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Johnny, Can You Spell Salmonella?

How is it that a country can put a man on the moon, but can’t seem to feed it’s children school lunches that are safer than those eaten at McDonald’s or Jack in the Box? In the past 10 years more than 23,000 school children have become sick as a result of hundreds of food poisoning outbreaks in our nation’s lunchrooms. A recent investigation by USA Today found that the meat served in U.S. school cafeterias faces less testing and lower safety standards than the mystery meat in Big Macs and Whopper Juniors. USA Today reporters discovered that meat served …

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Boycotting Whole Foods won’t help

The health care reform debate has provoked any number of crazy opinions, including the far-right fantasies of death panels or that Medicare isn’t a government-funded program. Two weeks ago, Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey added his own musings to the list with an editorial in the Wall Street Journal condemning “Obamacare” and any government health care option in the U.S. Unfortunately for Whole Foods, Mackey’s foray into the health care debate hasn’t gone unnoticed.  Some progressives, incensed that the head of one of their preferred companies is helping pollute the debate, have expressed their ire via a boycott …

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Food safety in the 21st century

Just when America thought it was safe to go back into the grocery store, another food outbreak wakes us up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong with its food safety system. This time it's Nestle Toll House cookie dough with E.coli, a treat that nearly every kid in America reaches for a few times a month during the summer. This is yet another reminder why it’s important to get the new food safety legislation, currently winding its way through Congress, right. Last week a new food safety bill passed unanimously out of the House Energy and Commerce …

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Stand up for rural America while you still can

The assault on rural America continues unabated. For the past six months dairy farmers across the country have suffered a historic drop in milk prices while operating costs remain high. Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has plunged over 50 percent, the largest single drop since the Great Depression. While organic dairy farmers have faced a decrease in overall sales due to the recent world financial meltdown and tight budgets on the home front as a result, the current drop in milk prices is impacting mainly conventional and small to mid-size family …

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We need to reform America's food safety system from the farm up

Another day, another disaster... In 1906, Upton Sinclair published his classic book The Jungle, awakening America's consciousness to the horrors of corruption in the U.S. meatpacking industry with the story of Chicago's stockyards. The Jungle so shook the American people's confidence in how their meat and food was processed, that President Roosevelt created the Food and Drug Administration to quell public outcry. Fast-forward a hundred odd years later and all evidence points to the fact that we are living in an era of food crisis that rivals that of the turn of the last century. Regretfully, America's modern food system …

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All eyes on ag chief Vilsack's undersecretary pick

There have been whispers recently from Washington, D.C., that indicate that the wheels of change are grinding to a halt even before the Inauguration of our next President takes place. The recent nomination of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Ag was a disappointment to many in the sustainable ag and family farm community because of Vilsack's close relationship with agribusiness and his penchant for promoting biotech and corn-based ethanol. Despite some positive comments during his confirmation hearing regarding nutrition, local foods and climate change, many in the sustainable ag community remain skeptical, while some remain hopeful. I've …

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Coming together to work toward a sustainable food and farm future

On Wednesday, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack began his confirmation hearing to become the 30th U.S. secretary of agriculture with the promise to be a forward-looking leader who would make the USDA a 21st century agency. While his nomination has been unpopular among some members of the sustainable-agriculture community, there is hope that under his guidance the USDA can grow into a very different agency than it has been during the past four decades, when it's been run by secretaries such as Earl Butz. As the next head of the USDA, Vilsack will be charged with revamping a sprawling agency …

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