by Marion Nestle
Sep 17 2011

Public relations in action: the food dialogues

Like many food advocates I know, I’ve been invited to participate in a “food dialogue” (I couldn’t because of previous commitments):

Americans have a lot of questions about how our food is raised. What is the impact on our health and the health of the planet? It seems there are more questions than answers. Join us on September 22 for The Food Dialogues — a new effort to bring together different viewpoints on agriculture.

We are inviting leaders in food, cooking, media and policy, farmers of all types and business leaders to be part of the discussion. Four panels in key locations around the country will discuss Americans’ biggest questions about farming and ranching from the cost of food to the environmental impact. Join us live or virtually.

The invitation comes from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).  This is

a newly formed alliance currently representing more than 50 of the top farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners. We are committed to working together to continuously improve how we raise food that provides healthy choices for people everywhere. We are an industry that has always looked at how to do things better, including how we listen to and answer Americans’ questions.

What is this all about?

I am grateful to Nancy Huehnergarth of the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance for her explanation, “Let the Big Ag reframing begin.”  She points out that this is a professional marketing campaign Zocaló Group (Ketchum Public Relations) and that

any alliance that starts out with a $30 million budget means business and will be a force to be reckoned with. The USFRA’s goal, obviously, is to begin to reframe the debate about food production and agriculture in this country — a debate that up until now has been dominated by food and agricultural reformers.

Pay close attention to what this group says to divert attention from what Nancy summarizes as the “deplorable conditions, unnecessary subsidies and unsafe/unhealthy practices that have, sadly, become mainstream in our food and agricultural system.”

Update September 18: Here is’s take on USFRA.

  • Roxanne


    I’m not sure what your point is about the cantaloupes tainted with listeria. Those cantaloupes have been officially determined to come from Jensen Family Farms in Holly, Colorado (in the Rocky Ford region). This is the state I live in, and I am very familiar with what’s going on. This small farm is owned by two brothers (they also grow a variety of other produce for regional markets), and they ship their cantaloupes nationwide. Jensen Family farms is not part of any Big Ag company, but they are part of a farm cooperative for the region that works to market and ship farm products from Southern Colorado. They are not certified organic (an expensive venture), but they practice many organic farming methods. It’s not known HOW the listeria tainted the cantaloupes. Listeria outbreaks are not usually associated with melons of any type (I think this is actually the first known case of listeria tainted cantaloupes anywhere in the country). The listeria could have come from anywhere, including from a farm hand that was infected with it.

    The Jensen brothers were emotionally devastated when it was confirmed that their melons were making people sick, and they voluntarily pulled all of their melons from the market and stopped their harvest. They did this before the Colorado Health Department asked them for a recall.

    I sincerely hope their 3rd generation family farm isn’t destroyed by this.

  • Christi

    When I heard about listeria in cantaloupes, as well as other suspicious bacterial outbreaks that are blamed on things like spinach, I knew there was something shady going on. It would be no surprise to me to find that big agra corps use techniques like so-called “outbreaks” to undermine small, truly organic farmers. Trans-national conglomerates like Monsanto and ConAgra have made it a multi-national mission to devastate small farmers and monopolize the food chain. It saddens me to see the Jensen brothers and many other small businesses forced out of their generational farms by the transgenic freaks of nature over at Monsanto, et al.
    Listeria and other bacteria can come from anywhere. Bacteria is everywhere, on and in everything. If the average human immune system were functioning properly, listeria and other infections like salmonella and e.coli would not be an issue. However, if our immune systems weren’t so racked in dealing with the toxic overload of our food and environment, our bodies would neutralize these infections without major illness. If we didn’t irradiate, pasteurize, and kill all of our food before we ate it, we would have built up natural immunity to these sometimes problematic strains of bacteria. But, unfortunately, the soil and food supply have been raped and ravaged by big agra corps. leaving us with toxic, barren soil and toxic, barren food. And guess what? The human body is also toxic and barren, ripe for deadly infections to move in and settle down. To blame the bacteria on cantaloupes for causing outbreaks of illness and not on the pitiful decline of the functioning of the human immune system, is seriously disturbing. I hope yet another small farm isn’t shut down for such a misinformed absurdity.