Food News You Can Use

November 15, 2011

  • First Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance Violated: According to Food for Maine’s Future (11/14), “On Wednesday, November 9, Dan Brown, owner of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, was served notice that he is being sued by the State of Maine for selling food and milk without State licenses. Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, a local law that permits the types of sales Brown was engaged in. By filing the lawsuit, the State of Maine and Walter Whitcomb, Maine Agricultural Commissioner, are disregarding the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed nearly unanimously by the citizens of Blue Hill at their town meeting on April 4. . . . A rally and press conference will take place Friday at the Blue Hill Town Hall.” Food for Maine’s Future requests public support by following the Facebook page, “We Are Farmer Brown.” Ordinances and resolutions based on the original four passed in Maine towns have passed in other towns and counties across the country.

  • “Marketing to Kids: Collateral Damage in Big Food’s Profit Hunt”: Whistleblower Bruce Bradley, who has been called the “Wendell Potter of Big Food, Inc.,” exposes (11/14) how sweetened breakfast cereals are marketed to kids using characters that “tell a brand’s story through imagery vs. facts,” just like Joe Camel.
  • Young Farmers Find Huge Obstacles to Getting Started: Sunday’s New York Times (11/13) published Isolde Raftery’s article on beginning farmers’ obstacles. The article quotes Lindsey Lusher Shute, wife of Benjamin Shute of Hearty Roots Farm in Red Hook, NY. “Everyone wants young farmers to succeed — we all know that,” Shute says, “But no one was addressing this big elephant in the room, which was capital and land access.” Agriculture secretary and Monsanto buddy Tom Vilsack “appears to have championed their cause,” and “[l]ast spring, his deputy, Kathleen A. Merrigan, toured colleges and cities to encourage young people to farm,” but neither the “2008 Farm Bill. . . program for beginning farmers and ranchers, . . . [which] allotted $18 million to universities and extension programs to educate beginning farmers,” nor the PR tour have done much to address these barriers.
  • “Farm-to-Table Event Turns Sour when Health Inspector Crashes Party”: According to the Las Vegas Sun (11/12), when a “farm-to-table” dinner at Quail Hill Farm in Overton, NV, was planned last month, “the Southern Nevada Health District saw an ad for the event and decided to get on the case. . . . The night of the event, the guests arrived at the farm, and so did the food inspector. . . . In the end, the health inspector demanded that bleach be poured on the food, including vegetables, to ensure it was not consumed.” According to farm owner Laura Bledsoe, “the health department was obsessed with shutting down the event,” despite environmental health supervisor Susan LaBay’s admission that “farm-to-table meals will often be safer than a store-bought one, because fewer hands touching the food usually makes for a safer meal. And she said she’s sympathetic to the idea of legislation that would help farmers host these events while still complying with the law. The problem is that the regulations were written for the era of industrial food production and often don’t allow for freshly butchered meat, raw milk and homemade items like pickles. Until the law is changed, LaBay said, ‘We don’t have an option.’”
  • “Four Billion New Reasons Why Food Will Become a Local Government Issue”: According to the WorldWatch Institute’s Citywatch (11/12), “it’s time for new thinking about preparing food for a party of seven billion. . . . Many see that pace of population growth as a forerunner to doomsday scenarios of some kind, especially if there’s a ‘perfect storm’ of overpopulation, resource depletion (fossil fuels in particular), collapse of bio-diversity and climate chaos. How now brown cow, many prominent scientists and food analysts ask. Be afraid, be very afraid.
    “But food and population numbers may be one more example that size isn’t everything.  While recognizing the need for deep-seated changes, there’s good reason to suspect fear-mongering about some of the food estimates. First, the  predicted scale of demand for food production increases could well be way off. Equally important, the assumed  location of the disaster and the presumed key actors in avoiding disaster may  be different than commonly assumed.”
    “My counter-scenario has two elements: first, that we can nourish as many as nine billion people without breakthroughs in food production technology; and second that cities and not some impersonal ‘world’ have the tools at hand to address the challenges. Development of human agency and civic capacity will tell the tale, not technology.”
    For more, read the full article here.
  • Organic Agriculture in San Diego County Under Threat: According to an article in the East County Magazine (11/3, updated 11/10), a proposal by the County Board of Supervisors to declare pesky eye gnats a “vector” rather than a “nuisance” “would allow the County to order chemical [pesticide] spraying for eye gnats similar to programs used to control mosquitoes. A vector declaration is sought by neighbors plagued by the insects near two organic farms, but is opposed by growers including the San Diego County Farm Bureau.” The proposed mandatory pesticide would render the organi cAfter “organic farmers and their customers flooded supervisors with hundreds of complaints that spraying would force organic farms out of business countwide, Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price are now backing a more moderate plan, the San Diego Farm Bureau’s executive director Eric Larson told ECM.”
  • “Can the Oceans Continue to Feed Us?” (Truthout, 11/10)
  • “Irreversible Climate Change Looms Within Five Years” (Common Dreams, 11/9)
  • “The Secret Farm Bill” (Mark Bittman, New York Times, 11/8)
  • Memo to Congressional Super Committee: Taking “Green Scissors” to budget would yield $380 billion in savings: The Green Scissors campaign (a coalition consisting of “progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth, deficit hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute”) told the Congressional Super Committee in August that “ending a third of a trillion dollars in environmentally harmful subsidies could go a long way toward solving our nation’s budget challenges.” Their full report is available here. Did the Super Committee listen?
  • “Down on the Factory: How an Industrial-Size Farm Works”: Madison, Wisconsin, investigative journalist Ron Seely published an exposé of factory farms in Wisconsin, complete with an interactive map, in 2010. This very useful resource can be found via the Wisconsin State Journal (2/28/10) here.

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