When Congress talks food and farming, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is there. From 2011 to 2014, she was chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and she remains a ranking member with enormous influence over what our nation eats.
Stabenow shepherded the latest farm bill, which was signed into law in February 2014, after a long, contentious slog over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamps” and farm subsidies. Read more
If most Americans were to rank the nation’s most influential states, chances are Vermont would not make many lists. But it should.
Quietly, Vermont has become a cultural, economic, and political force. Its public education system is consistently among the nation’s best. Vermonters weathered the Great Recession better than their counterparts in other states; the state’s unemployment rate is currently around 4 percent and dropping. Then there’s the catch-all distinction of being one of the top places in the country to live for overall quality of life.
Add local food to that list. Read more
A fourth year of severe drought is waking Californians to the reality of global warming and the value of our most precious resource. The state’s reservoirs are dangerously low, and the California Climate Center is projecting that rising temperatures could result in 80 percent less snow pack by the end of the century. Read more
As pollination season in California’s orchards draws to a close, and thousands of beehives are being trucked back to the Midwest, honeybee health is at the forefront of many people’s minds. This spring, 1.6 million honeybees have been medicated, fed syrups, and put to work in the orchards across the state’s Central Valley (including 760,000 acres of almonds), a lucrative business for farmers and hedge funds alike. Read more
It may seems like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend the best combination of protein, grains, and produce, to keep you healthy, fit, and free of disease, are set in stone. But they’re actually revised every five years by a panel of nutrition scientists—and because the guidelines impact billion-dollar government programs like school and military lunches as well as consumer guidelines like the food pyramid, or the more recent MyPlate, updating them is a highly politicized process. Read more
On long drives across the Navajo Nation, a remote and, unpaved territory spanning 27,000 square miles and three states, procuring healthy food is nearly impossible.
“Our communities are food deserts,” says Janene Yazzie, who recently moved from New York, back home to Lupton, Arizona. While she and her husband led health conscious lives on the East Coast, it has been impossible on the reservation. The closest Safeway is in Gallup, 22 miles away. So, like many of the 200,000 people who call the reservation home, the family must rely on local gas stations or a general store, where a frozen pizza might cost a couple of dollars, but a bag of apples runs upwards of $6.50. Read more
When it comes to changing the food system, Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) might be the most outspoken member of Congress yet. Now in his sixth term, Ryan is the author of Real Food Revolution, Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm. Former President Bill Clinton describes the book as “a straightforward and much-needed prescription to help transform our country’s food systems and improve our well-being.” Read more
With its millions of acres of farmland, Iowa is a crucial part of our country’s food landscape. Almost a third of all pork sold in the United States is raised in Iowa, along with two billion bushels of corn, half a billion bushels of soybeans, and 13.8 billion eggs. The majority of this food isn’t produced by independent family farmers, but rather on large-scale commercial farms and in a growing number of concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs. Read more
After a recent national gathering, delegates discussed their emphatic opposition to federal firearm registration, argued against attempts to address climate change through cap and trade, and decried the so-called “war against Christmas.” Attendees went home with a “lobbyist bible” that defined marriage between a man and woman, called for national voter identification, and demanded the repeal of “Obamacare.” Read more
Last November, Mark Bittman, Micheal Pollan, Olivier De Schutter, and Ricardo Salvador made the case for a national food and farm policy to improve American diets and the environment. In a collectively penned Washington Post opinion piece, the authors and food system experts identified a crucial roadblock for implementing system-wide change. They wrote:
…reforming the food system will ultimately depend on a Congress that has for decades been beholden to agribusiness, one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill. As long as food-related issues are treated as discrete rather than systemic problems, congressional committees in thrall to special interests will be able to block change.