Food

Tough row to hoe

Waxman-Markey, meet House Ag Committee

House Ag Committee: Like a combine thundering through a field.By all accounts, Thursday’s House Ag Committee hearing on the Waxman-Markey climate-change legislation went as expected: angry men blustered and fulminated and generally vented spleen. (See the Wall Street Journal’s coverage here and here; Farm Policy blog’s summary; and here’s links to the testimony of the hearing’s carefully selected witnesses.) Grist’s Kate Sheppard attended the hearing. She tells me that Committee members, especially Republicans, spent considerable time airing their doubts about whether climate change exists at all. Mostly, though, the farm-states’ finest got down to business: demanding that the legislation be …

AN INCONSUPERSIZEMENT TRUTH

Globesity: How climate change and obesity draw from the same roots

Photo illustration by Tom Twigg/GristYou’ve heard all the reasons before: We drive too much. We eat too much meat and processed food. We spend too much time with plugged-in devices—computers, TVs, air conditioners. But what problem are we talking about–climate change, or the worldwide rise in obesity? Both, according to Globesity: A Planet Out of Control?, a book by four public-health researchers who show how climate change and obesity draw from a shared web of roots. Both problems worsen as car culture spreads, desk jobs replace manual jobs, and carbon-intensive foods (including meat) become available to more and more eaters, …

One big dinner table

When it comes to food, we’re all in this together

Declarations of sovereignty and independence are not uncommon as rites of passage both for countries and teenagers. But what we typically see and what we experience is altogether different, both at home and in the world. Dependency and interdependency are the norm, whether we look at human relations, commerce, or biology. As the conservationist John Muir put it, everything is “hitched to everything else in the universe.” And perhaps this is as it must and should be. We dabble with danger when we act as if we are self-reliant and can “go it alone”, when in fact we are not …

Little feast on the prairie

From grass to grill, a Midwestern farm struts its stuff — and dishes up delicious lamb chops

The chefs of “Lambstravaganza.”The best part about my work with Slow Food USA is getting to experience new people, places, and especially great foods. Such was the case this past weekend as I traveled to join the members of Slow Food St. Louis for their fourth annual “Lambstravaganza” at Prairie Grass Farms just outside of New Florence, Mo. Prairie Grass Farms is in the capable hands of its third generation of Hillebrands. Dave Hillebrand runs the farm now, having inherited it from his father and grandfather before him. There they used to raise primarily row crops, but Dave took an …

Organically grown offsets

A climate policy for agriculture that works

A proven climate solution. Not since Earl Butz’s famous “hedgerow to hedgerow” comment of the 1970s have America’s farmers been at such a turning point. Food and farming policy in the United States is largely determined by the Farm Bill, behemoth legislation that comes around once every five years.  Yet, the current climate legislation–The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES)–offers an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way America farms.  Since the start of ACES, agriculture interests have had an unspoken, yet powerful voice in the bill. Ag was explicitly exempted from the “capped” sector, which meanth that from the …

Genetically modified offsets

Will Big Ag plow under Waxman-Markey?

Waxman and Markey prepare for the ag lobby. As the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill moves forward in the House, Big Ag interest groups are circling their plows and sharpening their pitchforks. Some of the largest corporations in the agribusiness sector–including the GMO-and-herbicide giant Monsanto–are pushing to control how agriculture would fit into the bill’s cap-and-trade scheme. The main agent for their will is House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who has launched a veritable jihad to make sure the historic climate legislation hews to the interests of “production” (i.e., industrial) agriculture. Via Farm Policy blog, here’s an MP3 …

Agriculture: A necessary complication in the climate negotiations

Despite a sense that the international climate change negotiations, convened in Bonn, Germany this week, are grinding forward at a painfully slow pace, there is a momentum to the process that makes adding new ideas very difficult. It took several years of behind the scenes technical work and at least two years of carefully planned campaigning to get the deforestation issue substantively on the table. While we know that agriculture can make a vital contribution to addressing climate change, it lags behind the forest discussion and effectively including it in the Copenhagen deal at this late date will be no …

Drinking the Kool-Aid of Corporate America

Why are milk prices plummeting?

Dairy farmers are in deep trouble. Milk prices have fallen by half since last year, dropping to a 30-year low. Consumption has fallen in light of the slowing world economy and now there is a huge milk surplus, or so the “experts” tell us. It’s a nice theory: surplus equals low prices. Easy to explain and easily accepted by farmers. Farmers want an explanation, they listen to the dairy ”experts.” They drink the Kool-Aid. Milk prices, like the rest of the world economy, crashed because of a globalized, unregulated free market system, not because of surplus product. According to New …

Do dirty coal plants make us more vulnerable to swine flu?

Scientists have discovered that exposure to a common pollutant may make people more likely to experience severe symptoms from swine flu — and it’s a pollutant emitted in large quantities by coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities. The culprit is arsenic, a highly poisonous semi-metal which, according to a new study by researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth Medical School, compromises a person’s ability to mount an immune response to the H1N1 swine flu virus.  Most disturbingly, the study — published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives — found that arsenic can weaken the immune …