The USDA has a new report out analyzing the effects of a 10% subsidy on fruits and vegetables. This, its economists say, would increase consumption a little, but not enough to meet recommendations and the cost would be hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Does this mean that lowering the cost of F&V isn’t worth the trouble? Why am I not convinced by this argument?
Currently browsing posts about: USDA
Slow Food USA is promoting efforts by groups who want an organic garden grown at the White House and who would like to see some representation of interest in sustainable agriculture at the USDA. Here’s your chance to sign petitions on both those issues. And the American Gothic illustration of the Obamas is pretty cute too.
Here’s a statistic that reveals the current status of the American agricultural system. According to a recent USDA report, farms earning a annual income of a million dollars constitute just 2% of American farms, but account for a whopping 50% of total U.S. farm income. Small family farms: where are you when we need you?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has a committee doing a big study that will lead to recommendations for improved nutrient standards for school breakfast and lunch programs sponsored by USDA. The committee has just released its “Phase I” report, which explains how it plans to go about setting those standards and asks for public input. This report is available online as a pdf (go to “Read” and click on “full text”) so you can read it and let the committee know what you think of its approach. For anyone interested in the school meal situation, the report is a great place to start. It gives the history of the programs and explains why so many people think changes are needed. It will be interesting to see where the committee goes with this project. Stay tuned!
The New York Times editorial writers have some interesting things to say about the challenges facing the new USDA secretary. The Vilsack appointment, they say, “has the merit of being unsatisfactory to both extremes of the farm-policy debates.” This makes me wonder when sustainable agriculture will be viewed as the wave of the future, and not as “extreme.” Soon?
12/23 update: Here’s Kim Severson’s piece in the food section on what needs to happen at the USDA.
Well, we now have our answer to the question of who President-elect Obama will appoint to head the USDA: former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. I don’t know much about him. What I hear is that he is former chair of the Governors Ethanol Coalition (uh oh), the Governors Biotechnology Partnership (oops), and the National Governors Association’s Natural Resources Committees (not sure about this one). I’m disappointed. This looks like mainstream, industrial agriculture to me, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, at least for awhile.
The Organic Consumers Association, however, is not. It says his appointment is hardly “change we can believe in,” and it “sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration.” If you agree with the OCA, you can join its petition opposing the appointment.
According to meatpoultry.com, Vilsack is a lawyer who does not have roots in farming. He did, however, compete for the presidential nomination. And let’s not forget Wikipedia, which has already added this appointment to Vilsack’s biography; its entry points out that this appointment strongly contradicts Obama’s campaign promises: “Obama and Biden will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability.”
And for more about this appointment, see Kerry Trueman’s Eating Liberally blog.
The USDA says it will be taking samples of meat and poultry products that contain ingredients derived from milk to find out whether they contain melamine and, if so, how much. It will be sampling five kinds of products: baby foods, cooked sausages, breaded chicken, meatballs, and meat and poultry wrapped in dough (including calzones). Great. I’m hoping they will be using the same kinds of methods used by FDA and coordinating closely with that agency. If ever we needed a reason to have just ONE food safety agency instead of the multiple ones we have now (USDA, FDA, EPA, etc), melamine is as good as any.
Food Democracy is circulating a petition to the Obama transition team to appoint a USDA Secretary who cares about sustainability (what a concept!). Click on the link to join the movement! If you want to read more about this, see Nicholas Kristof’s column linked to my post on December 10 and Michael Pollan’s magazine piece linked to the one on October 12.