Friday, April 13, 2012

Ethan's Farm and Food Roundup

EthanThe Food and Drug Administration has announced a new voluntary rule that requires farmers to get a prescription for the antibiotics that they feed their livestock, cracking down on the overuse of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in the industry. The new rule was established in an effort to reverse the number of human deaths that occur each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria generated by the overuse of antibiotics in the meat that we consume.

But in Mother Jones, Tom Philpott is critical of the new rule, explaining "the plan contains a bull-size loophole—and is purely voluntary, to boot."

With milk prices dropping and the cost of fertilizers and fuel increasing dramatically, Vermont dairy farmers are trying to stay afloat in the tough economy. The Vermont agriculture committee held a hearing to try to figure out how the Legislature can help the state’s dairy farmers, especially in light of federal legislation, called the Dairy Security Act, now under consideration. The act would replace federal milk price supports, due to drop dramatically this September, with an insurance program (which farmers would pay into voluntarily) that would guarantee dairy farmers a return on their investment.

Daniel Imhoff is the author of Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill. The book, originally written in 2007, was edited and remade to reflect a lot of information about this year’s Farm Bill, and about some of the dynamics and people that will influence the final product. This Grist article features an interview with the author about some of his views of the Farm Bill.

The state of Hawaii has shifted its agricultural policy focus to food safety and promoting local food. Importing around 92% of their food, Hawaii could pump $200 million back into their economy if they were able to grow an additional 10% of their food rather than import it. However, local farms say the food safety precautions that tag along with these bills could be enough to put them out of business.

The National Resource Defense Council’s petition to ban the use of the harsh pesticide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, or 2,4-D, has been denied by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said in an official statement that the NRDC‘s petition “addresses only 2,4-D's potential harm without addressing whether that harm is likely to occur or whether it would be unreasonable when weighed against 2,4-D's benefits." 2,4-D is known to be a hormone-disrupting chemical, which can affect critical developmental processes in very small amounts. Lactating rats fed low doses of 2,4-D exhibit impaired maternal behavior while their pups weigh less. Children of pesticide applicators in areas of Minnesota with heavy use of chlorophenoxy herbicides like 2,4-D had a disproportionately higher incidence of birth anomalies than in non-crop regions or where these herbicides were less used.

With 2,4-D resistant genetically modified corn potentially coming on the market, the EPA better be right about 2,4-D's safety, since the new corn, with 2,4-D resistant soy and cotton anticipated next, will encourage increased use of the pesticide.

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