A hint of fall is definitely in the air….and that means the the 2016 election is right around the corner!
The Policy Team at CFSA is especially excited about this year’s election because we have been working with NC-based Community Food Strategies (of which we are a team member) and a national initiative, Plate of the Union, to help three food councils in North Carolina organize candidate’s forums in their communities. Alamance, Durham and Mecklenburg Counties will host events in late October; make sure you follow CFSA on Facebook or Twitter to get the details.
We hope that, like the three food councils hosting their candidates this fall, each of you take the chance to speak with candidates in your community about farming and food. Use the articles from this month’s Buzz and from previous editions to get the conversation going, and, if you can, attend one of the candidate forums. We very are excited to see what emerges from these important discussions with our lawmakers!
All the best,
Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director
Buzzworthy News for September To Help You Learn More About Plate of the Union’s Platform
Step 1: Stand With Working Families
Commit to ensuring that all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food.
Every year, Americans throw away over 40% of the food we grow. Much of this food waste comes from the American consumer’s desire for perfect fruits and vegetables . At the same time, millions of Americans suffer from general food insecurity and a lack of access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Much of this “undesirable” food waste is actually donated to food banks, which is incentivized by a federal tax subsidy to farmers for making the donations. But many times this federal tax credit is not enough to cover the farmers’ losses from all of the costs incurred from picking the produce and delivering it to a food pantry. Some states have recently passed state tax credits for farmers for donating goods to food banks, and the trend is growing. Might this be an option in the Carolinas to improve access to healthy food, decrease food waste, and increase profits for farmers?
Businesses have a big role to play in transforming our food system. In the Carolinas, many new cooperative businesses are forming and some traditional businesses are converting into cooperative models. These companies are changing the way that their businesses interact with their employees and their communities. This small community in Colorado has solved a common rural grocery challenge by forming a community-owned grocery store. Small towns have also experimented with other models for local groceries – cooperatives, public-private partnerships, school-based and even nonprofit organizations. These types of innovative business models and partnerships could be part of the solution for some of our rural grocery problems right here at home.
Step 2: Keep Our Kids Healthy
Stop companies from marketing junk food to kids and end subsidies that support processed junk food.
A recent policy decision at the largest food bank in our nation’s capital has had a major impact on the types of food being provided to their clients. They recognized that many of the families accessing their services had family members with diabetes and high blood pressure. They realized that the food they were serving was directly contributing to these negative health consequences, and something had to change. They are now proving that free food does not have to be cheap food.
American soda consumption fell to a 30-year low this year as consumers have switched to “healthier” options such as juices and flavored waters. This has companies like Pepsico and Coca-Cola worried as their American profits continue to slip lower year after year. Also at the forefront of their concerns is a recent push in local counties and municipalities to tax sugary beverages. These taxes are being used as a public health tool to fight the high levels of obesity throughout the country. A new study on Berkeley, CA’s “soda tax” shows that lower-income consumers reduced their consumption of soda by 21% after the tax was imposed – this is a big impact. But don’t be fooled, these companies will not let go of their sugary profits without a fight! Big Soda has all sorts of tricks (and money) up their sleeves to sway public policy and consumer opinion into picking up (yet another) 20 oz. bottle of carbonated sugar.
Have you seen the recent movie, Fed Up? This documentary highlights just how bad sugar really is for us and highlights the misconception that fat is the most dangerous thing that we can put in our bodies. As it turns out, the sugar industry has known this for over 50 years. This New York Times article looks into the how the industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and to promote saturated fat as the real enemy.
Step 3: Make Farm Policies Work For All Farmers
Reform agricultural policies, subsidies, and supports to ensure fair markets and pricing for diverse farmers of all sizes. Promote healthy diets and support sustainable, diversified, and organic farming in all communities.
Two historical agricultural mergers are currently pending approval by both the United States and the European Union. Headlines were made this past year over the merger of Dow and DuPont, which is currently under an antitrust review by the U.S. Justice Department. ChemChina and Swiss-owned Syngenta started moving forward through the regulatory approval process to finalize their merger. And just last week, German-owned Bayer announced that it will be buying US-based Monsanto for $66 billion. Consumers and farmers (and CFSA!) have significant concerns about these mergers due to the potential for reduced competition and innovation in the seed and farming products industry. Apparently the U.S. Senate has concerns as well, and will hold a hearing on September 20th that will include testimony by antitrust regulators, antitrust experts and consumers.
Pollinators are essential to farming. Without bees, 30% of the world’s crops would not become the fruit and vegetables that we all love to eat. We all also do not want to get the Zika virus. I know those are two top priorities on my mind: 1) Eat good food, 2) Don’t get Zika. So, when officials in Dorchester County, SC decided to heavily spray an aerial insecticide to kill mosquitoes last month to curb Zika infections, they probably should have thought about the unintended consequences on the local bees and the farmers that rely on them for pollination and honey. The result of the spraying was the death of millions of bees. This story has gotten a lot of national attention (New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) and several counties have now changed their policies and will be notifying farmers before spraying. Some are even switching to a larvicide that will not adversely affect bee populations.
Step 4: Protect Food and Farm Workers
End Fair Labor Standards exemptions for farm workers, raise the minimum wage for all food workers, and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers.
There are almost 4 million people across the country employed as fast food service workers. These workers typically make minimum wage and often have limited benefits. Many fast food employees struggle to pay their bills and to put food on the table for their families. Some fast food employers (we’re looking at you, McDonald’s) have even instructed their employees to go on food stamps as a way to make their pay rate more sustainable. We believe that this is an unacceptable use of our tax dollars when the same company posted $1.3 billion in profit in 2015. The Fight for $15 movement has been making strides across the country in the fight for increased hourly wages for these workers. They held their first-ever convention this past month, which was attended by over 3,000 people and included a moving speech from NC’s Rev. Dr. William Barber II.
The health effects from herbicides on farm workers and the communities that live near them is currently a hot topic of debate. In the past couple of years the Environmental Protection Agency, the United Nations and the European Union have all put out contradictory information on both the dangers and supposed safety of the herbicide glyphosate. Many communities, like this one in Argentina, and farm workers around the world are experiencing the real, lasting effects from long-term exposure to farming practices that rely on glyphosate.
Step 5: Keep Antibiotics Working
Ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals that are not sick.
There is a growing movement within the meat industry to reduce the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals raised for food. Sub-therapeutic antibiotics are used to enhance growth rates and improve animal feed efficiency, thereby contributing to lower costs of meat and eggs. However, this practice is also associated with the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that contribute to the presence of drug-resistant pathogens. Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms all recently declared that they will work to greatly reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to healthy chicken throughout their supply chains. Some large food companies (including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Popeye’s) are actually refusing to buy chicken that has been treated with some antibiotics. This is a small start to addressing this important issue. But, as this article points out, the conventional livestock industry still has some major work to do to decrease antibiotic and steroid use and to decrease the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into our environment.