Archive for the ‘Food Policy’ Category

cownoseNice editorial in the New York Times yesterday about progress with the government’s efforts to curb the use of antibiotics as a growth promotion tool in livestock. Sadly, I am one of the skeptics mentioned in the article.

First of all, you have to look at the economics. Commodity farmers use antibiotics because it is profitable to do so. Put antibiotics in the feed—animals grow faster (nobody yet knows why). More importantly, if you don’t put antibiotics in the feed, you will be competed out of business by those who do. This is the same dynamic as the doping problem in professional sports. If you can’t stop elite athletes from putting harmful illegal drugs into their own bodies to make money, how can we expect to stop conventional farmers from doing it to their livestock—especially with a voluntary labeling program?

(Just in case it is not clear—we do not put antibiotics or added hormones in our feed.)

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Left to right: Craig Fournier, Chelsea Kruse, Beth Hodge, Jeanne Shaheen, Steve Normanton, Kate Snyder

I did not even wear a coat and tie to my own wedding, but I had to wear one last week when Craig and I traveled to Washington DC as part of a New England Farmers Union delegation. Along with other members of the National Farmers Union, we were there to lobby our region’s representatives in the House and the Senate, to work on getting a new Farm Bill passed and not to just extend the old one for another year. Extending the old Farm Bill would jeopardize some of the programs that support our farmers the most in New England. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program would fall by the wayside due to lack of funding as a result of their expired baselines.

We also brought attention to some of the sticking points in the FDA’s recommended Food Safety Modernization Act that would have a catastrophic financial impact on small farmers all over New England. On Tuesday, NFU presented Rep. Annie Kuster (NH) with a Golden Triangle Award, the organization’s highest legislative honor. This annual award is presented to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership and who support policies that benefit America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural communities. Finally, we briefed both House and Senate New England representatives about the increased livestock and aquaculture production in our region, and we highlighted some of challenges we are facing due to lack of infrastructure, lack of skills and training.

It was a busy week and a great opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of policy making, but I was really happy to get back to the farm and “slip into something more comfortable”!

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There was a great interview on NHPR this morning of Gary Hirshberg, who is stepping down today as CEO of Stonyfield Farm. Hirshberg is going to focus more on his campaign to convince the government to require food producers to identify genetically engineered ingredients in food. The interview is definitely worth a listen. But if you don’t have time for that, his most convincing argument is about how GE crops are used in conjunction with huge amounts of chemical herbicides (for surpressing weeds). I was shocked to learn that Dow Chemical has even applied for permission to sell a new GE corn to be planted in conjunction with 2,4-D, a major component of Agent Orange. You can find more information (including a petition to the FDA) at http://justlabelit.org/.

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