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China drafting rules for humane slaughter of livestock

Under pressure from international animal-rights advocates and food-safety organizations, China has announced it's drafting rules for the "humane" treatment and slaughter of livestock. The proposal recommends stunning animals before slaughter, ensuring as little time as possible passes between stunning and killing, making sure unloading platforms are at heights where pigs won't injure themselves when offloading, and using plastic prods to herd pigs instead of electric ones. While animal-rights activists expressed hope at the moves, human-rights activists hoped humane treatment of human prisoners will be next, especially the recommendations against electrocution.

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Pollan connects the dots

Why bees and pigs are not machines

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan writes, "Two stories in the news this year, stories that on their faces would seem to have nothing to do with each other let alone with agriculture, may point to an imminent breakdown in the way we're growing food today." Can you guess what they are? Answer here.

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House of Representatives’ food service goes sustainable

Cafeterias in the House of Representatives are getting a makeover today: out with the high-fructose corn syrup, in with the free-roaming hens. (Well, there won't actually be hens roaming in the cafeterias -- you get what we mean.) Under Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ambitious Greening the Capitol initiative, the privately owned House food service -- which provides more than 2.5 million meals a year -- will start dishing out local, organic, seasonal chow, which can be taken out in compostable containers and eaten with biodegradeable utensils. Unfortunately for hungry senators, the Senate-owned food service will continue to provide iceberg lettuce, processed …

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Senate farm bill post-mortem

The Sustainable Ag Coalition delivers its assessment

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been involved in farm bills since the mid-1970s, working behind the scenes to try to snatch farm legislation from the paws of agribusiness. So when he delivers his assessment on how things went, he does so from the perspective of long memory. His insights are particularly important now, as sustainable-ag and food-justice advocates figure out what's in the Senate version that's worth fighting for. And there is plenty more fighting to be done. Early next month, the process of reconciling the Senate and House versions will begin. And then the final version …

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Two takes on the farm bill

My opinion, and an industrial soybean farmer’s

Speaking of the farm bill -- and who isn't -- y'all should check out an interview I recently did with something called the Lambert Report. Check out the big ol' Monsanto ad in the upper right corner. And look what they juxtaposed my answers with: those of a dude who used to be president of the American Soybean Association.

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The big picture

An unbiased, factual report on biofuels: How rare is that?

The Worldwatch Institute has produced an interesting summary of what's happening in the world of grain supplies. They also just published a book called Biofuels for Transport. Along with all of the positive potential for biofuels, I'm sure it also discusses the "potential" problems with "first generation" biofuels. These are some of the latest buzzwords being used to support industrial agrofuels. The word "potential" suggests that there are not yet any actual problems. The words "first generation" suggest that all of these "potential" problems will fail to materialize thanks to the timely arrival of "second generation" fuels. The reality, of …

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Time for some rehab

Agriculture is drunk on corn-based ethanol

Thomas Dobbs is Professor Emeritus of Economics at South Dakota State University, and a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy Fellow. ----- American agriculture is becoming addicted to corn-based ethanol, and the economic and environmental effects of this addiction call for some intervention! The explosive growth in U.S. ethanol production from corn is having worldwide ramifications. December 6 articles in The Economist ("Cheap no more" and "The end of cheap food") trace the impacts of ethanol production on prices of other crops and on food. Rising crop prices can benefit farmers not only in the U.S., but also farmers …

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Hillary Clinton frets publicly about CAFOs

What must the ‘Rural Americans for Hillary’ think of this?

Days after naming a high-profile champion of factory-style animal farms as co-chair of "Rural Americans for Hillary," Hillary Clinton backtracked a little yesterday. She expressed wan and tepid concern about the environmental and social effects of concentrated-animal feedlot operations (CAFOs). She told the Des Moines Register she would support "local control" over how CAFOs are regulated -- meaning that states and counties would be able to institute regulations more stringent than federal guidelines. "This is an issue I care deeply about," she declared -- although it was her first pronouncement on the issue this campaign season. But it's a hot …

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Farm bill update

Payment limits topple, but the livestock title looks good — for now

Update [2007-12-14 13:5:54 by Tom Philpott]:The Senate just passed the farm bill, 79-14. Presumably the livestock title is intact. Now it's time to mount an epochal battle to defend that important title as Congress reconciles the House and Senate versions, which will take place in early 2008. The Senate is set to vote on the farm bill this afternoon. I'll be trying to pull a Brian Beutler and follow the debate via CSpan. An amendment that would have limited subsidy payments crumbled yesterday despite winning the vote 56-43. That's because, in filibuster-related shenanigans similar to what happened to the energy …

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Beyond the farm bill

Progressive urban food bills could help reshape America’s food future

The following is a guest essay by Christopher D. Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis. His work has appeared in The Nation, Harper's, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor and Mother Jones. ----- After many legislative hiccups along the way, Congress is rapidly deciding the fate of America's food supply: what's grown, how it's produced and by whom, and how that food will affect our health and the planet. The roughly $288 billion Farm Bill, covering everything from urban nutrition and food stamp programs to soil conservation and farm subsidies, will …

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