Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012, 2:22 PM
It’s a tired old refrain you’ve probably heard before: “Industrial agriculture is the only way to feed the world.” Even if you shop at your weekly farmers market, and love your local kale and carrots, maybe you also secretly worry: Are you cursing people to more hunger around the world for your organic proclivities?
Well, folks, the research is in. Study after study is showing the opposite is true: we can onlyensure a well-fed world if we start shifting away from an agricultural system dependent on fossil fuels, mined minerals, and lots of water—all of which will only get more costly as they run out. Some of the most esteemed global institutions have documented that the best way to fight hunger—and grow food abundantly—is to go for organic and ecological production methods and get people eating whole, real food again.
So if we have scientific consensus, why don’t we have more public consciousness? You can find the answer in the marketing budgets of Big Ag. Thanks to well-funded, multi-decade communications campaigns by the very corporations profiting from chemical agriculture, many of us are still in the dark about the true costs of industrial agriculture and the true potential of sustainable agriculture.
Thanks to these efforts, we are inundated with messaging that we need their products—chemicals, fertilizer, genetically engineered seeds—to ensure the world is fed. We hear it all the time.
We hear the grain trader, ADM, is supermarket to the world—while the company’s price-fixing scandals were so outrageous they became fodder for a Matt Damon, Hollywood film.
We hear Monsanto is going to “squeeze more food from a raindrop”—that its genetically engineered crops will help farmers deal with extreme drought—even though no genetically engineered drought-tolerant seeds have been commercialized.
We hear pharmaceutical behemoth, Bayer, is “helping to feed a hungry planet” while at the same time it’s one of the biggest distributors of antibiotics to the livestock industry, leading to a public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. And it’s the maker of a toxic pesticide, now covering nearly 90 percent of all U.S. corn seeds, and a likely culprit in colony collapse disorder—the fancy name for the disappearance of bees. It doesn’t take a PhD in agronomy to know that pollinators like bees are an essential part of being able to feed the world.
I don’t know about you, but I’m increasingly frustrated by all this spin: by the ad campaigns, the trade-group public relations machines, the lobbying, the front groups—the myth-making. And, while I don’t have $817 million (that’s what Monsanto spent on advertising in just one year), I do have some powerful allies—great food, farming and labor groups who share my frustration and want to do something about it. So together, we’re launching Food MythBusters: a one-stop shop to get your burning questions about food answered through short films, Q&As with experts and links to essential research.
Our first film takes on the myth that we need industrial agriculture to feed the world. We offered sneak peeks at SXSW Eco in Austin and will have previews with partners in Baltimore,Philadelphia and Boston… all building up to a national launch on Food Day, October 24th.
We’re inviting you – yes you – to help join us in spreading the word about the potential for sustainable food, farming and the exciting work springing to life across the country to remake our food system. This will ensure more and more of us have access to good, healthy, sustainably raised food.
Please join us by screening our first film wherever you are—on college campuses, in church basements, at CSA pickups and family rooms. We hope screenings will stimulate conversation, educate more about the real story of our food and compel people to get involved in transforming our food system—in their communities and across the country.
Visit www.foodmyths.org to see a teaser trailer and download a step-by-step toolkit for organizing a screening—it’s not too late. Or tune in on October 24 to our facebook event to watch a livecast. Contact JGordon@StopCorporateAbuse.org if you’d like more information about how to join the many groups around the country hosting a screening on Food Day, or any day this fall. Together, we can take back the story of our food from the marketing machine of Big Agriculture.
Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 4:21 PM
Organic Consumers Association and Millions Against Monsanto are working with the Occupy Monsanto network to organize protests and direct action at Monsanto facilities during the September 17th Global Week of Action Against Monsanto.
Click here to join an existing Genetic Crimes Unit or organize your own occupation and Occupy Monsanto will send you your very own GCU action toolkit. Genetic Crimes Units are autonomous Occupy Monsanto affinity groups who will carry out “decontamination” events during the Global Week of Action against Monsanto.
No Monsanto facilities nearby? How about congregating at Dow, Syngenta or one of the other Biotech Bullies’ offices?
Occupy not your style? How about organizing a Millions Against Monsanto rally or event?
Take your group to your state capital and rally for GMO labels. Host a film screening and discussion of Bitter Seeds or the World According to Monsanto. Set up a table at your local farmer’s market and tell people about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Visit the retail store where you buy your organic food and get them to endorse Proposition 37, the California Ballot Initiative to label GMOs. Hit the sidewalks and gather signatures for our Truth-in-Labeling petition – we are very close to our goal of one million national signers!
Whatever you decide to do, contact us for flyers, posters and petitions and tell us about your event so we can help you mobilize.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2012, 6:16 PM
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-celebrity-chefs-join-farm-bill-food-fight-20120604,0,4356102.story
Progressive Farmer: http://www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com/dtnag/view/blog/getBlog.do?blogHandle=policy&blogEntryId=8a82c0bc37bec78d0137bf72eb8f0007
St. Louis-Disptach Post: http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/georgina-gustin/chefs-food-advocates-call-for-changes-to-the-farm-bill/article_fee3c574-af5a-11e1-9d99-0019bb30f31a.html
Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/stew/chi-farm-bill-draft-takes-hit-from-famous-foodies-20120605,0,4003979.story
Tuesday, June 12th, 2012, 4:03 PM
Important food for thought as we aspire for a more healthy and supportive farm bill. If we get the money put back into food stamps, will that still be subsidizing big ag and banks? Not only should money be restored to SNAP, but also transparency. Shed light it!
Contact: Haven Bourque, 415.505.3473, firstname.lastname@example.org
As 2012 Farm Bill debate rages in Congress, a new
investigative report demands SNAP program transparency
Oakland, CA, June 12, 2012 — Are food stamps lining the pockets of the nation’s wealthiest corporations instead of closing the hunger gap in the United States? Why does Walmart benefit from more than $200 million in annual food stamp purchases in Oklahoma alone? Why does one bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, hold exclusive contracts in 24 states to administer public benefits?
These are a few of the questions explored in a new report called: “Food Stamps, Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting from Hungry Americans?” from Michele Simon, president of Eat Drink Politics, a watchdog consulting group. This first-of-its kind investigation details how the food stamp program—originally designed to help farmers and those in need—lines the pockets of junk food makers, food retailers, and banks.
Right now, Congress is debating the farm bill, including significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Much attention has focused on how agricultural subsidies fuel our cheap, unhealthy food supply. In reality, the largest and most overlooked taxpayer subsidy to the food industry is SNAP, which comprised two-thirds of the farm bill budget in 2008.
“Michele Simon’s well-researched, credible investigation breaks new ground and exposes who else stands to gain from the government’s largest food assistance program,” said New York University Professor Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics. “While reauthorizing the farm bill, Congress needs to make sure that the poor get their fair share of SNAP benefits,” she added.
Food Stamps, Follow the Money examines what we know and don’t know about how much the food industry and large banks benefit from a tax-payer program that has grown to $78 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion just four years earlier, and projected to increase further due to current economic conditions.
“Transparency should be mandatory. The people have a right to know where our money is going, plain and simple,” said Anthony Smukall, a SNAP participant living in Buffalo, New York. He says his fellow residents are “facing cuts year after year, with no sustainable jobs to be able to get off of programs such as SNAP.” Smukall added, “J.P. Morgan is shaking state pockets, which then rolls down to every tax paying citizen. I am disgusted with the numbers in this report. If people knew how such programs were run, and how money is taken in by some of the world’s conglomerates, there would be outrage on a grand scale.”
As the largest government-funded agriculture program in the nation, SNAP presents a tremendous opportunity to help tens of millions of Americans be better nourished and to reshape our food system in a positive way. SNAP dollars now represent more than 10 percent of all grocery store purchases.
“Every year, tens of billions of SNAP dollars are propping up corporations that are exploiting their workers and producing foods that are making America sick,” said Andy Fisher, founder and former executive director of the Community Food Security Coalition, who is currently writing a book about the anti-hunger movement. “It’s high time we stopped this madness, and returned the food stamp program to its original purpose: providing needy Americans healthy real food grown by farmers,” he added.
“I hope Congress does not cut SNAP. Food prices have been skyrocketing while salaries remain unchanged, and many people I know have two jobs to try to make ends meet,” said Jennifer L., a SNAP participant living in Massachusetts. “As a single mom who has only recently re-entered the workforce, the SNAP assistance I receive makes a huge difference in my ability to support my children,” she added. “I am in favor of making retailers’ and banks’ information regarding SNAP public. What are they hiding?”
Food Stamps, Follow the Money offers several recommendations on how to improve SNAP in order to maximize government benefits for those in need. These include:
- Congress should maintain SNAP funding in this time of need for millions of Americans;
- Congress should require collection and disclosure of SNAP product purchase data, retailer redemptions, and national data on bank fees;
- USDA should evaluate state EBT contracts to determine if banks are taking undue advantage of taxpayer funds.
“Congress should make SNAP more transparent by mandating accurate tracking of SNAP expenditures. Why should only the likes of Walmart, Coca-Cola, and J.P. Morgan know how many billions of our tax dollars are spent each year?” said Ms. Simon.
Download the complete report: “Food Stamps, Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting from Hungry Americans” here.
About: Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is president of Eat Drink Politics, a consulting group that helps advocates counter corporate tactics and advance food and alcohol policy. www.eatdrinkpolitics.com Twitter: @MicheleRSimon
Michele Simon, JD, MPH
President, Eat Drink Politics
Direct: (510) 465-0322
Author, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back
Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 4:43 PM
After a maternity-leave-induced social-media-blackout, I feel ready to tackle the big questions. What will feed America and what will feed the world?
Below is a letter I wrote with Kari H over at Environmental Working Group and Dan Imhoff calling on Congress to stop crop insurance subsidies and restore SNAP! It was sent to every member of Congress Monday the 4th. We wrote this in anticipation of the farm bill going to the Senate floor for debate and out of frustration with the lack of meaningful reforms and public input into the legislative process by the Senate Agriculture Committee as it drafted its 2012 Farm Bill.
Join me, EWG, Mario Batali, Michael Pollan and more than 70 of the nation’s food and health leaders in urging Congress to cut crop insurance subsidies and redirect that money into vital investments in nutrition, healthy food and conservation programs. Click here to take action right now – before the Senate votes on the 2012 farm bill. Support an amendment proposed by Senator Gillibrand that will cut outrageous crop insurance subsidies, restore cuts to nutrition programs, and redirect $500 million dollars to healthy food programs.
An Open Letter to Members of Congress:
With the 2008 farm bill due to expire in a matter of months, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved legislation in April to steer the next five years of national food and agriculture policy. We applaud the positive steps that the proposed bill takes under Senator Debbie Stabenow’s leadership, including incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases, scaling up local production and distribution of healthy foods and bolstering marketing and research support for fruit, nut and vegetable farmers.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill falls far short of the reforms needed to come to grips with the nation’s critical food and farming challenges. It is also seriously out of step with the nation’s priorities and what the American public expects and wants from our food and farm policy. In a national poll last year, 78 percent said making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and accessible should be a top priority in the farm bill. Members of the U.S. Council of Mayors and the National League of Cities have both echoed this sentiment in recent statements calling for a healthy food and farm bill.
Although the committee proposal includes important reforms to the commodity title, we are deeply concerned that it would continue to give away subsidies worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers, insurance companies, and agribusinesses even as it drastically underfunds programs to promote the health and food security of all Americans, invest in beginning and disadvantaged farmers, revitalize local food economies and protect natural resources. We strongly object to any cuts in food assistance during such dire times for so many Americans. These critical shortcomings must be addressed when the bill goes to the Senate floor.
As written, the bill would spend billions to guarantee income for the most profitable farm businesses in the country. This would come primarily in the form of unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to industrial-scale growers who can well afford to pay more of their risk management costs. Crop insurance programs must be reformed to work better for diversified and organic farmers and to ensure comprehensive payment caps or income eligibility requirements. Otherwise, this so called “safety net” becomes an extravagant entitlement for affluent landowners and insurance companies.
In addition, the proposed $9 billion-a-year crop insurance program comes with minimal societal obligations. Growers collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premium subsidies should at least be required to take simple measures to protect wetlands, grassland and soil. Instead, the unlimited subsidies will encourage growers to plow up fragile areas and intensify fencerow-to-fencerow cultivation of environmentally sensitive land, erasing decades of conservation gains.
Most of the benefits from these programs would flow to the producers of five big commodity crops (corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat). Meanwhile, millions of consumers lack access to affordable fruits and vegetables, with the result that the diets of fewer than five percent of adults meet the USDA’s daily nutrition guidelines. Partly as a result, one in three young people is expected to develop diabetes and the diet-related health care costs of diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke are rising precipitously, reaching an estimated $70 billion a year.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Government Accountability Office has identified modest reforms to crop insurance subsidies that could save as much as $2 billion a year. Half could come from payment limits that affect just four percent of the growers in the program. Congress should use these savings to provide full funding for conservation and nutrition assistance programs and strengthen initiatives that support local and healthy food, organic agriculture and beginning and disadvantaged farmers. These investments could save billions in the long run by protecting valuable water and soil resources, creating jobs and supporting foods necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.
When it is your turn to vote, we urge you to stand up for local and healthy food and nutrition programs and to support equitable and fiscally responsible amendments that will protect and enhance public health and the environment while maintaining a reasonable safety net for the farmers who grow our food. More than ever before, the public demands this. Come November, they will be giving their votes to members of Congress who supported a healthy food and farm bill that puts the interests of taxpayers, citizens and the vast majority of America’s farmers first and foremost.
Our nation was built on the principles of protecting our greatest legacy: the land on which we grow our food and feed our families. Stand with us to protect not only farmers, without whom we would all go hungry, but to enact a food and farm bill that fairly and judiciously serves the interests of all Americans.
|Leigh Adcock||Executive Director, Women, Food and Agriculture Network|
|Will Allen||Farmer, Founder, CEO of Growing Power|
|Dan Barber||Executive Chef and Co-owner Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns|
|Neal D. Barnard, MD||President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine|
|Sung e Bai||Director of National Programs, Slow Food USA|
|Mario Batali||Chef, Author, Entrepreneur|
|Fedele Bauccio||CEO, Bon Appetit Management Company|
|Jo Ann Baumgartner||Wild Farm Alliance|
|Rick Bayless||Chef, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo|
|David Beckmann||President, Bread for the World|
|Andy Bellatti||Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, Andy Bellatti Nutrition|
|Wendell Berry||Lane’s Landing Farm|
|Haven Bourque||Founder, HavenBMedia|
|Tom Colicchio||Craft Restaurants|
|Christopher Cook||Author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis|
|Ken Cook||President, Environmental Working Group|
|Ann Cooper||Chef and Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation|
|Ronnie Cummins||Organic Consumers Association|
|Laurie David||Author, Family Dinner|
|Michael R. Dimock||President, Roots of Change|
|Christopher Elam||Executive Director, INFORM|
|Maria Echeveste||Senior fellow, Center for American Progress (for affiliation purposes only)|
|Andy Fisher||Co-founder and founding Executive Director, Community Food Security Coalition|
|Chef Kurt Michael Friese||Owner, Devotay Restaurant & Bar and Publisher, Edible Iowa River Valley|
|Joan Dye Gussow||Grower, Author, Professor Emerita Teachers College, Columbia University|
|Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD||Food Sleuth Radio|
|Gary Hirshberg||Co-founder and Chairman, Stonyfield|
|Mark Hyman, MD||Chairman, The Institute for Functional Medicine|
|John Ikerd||Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics|
|Dan Imhoff||Author, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill|
|Wes Jackson||President, The Land Institute|
|Kristi Jacobson||Catalyst Films|
|Michael Jacobson||Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest|
|Robert Kenner||Director, Food Inc.|
|Navina Khanna||Co-Founder and Field Director, Live Real|
|Andrew Kimbrell||Executive Director, Center for Food Safety|
|Fred Kirschenmann||Author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher|
|Melissa Kogut||Executive Director, Chefs Collaborative|
|Anna Lappé||Author, Diet for a Hot Planet, Cofounder, Small Planet Institute|
|Robert S. Lawrence, MD||Center for a Livable Future, Professor, Johns Hopkins University|
|Kelle Louaillier||Executive Director, Corporate Accountability International|
|Bill McKibben||Author, Deep Economy|
|Liz McMullan||Executive Director, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation|
|Craig McNamara||President Sierra Orchards and Center for Land-Based Learning|
|Carolyn Mugar||Founder and Director of Farm Aid|
|Frances Moore Lappé||Cofounder, Small Planet Institute|
|Dave Murphy and Lisa Stokke||Food Democracy Now!|
|Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II||Director for Public Witness, Presbyterian Church|
|Marion Nestle||Professor, NYU and Author, Food Politics|
|Y. Armando Nieto||Executive Director, California Food and Justice Coalition|
|Nicolette Hahn Niman||Rancher, Author, Attorney|
|Denise O’Brien||Co-founder, Women, Food and Agriculture Network; organic farmer|
|Robyn O’Brien||Executive Director, AllergyKids Foundation|
|Michael Pollan||Professor, UC Berkeley School of Journalism|
|Nora Pouillon||Chef, Author, Owner of Restaurant Nora|
|LaDonna Redmond||Food Justice Advocate and Food and Community Fellow|
|John Robbins||Author, Diet For A New America, The Food Revolution, and No Happy Cows|
|Ocean Robbins||Host, Food Revolution Network|
|Ricardo Salvador||Union of Concerned Scientists|
|Eric Schlosser||Author, Fast Food Nation|
|Lori Silverbush||Silverbush Productions|
|Matthew Scully||Author, Dominion|
|George L. Siemon||CEO, Organic Valley|
|Michele Simon||President, Eat Drink Politics|
|Jim Slama||President, FamilyFarmed.org|
|Naomi Starkman||Founder, Editor-in-chief, Civil Eats|
|Anim Steel||Real Food Challenge|
|Josh Viertel||Former President, Slow Food USA|
|David Wallinga, MD||Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy|
|Alice Waters||Owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant|
|Andrew Weil, MD||Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine|
|Tom and Denesse Willey||T&D Willey Farms|
|Paul Willis||Founder/Manager Niman Ranch Pork Company|
|Mark Winne||Mark Winne Associates|
Monday, December 19th, 2011, 9:32 PM
From our friends at Environmental Working Group, posted 12/16/11:
Making sense of the complex farm bill is the first step in bringing much-needed change to America’s badly broken food and farm system.
Advocates for good food get fed a Washington, DC diet of constant government austerity excuses when it comes to reforming the nation’s broken food and farm system. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that better policies – such as providing better quality food in school lunches – would pay long-term dividends in the form of healthier kids and lower health care costs. When pressed to address healthy food priorities, both parties’ standard response is the predictable, “There simply is no money.”
At the Environmental Working Group, we know that’s nonsense.
We follow the money, and we dig deeply into misguided agriculture policies to expose the real story. There’s plenty of money; it’s just going to the wrong places for the wrong reasons – such as the lavish payments that go to highly profitable mega farms whether they need it or not.
Gross inequities like this are on prominent display in EWG’s farm subsidy database, but pictures and graphics often speak much louder than words. With debate on the 2012 farm bill looking to begin in as little as a month’s time, EWG participated last week in our first-ever “Farm Bill Hackathon.” The competition was organized by Food Tech Connect to develop tools and visualizations to help convey to the public the complexities and relevance of the farm bill and America’s food system. Beth Hoffman of Food Tech Connect described it this way:
Over the weekend the Farm Bill Hackathon brought together (in person and virtually) 120 designers, data scientists, developers, marketing professionals, food policy experts and USDA employees to “hack” one of the most important pieces of legislation in the U.S. – the farm bill. Over the course of 12 hours, five graphics and four tools were produced, addressing issues as diverse as support to new farmers, the effect of subsidies on global hunger and how to crowd source Meatless Mondays.
Taking first prize was a piece titled Farm Bill of Health, which is based on new EWG data showing how little federal spending supports fruit and vegetable consumption. We’d like to thank the designers, GRACE and the Center for a Livable Future for all their hard work on the Farm Bill of Health. Food Tech Connect’s “infographic of the week,” titled Cotton vs. Carrots, was also based on EWG data and analysis.
We hope these infographics will help illuminate the absurd trajectory of federal agriculture policy. With the 2012 farm bill close at hand, making sense of the complex $400 billion legislation is the first step in bringing much needed change to the badly broken food and farm system.
Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 12:07 PM
The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Growing Green Awards honor individuals who have demonstrated original leadership in the field of sustainable food. Through this national award, NRDC will recognize extraordinary contributions that advance ecologically integrated farming practices, climate stewardship, water stewardship, farmland preservation, and social responsibility from farm to fork. Applications must be submitted by TOMORROW, December 16, 2011.
Get your nominations in of your favorite living food hero. Comes with great cash and press rewards.
- Food Industry News & Trends
Monday, November 28th, 2011, 2:22 PM
For Immediate Release: November 28, 2011
Contact: Sam Fromartz, Editor-in-Chief
Naomi Starkman, 917.539.3924-c;
THE FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING NETWORK LAUNCHES
Independent, Non-Profit, Investigative News Organization to Focus on Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Health
Premiere Story Profiles Successful Citizen Movement to Halt Pollution by New Mexico’s Powerful Mega-Dairies
New York, NY—The Food and Environment Reporting Network, Inc., an independent, non-profit, non-partisan news organization that produces investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health for distribution to major media outlets, today launched with its first story in the award-winning western magazine, High Country News. The report takes a hard look at pollution by the powerful dairy industry in New Mexico and how one man became the driving force behind a movement that brought the state’s mega-dairies to heel. The story can be found on www.thefern.org and hcn.org/milkandwater.
“Our stories will fall under the classic mandate of investigative reporting–to reveal corruption, abuse of power, and exploitation wherever it happens; to expose activities that the powerful work to keep hidden or to explore subjects that are just too complex for the breaking news cycle,” said Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz. “We’ve chosen to focus on food, agriculture, and environmental health specifically because we feel these are under-reported subjects that touch people’s lives every day.”
Several more investigative stories commissioned by the Food and Environment Reporting Network will break news in the weeks to come, appearing in mainstream publications, such as The American Prospect and The Nation magazines, as well as major daily newspapers. “Crucial to this work are the relationships we’re forging with regional and national media partners, who are clearly interested in our model and the work we’re producing,” Fromartz said.
“Over the past four decades, coverage of food and agriculture has waned in the mainstream press at the same time as the impact of a more industrialized food system on public health has become increasingly severe,” said Ruth Reichl, editorial board member of the Food and Environment Reporting Network, Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste, Editor-at-Large at Random House, and former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine. “Without detailed investigations into food and agriculture, our understanding of humanity’s impacts on the environment is incomplete and related policy changes ineffective.”
The dairy industry is New Mexico’s largest agricultural sector and an influential lobbying force. The state’s dairies average 2,000 cows each, the largest mean herd size in the nation. In her piece, “Milk and Water Don’t Mix,” Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for High Country News: “Although the state Environment Department has long worked with dairies to reduce pollution, change has been slow: Almost 60 percent of the state’s dairies have polluted groundwater with manure runoff, yet not one has begun the required cleanup.” Detailing how a self-described hermit named Jerry Nivens, his allies, and one Environment Department employee helped to pass some of the most progressive dairy-related water regulations in the West, Ogburn describes how New Mexico may now inspire other states to take the responsibility for limiting industrial farm pollution into their own hands.
About the Food and Environment Reporting Network
The Food and Environment Reporting Network experience in writing and publishing is represented by its Board of Directors, which includes Editor-in-Chief Samuel Fromartz, author, freelance journalist and a former Reuters business editor; Allison Arieff, a contributing columnist for The New York Times, contributing columnist for The Atlantic Cities, and editor of the Urbanist magazine for SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association); and Ralph Loglisci, a leading food policy media strategist. Former board members Katrina Heron and Naomi Starkman were involved in the organization’s founding and development. Tom Laskawy is the Executive Director and manages the organization; Paula Crossfield serves as the Managing Editor.
The Food and Environment Reporting Network’s editorial board includes Brian Halweil, editor of Edible East End and co-publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines; Katrina Heron, Editor-at-Large at Newsweek/The Daily Beast and previously Editor-in-Chief of WIRED and a senior editor at The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times magazines; Ruth Reichl, Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste, Editor-at-Large at Random House, and former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine; Elizabeth Royte, author of the critically acclaimed books, Garbage Land and Bottlemania; and Charles Wilson, co-author with Eric Schlosser of the number one New York Times children’s bestseller Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food.
A registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation based in New York, the Food and Environment Reporting Network was founded in October 2009 and began operations in January 2011. It is funded by the generous support of the The 11th Hour Project, McKnight Foundation, Clarence Heller Foundation, Columbia Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Monday, November 21st, 2011, 10:12 AM
We wanted to share the good news from our friends at Food & Water Watch:
Amazing news: thanks to the recent surge of grassroots pressure, the vote to allow “fracking” of the Delaware River Basin has been cancelled! The drinking water for 16-million people has been protected, and a major win has been scored for the climate.
It was thrilling to watch the movement rise up to save the Delaware River. With the support of a powerful coalition, thousands of you put some serious pressure on your governors and signed up to join the massive rally on the day of the scheduled vote. We think it was the largest coordinated campaign against fracking in history.
And here’s the thing: your action did not go unnoticed. People power worked as it should. After receiving thousands of calls and emails, Governor Jack Markell of Delaware has definitively said he will vote no on fracking the Delaware — tipping the balance of votes on the 5-person commission and likely leading to the meeting’s cancellation.
News this good deserves to be shared — let’s spread it. Click to share it on Twitter, on Facebook, or just forward this email on.
To dive deeper on what this all means, check out what our friend Josh Fox (the director of Gasland) had to say:
“You stopped fracking in the Delaware River Basin for now. You won this round. It is not a complete victory but it is a huge victory. You brought us back from the brink of total devastation.
What cancellation means: The DRBC doesn’t hold a meeting to vote down their regulations. I’ve only ever seen them vote to approve things. Which means they cancel the meeting if they no longer have 3 out of 5 commissioners voting in favor of fracking. Which is exactly what they have done. They don’t cancel meetings often, let alone votes…
This is not a complete victory by any means. We still do not know when the DRBC will reschedule their meeting. Could be ten days, could be a month, could be a year. So stay tuned and stay ready. We will let you know. We will have many more battles before we stop fracking completely in the Delaware River Basin and throughout the nation and the world.”
The movement is on a roll now. Last week, we helped stop the Keystone XL pipeline in its tracks, and now we’ve put a solid pause (which might well lead to a full stop!) on fracking of the Delaware River. Just weeks ago, pretty much all of the “experts” thought the Keystone pipeline was a done deal, and the “conventional wisdom” is that there’s no stopping the fracking rush. We’re proving the experts wrong and turning conventional wisdom on it’s head — and we have no intention of stopping any time soon.
So the trainings on Sunday and the action on Monday are both still on. Here’s how Josh Fox explained this morning: “We have just had a major victory, that is true. But there is immense suffering happening and irreparable damage being done across Pennsylvania, across the US and across the world from fracking…we must push ahead.”
If you were planning to join the trainings or the rally, we hope you’ll still take the journey. And if you were on the fence or if this is all news to you: we hope you’ll find a way to get to Trenton and celebrate with us.
To get more info on Monday’s celebration/action in Trenton NJ, stay tuned to the Save the Delaware coalition website.
To get more info on Sunday’s action training sessions in New York City and New Jersey, check the page from our friends at Delaware River Keeper.
Make no mistake: we need to ramp up our collective skills and strengthen our connections now more than ever. I can’t wait to see what we’ll win next.
Phil Aroneanu for the 350.org Team
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 12:17 AM
“Service,” by Wangari Maathai, from Replenishing the Earth
We all have a need to feel at ease and in harmony with ourselves and the environment we live within. Many of us discover that it isn’t material things that provide this. In my own life, I have observed that well-being and satisfaction are achieved through compassion, the giving of oneself, serving others, and sharing. We aren’t material beings; we are filled with spirit. . . . Kikuyus used a gourd, in which they carried porridge or beer, as an offering or gift. Whoever received the gourd would polish it with oil before returning it. Over time, the gourd would become beautifully
varnished by this repeated polishing. The deeper the color of the gourd, the more generous you had been—and the more connected you remained to the world around you. . . .
These gestures of giving capture both the spiritual and the practical elements of gratitude and respect for resources. Our connections to the planet and each other are reinforced simultaneously. The spirit of not wasting, because we assign value to something, is found in many traditions, but not often expressed. We could benefit from spending more time polishing our gourds for each other.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, 3:45 PM
The Story of Broke couldn’t come at a better time with over 200 Occupations happening all over the country, right before Thanksgiving and with the election coming down the pipe. See Annie Leonard’s new short film here. If you want to get involved with Participatory Budgeting in New York, please visit http://pbnyc.org/. From now until March 2012, the residents of Districts 8, 39, 42, and 45 get to spend $6 million of public money.
The Story of Broke
The United States isn’t broke; we’re the richest country on the planet and a country in which the richest among us are doing exceptionally well. But the truth is, our economy is broken, producing more pollution, greenhouse gasses and garbage than any other country. In these and so many other ways, it just isn’t working. But rather than invest in something better, we continue to keep this ‘dinosaur economy’ on life support with hundreds of billions of dollars of our tax money. The Story of Broke calls for a shift in government spending toward investments in clean, green solutions—renewable energy, safer chemicals and materials, zero waste and more—that can deliver jobs AND a healthier environment. It’s time to rebuild the American Dream; but this time, let’s build it better.
Monday, November 7th, 2011, 11:49 AM
Cross posted at Civil Eats on November 4th, 2011
Last weekend, I joined more than 30 people who braved blizzard-like conditions to assemble in a square across from Occupy Wall Street’s encampment at Zucotti Park to speak up about connections between big food and the Occupy movement. There was a food activist from Iowa, a farmer from upstate New York, students and professors from NYU, a union electrician, a nutritionist (who said she was there because “if the food system isn’t working, I can’t do my job”) and more.
Many carried plastic-covered signs with slogans like “Beat the System” and, my favorite, a line from Tom Philpott’s excellent article: “Our Food System is a Big Fat Monopoly.” As the rally ended—cut short by 30-degree temperatures, blinding snow, and 30-mile-an-hour wind gusts—I shared my commitment to do one, easy thing this week in support of the 99 percent: To move my money out of the hands of Citibank.
This week, tens of thousands of people are pledging to move their money out of the pockets of the financial institutions that got us into this mess and into the hands of credit unions and banks we can believe in.
When I first heard about this campaign, spearheaded by grassroots activists along with national groups ranging from the Rainforest Action Network (where I’m on the board of directors) to MoveOn.org, I thought—and I admit this with a good dose of embarrassment—“Good idea, but what a pain. I mean, I’d have to change all my automatic bill payments and open new accounts.”
But, of course, it’s probably a bit more than a pain to spend cold, wet nights—like last Saturday—sleeping on the hard cement of outdoor parks. If hundreds of people can make that sacrifice—all day, all week, for weeks—I think I can handle doing some busywork to move my money. And so I am. On Saturday, November 5, the national day of action to move your money, I’m closing my Citibank account, the one I opened 15 years ago on the same block as my first Brooklyn sublet. And I’m joining tens thousands of others when I do.
And it’s going to feel good. See, I’ve had twinges of regret for years, every time I heard about some new act of egregious Big Bank behavior. I just got used to turning a blind eye. But then the financial meltdown, the Big Bank bailout, and now this collective call to action and my attitude started to change and my eyes started opening.
Consider, for instance, that Citibank just agreed to pay $285 million to settle a lawsuit, essentially admitting to misleading investors about toxic mortgage-backed securities, although the bank officially neither admitted nor denied that it had done anything wrong. How convenient. Meanwhile, ProPublica, which has been digging into the machinations of Citi and other Big Banks, argues that the bank is on the line for much more and much worse.
But also keep in mind what Citibank has been doing with my, and our, money all these years and what it has to do with the food movement that turned out at Occupy Wall Street this past weekend. Turns out, Citibank has been busy. Here’s a taste. The bank has been:
– Investing in major agricultural projects in developing countries, what many critics call a modern-day land grab;
– Financing the leading Chinese agribusiness company and development of China’s chemical industry;
– Underwriting $300 million to finance expansion of “land grabs” in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia for agricultural commodities and livestock production.
Bank of America customer? Keep in mind the bank is one of the lead underwriters of the coal industry. Rainforest Action Network is encouraging people to close their accounts and let BofA know that the bank should be moving its investment dollars away from dirty coal and toward clean, green renewable energy. Says RAN:
The bank routinely underwrites hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to…two of the biggest coal mining companies in the Powder River Basin that are desperately trying to secure a… facility to ship coal overseas…
As if all this weren’t enough to push us over the edge, I got a letter from Citibank several weeks ago—maybe you got a similar one from your Big Bank?—in which the bank informed me that clients who keep less than a $6,000 account balance—that’s me—would start seeing a monthly $15 fee on their statements. In other words, if you’re not rich enough to keep a big balance, you have to pay Citibank to keep your money while they spend it in their bailout-resulting, environment-destroying financial decisions.
I haven’t even been giving $15 a month to my favorite social action organization, yet I was sitting quietly while Citibank informed me they were going to take it from me and my captive bank account? (If you think Citibank’s policy was egregious, Bank of America announced it would start charging $60 a year to use its ATMs, a policy, which, thanks to public outcry, the bank just reversed).
Enough. I am done. Done with Citibank, done with feeling guilty when I get my monthly statements in the mail; done with feeling bad when I see my ATM card in my wallet. So on November 5, I plan to join with others across the country as I walk into my local Citi branch and close my account. I’ll tell them why, add my voice to the pledges here, and cut up my card. Then, I’ll head home to check out my new bank accounts online at Amalgamated Bank, the bank of the labor union movement. (You can find community-oriented banks and credit unions near you here and tips about how to move your money and not mess up your finances here.)
Finally, I’ll commit to giving that $15 a month (which, mind you, Citibank was going to take from me) to one of my favorite groups working on behalf of the 99 percent. All this will take a little paperwork and a little time, but nothing I can’t handle. And then, I’ll be free—and it’ll feel great. I hope you’ll join me.