Archive for July, 2012

Questions USDA Won’t Answer on Meatless Mondays Kerfuffel

You probably heard by now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture got firmly put in its place last week by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association when a poor employee had the gall to suggest in an internal employee newsletter that coworkers consider taking up Meatless Mondays. Big Beef screamed and the feds jumped. (I was told it took less than 30 minutes for USDA to capitulate.) If you missed the coverage, check out Mark Bittman’s take, along with his attempt to ask a few questions of USDA. I tried myself and have yet to receive even the courtesy of a reply. Here is the message I sent Press Secretary Courtney Rowe in USDA’s Office of Communications last Thursday:

Hi Courtney,

I am writing about this matter for my blog. Can you please clarify the extent of USDA’s retraction?

Some are saying USDA’s action does not go far enough. See:

My questions:

1)    I understand the newsletter is no longer available online, but how was it distributed to employees in the first place?

2)    Does USDA also retract the message contained within the newsletter regarding adopting Meatless Mondays?

3)    Does USDA plan a more formal retraction in another issue of the newsletter, as AgWired suggests?

4)    Has any action been taken with the employee who put it in the newsletter, also as AgWired suggests?

Many thanks for your help,


I guess I flummoxed them. Unlike the beef industry, whose message was received loud and clear.

Fighting GMO Labeling in California is Food Lobby’s “Highest Priority”

Grocery Manufacturers Association Long-time Obstructionist of Public Health

In case you had any doubt that California’s Prop 37—which would require labeling of food containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)—is a significant threat to industry, a top food lobby has now made it perfectly clear.

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Produce Industry Funders of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools are Putting Children at Risk: A Plea to Michelle Obama

The United Fresh Produce Association Foundation says it’s “proud to be a Founding Partner of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative.” I thought the First Lady should know this trade group is responsible for killing a vital produce testing program that helps keep kids safe from infection.

Dear Mrs. Obama,

I am writing out of deep concern over Let’s Move’s partnerships with the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association. These two groups have lobbied to kill a vital pathogen testing program. While the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program is to be applauded, its association with these trade groups is not.

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3 Steps to Protecting Food Stamps from a Cruel Congress

As expected, the House version of the 2012 farm bill contains deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). With its $16 billion proposed cut in this critical safety net, the House leadership is about three times as cruel as the Senate, which already approved a $4.5 billion reduction over 10 years. If the House gets its way, two-three million Americans could go hungry. In addition, 280,000 kids could get kicked off the school meal program because their families’ eligibility is tied to SNAP. And speaking of kids, almost half of all SNAP participants are children.

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Top 10 Lawyers Working to Improve the Food System

I admit this post is somewhat self-serving. But I am getting weary of so many lists (like this one) celebrating heroes of the food movement that leave out an entire category of professionals that deserve a little respect. They may not be as famous as Alice Waters but they are working just as hard, maybe even harder. So here, in no particular order, are ten lawyers doing critical work to improve how we eat.

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