by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: USDA

Nov 2 2017

USDA updates its chart collection

The USDA has just updated its agricultural statistics charts.

Some of the charts deal with trade issues.  I thought this one was especially interesting.

We (or farm animals) consume most of some commodities (pork, corn, beef).  Others are mainly for export (cotton, almonds,).

This is why trade matters to much to U.S. agriculture.

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Oct 9 2017

Belgium’s new food pyramid

Belgium has produced a new food guide “pyramid,” upside down.  Its advice:

  • Drink water
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • Eat less dairy and meat, particularly those high in fat
  • Eat a lot less junk food, sugary drinks, and alcohol

Nothing new here, really, except for making the advice so graphically clear.

As Quartz puts it, “the new food pyramid in Belgium sticks meat next to candy and pizza.”

USDA: take note.

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Oct 4 2017

Food security: a roundup of new reports: international and domestic

International

For the past few weeks I’ve been collecting reports on food security.  I’ve already posted the most recent report on worldwide trends (not good) from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Here are two more on global trends:

In an editorial triggered by the FAO report, The Lancet announces a major effort to address global food security:

In 2018, The Lancet will launch four food-related initiatives: the EAT-Lancet Commission, the LancetObesity Commission, a Series on health and agriculture, and a Series on the double burden of malnutrition. Each of these projects will reinforce a different aspect of the global call for equitable and sustainable provision of food to be a priority: recommending how policy makers approach food systems inclusive of health, cultural respect, agriculture, production, transport, trade, and retailing.

U.S. Domestic

In the meantime, food security remains a significant issue in the U.S., as indicated by this collection of recent reports, mostly from USDA:

Jun 8 2017

What’s up with trade in agriculture?

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says this about our new “trade breakthrough” with China:

This is tremendous news for the American beef industry, the agriculture community, and the U.S. economy in general.  We will once again have access to the enormous Chinese market, with a strong and growing middle class, which had been closed to our ranchers for a long, long time. .. When the Chinese people taste our high-quality U.S. beef, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll want more of it.”

Why “breakthrough”?  China refused to buy US beef after a case of mad cow disease turned up.

The  point of US trade policy is to have open markets for our products.  USDA has a quick summary of our current balance of trade.  We are doing pretty well with it.

And here’s why:

Hence: Selling beef to China should up those numbers.

May 23 2017

What ag schools really need to teach: a report

The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities has just released a report titled “Challenge of Change” about how the USDA can do a better job of funding research to solve important problems in food and agriculture.

The challenge:

 

Traditionally, the effort to achieve food security has been largely focused on the need to increase yields in order to produce more food. There is now broad recognition that production alone will not solve the grand challenge. All aspects of our food systems must be considered: nutrition, food safety, food loss, economic costs, individual behaviors, incentive structures, and societal factors affect not only production, but also access and utilization. There is also now an understanding that production increases must be achieved in the context of water availability, energy limitations, and environmental impact.

The report concludes that universities will need to change, so as to:

  • Elevate Food and Nutrition Security to a Top Priority
  • Align University Resources and Structures for Transdisciplinary Approaches
  • Enhance and Build University-Community Partnerships
  • Educate a New Generation of Students to be Transdisciplinary Problem Solvers

To achieve food security, food and agriculture will need to change to:

  • Broaden the Focus Beyond Yields
  • Change the Food System’s Incentive Structure
  • Develop the Capacity of Universities in Low-Income Countries
  • Leverage Technology, Big Data, and Information Science Information

This is an important report because it comes from land-grant universities .  These are currently responsible for supporting industrial agricultural systems and virtually ignoring—or firmly opposing—sustainable agricultural production methods.

A challenge for change indeed.  I hope land-grant universities listen hard.

 

May 18 2017

U.S. agriculture at a glance: USDA’s charts

USDA’s charts make it easy to understand basic aspects of farming in the United States.  This one covers about 175 years of American history.   The number of farms fell fast after the end of World War II and is still declining, while the size of farms increased.

Where are the jobs in the food and agriculture industries?  Mostly in food and beverage service and stores.

Farming?  A mere 1.4%.

May 16 2017

Let’s help protect and strengthen our favorite USDA agencies

I’m indebted to Jerry Hagstrom’s Hagstrom Report for letting me know about USDA’s new reorganization plan.

We get to file comments on the reorganization.

Now is our chance to tell this administration how important USDA agencies are and why they need to be strengthened.

Reading through the list makes me realize how many of USDA’s agencies do work that I admire and use frequently.

Reform?  Yes!

Ask for more resources for all of them!

Research

  • Agricultural Research Service
  • Economic Research Service
  • National Agricultural Library
  • National Agriculture Statistics Service

Education

  • Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Food assistance and school meals

  • Food and Nutrition Service

Food safety

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service

Here are the relevant documents.  Let’s look at this as an opportunity to protect and strengthen these critically important agencies.

Addition: A reader writes: “Meanwhile in Iowa the legislature voted to eliminate the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Governor Bransted did a line item veto and saved it sort of. Looks like it can live on in name only.  And the top scientist at the USDA probably won’t be a scientist.”

May 15 2017

What fruits and vegetables do Americans eat? More charts from USDA

I love USDA’s charts of food and agriculture statistics because they tell most of the story at a glance.

These are based on USDA’s compilations of foods produced in the U.S. plus imports, less exports, divided by the total population.

The most commonly consumed vegetable?  Potatoes by a long shot (think: French fries).  Next comes tomatoes (pizza).  Variety anyone?

How about fruit?  Oranges, apples, bananas.   Really, can’t we be more adventurous?

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