Food and Agriculture

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What Do Algae, Corn, and Summer Vacation Have in Common?

Have any summer vacation plans that include swimming, fishing, or walks on the beach? If so, lucky you. But, if you’re headed to the East Coast, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, or any number of our nation’s lovely ocean or lake escapes around late July, plan carefully and watch out for toxic and dead zones! Read More

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Baltimore’s Arabbers: Simple Solutions to Public Problems?

Recently I was on conference call with a group of community-based food leaders. I asked them for a wish list—a list of any resource imaginable that could help them create a more equitable food system in their community. I told them: “the sky is the limit—just tell me what you need.” The usual suspects were rattled off…more time, money, staff…and then a quiet voice said, “I wish Baltimore would bring back the horses.” Read More

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Bad Policies Should Not Get a Free “Ride” on Spending Bills

I try hard not to be cynical about Congress. I believe that in the House and Senate, many men and women of good will and their staffs work hard to advance policies that they believe will benefit the people they represent. Our elected representatives may disagree about what the best solutions are. But they are motivated by the desire to do good, not ill.

That sentiment is being tested as the House and Senate vote on a series of spending bills to pay for government agencies and other expenses in the coming fiscal year. Read More

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Where’s the Beef? Wendy’s New Palm Oil Pledge Lacks Meat

Wendy’s, originator of the “Where’s the beef” catchphrase and home of the unparalleled and delicious Frosty, just came out with some new information on their palm oil sourcing plans. But much like their famed 80’s commercials in which cute senior citizens find themselves unable to locate the tiny slice of beef on a giant bun, I’m having trouble finding any real reason to celebrate Wendy’s new palm oil commitment. In fact, I keep rereading their website, searching for more substance. Read More

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School Lunch: What’s the Cost of Noncompliance?

Today, the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on the costs of improved nutrition standards for school meals introduced under the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). This bipartisan Act put more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt and fat, on student’s lunch trays. Some say the law’s price tag has been too high, but the way I read the research, the price tag for not providing healthier lunches is much higher. Read More

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FDA Bans Trans Fats: What Does This Mean for Palm Oil Consumption in the US?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today moved to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, the main dietary source of artificial trans fats, after determining they are not safe to use in food. This move is hardly surprising, given that in November of 2013, the FDA made this preliminary determination. The announcement by the FDA likely means an increased amount of palm oil (a trans fat-free vegetable oil) in the diet of Americans and an opportunity for companies to source only palm oil that is deforestation and peat-free. Read More

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Land-Sector Actions in U.S. Climate Policy—and at the UNFCCC

In early April I wrote a blog post on the U.S. INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) which was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I focused on how it treated the land sector (agriculture and forests). In mid-April this analysis, along with similar consideration of the INDCs of Mexico and the European Union, was written up in a White Paper, and a few days ago we presented the results of this White Paper at a UNFCCC side event in Bonn.

Later in April, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senior Presidential Advisor Brian Deese announced the Department of Agriculture’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry. In this blog post I’ll describe those building blocks, as well as the elements of the President’s Climate Action Plan (released in June 2013) that relate to the land sector.

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School Lunch: Just Say “No” to the Opt-out Cop-out

School’s out for summer! And while the kids are away, Congress will play—this time with their food. This month, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture may begin debate on the bill to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies and programs, including child nutrition programs like school meals.  Read More

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Crop Diversity in Danger (If You Carrot All about the Future of Food and Farms, Read This)

One of my favorite things about a trip to a farmers market is the possibility for surprise, the huge variety of tasty treats—perhaps a juicier plum, sweeter watermelon, perfectly tart apple, or new shade of cauliflower. Such discoveries are surely signs of an abundant and increasing diversity in fruits and vegetables… right? Do not be fooled! Read More

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Listening to SNAP Voices: What to Know Before Cutting Program Budgets

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), still referred to by some as “food stamps”, is a federal food assistance program that offers benefits usable as cash for the purchase of food by lower-income families and individuals. First piloted in 1961 by President Kennedy and later signed into law by President Johnson, SNAP is a vital federal program addressing food insecurity in our nation. In 2014, more than 46 million lower-income individuals received SNAP benefits. Approximately 70% of these recipients were families with children. Read More

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