What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, March 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Although Congress passed an extension on 2002's Farm Bill until April 18, requiems are already being said for the hopes and dreams everyone had for radical change.
"A little more than a year ago," The Wall Street Journal said yesterday in this excellent article, "the stars appeared to be aligned for significant changes to the complex piece of legislation known as the farm bill… But now serious reform is likely to be left behind like corn husks flung from a combine."
As explained by Lauren Etter and Greg Hitt, the farm lobby continues to be an extremely powerful force on Capitol Hill (n.b. this link is only free to non-subscribers for another 5 days).
Meanwhile, over at Gourmet magazine, they've got an article by Sam Hurst called "Betting the Farm," that examines the Farm Bill, subsidies, and one South Dakota family living in the heart of subsidy country, but following a different path. "I've got a philosophical problem with growing corn," says young farmer Michael Stiegelmeier, "Most corn goes to livestock. I prefer to feed grain to people, and I prefer for cattle to eat grass."
Posted on Mon, February 18, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food Chicago member Anne Marie Klaske of NA-DA FARM (near DeKalb, IL) wrote to us about her family's unexpected encounter with the NAIS system.
An interesting reverberation and consequence that none of us might have anticipated. Please do jump in with your thoughts on this one:
I wanted to share w/SlowFood USA our family's experience lately with NAIS. We are just a small farm, with backyard 'pets' that provide us with our own eggs, and a horse and the kids pony…they aren't looking to go anywhere except to show them at the 4-H Fair. However, 4-H has complied with the NAIS's voluntary request to make it mandatory for all livestock to have a premises I.D. (the start to NAIS). My little 9 year old girl had been preparing to show Lady (her pony) this year at the fair, and because we don't want to participate in NAIS at all- with any form- she is unable to show her. We contacted the local 4-H leader of our county, and to our dismay, she explained they had to participate in the NAIS request because that is where they get a lot of their grant money. We are not only disappointed in the complacency of 4-H, but also how people just don't understand NAIS is a request, at least for now, and the more people who go along with the request the easier it will be for NAIS to be implemented for everyone, even the single Grandma living on her family farm who only owns one goat!
The amount of paperwork, expense, and just plain intrusion into our private homes/farms, is just wrong. Hopefully, as with anything new, people are looking into NAIS, not forgetting to look into the problems with that kind of system, instead of just taking it for the face value of helping: "provides producers and owners like you with a uniform numbering system for their animals to help manage them more closely." Any livestock owner, whether big or small, will tell you they manage their animals just fine now, without the government interfering, and for my daughter showing her pony at the fair, it's just plain unfair.
Posted on Wed, February 13, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
It's been a while since we've done any Farm Bill alerts, so here goes, since things are starting to get rolling again for the final push. Thanks to our friends at Community Food Security Coalition for keeping us all informed and in the loop.
The next step for getting this thing passed: members of the Senate and the House need to reconcile the differences between the versions that each body passed last year. When they come up with a single, decisive version, they'll then send it over to Bush, who many fear will veto the whole darn thing.
The conferees from the Senate side were announced this week. They are the top ranking (been around the longest) members of the Agriculture Committee - 6 Democrats and 5 Republicans:
Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
If any of these Senators are from your state, it is still important to give them a call. Things to mention:
You can reach your Senator's office by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Posted on Tue, February 12, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The New Mexico State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 60 that provides New Mexico State University (NMSU) $250,000 for: "research on mechanical harvesting and genetic engineering of chile…" We have until Wednesday morning to get Governor Richardson to line item veto this funding.
Members of Slow Food Rio Grande met with the chile industry's lobbyist yesterday and one of the sponsors of the bill. The chile industry's contention is that they have lost market share to Peru due to lower costs, and that labor is difficult to find. In response, they have developed a mechanized picker but now need a stronger chile that can handle the pressure of the machine.
Certain varieties of chile have been crossed over the past years making the skin tougher, etc. But, these same growers/chile processing companies, currently have operations in Mexico. And one of these companies has been patenting the "process" of making chile, so chile grown in Mexico is now called "New Mexico Chile." They are currently patenting the names of traditional chiles as well. NMSU also will gain with the development of a GMO chile seed.
GMO seeds can potentially destroy the genetic diversity of New Mexico's natural habitat, causing deviations in the structure of native and wild species, and the ecosystem. This bill threatens the integrity of all chile seeds grown for generations locally and internationally. Many countries ban GMO products, so in effect this bill would limit exportation of all NM's chile products. (n.b. The New Mexican Chile is on Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste).
As consumers and representatives of organizations, as defenders of biodiversity and non-genetically modified food, we urge to you to please help us out by calling, emailing or faxing Governor Richardson to veto this funding.
With less than 24 hours, PLEASE call and email Governor Richardson. Let him know you will no longer eat chile products from NM, if this bill is funded.
1. Telephone: 505-476-2200
· Tell the person your name
· Tell them if you are a consumer, Slow Food member, farmer, etc, and from where
· Tell the person you want the Governor to:
Line Item Veto: In HB2 (House Bill 2), page 179, (7) Research & Public Service Projects (gg) CHILE INDUSTRY for $250,000.
· Click here or
· Copy into your browser: http://www.governor.state.nm.us/email.php?mm=6&type=opinion
· Choose issue: Legislative Session 2008
· Cut and Paste the Following in the Comments section:
Please Line Item Veto: In HB2, page 179, (7) Research & Public Service Projects (gg) CHILE INDUSTRY for $250,000.
3. Fax: 505-476-2257
Posted on Thu, February 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
More in meat news:
We all know the concept of a morality tax: tax cigarettes like crazy and people will stop smoking, raise taxes on gasoline and people will stop guzzling. Results are debatable. Now PETA is calling for a meat tax, which they're calling a "sin tax." Slow Food USA Ark-Presidia Committee member Emil DeFelice makes an argument in the Charleston City Paper that a meat tax misses the point. "All cigarettes are bad," he says, "but not all meat is bad."
How about a tax on industrial meat?
Addition: Here's a link to Dr. Temple Grandin's website, where you can read all about her work designing humane slaughter facilities and developing assessment criteria for animal handling.
(n.b. our post title comes from a quote from National Pork Board spokesperson Cindy Cunningham)
Posted on Fri, February 01, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
From our friends at Community Food Security Coalition
re: Community Food Projects, which are designed to increase food security in communities, improving the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.
This year's competition for Community Food Project (CFP) grants has been halted by the USDA because of uncertainties about the program's future funding in the Farm Bill. Prior to this recent suspension, over 460 letters of intent had been submitted.
The House version of the Farm Bill provided discretionary - not mandatory - funding, which means that the program must be funded through the appropriations process. The Senate version restored mandatory funding at $10 million annually for years 2008-2012 (double what it received previously).
However, no money for the program was provided in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill. USDA decided to halt considerations for 2008 grants because if the House funding prevails in conference or if a new Farm Bill is not passed, CFP will not be funded in 2008.
Your advocacy is critical to restore this decade-long enormously successful program. Millions of dollars are at stake for programs that support access to healthy food for underserved communities and benefit family farmers.
You can help!
Please send faxed letters to and call your House of Representatives member and both Senators and tell them you are very concerned that continued CFP funding is in jeopardy in the Farm Bill.
To reach your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
For Representatives, ask him/her to contact:
Chairman Peterson (if a Democrat) or
Rep. Goodlatte (if a Republican)
For Senators, ask him/her to contact:
Senator Harkin (if a Democrat) or
Senator Chambliss (if a Republican).
Posted on Thu, January 31, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The NRDC, along with several other organizations has apparently brought a lawsuit against the EPA, challenging the EPA rule that allows pesticides to be tested on people (pregnant women and children included).
They argue that this kind of testing is unethical because of problems in the past when subjects misled about what they were being given (!), and also because the poeple likely attracted to being guinea pigs would be low-income people.
This might make some of you New Yorker magazine readers out there think about the recent disturbing article on people who earn their livelihoods as serial medical test subjects.
All of this says nothing, of course, about the ethics of testing on animals. A conversation/lawsuit for another day?
Posted on Mon, January 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Today is the final day to submit your comments to the USDA regarding their proposed label standard for meat as "naturally raised." We've all been marveling for a long time now at the emptiness of a phrase like "natural." When informed shoppers see that on food packaging they know that by this point it pretty much means nothing: a big zero.
The USDA label promises to be similarly hollow, referring only to the animals being hormone and antibiotic free. So, I guess if you think it's "natural" for animals to be industrially farmed, then great! If not, please take the next few hours to register your disapproval.
Please Note: All Comments Must Reference "Docket No. LS-07-16" by writing at the top of the letter or email "Re: Docket No. LS-07-16"
Posted on Wed, January 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Milk can't seem to stay out of the news these past few weeks. The big stories?
Starbucks, after recently agreeing to use only rbGH-free milk, has discontinued offering organic milk. Apparently once there was no more rbGH in the milk, the primary reason for their customers to order organic had been eliminated.
Pennsylvania citizens succeeded in securing that local milk labels can identify the product as "hormone free." After Pennsylvania's October ban on letting consumers know what's what in their milk, the public spoke up. The governor ultimately had this to say: "The public has a right to complete information about how the milk they buy is produced." And based on Starbucks' feedback from customers (rbGH is gross), seems like a good idea.
California raw milk producers are upset about legislation being pushed through that puts strict — and unnecessary, they say– limits on the number of coliform per milleliter in raw milk. Likely an attempt on the part of the legislature, some think, to work towards outlawing raw milk.
Posted on Mon, January 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
You have read, in this space among many others, of the sinister nature of genetic modification and the patenting of seeds. I have ranted endlessly about the dangers of the food system being in the hands of just a few corporate land barons. No reason to stop now.
For about five years now the USDA and many large corporate interests have been pushing a program called the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is touted as an effective tool in battling the spread of livestock diseases such as cattle tuberculosis and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow. It provides methods for tagging livestock of any kind with RFID, the same sort of microchip that many people have put on their pets in hopes of recovering poor Fido if he ever gets lost. The thinking is that if a side of beef in a Greeley, Colorado meatpacking plant tests positive for mad cow, authorities can quickly and easily identify said cow, trace it back through the system, and discover other animals with which it may have made contact.
Currently, at the federal level, NAIS is a voluntary program overseen by the USDA and administered by the several states with help from organizations like the Future Farmers of America and the Farm Bureau. Farms, feedlots, and confined animal feeding operations apply for and receive a formal numerical designation that is then applied to microchips injected into or ear-tagged onto each animal. According to the USDA, in 2007 the state of Iowa went from 11,000 registered sites to more than 20,000, an increase of over 80 percent. All this despite a lack of any sort of government funding to participants for the program. Farmers must buy in if they choose to participate.
Setting aside for the moment that this system feels like a perfect bureaucratic method for closing the barn doors after the mad cows get out, all this seems fairly innocuous until we look a little deeper. The state of Texas has recently passed legislation requiring NAIS tagging for all dairy cattle. It goes into effect March 31. Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee now require participation for goats and sheep. In Michigan, farmer and now reluctant revolutionary Greg Niewendorp has endured visits from the sheriff reminiscent of scenes from and old Billy Jack movie.
The voluntary system is becoming perversely mandatory in many other states as well. In Colorado, according to Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, two families who refused to register their properties were kicked out of the state fair. In Idaho, the state included a NAIS premises registration form in the packets for registering one's brand (which has to be done every 5 years). The form was not clearly marked, and appeared to be simply part of the required brand documents. In Tennessee and North Carolina, where drought has made hay assistance necessary, you can't get any unless you register your property.
This has induced howls of outrage from a growing and vocal group of opponents, notably FarmAndRanchFreedom.org and NoNAIS.org, bringing together an odd-bedfellow mix of left-wing radicals and libertarian property-rights activists. They both feel that while such draconian measures may be necessary for an industrial food system that causes the very illnesses it now seems to need to track down, such procedures are overly-invasive, perhaps even Orwellian, for small family farms. The government is saying NAIS is voluntary while subsidiaries are making it mandatory. One needn't register one's guns, but goats are another matter. Seems we've met Big Brother, and he is us.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.