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Clueless About Food and Agriculture?

Why Everyone has a Stake in the Farm Bill Fight

Published Monday, December 2, 2013

Outside of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to urge kids to exercise more and eat better, this administration remains largely indifferent to the disaster that is the country’s outdated food and agriculture policy. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently argued that rural America has become politically irrelevant — a possible explanation for why the House refused to even consider a vote on a new Farm Bill last year. Maybe it’s something else. It could be that the present Congress and administration are simply clueless about the severity of our food and farming crises.

Riding the coattails of the fiscal cliff bargain, the 2008 Farm Bill—three months past its “renew by” date—got a nine-month extension shortly after New Year’s Day. The extension could have included funds to preserve programs that help rural America and rebuild a food and farming system around the challenges of the 21st century. Instead, the policy—concocted in backdoor fashion without any public input—might as well have been written by lobbyists from the crop insurance, finance and agrochemical industries.

The Farm Bill extension bears little resemblance to the plan hotly debate and passed by the Senate last summer. While by no means ideal, that Senate plan would have clipped excessive commodity subsidies and reduced but still preserved important programs for conservation, organic agriculture, and rural development. This Farm Bill extension will continue sending $5 billion in direct payments to landowners whether they farm or not, whether they experience losses or not. (Both Republicans and Democrats favor eliminating such subsidies.) By extending rather than writing a new five-year Farm Bill, Congress did, however, manage to avert the dreaded “dairy cliff.” This would have reverted to a 1949 dairy subsidy program causing milk prices to spike to about $7 a gallon.

Kicking the Farm Bill down the road means we continue to invest in a backward agriculture policy. Because nothing was done to reform cotton subsidies, the U.S. will continue to send $150 million in 2013 to Brazilian cotton farmers. This is the result of a lingering World Trade Organization ruling that declared previous U.S. cotton supports trade distorting. Meanwhile, as Brazilian farmers benefit from the Farm Bill extension, the big losers are dozens of programs that train the next generation of U.S. farmers and ranchers, invest in on-farm renewable energy, assist organic growers, expand farmers markets, and rebuild the infrastructure of a regionally-diversified food system.

Contrary to what many might think, the U.S. faces a mounting list of rather alarming food and farming related challenges. Over 15% of the American population—mostly retired, disabled, children or underemployed—depend on food stamps, the largest budget item in the Farm Bill. Last year’s severe drought affected two-thirds of all agricultural counties, impacting crop yields, raising grain prices, and forcing livestock owners to sell off herds. Unpredictable weather patterns, we are told, are now the norm. “Superweeds” occupy 60 to 80 million acres of the country’s farmland as a result of a large-scale shift to genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops. Our research budgets into innovative farming strategies to address such problems are shrinking rather than expanding.

The Farm Bill exists to address problems, like these, that are not easily solved by the free market. A smarter Farm Bill would offer assistance to farmers to take care of natural resources, help for those who can’t get enough to eat, and funding for forward-thinking research to help farmers stay ahead of environmental challenges.

The good news is that the door is not yet closed on a Farm Bill. The most recent short-term extension means that a new five-year Farm Bill could be written and voted on by September. Despite “Farm Bill fatigue” setting in among many citizens who care about agriculture policy, the time to set the terms of this debate is now, as Congress struggles with the challenge of fiscal austerity and the national debt. We still have the opportunity to make the changes necessary for a healthier, more secure, and conservation-based food system. Representatives need to repeatedly hear our concerns.

Here are a few ideas that voters should be pestering the 113th Congress about:

 

  • Full funding for conservation programs to protect topsoil, clean air, fresh water and safeguard natural habitat;

 

  • Reform of the crop subsidy rules to exclude millionaires from government handouts and limit how much an individual entity can receive;

 

  • Changes to crop insurance including limits on federal funding to insurance companies and strict environmental stipulations for farming operations that enroll;

 

  • Expanded support for sustainable and organic agriculture through cost-share programs, research, and market development;

 

  • Continuation of programs that invest in a new generation of farmers and ranchers;

 

  • Initiatives aimed at increasing the accessibility and affordability of healthy nutritious foods, particularly among the young and aging.

 

This article appears courtesy of E - The Environmental Magazine, where it was originally published. To subscribe visit: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. For a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Eighty percent of all antibiotics currently used in the United States are given to farmed animals,  according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)‘s annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meat report, released in February. At a record-high total of 29.9 million pounds of drugs, the amount of antibiotics sold over-the-counter at feed lot stores to American beef, pork and poultry producers in 2011 was almost four times the amount sold to treat people.

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. “The threat of antibiotic resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children.” 

The latest NARMS data also revealed a startling 78% of salmonella found in turkey is resistant to at least one antibiotic, as is 75% of salmonella in chicken. Tetracycline-resistant campylobacter bacteria was also found in 95% of retail chicken.

“For ground turkey, [the FDA] found 10 different strains of salmonella, resistant to six or more antibiotic classes,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “We don’t have hundreds of antibiotic classes to choose from. If you get salmonella and your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic, they’re going to have to be careful in what they choose.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA has known that administering healthy livestock with antibiotics encourages the growth of drug-resistant superbugs since the 1970s, yet over 30 years later, the organization has yet to take any effective steps toward regulating the practice. Opposition and warnings over antibiotic resistance have poured in over the years from prestigious groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2004, IDSA released the report “Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As the Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates a Public Health Crisis Brews,” warning that 70% of Americans who acquire a bacterial infection were already resistant to at least one drug and “the trends toward increasing numbers of infection and increasing drug resistance show no sign of abating.”

“In the face of the antibiotic resistance crisis, we cannot afford to be standing still. We need strong action to combat the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Steven Roach, Public Health Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and a member of Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. “The FDA needs to use all the tools it has available to begin rolling back this massive use of antibiotics.”

- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/daily-news/antibiotic-overuse-could-lead-to-public-health-crisis/#sthash.wytlTtHm.dpuf

Eighty percent of all antibiotics currently used in the United States are given to farmed animals,  according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)‘s annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meat report, released in February. At a record-high total of 29.9 million pounds of drugs, the amount of antibiotics sold over-the-counter at feed lot stores to American beef, pork and poultry producers in 2011 was almost four times the amount sold to treat people.

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. “The threat of antibiotic resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children.” 

The latest NARMS data also revealed a startling 78% of salmonella found in turkey is resistant to at least one antibiotic, as is 75% of salmonella in chicken. Tetracycline-resistant campylobacter bacteria was also found in 95% of retail chicken.

“For ground turkey, [the FDA] found 10 different strains of salmonella, resistant to six or more antibiotic classes,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “We don’t have hundreds of antibiotic classes to choose from. If you get salmonella and your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic, they’re going to have to be careful in what they choose.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA has known that administering healthy livestock with antibiotics encourages the growth of drug-resistant superbugs since the 1970s, yet over 30 years later, the organization has yet to take any effective steps toward regulating the practice. Opposition and warnings over antibiotic resistance have poured in over the years from prestigious groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2004, IDSA released the report “Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As the Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates a Public Health Crisis Brews,” warning that 70% of Americans who acquire a bacterial infection were already resistant to at least one drug and “the trends toward increasing numbers of infection and increasing drug resistance show no sign of abating.”

“In the face of the antibiotic resistance crisis, we cannot afford to be standing still. We need strong action to combat the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Steven Roach, Public Health Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and a member of Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. “The FDA needs to use all the tools it has available to begin rolling back this massive use of antibiotics.”

- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/daily-news/antibiotic-overuse-could-lead-to-public-health-crisis/#sthash.wytlTtHm.dpuf

Eighty percent of all antibiotics currently used in the United States are given to farmed animals,  according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)‘s annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meat report, released in February. At a record-high total of 29.9 million pounds of drugs, the amount of antibiotics sold over-the-counter at feed lot stores to American beef, pork and poultry producers in 2011 was almost four times the amount sold to treat people.

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. “The threat of antibiotic resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children.” 

The latest NARMS data also revealed a startling 78% of salmonella found in turkey is resistant to at least one antibiotic, as is 75% of salmonella in chicken. Tetracycline-resistant campylobacter bacteria was also found in 95% of retail chicken.

“For ground turkey, [the FDA] found 10 different strains of salmonella, resistant to six or more antibiotic classes,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “We don’t have hundreds of antibiotic classes to choose from. If you get salmonella and your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic, they’re going to have to be careful in what they choose.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA has known that administering healthy livestock with antibiotics encourages the growth of drug-resistant superbugs since the 1970s, yet over 30 years later, the organization has yet to take any effective steps toward regulating the practice. Opposition and warnings over antibiotic resistance have poured in over the years from prestigious groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2004, IDSA released the report “Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As the Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates a Public Health Crisis Brews,” warning that 70% of Americans who acquire a bacterial infection were already resistant to at least one drug and “the trends toward increasing numbers of infection and increasing drug resistance show no sign of abating.”

“In the face of the antibiotic resistance crisis, we cannot afford to be standing still. We need strong action to combat the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Steven Roach, Public Health Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and a member of Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. “The FDA needs to use all the tools it has available to begin rolling back this massive use of antibiotics.”

- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/daily-news/antibiotic-overuse-could-lead-to-public-health-crisis/#sthash.wytlTtHm.dpuf

Eighty percent of all antibiotics currently used in the United States are given to farmed animals,  according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)‘s annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meat report, released in February. At a record-high total of 29.9 million pounds of drugs, the amount of antibiotics sold over-the-counter at feed lot stores to American beef, pork and poultry producers in 2011 was almost four times the amount sold to treat people.

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. “The threat of antibiotic resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children.” 

The latest NARMS data also revealed a startling 78% of salmonella found in turkey is resistant to at least one antibiotic, as is 75% of salmonella in chicken. Tetracycline-resistant campylobacter bacteria was also found in 95% of retail chicken.

“For ground turkey, [the FDA] found 10 different strains of salmonella, resistant to six or more antibiotic classes,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “We don’t have hundreds of antibiotic classes to choose from. If you get salmonella and your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic, they’re going to have to be careful in what they choose.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA has known that administering healthy livestock with antibiotics encourages the growth of drug-resistant superbugs since the 1970s, yet over 30 years later, the organization has yet to take any effective steps toward regulating the practice. Opposition and warnings over antibiotic resistance have poured in over the years from prestigious groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2004, IDSA released the report “Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As the Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates a Public Health Crisis Brews,” warning that 70% of Americans who acquire a bacterial infection were already resistant to at least one drug and “the trends toward increasing numbers of infection and increasing drug resistance show no sign of abating.”

“In the face of the antibiotic resistance crisis, we cannot afford to be standing still. We need strong action to combat the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Steven Roach, Public Health Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and a member of Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. “The FDA needs to use all the tools it has available to begin rolling back this massive use of antibiotics.”

- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/daily-news/antibiotic-overuse-could-lead-to-public-health-crisis/#sthash.wytlTtHm.dpuf

Eighty percent of all antibiotics currently used in the United States are given to farmed animals,  according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)‘s annual National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meat report, released in February. At a record-high total of 29.9 million pounds of drugs, the amount of antibiotics sold over-the-counter at feed lot stores to American beef, pork and poultry producers in 2011 was almost four times the amount sold to treat people.

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. “The threat of antibiotic resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children.” 

The latest NARMS data also revealed a startling 78% of salmonella found in turkey is resistant to at least one antibiotic, as is 75% of salmonella in chicken. Tetracycline-resistant campylobacter bacteria was also found in 95% of retail chicken.

“For ground turkey, [the FDA] found 10 different strains of salmonella, resistant to six or more antibiotic classes,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. “We don’t have hundreds of antibiotic classes to choose from. If you get salmonella and your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic, they’re going to have to be careful in what they choose.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA has known that administering healthy livestock with antibiotics encourages the growth of drug-resistant superbugs since the 1970s, yet over 30 years later, the organization has yet to take any effective steps toward regulating the practice. Opposition and warnings over antibiotic resistance have poured in over the years from prestigious groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2004, IDSA released the report “Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As the Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates a Public Health Crisis Brews,” warning that 70% of Americans who acquire a bacterial infection were already resistant to at least one drug and “the trends toward increasing numbers of infection and increasing drug resistance show no sign of abating.”

“In the face of the antibiotic resistance crisis, we cannot afford to be standing still. We need strong action to combat the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Steven Roach, Public Health Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and a member of Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. “The FDA needs to use all the tools it has available to begin rolling back this massive use of antibiotics.”

- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/daily-news/antibiotic-overuse-could-lead-to-public-health-crisis/#sthash.wytlTtHm.dpuf

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