Agri-business News Mad Cow Disease

Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Jennifer Kaplan

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GOP Wants Fewer Farm Restrictions on Antibiotics for Animals, Pesticides, Water Use

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Which party supports sustainable food policies? If regulating antibiotics for animals as well as pesticide and water use on farms matters to you, the choice is pretty clear.

Adam Hartung’s great piece in Forbes, Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat, points out that it used to be that voters didn’t pick a candidate, the party did. Then voters read what policies the party planned to implement and it was the policies that drew the most attention – not the candidates.

So, I thought that for those of us who care about food (you know, how its produced, processed, distributed, and purchased) in this country then its important to know where the two parties stand.

Which of the two political parties supports food policies that favor healthy food? Sustainable resource use? A robust agricultural economy? And, who will protect the poor from food crisis?

As the Food Policy entry on Wikipedia notes:

Food policy can be on any level, from local to global, and by a government agency, business, or organization. In addition, food policy involves schools, regulations, and eligibility standards for food assistance programs; and it involves health and safety, food labeling, and even the qualifications of a product to be considered organic.

Last July Food Republic did a great analysis of how the two presidential candidates do on food policy.  The conclusion:

Under President Obama:

  • The USDA approved new nutrition guide known as MyPlate that, despite criticism for its simple design, has enjoyed far more success than its confusing predecessor.
  • “My Pyramid.” The USDA’s revised nutrition standards for school lunches (passed in January 2012) requires more vegetables and fruits, a whole grain requirement and milk that is 1% fat or less.
  • The Senate’s version of the farm bill was fully endorsed; it would eliminate many costly subsidies to farmers and increase spending for healthy food initiatives.
  • The USDA announced it would be closing 259 domestic offices.
Some other facts about the Obama Administration:
  • In June 2012 a report was issued highlighting the “tremendous value of the organic sector as part of our nation’s diverse agricultural economy.” The report noted that the U.S. organic industry grew by 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.4 billion in sales, making it a noteworthy contributor to the American farm economy. (A report, released by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in April, shows the organic food industry generated more than five hundred thousand American jobs in 2010.)
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a farmer’s market friendly program called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” to help people understand where their food comes from so they can make informed choices.

Romney’s food position:

  • First, his position on America’s farmers and subsidies has changed over the years.
  • During his 1994 Massachusetts Senate campaign, Romney called for the “virtual elimination” of the Department of Agriculture and for cutting back farm subsidies.
  • In January of 2012, Romney declared farm subsidies a “national-security issue” and maintained that they were vital to the safety of America’s food supply.
  • When asked about maintaining the current farm subsidies in March 2012, Romney told  WDAY-TV in North Dakota he said that making “unilateral” changes to our current policies could put us at a disadvantage in a global context.

Still a bit confused? Me too. So I went to agricultural advocacy organizations on both sides of the aisle: The American Farm Bureau Federation (supporting mostly Republican candidates) and the Organic Trade Association (supporting mostly Democratic candidates). On the next page, see what these two groups had to say.

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Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Hamed Saber

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About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .



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