HHS do not rely on science to form their nutrition policies.
There’s a great deal of money at stake in what these guidelines say,” says Dr. Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and former chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. In the past, Nestle served as one of the experts HHS and USDA tapped to help craft the guidelines and this year was a peer reviewer for an earlier version of the 2015 report.
She says of years past: “I was told we could never say ‘eat less meat’ because USDA would not allow it.” …
Article at http://time.com/4130043/lobbying-politics-dietary-guidelines/

2019 report: “Bias inherent in company funded research calls value of evidence into question, critic maintains” – featuring quotes from Professor Marion Nestle, at
https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2019/10/01/Expert-Bias-inevitable-in-company-funded-research

A 2011 article in New York Daily News is titled “What Big Meat wants you to think: Research is frequently funded by the industry.” Some excerpts: “In 2011, in the U.S. alone, annual sales of meat were worth $186 billion. That’s more than the GDP of Hungary — and a lot to protect.
If you see a scientific study showing that red meat consumption does not raise the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease, or that high-protein diets are the way to go, good chances are that that particular study has been funded by the meat industry…
Examples of studies funded by the industry and with results that promote meat-eating abound…
From the meat industry perspective, such funding appears to work pretty well…
Research done on the pharmaceutical industry, for example, found that sponsored studies were over four times more likely to be favorable to the sponsor than studies that didn’t receive such funding. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, calculated that out of 166 industry-funded nutrition research studies published between March 2015 and March 2016, over 92% reported results favorable to the interest of the sponsor…
What is a consumer to do, then? Be skeptical. Click on that link in a popular article to go to the original study described. Scroll through it to check for conflicts of interest. Think about which side the money is on. Then decide for yourself what to believe.
It’s not just meat that should be consumed with grains of salt.”
Marta Zaraska is author of “Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat.” Article at http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/marta-zaraska-big-meat-article-1.2669374

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Dietary Guidelines: Advisory Committee Conflicts of Interest – The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee has been made of up individuals funded by McDonald’s, Coca Cola, the Sugar Association, the American Meat Institute, candy bar companies, and the egg and dairy boards.”
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLccopAab2w
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-advisory-committee-conflicts-of-interest/

Article titled: “MEATONOMIC$ – How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much – and How to Eat Better, Live Longer, and Spend Smarter
Excerpt: “Few consumers are aware of the economic forces behind the production of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Yet omnivore and herbivore alike, the forces of meatonomics affect us in many ways.
This is the first book to add up the huge “externalized” costs that the animal food system imposes on taxpayers, animals and the environment, and it finds these costs total about $414 billion yearly…
consumers have lost the ability to decide for ourselves what – and how much – to eat. Those decisions are made instead by animal food producers who control our buying choices with artificially-low prices, misleading messaging, and heavy control over legislation and regulation…”
Reference: https://meatonomics.com/the-book/

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Dietary Guidelines: Science vs. Corporate Interests – The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee stands accused of ignoring the science to justify its recommendation to eat meat.”
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T-GF3ycuBA
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-science-versus-corporate-interests/

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Dietary Guidelines: USDA Conflicts of Interest – The mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to promote agribusiness. At the same time, the USDA is the agency primarily tasked with developing the nutrition guidelines.”
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbeMuJHyMz8
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-usda-conflicts-of-interest/

A 2015 article titled “The US meat industry’s wildly successful, 40-year crusade to keep its hold on the American diet
Excerpt: “Your doctor might tell you to eat fewer burgers and steak sandwiches, but thanks to the exceptional lobbying skills of the American meat industry, the US government probably never will.
Rejecting the advice of their own expert panel, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced this month that the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will not include considerations of environmental sustainability. Had they decided otherwise, they likely would have recommended that people lower their intake of meat, the production of which is widely recognized as a major contributor to climate change…
The meat industry has influenced the dietary guidelines for decades.
The size of the US meat industry is immense. Beef alone is a $95 billion-a-year business, according to the USDA. And the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) estimates that, in total, the meat industry contributes about $894 billion to the US economy.
That size translates into political influence: In 2014, the industry spent approximately $10.8 million in contributions to political campaigns, and another $6.9 million directly on lobbying the federal government…
While the USDA is tasked with regulating the meat industry, it also has a role in promoting it. This tension plays out every time the US government wants to give out dietary advice—and the results generally wind up favoring the industry.
The pattern traces back to at least 1977, when Congress—a no less conflicted institution when it comes to coziness with the meat industry—had a more prominent role in setting nutrition guidelines. That year, a Senate committee report recommended that Americans decrease consumption of meat, eggs and other foods high in fat. This did not sit well with producers in those industries, who made their displeasure known at a hearing on the guidelines…”
Reference: https://qz.com/523255/the-us-meat-industrys-wildly-successful-40-year-crusade-to-keep-its-hold-on-the-american-diet/

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Food Industry Funding Effect – He who pays the piper calls the tune: studies funded by the dairy and soda industries appear to be even more biased than studies funded by drug companies.”
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_aJWUxjL2s
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-industry-funding-effect/

“Reuters reported that in an analysis of 60 studies looking at the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity or diabetes, 100 percent of those that failed to find a link were industry-funded. Of the 34 studies that found a connection, only one was industry-funded.”
– http://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/studies-link-eggs-to-stroke-diabetes-heart-disease-cancer

From a 2014 news article titled “The Dirty Secret Behind Dairy Junk Foods” some excerpts: “Industry and government work together to promote everything from fast-food pizza to sugary milk in schools… Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off… many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods”…
Schools are especially vulnerable to dairy industry influence… these funds are directly used to promote junk foods, which contribute to the diseases the federal government is allegedly trying to prevent…”
Reference: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/agriculture-healthschoolsdairyjunkfoodusda.html

Dr Greger clip “The Food Industry Wants the Public Confused About Nutrition” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9vpohU4-zo
Summary: “… shows to what extent the purveyors of unhealthy products will go to keep the truth from the American public.”
Excerpts: “For decades, tobacco companies successfully suppressed or undermined scientific evidence of smoking’s dangers and down played the public health concerns…
Decades of deception and manipulation, deliberate targeting of children, marketing and selling their lethal products with zeal, and without regard for the unfolding human tragedy…
So, “in contexts such as these, government intervention [may be] vital to protect consumers from predatory industries.”
And, is the food industry any different? “The public is bombarded with information and it is hard to tell which is true, which is false, and which is merely exaggerated. Foods are sold without clarity about the nutritional content or harmful effects.”
Remember how the food industry spent a billion dollars making sure the easy-to-understand “traffic light labelling” system on food never saw the light of day… That’s ten times more than the drug industry spends on lobbying in the U.S.
It’s in the food industry’s interest to have the public confused about nutrition.
How confused are we about nutrition? “Head Start teachers are responsible for providing nutrition education to over [a] million low-income children [every year].” A hundred and eighty-one Head Start teachers were put to the test. And, only about four out of 181 “answered at least four [out] of the five nutrition knowledge questions correctly.”
A quarter of the teachers didn’t consume any fruit or vegetables the previous day, though half did have french fries and a soda, and a quarter consumed fried meat the day before. Not surprisingly, 55% of the teachers were not just overweight, but obese.
So, when even the teachers are confused, something must be done. No purveyor of unhealthy products wants the public to know the truth…”
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-food-industry-wants-the-public-confused-about-nutrition/

2019 report by Susan Levin, master of science in nutrition and registered dietitian: “The Dangers of Industry-Influenced Dietary Guidelines”
Excerpt: “Decades of research has shown the dangers of dietary cholesterol. So what made the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans almost drop cholesterol warnings? Industries with an interest in keeping Americans unhealthy …
According to documents obtained by the Physicians Committee under the Freedom of Information Act, the American Egg Board had nominated one individual placed on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. A second member was actively receiving egg-industry research grants according to industry documents, and two others worked at a university that had requested and received more than $100,000 from the American Egg Board for research aimed at challenging the cholesterol limits …
But now industry is infiltrating the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Atkins Nutritionals and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have both revealed the names of their nominees who made it onto the 2020 Advisory Committee …
The dangers of red and processed meat are clear cut. In fact, a National Institutes of Health study of more than half a million people found that eating red and processed meat increases the risk of total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality.
Low-carb, animal-based diets such as Atkins are also associated with early death … ”
Source:
https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/dangers-industry-influenced-dietary-guidelines

“The Disconnect Between Science and Policy” by Dr Greger 2019.
Summary: “Just as it would have been hazardous to your health to take the medical profession’s advice on your smoking habits in the 1950s, it may be hazardous to your health today to take the medical profession’s advice on your eating habits.”
at
https://nutritionfacts.org/2019/04/04/the-disconnect-between-science-and-policy/

Short clip from Vox zine titled “How Big Government helps Big Dairy sell Milk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRCj8LVTRyA … Summary: “Despite the fact that one can get their daily recommendation of calcium, potassium, and protein from fruits and vegetables, the dairy industry has spent billions of dollars to convince consumers otherwise” with quotes from Dr Walter Willet.

Article title: “WHITEWASHED: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” – an excerpt: “The United States is in the midst of a public health epidemic due to poor diet… The promotion of dairy products in schools is especially troubling, where children are a captive audience and greatly influenced by the foods served there. That’s why the dairy industry wants to maintain its strong presence in schools, despite local and federal efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school food…”
The full report is at http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/SimonWhitewashedDairyReport.pdf

Dr Michael Greger MD: “Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Conflicts of Interest –
What effect do corporate sponsorships from food companies have on the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Registered Dietitian organization (formally known as the American Dietetic Association)?…”
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpJkBkeKBvk
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/academy-of-nutrition-and-dietetics-conflicts-of-interest/

Comparing Dollars Spent on Promoting Meat to Dollars Spent on Advocacy for Farm Animals – see this article titled “Meat Industry Advertising” at http://www.countinganimals.com/meat-industry-advertising/

Excerpts: “Clearly, the advertising expenses alone of a few of the top entities in the meat industry overwhelms the entire expenses of the animal advocacy organizations… The following graphic helps us visualize the scale of the difference between the dollars spent on promoting meat and the dollars spent on the advocacy of farm animals. In this figure, each red circle represents a meat-promoting entity, with the area of the circle being proportional to just the annual advertising or promotional expenses of that entity. Each green circle represents an animal advocacy organization engaged in promoting vegetarian eating or meat industry reform, with the area of the circle being proportional to the total annual expenses of that organization…”
If you go the link via a computer and “hover your mouse near the center of any circle, you can see a pop-up bubble that identifies the entity corresponding to the circle, the dollar amount, and the source of my information about the entity…”

The graphic here is adapted from the one on that page.


(click on the image to open a full-size version in another window)

Dr Greger MD clip “Eggs and Cholesterol: Patently False and Misleading Claims” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g8ASQZ0dZw Summary: “Egg industry claims about egg safety found to be patently false, misleading, and deceptive by the U.S. Court of Appeals.”
For decades, “on the basis of concerns from the American Heart Association and consumer groups, the Federal Trade Commission carried out successful legal action—upheld by the Supreme Court—to compel the egg industry to cease and desist from false and misleading advertising that eggs had no harmful effects on health.”…
Over the last 36 years, the American Egg Board has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince people eggs are not going to kill them—and, it’s working. “In combination with aggressive nutrition[al] science and public relations efforts, research shows that the advertising has been effective in decreasing consumers’ concerns over eggs and cholesterol/heart health.” … Currently, they’re targeting moms…”
Text transcript at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/eggs-and-cholesterol-patently-false-and-misleading-claims/

Is the Dietitians Association of Australia in the Pocket of Big Food? “Corporate Partners” = Meat & Livestock, Nestle, Dairy…

Excerpt from a report titled “And Now a Word From Our Sponsors: Australian Edition” (Feb 2015, p.3): “The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)… is compromised by serious conflicts of interest, which cast doubt on the organizations’ dietary recommendations & policy positions…
Australia suffers significantly from diet related chronic diseases…
Given these serious public health problems, all preventable through healthy eating, it behooves the nation’s leading nutrition professionals to be honest with the Australian people. The 2013 report, “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors”… found that the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics in the United States has a serious credibility problem due to its myriad conflicts with the junk food industry… Sadly a very similar situation exists within Australia’s dietetic profession…”
From page 3 of the 2015 report regards Australia: “According to its 2013 annual report, DAA received $661,000 from corporate sponsors in 2013, down slightly from $700,000 in 2012. DAA depends on it corporate partners for roughly 15% of its annual budget, and sponsorship income is the third largest source of revenue after membership dues and conference fees.”

A related article on the Crikey website states: “It’s high time for this organisation [the DAA] to look inward. The health of all Australians depends upon the independence of the nutrition profession and its leadership’s ability to be the nutrition leaders they claim to be, free from sponsorship money…” From article at https://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/02/22/is-the-dietitians-association-of-australia-in-the-pocket-of-big-food/

Click the below image to open a larger clearer version in a new window

CSIRO “Total Wellbeing Diet” debunked. MLA Money for Research = Meat Promotion.

MLA: Meat & Livestock Australia.
CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, an Australian Government corporate entity.


click image for a clearer version

2018 report on The Guardian news site – “Revealed: majority of politicians on key EU farming panel have industry links.”
Excerpts: “Most MEPs on the influential agriculture committee have business ties, new research shows, raising concerns about conflicts of interest…
The key EU panel oversees some of the most important agricultural decisions in European politics. Its MEPs negotiated the last common agricultural policy (CAP) settlement with 28 nation states and the European commission. The CAP sets subsidy rates for farmers across the continent – accounting for almost 40% of the EU’s overall budget in 2017, or €59bn (£51.5bn)…
But new research shows that 25 of the committee’s 45 members are either farmers, former farmers, CAP payment recipients in another capacity, current or former partners in agricultural businesses, or have spouses who own farms. Another four have looser ties to the sector, such as having close family who are farmers…”
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/24/revealed-majority-politicians-key-eu-farming-panel-industry-links

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Food Industry Funded Research Bias – Using the tobacco industry playbook, food companies have been caught trying to undermine public health policies by manipulating the scientific process.”
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLy5fZA71TY

Article titled “Government Support for Unhealthful Foods” from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr Neal Barnard – excerpt: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports agricultural producers through a variety of programs that tend to favor, either directly or indirectly, the production of unhealthful foods. These are the same foods that are implicated in the diseases that have steadily increased over the decades and now impose a significant burden on Americans…
USDA provides other forms of direct support for producers of agricultural products, including meat and dairy products…
The USDA refers to fresh fruits and vegetables as “specialty crops.” Specialty crops do not receive subsidies…
The federal government, through USDA, provides additional support to livestock and crop producers by purchasing agricultural products for use in the National School Lunch Program… purchases remain skewed toward meat and dairy products…”
Reference: http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/agriculture-and-health-policies-unhealthful-foods

From a report titled “Food Lobbies, the Food Pyramid, and U.S. Nutrition Policy” the summary abstract:
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1991 withdrawal of its Eating Right Pyramid food guide in response to pressure from meat and dairy producers was only the latest in a long series of industry attempts to influence federal dietary recommendations.
Such attempts began when diet-related health problems in the United States shifted in prevalence from nutrient deficiencies to chronic diseases, and dietary advice shifted from “eat more” to “eat less.”
The Pyramid controversy focuses attention on the conflict between federal protection of the rights of food lobbyists to act in their own self-interest, and federal responsibility to promote the nutritional health of the public.
Since 1977, for example, under pressure from meat producers, federal dietary advice has evolved from “decrease consumption of meat” to “have two or three (daily) servings.”
Thus, this recent incident also highlights the inherent conflict of interest in the Department of Agriculture’s dual mandates to promote U.S. agricultural products and to advise the public about healthy food choices.”
Reference: Marion Nestle, International Journal of Health Services, First Published July 1, 1993 at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2190/32F2-2PFB-MEG7-8HPU

Dr Michael Greger MD clip “Dietary Guidelines: With a Grain of Big Salt – The National Dairy Council teams up with the Salt Institute to downplay the risk of sodium in the American diet.”
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A0oiLBccgM
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-with-a-grain-of-big-salt/

2017 article “Ireland’s “Livestock-Industrial-Complex” influences nutritional advice and environmental reporting” by journalist Frank Armstrong.
Excerpts: “European subsidisation from 1972, through the CAP, essentially keeps cattle farming afloat in Ireland. Accounting for over half of Ireland’s c.85,000 farms, the vast majority of dry cattle (“beef”) farmers actually lose money on their enterprises, relying on Direct Payments (subsidies) for income. Government intervention in the market has long caused distortions. In 1966 then Minister for Agriculture Charles Haughey claimed: ‘agitation directed only to getting higher prices may develop a kind of dole mentality which would eventually make agriculture subservient to the state.’ This “dole mentality” is now ensconced in a subsidy-dependent sector…
The Livestock-Industrial Complex operates via a number of pillars in both the public and private sector, which have brought successive governments to heel and maintained a spooky allegiance to the “farming way of life” in mainstream media, especially through the state broadcaster…
We also find the interests of the Livestock-Industrial Complex entering nutritional discourse, especially through the National Dairy Council… The funding of research and development, including through charities, plays an important role in maintaining government nutritional advice that is not necessarily best practice, but ensures dairy in particular is consumed at high levels…
The Osteoporosis Society of Ireland was founded in 1996 by Professor Moira O’Brien as ‘a patient support organisation for those suffering with Osteoporosis and their families.’ Two of its leading sponsors listed on its website are [dairy companies] Avonmore and Yoplait, and it has collaborated in the past with the National Dairy Council. As regards dietary calcium their website states: “The richest sources of calcium in the diet are yogurt milk and cheese…”
This is at odds with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) which say: ‘studies suggest that high calcium intake doesn’t actually appear to lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis.’…”
Full article at https://frankarmstrong.ie/2017/11/24/irelands-livestock-industrial-complex-influences-nutritional-advice-and-environmental-reporting/

See this page for a large collection of science reports about the diseases associated with dairy consumption – including osteoporosis bone fractures, Parkinsons disease, type 1 diabetes and cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, testicles.

Taxpayer Money used to Bail Out Failing Animal Agriculture Businesses.

Dr Greger MD clip “Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods – What if billions in tax dollars were invested in healthier options, rather than given to corporations to subsidize the very foods that are making us sick?
Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8RzkUbSFVY
Text: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/taxpayer-subsidies-for-unhealthy-foods/

From “The Politics of Meat” an article for PBS Television’s Frontline program – “A look at the meat industry’s influence on Capitol Hill
Excerpt: “The meat industry in the United States is a powerful political force, both in the legislative and the regulatory arena, even though the way they wield that power is different from many industries on Capitol Hill. Instead of spreading lots of money around to many different lawmakers in an attempt to gain access and influence — the traditional method used by many large corporations — the meat industry targets their approach to a small number of key lawmakers and regulators that have a direct impact on their business interests. Yet despite the relatively low level of financial contributions, the industry has succeeded in weakening or preventing many new meat-safety initiatives in recent years.
Most of the companies involved in the meat business, including the big meatpackers, are represented by one or more of the powerful meat trade and lobbying organizations: the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They’re a powerful group and they know they have a strong voice in decision-making in Washington…”
Reference: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/politics/ with a related series of reports on “Modern Meat” at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/

Article titled “Agricultural Policies Versus Health Policies” from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr Neal Barnard – excerpt: “federal support for the dairy and livestock industries has led to overproduction, leading to the placement of excess cheese, cheap meat, and other products in school meal programs…
Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans call for reducing intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, federal subsidies favor the production of meat and dairy products that are the principal sources of these hazardous components…”
Reference: http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/agriculture-and-health-policies-ag-versus-health

This site contains pages with hundreds of science reports on: the higher rates of disease & death associated with eating red meat, dairy, chicken/poultry, eggs, fish/seafood & of the improved health & longer lifespans associated with eating healthy plant-based diets featuring fruits & vegetables, nuts & soy as well as on common nutritional deficiencies of why so many doctors fail at nutrition of how big business influences food politics the evolution of human diets & on the negative impact of animal agriculture on climate change, deforestation, fishless oceans, biodiversity loss, antibiotic-resistant superbugs & more.

“The 588-page report commissioned by Dairy Farmers of Canada examined the role subsidies play in the U.S. dairy market. According to the report, 73% of the returns received by U.S. dairy farmers in 2015 were a result of dairy farm subsidies…”
– https://www.dairyherd.com/article/canada-73-us-milk-price-subsidized

Regards Subsidies to Animal Agriculture Farming Businesses in the USA, the following is care of www.VeganJusticeLeague.com

1/. This short clip explains “We may not pay to kill animals, but our taxes still do. It’s time to end animal agribusiness subsidies.” at https://www.facebook.com/VeganJusticeLeague/videos/857170091282848/

2/. Explanations on their site:

“The animal ag industry spent $18 million on lobbying and $22 million on campaign contributions in 2018. Between the bailouts and their usual subsidies – both direct and indirect – they received $50 billion – with a B – in tax-funded benefits. All to keep breeding & slaughtering more animals.
That’s a 1250x Return On Investment
$18 Million. That’s how much corporate animal agribusinesses pay lobbyists every year to bend farm policy to their clients’ advantage. As a result, the latest farm bill ensures animal farmers profit regardless of how we Americans vote with our dollars
$38 Billion in Subsidies & $30 Billion in Bailouts = More Animal Victims Every Year. All funded by YOU – the US tax-payer.
Since 1933, our government has been using our taxes to bail out corporate agribusinesses. 2018 marked the highest production of animals ever despite the biggest stockpile surplus in our history. Why? Because of $38 billion in subsidies. The Ag Industry regularly over-produces, as farm policy innoculates them against falling demand. The FARM BILL is our BIGGEST OBSTACLE to saving ANIMALS …”
– https://www.veganjusticeleague.com/1250x-roi

We’ve Got a Good Plan.
1. Organize Politically: Joining forces with the 4-10 million vegans in the US, we’ll take a seat at the political table.
2. Pool Our Money: If 0.05% of American voters contributed $10 per month, we’d out lobby the entire animal agribusiness industry.
3. Hire VJL Lobbyists: Mobilizing monthly members now, VJL can hire our first lobbyist by year’s end …”
– https://www.veganjusticeleague.com/index#plan

2016 report in National Review: “The Elephant-Sized Subsidy in the Race.”
Excerpt: “An estimated $23.9 billion. That’s what total government handouts to agribusinesses will be next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office…
a massive share of farm subsidies go, rather, to animal-based agribusinesses — to the meat, dairy, and egg industries — in the form of aid to growers of corn and soy, the two biggest components of animal feed for industrial farms.
It’s quite a lucrative business model, especially for an industry that often loves to tout its belief in free-market principles. When crop prices begin to dip, rather than accepting lower income, as most businesses would do, the agribusinesses are bailed out by the federal government at the taxpayers’ expense. Or, to put it another way, as a headline in Agriculture.com noted: “As Crop Prices Sink, Farm Subsidies Soar.”
These industries occupy an astoundingly coveted position among American businesses: They get bailouts when they overproduce, have their most costly business expense (feed) subsidized, get federally supervised dollars to market their products, and even get free research and development that they benefit from but for which they don’t pay a cent.
But does animal agribusiness really need to be feeding from the federal trough like this? After all, as author David Simon observes in his book Meatonomics, the dairy industry spends more on advertising in one week than the blueberry, mango, watermelon, and mushroom industries spend all together in a year.
At a time when we’re being encouraged to enjoy more fruits and vegetables, why does animal-based agriculture get such a disproportionate amount of support from the USDA and Congress?…”
Source: https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/02/end-farm-subsidies-now/

2018 report: “Dairy industry doesn’t deserve American taxpayer bailout.”
Excerpts: “As the conservative Heritage Foundation notes, agricultural subsidies cost taxpayers about $20 billion a year: “This includes a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to mostly large agribusinesses that are (or should be) fully capable of managing their business operations without this special treatment. The end result is less choice for consumers, distorted prices, reduced innovation, and onerous government influence…
In recent years, demand for conventional dairy products has fallen. Plant-based milk alternatives (e.g., soy, almond, coconut, rice) now constitute roughly 10 percent of the dairy market. These plant-based producers are prospering despite the government rigging the system against them. There’s no $20 million bailout in store for them if they miscalculate product demand, nor should there be…”
Source: http://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/377406-dairy-industry-doesnt-deserve-american-taxpayer-bailout

Related report: “Congress Gives Massive Subsidies to Farmers – It Shouldn’t.
Excerpts: “In addressing agricultural subsidies, the pervasive myth of struggling farmers should be dispelled. The typical farm household enjoys much greater income and wealth than nonfarm households. From 2005 to 2014, the median income for farm households was 19 percent greater than all U.S. households. In 2013, the median net worth of farm households was 10 times that of all U.S. households.
Most agricultural subsidies that make up the so-called “safety net” benefit large agricultural producers. According to the Environmental Working Group, the top 20 percent of federal crop insurance policyholders in 2011 were the beneficiaries of 73 percent of the total premium subsidies (taxpayers subsidize about 62 percent of the premiums that farmers pay)…
The federal “safety net” for farmers removes almost all agricultural business risk… Just a minor dip in expected revenue will produce an insurance check. Essentially, taxpayers are just protecting farmers from the ordinary risks of doing business…
The focus should be on eliminating government intervention that makes it more difficult for farmers to manage risk and engage in farming activities to meet consumer demand.”
Source: https://www.heritage.org/agriculture/commentary/congress-gives-massive-subsidies-farmers-it-shouldnt

2019 news report “$1m [million] a minute: the farming subsidies destroying the world – report
Excerpts: “The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report. [1]

Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser.

The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says …

A series of major recent reports have concluded the world’s food system is broken. It is driving the planet towards climate catastrophe while leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight …

Another report found that avoiding meat and dairy was the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, with livestock using 83% of farmland to produce just 18% of calories.

The “planetary health diet” published by scientists in January requires an 80% cut in the red meat eaten by Europeans and North Americans. Adopting this diet in coming decades would mean 60% of today’s pasture could be used for wildlife or other purposes, an area similar to the size of Brazil …

it said transforming the food and land use systems in the next decade is a remarkable opportunity, which could reap a societal return more than 15 times the investment costs required, which are estimated at less than 0.5% of global GDP …”


Qualified Farm Property

Another factor that will determine if the land is eligible for the capital gains exemption is whether or not the land in question meets the definition of “qualified farm property.”

Real property, such as land and buildings, meets the definition only if it is used to carry on a farming business in Canada by one of the following:

  • You, your spouse or common-law partner
  • Your parents or children
  • The beneficiary of a personal trust or the spouse or common-law partner or child of such a beneficiary
  • A family-farm corporation in which any of the above persons own a share of the corporation
  • A family-farm partnership where any of the above persons owns an interest in the partnership

There also are two separate tests that can determine whether your land is qualified farm property.

If you meet either of these tests, you can rent your land for as long as you want and still qualify for the capital gains exemption.


Covid-19 creates challenges for the cattle industry

Through a late Friday announcement, cattlemen learned that Tyson will pay $5 per hundred weight more than the agreed-upon price for all cattle slaughtered during the week beginning March 23, 2020.

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Region X director, Justin Tupper, St. Onge, S.D., said the announcement came “totally out of the blue” and that last weeks increase in boxed beef prices was unprecedented.

“Boxed beef values increased by about $42/cwt. On a 900 pound carcass that equates to almost $400 more that the packer is pocketing.”

The St. Onge Livestock manager was stunned with Tyson’s announcement, which he said is a “drop in the bucket” — probably around $60 per head extra that feeders will see.

His organization has been urging Congress to ask for Department of Justice investigations into possible misconduct on the part of the packers.

“I’m sure they have been getting some pressure after the unprecedented rise in boxed beef prices,” he said.

Live cattle (finished cattle) were selling for around $105/cwt last week, Tupper said, while boxed beef was worth $154/cwt.

March and April are historically the best months of the year to sell fat cattle, said Tupper, so the market tumble is hitting especially hard.

The cattle market has felt the effect of COVID-19 (coronavirus) for weeks now.

Economist and rancher Brett Crosby, Cowley, Wyo., said he is working with the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association to determine how many dollars feeders and cattlemen lost in value, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organization plans to submit a request for an aid package from the federal government.

“The backgrounders and the feeders are the two sectors hit the hardest,” he said, because backgrounders are normally selling weaned calves this time of year to go to a feedlot or to grass. Feeders have finished cattle ready to slaughter, and every day the cattle wait to be marketed, they gain extra, unneeded fat and lose value, regardless of the market situation. In recent weeks, they have lost significantly more value daily because of continued slide of the market.

Fat cattle have diminished in value upwards of $140-$200 per head, he said, which equates to a a devaluing of $5,000-$7,000 or more for each load of cattle sold. Many of the cattle headed to slaughter were already being fed at a loss, he said.

Meanwhile, packer margins remain strong, said Stephen Koontz, Colorado State University ag economics professor.

“Packers are being paid well to attempt to stay open,” he said. The meat processing industry struggles to find workers on any given day, and the current pandemic only exacerbates that problem, he said.

“That packing job is one of the hardest in the world, it’s going to be hard to get people to work there when a lot of other jobs pay comparably.”

The drop in the live cattle market was to be expected, although not as severe, even before the coronavirus hit the media, he said.

“We had big numbers, big weights,” he said, and added that the U.S. economy wasn’t likely to continue doing so well forever.

“Their (cattle feeders’) only chance of mitigating loss is to buy cheap feeder cattle and hope we’re out of this in six months. They are motivated to move cattle now so they can buy some cheaper cattle,” he said. And while feeder cattle prices are valued below breakeven for backgrounders and ranchers, they still aren’t low enough for the cattle feeder to buy them and make a profit in the current market environment, Crosby said.

Many feeders were expecting a strong market through the spring because numbers were down slightly in January and February, due to feeder cattle not selling during the Holcomb, Kan., fire market crash. “Those cattle would have normally come out in January and February and they had been pushed off,” he said. Crosby said those smaller numbers should have given feeders the chance to hedge well but the pandemic scare took that opportunity away.

Illness in Asia created concerns over the export market, initially pressuring down the cattle market in January, Crosby said. “Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea buy more U.S. beef than the rest of the world combined,” he said. However, when looking at the data, Asian exports were 20 percent higher than the year before, year to date.

Crosby explains that hedged cattle lost less, but the fact that some are hedged and some aren’t, can exacerbate market downturns.

“Packers understand that as long as they bid enough higher than the futures that they are giving an incentive for anyone who is hedged to take a bid,” he said. “What happens is you have just enough people who are hedged just enough that are willing to let go, and accept a bid from the packers. And then that kind of forces everyone else to take that same price.”

And essentially nobody is hedged 100 percent, because they want to maintain the opportunity to make money in an up market, too, he explained.

R-CALF USA is asking President Trump for five “stop gap” measures in the face of the cattle market downturn:

1. Direct lenders to grant emergency extensions of loan repayment deadlines and provide essential emergency operating funds.

2. Grant federal capital gains tax relief for farmers selling land, cattle, and equipment to remedy their current financial plights.

3. Eliminate the red tape that prevents state-inspected beef plants from selling beef across state lines to increase competition for cattle and eliminate the current bottleneck in beef distribution to consumers.

4. Suspend the decision to allow raw beef from disease-affected Brazil.

5. Direct the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately investigate the cause of this week’s inexplicable market volatility marked by severely depressed cattle prices and skyrocketing wholesale beef prices.

The organization also requested a brief face to face meeting with the president a well as for the administration to:

Place immediate limits on the percentage of cattle that packers can procure through arrangements that both circumvent and undermine the competitive cash market (to preserve the integrity of our industry’s nearly destroyed price discovery market, which, importantly, informs our industry’s futures market).

Require all beef sold in America to be distinguished as to where the animal from which it was derived was born, raised, and harvested so American consumers can put American cattle producers First and choose to purchase safe, wholesome, exclusively American beef.

The U.C. Cattlemen’s Association is concerned about anti-competitive behavior by packers who are buying cattle on a down market and selling beef into a market with significant demand.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is asking for a government assistance package.

“In order to combat this staggering burden, NCBA has been actively engaged with leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that relief funds from any aid package reach these struggling cattle producers directly. It is important that any such relief avoids the lasting market-altering effects of a price support program, such as those that have been proposed by some members of the Senate. Instead, we must keep the focus on providing quick, targeted relief to struggling producers. While the effects of COVID-19 will be felt across the country, we must ensure we avoid permanent, fundamental changes to workings of the American cattle market. We applaud Senators and Representatives from across the country who are working to provide those solutions using proven avenues such as the Commodity Credit Corporation as administered through USDA.

Crosby is concerned about those producers who will be forced to sell cows and heifers to pay bills. “We’ve already been seeing a liquidation, this will likely accelerate it,” he said.

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican, is concerned about increased bankruptcies.

According to a news release, Rounds intends to introduce legislation that would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to use Commodity Credit Corporation funds to offset losses cattle producers take in the live and feeder cattle markets. He requests that cattle producers be paid based on USDA’s projected average feeder cattle price, so if their cattle sold for less than the said value, the producer would receive the difference.

Rounds also called on the president to support trade deals that support mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef, and called for investigation into whether the nation’s top meat packers have engaged in anti-competitive activity by abusing their concentration of market power and have engaged in an unlawful price fixing scheme.

Koontz said the industry needs another month to figure out what the economy is doing, whether the job market will be affected long term, and more. He said because beef is the highest priced protein, it is affected significantly when consumers are uncertain of their incomes. He acknowledges, however, that some feeders needing to offload cattle don’t have a month or two to wait. The cattle industry isn’t alone in its struggles. “Everyone is in the same boat,” said Koontz. What we’re going through is market-wide.”

Cattlemen in every sector should consider risk management tools, such as USDA’s price insurance, he said. “We’ve gotten used to not thinking about risk management. I think it needs to be a regular consideration in any sort of farming and ranching operation.”

While social media outlets are full of consumer testimonies of “empty shelves” in grocery store meat coolers across the country (this writer saw evidence of such from shoppers in California, Arizona, North Dakota, Montana and more), beef isn’t necessarily flying off shelves across the country, Koontz said.

Kids being home from school won’t significantly impact food purchases overall because the total number of consumers in the country hasn’t changed, he said.

What can cattle folks expect in the coming weeks? That is the million dollar question. “The laundry list of stuff we don’t know is enormous,” said Koontz. “We need some time.”

“These are unprecedented times. But every generation has those times,” Crosby said.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
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Will avoiding meat and dairy save the planet?

Will avoiding meat and dairy save the planet?

Those of us with the resources may choose to be conscientious consumers by purchasing meat from local farms or abstaining from animal products altogether. But “voting with our forks” is not enough. 116 U.S. factory farms already overproduce meat and export much of it. 117 Even if everyone in the U.S. went vegan tomorrow, the industry would likely continue to produce meat. Likewise, reducing or eliminating meat consumption will not change the incentives that drive other ecologically-depleting farming systems that prop up factory farms, such as the overproduction of commodity crops on monocultures.

Moreover, animals have long played important roles in healthy, diversified farming systems, and “provide the missing element needed to develop sustainable systems, particularly in terms of soil health.” 118 Integrating cattle into crop rotations can build soil organic matter and increase yields while reducing fertilizer use. 119 Grazing livestock can clear fields of noxious weeds that might otherwise be killed through chemical herbicides. 120 And sustainable grazing can be done on land not suitable for crop production, such as prairie grasslands, where cattle meet the ecological needs that bison once filled and help restore soil function. 121 Diversification also increases a farm’s economic resiliency by not focusing on one or two products alone. 122

Nevertheless, shifting to smaller, pasture-based livestock systems will ultimately reduce the amount of meat available and quite possibly raise the price of meat. 123 However, many Americans are already rethinking the role of meat in their diets, with two-thirds reporting reduced consumption for health and environmental reasons. 124 In fact, reducing protein intake to recommended levels by cutting back on animal products would slash per person agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 40 to 45 percent. 125 A shift to sustainably produced, better quality meat is a win-win-win for our health, farmers and the climate.

Simply put, the forces behind what we grow and eat are too powerfully entrenched for us to “shop our way out of it.” We need to enforce our antitrust laws and overhaul farm policy — and this will only occur when we elect decision-makers not beholden to corporate agribusinesses.


Right-to-Farm Debate Heats Up

Credit: cwwycoff1 / photo on flickr

If I asked you to think of an agricultural-law issue that's been making news in states across the country recently, you'd probably throw up your hands in the air. Maybe you'd shrug and suggest something to do with genetically modified food (GMO) labeling. And if I told you, as I am, that the answer to my question was Right-to-Farm laws—which NPR labeled "a divisive national issue" earlier this year—I suspect my first task would be to explain just what the heck the term means.

Right-to-Farm laws are on the books in all fifty states. They are enshrined into some state constitutions, including in Missouri, where the state constitution now guarantees, in perpetuity, "the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices" in the state.

Right-to-Farm laws like Missouri's generally serve two key purposes. First, they protect farm owners from state and local regulations that might restrict farming. For example, Louisiana recently issued a statewide ban on all private burns in the state, a measure adopted as a result of dry conditions. But the state's farmers are exempt from the ban. That's because Louisiana's Right to Farm Law defines burning as a generally accepted agricultural practice.

Second, Right-to-Farm laws also protect farmers against the real specter of nuisance lawsuits. In particular, they help protect farmers against lawsuits by neighbors who—in legal parlance—come to the nuisance. "Many agricultural areas have seen individuals without farm backgrounds and little understanding of farm operations moving into the neighborhood," reads a 2013 University of Maryland report on the state's Right-to-Farm law. "Once there, they find noises, insects, farm equipment on the roads, smells and normal characteristics of agricultural and rural life unexpected and objectionable and then they complain."

So Right-to-Farm laws protect farmers against those who move near farmland, only to then complain about the all farming that's going on around them. The laws can also protect new agricultural businesses. For example, a New York Right-to-Farm law recently helped a goat farm in the Catskills beat back opposition from neighbors after the owner sought to reopen a vacant barn in the center of the small town of Andes and turn it into a microcreamery.

While the creamery or the practice of agricultural burning in Louisiana may not be terribly controversial, other generally accepted agricultural practices around the country, along with legal protections for farmers, have put Right-to-Farm laws in the crosshairs of activists in recent years.

The Humane Society of the United States, a leading animal-rights group, opposes Right-to-Farm laws. In a piece on Missouri's Right-to-Farm law, Modern Farmer labeled HSUS the "outside group most often associated with trying to dictate how the farmers of Missouri operate" in the state. NPR called the fight in Missouri, which ended in defeat for animal-rights advocates, "a fight between two sides that loathe each other."

Some environmental groups also oppose the measures. That's the case in Indiana, where retired farmer Dick Himsel is suing a neighbor, a hog farm, despite the state's strong Right-to-Farm law. The Hoosier Environmental Council, a group that "has targeted food safety, animal rights and the environmental impact the corporate livestock industry has in Indiana," filed the suit on behalf of Himsel, whose lawsuit centers on his claims about odors and dust he says the neighboring CAFO has emitted since it first opened two years ago.

But don't Right-to-Farm laws preclude lawsuits like Himsel's? Not exactly. The fact they serve as an affirmative defense doesn't prevent (and hasn't prevented) people like Himsel from filing lawsuits against farming operations. It just makes such lawsuits far less likely to succeed than non-agricultural nuisance lawsuits.

Himsel says he'd love to pack up and move from his Indiana farm, but he claims the hog farm has devalued his property so much that he couldn't sell it off. In a perfect world, if Himsel's claims are true, then the hog farm might offer to buy Himsel's property at a reasonable price. Right-to-Farm laws make a fair-market-value purchase like that far less likely.

The flipside of Himsel's argument is what many see as proper comeuppance for animal-rights groups. These groups have used the law to restrict foie gras, dictate minimum sizes for hen cages and pig crates, and crack down on other agricultural practices. For years, they've been on the offensive. Right-to-Farm laws—particularly those enshrined in state constitutions—put these groups on the defensive.

When animal rights groups have sought to defend their own rights to advance their agenda in the marketplace of ideas, I've defended that right. But using the law to crack down on the rights of farmers has had the unintended consequence of forcing those same farmers to fight back with laws of their own.

Supporters of Right-to-Farm laws include Protect the Harvest, a Missouri-based advocacy group founded by entrepreneur Forrest Lucas in 2011. The group "exists to defend our way of life, preserve our food freedom and stand up for America's farmers, sportsmen, and animal owners." Protect the Harvest argues that Right-to-Farm laws "simply prevent outsiders" from meddling in "current laws and regulations that keep our food healthy, maintain strong welfare for our animals, and reduce impact on the environment."

In many cases, I agree with Protect the Harvest. I have no doubt at all that Right-to-Farm laws offer important protections for farmers of all sizes.

Still, I don't go whole hog on the laws. Ten years ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels actively encouraged a doubling of hog farming in the state and strengthened Right-to-Farm protections for CAFOs in Indiana. If there's a problem today in Indiana, then it's one Daniels helped foster.

Ultimately, I think states should do nothing either to discourage or to encourage farming. They should always rebuff efforts to legislate away the important rights of farmers to farm. But states shouldn't set centralized agricultural goals that attempt to artificially bolster market demand, either.

The future of Right-to-Farm laws will play out in Indiana and other states in the coming years. Oklahoma voters will decide next year whether to add Right-to-Farm language to that state's constitution. And down the road, Right-to-Farm laws could include protections for marijuana growers. If you hadn't heard of Right-to-Farm laws until today, expect to see lots more on them in coming years.


USDA to Stop Handing Out Farm Subsidies to Anyone Not ‘Actively Engaged’ in Farming - Recipes

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

This is like a patent troll subsidy ( Score: 2)

The common agricultural policy should simply be stopped. Taxes refunded and reduced.

Re: ( Score: 3)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

it comes down to "all the other guys subsidize, so we do too." Is this not the case?

Not so much, I was under the impression that all the other guys (where other guys are third world) can't get a market started in some places because euro and american farmers are subsidised out the wazoo.

Oh sure, both of these huge economic blocks love to talk about free markets, but when it comes to farming, we're just not willing to compete fairly in our internal or external markets.

Part of this is because France would jus

Re: ( Score: 2)

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True, my previous comment was rather one-sided. You can't have food production in europe grinding to a complete halt in case the worst happens.

I don't know where the line is exactly.

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"Yes, some innocent people (but not good people) may be executed wrongly"

Get the fuck out of democracy, now. You're too stupid to have the vote.

Re: ( Score: 3)

food we bury in the ground (yes, really)

That's a good policy. We should always produce extra food and then bury the extra.

That way, when there's a drought, you just bury less food and no one starves, and prices stay relatively stable.

Food stability has to be balanced against food efficiency - not everything should be thrown to the free market.

Re: ( Score: 3)

Except that there IS a drought at the moment, in eastern Africa. I'm sure those folk would really appreciate all that food you're burying. Thanks.

They certainly would, but then this is not really germane to the conversation. If you take away the subsidy, there would be no food to bury. In short, they'd be in exactly the same situation.

Perhaps there is some way in which you could distribute excess food without crashing food prices, but that's another discussion entirely.

Re: ( Score: 3)

Good luck getting the food to the "people" and not the local warlord/junta/dictator without boots-on-the-ground military interdiction.

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That comes into the economics of food = power. The USA could easily ship enough food to keep them from starving, but that's really not the point. If a country doesn't devote ITSELF to managing it's agriculture then food becomes another WEAPON. That's exactly what our food subsidies are right now. they are weapons for the local dictator in power. They've slash and burned all the local farms to "prevent resistance" and they use the charity from first world countries so they can be the only ones with food..

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EU tried that. It completely destroyed the local economies when Europe gave such huge annual quantities of food. Giving out food ended up causing more hunger crises than it solved because the recipient countries stopped producing food. This is why this type of charity is now reduced to limited time, and only during extraordinary circumstances.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Ending these subsidies won't put a penny back in the hands of taxpayers, it'll just go back to the treasuries of the member states.

The EU has the same problem as any level of government that doesn't raise its own taxes, in that if they lower their budget one year when the money isn't needed, it'll be nigh on impossible for the to raise it again later when it is needed. So while I don't necessarily like the situation, I understand why the EU wouldn't want to just hand the money back.

Re: ( Score: 2)

In US, that's how it should work.

For us that haven't got any national debt. ? No, this is a good suggestion!

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But governments like to hold onto power. Remember, you're always about 9 meals away from a revolution. As Juvenal noted, it's all about bread and circuses. Agricultural subsidies can help insure food supply and stabilize prices. As with all government subsidies (housing, education), the rich game the system, but without them you would see a lot more instability in food prices.

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You say that as though a desire to avoid mass hunger was some kind of evil conspiracy.

Making sure that the people who elected you don't risk starvation is pretty high up the list of priorities for a decent and competent politician.

Re:This is like a patent troll subsidy ( Score: 4, Interesting)

Governments can do good things. Just because you grew up in a time after government solved most of peoples' major problems doesn't mean you should now turn against government.

A hundred years ago, people were suffering under the lack of a social safety net, unregulated robber barons, unfair working conditions, and virtually no government investment in infrastructure and science. During the 1900s, we accomplished many things by careful, measured application of taxes, investment, and regulation. Many of these things are good some of them are poorly designed and should be revised. If you and your kind succeed in repealing every regulation, tax, and investment, our society will collapse.

Sensible government investment and regulation should be supported, not railed against.

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The real purpose for farm subsidies is that city folk don't like to starve! Only 5% of the US population is actually engaged in GROWING food for the other 95%. And with current food prices, that number is actually in danger of going down. One of the big lessons of the Great Depression era was the "dust bowl" problem. Poor farming techniques caused farmers to plant and grow only for what they could get to market. Which was fine until a mass drought hit, and then ruined places where food was still able to b

Ha, yeah, good luck with that ( Score: 2, Insightful)

The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins. And that's not to mentioned that Archer Daniels Midland [wikipedia.org] (ADM) basically owns half of them (you think they're just going to roll over and give up billion of $ in subsidies to a bunch of eggheads without a nasty fight?).

You'd have better luck getting cuts to oil subsidies through Texas's and Alaska's objections. And even that is nigh impossible.

Re:Ha, yeah, good luck with that ( Score: 4, Insightful)

The "farming lobby" is more about large megacorps than it is about real farmers. That's the real problem here. If you cut out the farm subsidies then some very large corporations will be hammered right in the pocketbook. They aren't going to take that lying down. Neither will Republicans.

This is all about "big business". Using the word "farm" to refer to any of this is a huge and misleading misnomer.

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Re:Ha, yeah, good luck with that ( Score: 5, Insightful)

Really? You live in the city, right?

I sure know a lot of family owned farms here in east central Illinois that take the subsidy programs.

But, what do I know. I just hang out with farmers and own farmland of my own. I assure you I'm hardly a megacorp.

Yes, the large corporations like ADM and many others do large lobbying pushes, but they don't directly vote. In farm states (you probably call them fly-over states), the congress-critters often rely on the farm vote to keep their jobs.

Whether it should be that way is a different discussion, but the simple picture you paint is misleading at best.

Yes but ( Score: 2)

I sure know a lot of family owned farms here in east central Illinois that take the subsidy programs.

And how many of them merely rent the land they till? One of the largest farmland owners in the US has an adress on Park Place, IIRC. Yes preservation of farm families is a good thing, but less so if they are not much more than serfs.

Re: ( Score: 2)

There's a lot of cash rent and crop share, but most of the farmers where I'm at own a lot of their own ground. It's usually been in families for generations.

You get people buying up land for investment, but surprisingly often their at least local. We've got a local cardiac surgeon who owns large amounts in this county. He's not a megacorp either. (Disclaimer: he operated on my dad for an aortic aneurysm. Several farmers I know farm land he owns, but they also have their own land too.)

Re: ( Score: 2)

WTF? 4, insightful? Anecdote trumps aggregate numbers? And so what if you've got some great buds receiving being funneled cash from Uncle Sugar-Daddy Sam? I supposed to ignore the 90+% of ag subsidies not even going to family farmers, just to avoid hurting your friends' feelings?

They can go fuck themselves. They can get go get a job doing something that doesn't require naked extortion from taxpayers. You know, like non-sociopaths.

Bugs Bunny: "What a maroon": ( Score: 2)

Since you seem to know what my (and their) opinions on subsidies are better than I do, I'll just let you tell me.

Makes the argument a lot easier for you, no? I'll just listen to you rant. Pass the popcorn.

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Um, you just defended the subsidies on that grounds that people you like get them. Even if there's more to it than that, you're still ultimately advocating socially-unproductive welfare payments to farmers who can do fine on their own -- and would do something *useful* if they weren't hooking up with Uncle Sugar Daddy.

The subsidies need to end. Completely. As long as you disagree, my arguments were quite responsive to your position. (I use the term "position" here loosely of course. It's actually giving

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"Um, you just defended the subsidies on that grounds that people you like get them."

You really need to take a critical reading course. Or do you just re-interpret things to suit what your mental model of the world is?

I wrote that what Jedidiah said didn't square with my own experience and I thought it was a simplistic view of a more complex reality.

"Whether it should be that way is a different discussion, but the simple picture you paint is misleading at best."

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I didn't say that anyone should give up subsidies while having to compete with those who are subsidized. I said the subsidies should end so that all of the welfare babies can go do something worthwhile for once in their lives. (Or better, *don't* compete, since there's overproduction in that area already, get a real job, and join the cause of ending favoritism in government, like an honorable human being.)

I wrote that what Jedidiah said didn't square with my own experience and I thought it was a simplistic view of a more complex reality.

Right, you said that because you have some buds (i.e., anecdotal evidence), that somehow refutes the

Re: ( Score: 2)

I kind of have to side with farmers on this one. You cut subsidies, put a lot of farmers out of business, land goes back to native etc. This is all well and good until a blight or something wipes out half the crop one year.

Then you have food shortages and mayhem. Food is one of those things you just don't want to fuck around with. I have no issues paying taxes for farm subsidies.

Remember the Irish potato famine? Reduce farming to need based only and that's what you set yourself up for. As it is we have a hu

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I'm not a big fan of subsidies. A lot of farmers I know aren't either. But, if your in farming, it's a business. If the subsidies are available, you nearly have to take them to stay competitive with those who do.

There are some situations when countries have to use them, but in most cases they're a poor sort of crutch and last far longer than they are really needed.

They're addictive. When you have subsidies people/businesses get used to them and when you cut them it can hurt.

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This is Slashdot. It's not like we were expected to read the fucking title.

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To be fair it's all the same thing, just change a few words to "France".

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Re: ( Score: 3, Insightful)

The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins. And that's not to mentioned that Archer Daniels Midland [wikipedia.org] (ADM) basically owns half of them (you think they're just going to roll over and give up billion of $ in subsidies to a bunch of eggheads without a nasty fight?).

You'd have better luck getting cuts to oil subsidies through Texas's and Alaska's objections. And even that is nigh impossible.

Suprisingly the US Congress and midwestern senators and the like have very little say in the EU.

Re: ( Score: 2)

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And this has to do with the EU how?

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They probably have their own versions of ADM and Con Agra.

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I think the EU would have a hard time cutting any US subsidies. WTF? You can't even get past the first word of the subject line of the article?

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And don't forget that agricultural research in Europe has a tendency to find itself on the wrong side of an angry [expatica.com] desrtuctive [google.com] mob. [redgreenandblue.org] Food producers won't like the lost subsidies, and lot of people in Europe just don't want science in their food so I can't imagine they'll support more research either.

E.U != U.S. ( Score: 2)

The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins.

I'm actually pretty sure that most of Congress, and particularly midwestern Senators that are plugged in to US agricultural interests, would be quite happy with the European Union ending farm subsidies the E.U. (unlike the EE.UU.) isn't the U.S.

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Good thing that the Farming lobby and the congress has nothing to do with EU!

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I was meaning to reply to the post above referring to trying this in the U.S. I think I hit the wrong reply button and ended up in a new thread.

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Good thing we in the EU (where this is being proposed) don't have to pay any heed to the US congress isn't it?

We could do this in the USA ( Score: 2)

Some things don't change ( Score: 2)

Obviously the parties currently in power would not be interested in that change.

It's worse than that. The disproportionate power of the smaller States in the Senate is not only built into our Constitution, it's the only part that can't be amended.

That little feature isn't changing unless we toss the one we have and replace it with a whole new one -- a plan that I think you'll agree is not without major risk.

Subsidies are a drop in the bucket. ( Score: 3, Insightful)

Imagine what we could get done if we weren't spending billions per month on war.

Our problems with the budget have nothing to do with unemployment, welfare, SSI, or unions, or whatever monster that the Republicans say is hiding under the bed. It has everything to do with the fact that we're pissing money away on wars that we/did not and are not paying for/. (Cut taxes while fighting a war? Just who the fuck is claiming fiscal responsibility here?)

We give science short shrift here when it is/undisputed/ by people on both sides of the aisle (except for nutcases like Palin) that basic and applied science give valuable dividends to society as a whole.

And don't tell me that the "free market" and companies will take up the slack. PARC no longer exists and neither does Bell Labs. R&D has been the first thing to be cut by bean counters in the last 30 years.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Don't let your mindless Republican bashing get in the way of this being a story about the EU.

Re: ( Score: 3, Insightful)

Republicanism is morally and fiscally bankrupt.

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And anyone that thinks Republicans and Democrats aren't the same exact party (with a different name) that do the same stupid shit is a moron.

People need to put down the koolaid, seriously.

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False equivalency fallacy.

The Republicanists and their propaganda wing, Fox News, want you to believe that "the Democrats are just as bad as we are" to make it look like they're not as bad as they really are.

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Got multiple wars going on. can't balance the budget. I know lets cut the space program. [rolls eyes]

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To illustrate directly: each JDAM costs $35,000 - $70,000 [wikipedia.org]. We might as well ship out crates of luxury automobiles and push them out the back of transport planes.

The war machine backs up the US dollar ( Score: 2)

The US dollar funnels the world's wealth to the USA and allows the US to effectively tax the rest of the world through inflation.

The 40% of government spending which goes on the military is to keep americans fat and happy. Without the dollar siphoning off the wealth from the rest of the world, American lifestyles would be far more difficult to maintain.

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I'm not sure how a powerful military enforces that though, the situation mostly exists through the US being the largest single and single language market. The dollar isn't backed by bullets, it's backed by taxes.

America should do the same ( Score: 4, Informative)

Do the same here. ( Score: 3)

Even with my strong libertarian leaning I realize there is a social benefit to perusing real science and innovation.

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We should do the same here. Off the top of my head my quick list of subsidies that should be cut:

Even with my strong libertarian leaning I realize there is a social benefit to perusing real science and innovation.

You guys subsidies oil?
In most European countries there's high energy taxes on oil. In Denmark 8 USD/gallon is quite normal.

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Don't you mean terrified? If gas ever reached $5 a gallon, the news would officially label it Oilageddon.

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I'll bet your daddy. ( Score: 2)

The CAP is badly run, inefficient, but a good idea ( Score: 5, Interesting)

The CAP is badly run, inefficient, but a good idea. The EU are very bad at publicising the true aim of the CAP, which is food security. Most people seem to think it is just some sort of political back-hander to farmers, but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market. This would result on reliance on countries in Africa, Asia, etc. for most of our food. When scarcities occur these countries may well impose a cap on exports. China and India have both limited rice exports in the past. Also if countries know that we are dependent on them it becomes a political weapon. It is worth spending some money to ensure that we are not totally reliant on outside sources for food.

Now if they want to save money on inefficiencies in the implementation of the CAP and spend it on science I am 100% behind that, but if they want to rely on the world market for our food supply I think that is a dangerous idea.

Re: ( Score: 3)

but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market

So why does Britain still have agriculture - we don't get much in subsidies, It's mainly the French who get the lions share of the subsidies - that's the whole reason why Britain gets the big rebate and we all argue about all of this every budget.

I don't support a penny more to the EU - they tried to take over the military and have and extreme military expansionist policy last time they (and who is they?) wrote the so called 'constitution' - constitution my arse, corporate wet dream more like.

Re: ( Score: 2)

but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market

So why does Britain still have agriculture - we don't get much in subsidies, It's mainly the French who get the lions share of the subsidies.

France gets almost 2.5 times the subsidies of the UK. They have slightly less than twice [wikipedia.org] the area of agricultural land that the UK has. It obviously is unfair, but not to the gross level that some people seem to think. After the rebate it is about even.

that's the whole reason why Britain gets the big rebate and we all argue about all of this every budget.

I don't support a penny more to the EU - they tried to take over the military and have and extreme military expansionist policy last time they (and who is they?) wrote the so called 'constitution' - constitution my arse, corporate wet dream more like.

EU is a bad idea, it's not democratic, no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws, one MEP to millions of people is extremely undemocratic and unrepresentative and allows for corporate lobbyists to have more clout than ordinary citezens. Some laws have even been written in part by corporations on behalf of the unelected Commission who chose the laws. MEPs only get to vote on them and they are snowed under by a Commission with a law writing addiction out of control.

Citizens of Europe don't understand that their local gov'ts only decide on prison sentances and local taxation, everything else is decided by faceless unelected bureaucrats.

OK so you are against the EU in general. This probably means that you are happy with the UK relying on the open market for 40% of its food needs. I think that in future as populations increase world wide this will be a disastrous move.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Right. The EP is undemocratic. Says a Brit whose system of vote is first-past-the post (you vote is not diluted, it just doesn't count) and a house of lords. There are 500 000 000 citizens of the EU. They all count.

Also "no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws" is not just a stupid argument. It is the ultimate "I am entitled to my ignorance and my point of view" point which completely invalidates anything you might say. Go read WP or something. It is just not that complicated.

Re: ( Score: 2)

I don't like first past the post either, but at least in Britain you can talk to your MP and make a difference.

"no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws" is not an argument at all, it is an observation of fact - the fact that Europeans are clueless about how European government works and that can't be good for democracy.

The European Commission is as democratic as the house of lords. The difference is the house of lords strikes down bad laws whilst the Commission creates them.

Re: ( Score: 2)

The European Commission is as democratic as the house of lords. The difference is the house of lords strikes down bad laws whilst the Commission creates them.

How would you know? The media in the UK ignores the EU completely unless they're bashing them. The BBC has good coverage of European politics on specialist programmes on the news channel at odd times of the day, but you will never see mature coverage of EU policy on any mainstream news programme or in any mainstream newspaper in the UK, even the sca

Re: ( Score: 2)

I agree, UK media sucks bad, I know how the EU works because I went out of my way to find out, Wikipedia was useless - it does not document the workings of EU governance well.

Media doesn't cover the EU because British people are apathetic about real politics much like Americans - they'd rather be talking about football or 'stars in their eyes'. Hundreds of years of political struggle seem to be going down the drain because people are too lazy to think for themselves and have succumbed to the corporate messa

Re: ( Score: 2)

> faceless unelected bureaucrats

Right. Sure.
- the European Parliament's MEPs are directly elected by the citizens
- the European Council is made up of heads of state, like, say David Cameron, who (I hope) is elected by the citizens.
- the European Commision is indeed not directly elected, but has to be approved by the Parliament, and put in office by the Council - seems like there's still some democratic checks there.

Just because you don't know these "foreign" people, doesn't mean they haven't been electe

Re: ( Score: 2)

Britain doesn't elect it's head of state - the Queen, it also doesn't elect it's Prime Minister - the main party in parliament's leader becomes Prime Minister.

MEPs don't make most of the decisions, the decisions that count are made by the Commission and their and others bureaucrats.

Just because you don't know these "foreign" people, doesn't mean they haven't been elected.

Why are you trying to put racists words in to my mouth, they certainly don't belong there. And what makes you think I'm not one of 'these "foreign" people' as *you* put it.

You can right to your MEP all you like - they don't make

Re: ( Score: 2)

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That used to be the case (for milk and butter, to be precise) since the 1970ies up until 2007. The matter has been taken care of.

Iit will never happen ( Score: 5, Interesting)

The Common Agriculture Policy [wikipedia.org] (CAP) was devised as a way to keep a strategic asset, the ability to produce food without depending on foreign powers, in spite of any economic pressure that could force farmers to abandon farming altogether and therefore squander the food production potential of the EU members. This is mainly achieved by a series of agricultural subsidies devised to keep farms afloat even when their production, in today's market, is far more expensive than any import food, particularly in the third world.

Knowing this, reducing CAP subsidies so that the money is directed elsewhere represents the destruction of europe's agricultural potential and the abandon of europe's objective of being self-dependent in terms of food production. Although investing in science and technology is always a good thing, doing it at the expense of being able to guarantee europe's basic needs isn't a smart move. It's literally betting the farm on the expectation that a boom in tertiary and quaternary industries will be enough to compensate the dependence on third-world countries, some of whom are run by despots, for the ability to get a meal. Just to put it in perspective, just think of a OPEC [wikipedia.org] formed to control europe's food imports, and imagine the effect of a speculation attack on the price of food. It would be suicide.

And I don't even mention the lobbying for the agroindustry.

So no, don't expect this shift to occur. The CAP subsidies will keep on being directed to the farmers and science will be forced to get it's funding from somewhere else.

Re: ( Score: 2)

ust think of a OPEC formed to control europe's food imports, and imagine the effect of a speculation attack on the price of food. It would be suicide.

Cartels don't work, because it you are part of the cartel and you agree to quotas, then if you believe that everybody else will only fulfill their quota, then you may as well go above it, because it's not a big deal in terms of total output.

However if you believe that everybody else is going above their quota, then for you not to go above it is really stupid.

This means that regardless of what is agreed upon by the cartel, everybody is cheating and trying to sell more than they agreed t

Re: ( Score: 3)

Why Europe should be self-sufficient in food production?

How stupid a statement can you make?

Argicultural land doesn't just exist, it's argicultural land because it's actively being maintained as Agricultural land and would revert to natural habit very quickly. Much more than a decade out of use and you couldn't turn it back into Argicultural land without major effort (cutting trees, plowing over grass land etc) before you could even sow and even then the yields in the first few years are going to be very


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Tyson Pushes Organic Farmer Off His Property

Battling giant agribusinesses isn’t just confined to Washington. This year, the war is being fought in what used to be a pristine, quiet riparian woodland stretch in Macon County Tennessee. That’s where Tennessee’s oldest and largest organic farm has been duking it out with a Tyson food subsidiary.

Long Hungry Creek Farm is owned by Jeff Poppen, otherwise known as “The Barefoot Farmer” in his numerous PBS appearances. For more than a year Jeff fought a battle with his neighbors, who were seeking to build a Tyson chicken CAFO within a hundred yards of Jeff’s home and a large swath of his organic farm.

The neighbors own more than 70 acres on which they could have built, but in a complete disregard for all human decency, they chose to build right on the border between the two properties and within a few hundred feet of Jeff’s home!

This, despite the fact that Tyson’s own regulations require that chicken houses not be built within 1,500 feet from a school, business, or public places.

In response to this argument, the Tyson subsidiary argued that Long Hungry Creek Farm is “not a business.”

Alan Powell, the CSA Manager for Long Hungry Creek Farm, reports:

Anyone with any sense of fairness recognizes that to build so close to Jeff when you own over 70 acres to place such an operation, is just not right, and almost comes across as vindictive. Cobb [the neighbor] has successfully changed the nuisance laws in Macon County to remove any simple recourse to prevent the encroachment and subsequent threat an operation like theirs poses to a chemical-free, biodynamic, decades-old established farm and business like Jeff’s. While the company continues to insist there is no threat of runoff or contamination from their chicken houses, that doesn’t make sense given the proximity and volume of chickens just up the hill from Long Hungry Creek Farm.

Sadly, the two new chicken houses that comprise the new CAFO house more than 37,500 birds!

Not only are these birds directly uphill from Jeff’s home and this section of his farm, they’re also upwind — meaning that all sprays, pesticides, ammonia smells, and chicken waste runoff will be coming right down the hill to Long Hungry Creek Farm.

The threat of this contamination and the loss of Jeff Poppin’s organic certification prompted Long Hungry Creek Farm to fight a year long battle against building these chicken houses so near their property’s boundaries.

As part of that effort, friends of the farm engaged in a lengthy letter writing campaign to Cobb-Vantress (the Tyson subsidiary) asking them to build their new facilities further back from the property line. Even an extra 1,000 ft. would have made a HUGE difference!

We know they spray insecticides and herbicides around the buildings, it is explicitly stated in the contract Jeff’s neighbor signed to become a farmer for the Tyson subsidiary….

We fought this and managed to hold off the operation for over a year, before the company found a loophole that exempted them from the permit that was previously preventing the chickens from being allowed on site. They often repeat in correspondence that they have been cooperative, and in fact did reorient the houses so that the vents blew away from the farm. I hold that reorienting the houses shows that something foul (no pun intended) comes out of these houses, even if just the smell, but potentially airborne chicken feces that contain antibiotic residues, ammonia, and if the practice is still in use, arsenic, which used to be standard in industrial chicken feed.

This waste is not merely assumed or expected. It’s already been experienced first hand by Jeff and his Long Hungry Creek Farm workers. Earlier last year, after a particularly heavy rain, they experienced a mudslide from the newly built chicken houses down the hill into their gardens.

Seeing the runoff prompted one witness to proclaim,

It doesn’t take much to imagine that this mud is an equally massive amount of drug-laced chicken shit sitting around in the rain while it is waiting to be picked up. Approximately 200 tons of waste from the CAFO is expected to be cleaned out two times a year, which is over 11,000 cubic feet in volume. Layered a foot deep, how many football fields is that?

Because of this, Jeff made a heart breaking decision to close down operations on this side of his farm, to move his family out of his home of nearly 40 years, and to relocate to the other side of his property.

“I can’t guarantee organic production here anymore,” Poppen said.

“Because of how close they built it, there will be no more gardens here, no more T.V. shows filmed here, no more church and school tours here and my family and I are moving,” Poppen posted on his Facebook page.
(source)

To see an aerial photo of the encroachment of the Tyson subsidiary (and just how shockingly near it is to Jeff’s farm), click here.

PLEASE NOTE: It has been misreported that Long Hungry Creek Farm is closing. Rather than closing, the farm is simply abandoning this part of its operations. It will still be open, and it is currently taking applications for membership in its 2013 CSA program. Nevertheless, the farm, and Jeff Poppen in particular, have taken a serious hit.