Digest: Farm Bill funding battle, Straus in Time, tragedy of the commons applies to whole Earth

First salvo in budget battle: The Senate Budget Committee chair issued his blueprint for federal spending yesterday, which included $15 billion more for Farm Bill agriculture spending between 2007 and 2012 than did the Congressional Budget Office baseline. Senate Ag Chair Tom Harkin says that’s not enough and vows to get more before the budget is done. Brownfield

Way, way beyond organic: Time startles us again with another spot-on piece about the latest twist in the food revolution — going non-GMO. Reporter Jyoti Thottam writes about how Albert Straus of Straus Family Creamery found that nearly 6% of the organic corn feed he used was “contaminated” by genetically modified organisms. (Huh? Aren’t Straus cows raised on pasture? Yes, says the website, but they also get some grains, hay, and legumes.) Now Straus has banded together with Whole Foods and a few others to come up with a “non-GMO verified label” — execution of which faces hefty challenges. Time

Globalization needs global laws: UPI food writer Julia Watson has a refreshingly big-picture take on British small fishermen’s complaints about encroaching European trawlers that are basically strip-mining the oceans. “Whether dealing with fishing or CO2 emissions, we need a universal set of regulations, universally implemented, experts say. Neither fish nor air understands when borders have been crossed. We can’t opt into and out of globalization when it suits us.” United Press International

The mind boggles: Tom Philpott examines the labor crisis brewing that may threaten the cheap prices of U.S. food. For example, having enacted draconian anti-immigration laws, Colorado finds itself short of farm workers (and other jobs Americans don’t want) — so it’s hoping prisoners will harvest its crops! For 60 cents a day! (Farmers will pay the state about $9 per hour for the labor.) Grist

The greening of textiles: Organic cotton, free-range leather — consumer sales of organic fiber for things like clothes and linens totaled $160 million in 2005, up 44% from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The WSJ says that while the USDA does regulate the labeling of organic cotton and wool, it doesn’t control how they are processed — that is, they could still be treated with chemical dyes and flame retardants. Wall Street Journal* (Thanks Dr. Vino!)

Pre-emptive strike: Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have announced “The Healthy Farms, Foods, and Fuels Act of 2007,” the first major bill in Congress dealing with the reauthorization of the 2007 Farm Bill. And the title, for once, doesn’t mean the opposite. Mulch

Rearranging the deck chairs?: Recent government reports show that the number of agricultural inspections at points of entry have decreased sharply since Homeland Security took over the job from the USDA. Yesterday, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill to shift the inspections back to the USDA. Feinstein press release

Rice commission says no to GMOs (for now): The California Rice Commission’s Board of Directors voted to support a ban on field trials of GMO rice in California. With the recent “leakage” of experimental GMO rice into commercial fields, and the resultant international outcry, the commission wants time to study the safeguards in the research plans. Greg Massa of Massa Organics, who led 200 rice growers to this victory, is stunned. Sacramento Bee

Keeping the pandemic out of the pan: We frequently have harsh words for the FDA, but a report about the FDA’s new pandemic preparedness plan shows some sense. Human antiviral drugs are prohibited for use in poultry, and the FDA is developing a test to identify if such drugs were used. CIDRAP press release

Oregon next on crate-banning offensive: Scheduled for public hearing on Friday, an Oregon Senate bill would outlaw the “restrictive confinement” of either a pregnant sow or a calf raised for veal, like measures that have passed in Arizona and Florida. Industry reps protest it’s unnecessary, because a) Oregon has no veal industry and only about 4,000 breeding hogs and b) big producers like smithfield are voluntarily moving that direction anyway. Oregon Live

Have you tried advertising them?: Americans (particularly male ones) are not eating anywhere near enough fruits and vegetables, says new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reuters

No appeel: Banana company Chiquita Brands has agreed to pay a $25 million fine, admitting it paid terrorists about $1.7 million for protection in a farming region of Colombia. Associated Press (Thanks, Cascadia Girl!)

Forbes discovers dietgeist: Forbes names its 10 Tastemaking Chefs and adds Dan Barber of Blue Hill to the list, alongside returning no-brainers like Thomas Keller. Why? “Locally produced and organic fare is gaining popularity on every level of American dining,” along with ethical eating. Woot! (We’ll forgive them for misspelling “locavore.”) Forbes

How green is the Valley: Three Silicon Valley restaurants committed to local sourcing, including Manresa, which has its own kitchen garden. Metroactive

When eating just isn’t self-medicating enough: Desperate for sales growth, Big Food turns to nutritionally enhanced products called “phoods” and “bepherages” because of their pharmaceutical benefits. Business Week

Greenlight those farts: South Korea has fired up a power plant that turns pig poop into electricity as a part of its plan to develop eco-friendly, reusable energy. CNN.com

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One Responseto “Digest: Farm Bill funding battle, Straus in Time, tragedy of the commons applies to whole Earth”

  1. You asked, “Huh? Aren’t Straus cows raised on pasture?” Even if their dairy cows are on pasture they are probably still feeding them some grain. This is standard practice as it significantly boosts milk production without resorting to rBGH injections. Very few farmers feed no grain. Many do raise the grain that they feed to their cattle. The problem is the nasty, evil GMO Monsanto pollen (can you tell how I feel?) is blown in from other farmer’s fields. That is what the whole fight was about here in Vermont with “No to GMO”. Conventional farmers want to be able to grow GMO corn and that pollutes the very air that fertilizes the neighboring organic stands of corn. Sad.