Friday, March 30, 2012

'EPA Overreach Protection Act'

Nearly one-third of the Senate Wednesday introduced legislation to head off what many see as a attempt by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to greatly expand waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The CWA bars discharging pollutants into “navigable” U.S. waters without a permit.

“President Obama’s EPA continues to act as if it is above the law,” said Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a bill sponsor and frequent EPA critic. “It is using this overreaching guidance to pre-empt state and local governments, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and homeowners from making local land and water use decisions.

“Our bill will stop this unprecedented Washington power grab and restore Americans’ property rights,” Barrasso added. “It’s time to get EPA lawyers out of Americans’ backyards.”

EPA maintains that the about-to-be-issued guidance does not expand protection to any waters not already covered under the CWA and that traditional exemptions for agriculture will remain in effect.

HOTH -- and 30 U.S. senators -- is skeptical.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seizing the Ethical High Ground …

A YouTube video from the Center for Food Integrity adds some much-needed perspective to the debate over modern agricultural practices. Using simple images and effective statistics, the nine-minute video refuses to yield the high ground to advocates who want to “roll the clock back to an earlier time.”

If the number of farms and their productivity had remained constant since 1950, the video says, today “there would be no food for the equivalent of the nine most populous states, or approximately half the current U.S. population.”

“It’s difficult to argue that would be the ethical choice,” narrator Charlie Arnot says.         

Turning to the problem of feeding a growing world population, the video explains that, without significant additional productivity gains, “by 2050 there will be no food for 300 million people, nearly the current U.S. population.” Arnot urges viewers to “support responsible food production systems that allow us to produce the food we need by using fewer resources to meet the growing global demand for food.”
“Isn’t that the ethical choice for people, animals and the plant?” the video asks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Don’t Like Conventional Ag? Get Over It!

Skeptics of modern agriculture should “get over whatever anxieties” they have because the trend is toward a more global food system.

So said Wellesley College professor Robert Paarlberg, speaking last week to a less-than-friendly audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

Paarlberg, whose remarks were captured by Agri-Pulse, an industry newsletter, said the global food system is being driven by declining transportation costs, while alternative agriculture is hampered by lower yields and higher labor costs.  

“The alternative agriculture camp is gaining enormous strength in the cultural marketplace,” Paarlberg said, “but it hasn’t yet significantly challenged conventional agriculture in the commercial marketplace.”

The number of farmers’ markets, for example, has doubled and Community Supported Agriculture projects have increased 10 fold, said Paarlberg, but their percentage of food sales remains “trivial” at about 0.4 percent.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Affordable Eggs As Common As Hens' Teeth

Supporters of the deal between U.S. egg producers and animal-rights advocates to double the size of the cages used for laying hens might take note of the following news report out of Great Britain: 

Supermarket shelves could be empty of key products within a month as an acute shortage of eggs threatens to have serious consequences for the country's food chain. New EU rules banning the housing of hens in conventional cages are being blamed for what some in the industry are already labeling a “crisis” ... The price of eggs on the European Union wholesale market has nearly quadrupled over the past week to more than four Euros a kilo.

HOTH anticipates similar problems in this country under legislation writing into law an agreement between U.S. egg producers and the Humane Society of the United States to increase the size of laying-hen cages from 67 square inches to 124 square inches. The bill, H.R. 3798, was introduced in January by Rep. Kurt Shrader, D-Ore.