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Health Care Reform Begins at the USDA

“The less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care,” said Michael Pollan last week on Oprah.

Today, Americans spend almost 20 cents of every dollar managing disease–diabetes, allergies, asthma, cancer, obesity–and only 10 cents of every dollar on food.

The jury is still out on what exactly may be causing all of these epidemics, but genetics don’t change that quickly, the environment does. And increasing evidence points to the role that diet is playing in the onset of disease. Read more

Your Farmer Body Needs Protection: Health Care

The young farmers movement is growing, and the circle of caring continues to expand. As we work to build a business around our love of farming and a family alongside our practice, we encounter one scary part of growing up: Realizing how deeply critical our own health is to the viability of the farm. As young farmers with brave muscles and big dreams, we invest our best physical years in finding, setting up and capitalizing a farmstead. As entrepreneurs, we take tremendous risks and reinvest the earnings in service to a new small business. As citizens, we commit ourselves to place and to the performance of an ancient and sacred duty: providing sustenance to our community. But when the operation of all these interlocking systems relies for its longevity on the physical strength and resilience of an individual body, the body of the young farmer turns out to be one of the weakest links in the new food system. Read more

Memo to Atul Gawande: The Agricultural Revolution Contributed to our Healthcare Crisis

In last week’s New Yorker, an article entitled Testing, Testing, written by Atul Gawande, details the author’s optimistic perspective on the Senate’s new health care bill. Gawande highlights and applauds the bill’s inclusion of pilot programs reminiscent of those responsible for transforming American agriculture in the early 20th century, but he leaves out the crucial failures of that system. “While we crave sweeping transformation,” he writes initially, “all the bill offers is [these] pilot programs, a battery of small-scale experiments. The strategy seems hopelessly inadequate to solve a problem of [such] magnitude [as that of our health care system]. And yet…history suggests otherwise.” Read more

The Controversy Continues: Whole Foods Quietly Gutting Employee Free Choice

While Whole Foods CEO John Mackey recently publicly inflamed the health care debate, behind the scenes Whole Foods has been quietly dismantling a key piece of legislation that would make it easier for workers who want to form a union to do so.

Whole Foods and Starbucks are backing a “compromise” to strip the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) of a key provision. The so-called “card-check” provision would require employers to recognize its employees’ union once a majority has signed union authorization cards. Currently, employers often refuse to recognize new unions even if all their employees have signed up. New contracts often take years to negotiate, meanwhile workers are frequently subject to harassment and sometimes fired. The card-check provision is so central to this legislation, it has been called “the card-check bill.” Read more

Agriculture and the Healthcare Debate: Inextricably Linked

President Obama’s plans to reform the healthcare system in U.S. have taken over the headlines in the past several weeks. Doctors, economists, insurance executives, public health experts—all of them are being afforded the chance add their two cents on how to fix our broken healthcare system. The voices that are strikingly absent, though, are those of the agricultural community. What, you may ask, does agriculture have to do with overhauling the healthcare system? My answer– everything. Read more

Big Ag Goes Green

Sadly, the green I’m referring to is the color of money. As Tom Philpott reports, Big Ag is trying to get an agricultural technique known as “chemical no-till” established as a legitimate carbon offset in the Waxman/Markey legislation. There’s only one problem, all the research out there says that chemical no-till doesn’t actually sequester carbon: Read more