12/12 update: Victory at Tar Heel: After a 14-year dispute with company leadership, workers at Smithfield’s Tar Heel, NC plant voted last night to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Smithfield workers had voted against joining the union on two previous occasions, but the company was found to have intimidated workers around the time of the vote. Smithfield produces over 30% of U.S. pork. (Reuters; see this post for background)
Loosening up a few pinched pennies: Fast food restaurant Subway will pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes grown in Florida, according to a deal struck with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The deal also includes a section on labor law compliance, terms which Subway has extended to its entire supply chain, not just tomato vendors. http://www.nrn.com/breakingNews.aspx?id=360874&menu_id=1368.
Start packing, Chuck: NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof says Obama should reframe the job of Agriculture Secretary as “secretary of food,” and links to Food Democracy Now’s petition for 6 good AgSec candidates, including Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. The petition is up to 20,000+ signers! Boo-yah! (New York Times)
Ya think?: The USDA’s Food Safety unit has decided, it says in typical bureaucratic understatement, that “in light of recent disclosures of melamine being found in certain imported food products, FSIS has determined that it is prudent to do a small amount of sampling to see if there is any reason to be concerned about the presence of this chemical in meat and poultry products.” (FSIS [PDF])
Eat locally, globally: In 1965, Japan produced enough food to fulfill 73% of its caloric needs; today, it produces only enough to cover 40%. Amidst economic worries, the Japanese government wonders if the country is too reliant on foreign food and bulks up efforts to make it more food self-sufficient. (AP via International Herald Tribune)
License to SWAT: Early blog posts reported that the owners of an Ohio organic co-op and their family were raided and held for hours by an armed SWAT team investigating their sales of non-USDA-certified meat (Crossroad); later media reports deny the SWAT angle, but confirm that the co-op is under investigation for operating a retail establishment selling perishable goods without a license. (Chronicle-Telegram; Cleveland Plain Dealer) Meanwhile, across the pond in the UK, food co-ops are sprouting up in school halls, community centers, even citizens’ front room — anywhere rent is free. (The Guardian)
Finally, Michigan news that’s GM-free: Michigan passes a new law that supports farm to school initiatives. “This plan is a common-sense way to meet two very important goals: supporting our local farmers and making sure our community’s children get healthy meals at school,” says State Rep. Terry Brown (D-MI) (Michigan House Democrats)
The Big Apple works toward a SOLE Apple: A panel of big and/or interesting names rounded out the speaker list of New York’s recent Politics of Food Conference. In convening the conference, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wrote that “just below the surface of each [challenge on the horizon for New York City], you’ll find food policy playing a central role.” Speakers included the mayor, the President of the UN General Assembly, and Maya Wiley, the director of the Center for Social Inclusion, who gave a provocative talk on structural racism and its meaning in the context of food. The about-face was apparently not lost on H.E. Father Miquel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly: “As a media capital, the center of global financial markets, and a place of great power, New York has historically had a central role in promoting the dominant global and industrial food system.” Conference website here.
Don’t drink the water: Contaminants including pesticides have been found in the San Francisco Estuary, source of water for two-thirds of Californians, and are blamed for producing stunted fish. (UC Davis)
In recession, hunger is the only thing growing: The economic downturn has accelerated rates of hunger and malnutrition among U.S. school children — as well as rates of type II diabetes and hypertension. (McClatchy Newspapers)
Too much a of a bad thing still bad: Five papers published in a supplement to Clinical Nutrition find no special link between consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity. (USA Today)
Pouring grain: With corn prices through the roof, milo (a kind of sorghum) is emerging in many areas of Kansas as a more economical feed alternative for hogs. (Kansas Ag Connection)