Monday, February 27, 2012

Protesting Those Who Feed The World

Are you ready for it?

Occupy our Food Supply starts today. The organizers promise protests of “corporate control of our food supply” across the globe.

Says the Website: “Industrial agribusiness corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, ADM and Dupont have gained runaway control of our food systems and to take them back, we'll need all the collective power we can manifest around the world.”

The “movement” claims to unite 60 “occupy” groups and 30 environmental, food and anti-corporate groups. It is coordinated by the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network and claims support from singer Willie Nelson, actor Woody Harrelson and -- who else? -- writer Michael Pollan.

HOTH wonders what would happen to the rainforests -- and a good bit of the world's inhabitants -- if the group achieved its goal of rolling back global food production to a system dominated by backyard farms and community gardens.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Take Those School Lunch Rules and Shove ’Em!

The congressional delegation from dairy-rich Idaho has had it with the Agriculture Department and its restrictive school lunch rules. The four members of the delegation told USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently, “We do not want federal regulations in Idaho that will limit our milk and dairy consumption in schools.” 

School lunch nutrition standards issued last month limited milk in school meals to low-fat and fat-free varieties only and eliminated chocolate milk unless it is fat-free. Similar draft rules are expected soon covering cafeteria a la carte lines, school vending machines and school stores.

“While many schools have trended towards fewer varieties of milk offerings, these same cafeterias are filling their coolers and vending machines with more sports drinks, flavored water, fruit drinks and diet beverages,” the House and Senate members from Idaho told Vilsack in a letter. “Though these beverages may be marginally lower in calories, they are incomparable to milk in terms of nutritional value.”

The delegation, which also helped head off restrictions on French fries in school meals, asked specifically that low-fat chocolate milk be allowed in the soon-to-be issued rules covering cafeteria a la carte lines.

Everyone -- except, apparently, for the bureaucrats at USDA -- knows that kids prefer chocolate milk over white and, in fact, will choose almost anything else to drink over white milk. So, USDA's nutrition standards will result in kids drinking less milk. Brilliant!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Loser Pays

Indiana could become the latest state to require those who lose nuisance lawsuits they file against livestock farms to pay the farm's legal fees. 

H.B. 1091, called a "right-to-farm" bill by supporters, passed the Indiana House, 57-39, Jan. 31 and was scheduled for a hearing before the legislature's Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 16 states already have statutes requiring plaintiffs to pay attorney's fees in agricultural nuisance suits.

The Indiana bill is supported by the Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Pork Producers Association. Not surprisingly, environmental groups are opposed.

Republican Rep. William Friend said he introduced the bill because farms need protection from lawsuits filed simply to interfere with their business. While livestock farms have been the subject of most nuisance suits, the bill would apply to all farms in the state.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

‘Pork Chops with a Side of Nostalgia’

“Commercial farmers will have to decide whether we can withstand public opprobrium while continuing to efficiently produce the world’s most essential good or join the entertainment industry, selling expensive pork chops with heaping sides of nostalgia.”

With those 36 words in Sunday’s New York Times, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst pretty much summed up the entire debate over modern livestock farming. Hurst was commenting on a television ad from Chipotle -- run during the Super Bowl -- implying that pigs in controlled housing are somehow less happy than those allowed to roam free.

“Since we can’t ask the pigs what they think,” Hurst wrote, “we know only one thing for sure about the effects of scrapping our most efficient farming systems: the cost of bacon will rise. Wealthy consumers will reward farmers who are able to pull off the Chipotle ad’s brand of combination farm/tourist attraction and are willing to trade efficient animal husbandry for political correctness. Many big multistate operations will also be able to afford to make the changes, or will at least have the political sway to resist them. But the small farmers now raising hogs will be pushed out of the industry.”

HOTH couldn’t have said it better!

Friday, February 17, 2012

N.Y. Lawmaker Demands Food Companies' Proprietary Information

Unable to get congressional traction for restricting antibiotic use on farms, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., has fired a broadside at more than 60 fast food restaurant and grocery chains, food processors and food producers.

In letters dated Feb. 16, Slaughter demanded to know each firm’s policy on antibiotic use in meat production plus the percentages of beef, pork and poultry offered that is raised with and without antibiotics. And for those who admit to offering meat from animals treated with antibiotics, Slaughter wants to know the details of that antibiotics use—specifically, was it for “therapeutic reasons” or “routine” use?

Slaughter, the sponsor of a bill restricting antibiotic use in livestock, gives the companies until June 15 to respond.

The New York Democrat makes her requests despite strong evidence that the risk of human antibiotic resistance problems developing from using antibiotics in livestock is negligible. A more likely cause of resistance is over-prescription of drugs for humans.
HOTH wonders if Slaughter is sending similar letters to antibacterial soap manufacturers or physicians. It also imagines that the food companies' responses to the congresswoman may be a polite go jump in a lake! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Child Labor Reg Panned—Again

Don’t look for the Obama administration’s ill-starred regulation toughening child labor rules on farms to go into effect anytime soon.

A day after the Labor Department said it would redraft the regulation’s most controversial provision, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., ignored that concession and pledged to amend an appropriations bill to prevent the rule from being implemented.

“We’re not done with this,” Rehberg told a department witness at a Thursday hearing of the House Small Business Agriculture Subcommittee. “We do get to put the riders on … I know it will pass the House.” Rehberg has led bipartisan congressional opposition since the regulation was proposed last fall.

The regulation was repeatedly criticized at the hearing, which also heard from Missouri pork producer Chris Chinn. Chinn said her two children work on their family farm daily and also work on their grandparents’ farm—and have never been injured. “We don’t need anyone in Washington, D.C., to tell us what our children can and can’t do on our farm,” she said.

The proposed regulation would have barred kids from performing many tasks on farms, including driving tractors or painting a barn if they'd need to be higher than 6 feet.