Tag: USDA

This week on Banter, AEI Visiting Scholar and Director of Agriculture Studies Vincent Smith joined the show to discuss the history of US agriculture policy and provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill, including farm subsidies and SNAP work requirement measures. Dr. Smith is a Professor of Economics in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University and co-director of MSU’s Agricultural Marketing Policy Center. He hosted a public event at AEI on the 2018 Farm Bill including what it means for the future of farm subsidies and US agriculture productivity. You can watch the full event video at the link below.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. In a Pickle Over Regulations

 

On my first trip to DC, an immigrant cabbie pointed out buildings to college-aged me. As he highlighted the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and every other building I already knew, we drove by an imposing monolith near the mall. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh, that’s the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

As it turned out, it was just the south building of the USDA, the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built. Next door is the USDA’s massive Jamie L. Whitten Building, which covers four acres by itself. What on earth do they do in there? I wondered.

Well, now I know. Over the weekend, I read just one of their regulations — 23 pages dedicated to pickles. Your tax dollars paid bureaucrats to mandate that a “small gherkin” must be less than 2.4 cm in diameter, whereas a “large gherkin” can have a diameter of up to 2.7 cm.

Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Chipotle and the Cult of Secular-Kosher

 

Chipotle

Is it important to you that the coffee you drink be fair trade and shade-grown? That the grapes from which your wine is made be locally-sourced? That the food you eat contain not a whiff of genetically-engineered ingredients? Welcome to the world of secular-kosher, where Judaism’s ancient dietary code for ethical eating is discarded in favor of a New Age preoccupation with feeling good about yourself and a healthy dollop of anti-Big Ag posturing.

The embodiment of secular kosher is Chipotle, which, in 2015, would seem to be hell-bent on poisoning as many of its customers as possible: a norovirus outbreak in California over the summer and another in Boston earlier this month; several cases of salmonella poisoning in Minnesota; an outbreak of E. coli in the Pacific Northwest. All three pathogens are unrelated. States which have reported food poisoning from eating at Chipotle read like a particularly grueling NBA road trip: Illinois (1), New York (1), Ohio (3), Minnesota (2), California (3) Pennsylvania (2). Bastions of progressivism Oregon (13) and Washington (27) lead the the list. The Center for Disease Control has been working overtime keeping score. As of December 18, 2015, 53 people have been infected with the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O26 bacteria.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. SCOTUS Kills Agency’s Raisin d’Être

 
Marvin Horne
Raisin farmer Marvin Horne won his 11-year-long suit against the federal government.

Hidden in the tottering mountain range of federal regulations is the sinister-sounding Marketing Order 989. This rule empowers the Marketing Order and Agreement Division of the Fruit and Vegetable Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage a National Raisin Reserve.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How Much Does Your Kid Weigh? The Feds Want to Know.

 

hey_michelle_obama_molon_labeIt is well documented that big government is creepy. They’re all up in our business from cradle to grave, and they just keep getting more and more intrusive. Our government seems to have a never-ending supply of new and creative ways to violate our privacy. The Free Beacon reported that the U.S.D.A. would like to weigh and measure children in daycare. Seriously.

This data is being collected as part of the First Lady’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, and also will include what meals are served and how much physical activity the kids undertake during their day. A notice in the Federal Register states that “Good nutrition is a key to proper childhood development, but not enough is known about the food children are eating in childcare and related programs.” What they mean, of course, is that not enough is known the by government. Perhaps that is because it has nothing to do with running a country.

The data collection would fall into three categories: surveys, forms and interviews. They include menu surveys, and data collection around costs, but the really creepy part is under “Child intake and weight status,” which includes the following four bullet points “child food diary (completed by parents), standing height and weight form (collected by study staff), infant food intake form, and parent interview.” They want a government representative to weigh and measure your child like a piece of livestock, and then will ask the parents to report every bite that the child eats. To the government.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Government Money Well Spent: Study Shows Meat and Fat are Good

 

The writers who work with me know that they can short-circuit my temper by mentioning one of two hot-button topics: the Writers Guild or the USDA Food Pyramid.

I’m against both, by the way. Each has done damage to very personal and important parts of me — my wallet and my waistline.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Petitioning the Sovereign

 

I confess I haven’t really been following the whole Michelle Obama school lunch thing. I get the gist: The First Lady has the USDA revise the standards to make them healthier, but the new guidelines are unrealistic, so kids don’t eat the food (with all the attendant behavioral consequences), and schools complain. I figured that eventually reality will win out over this instance of leftist dogmatism, so why bother paying attention?

Today though, Bridget Johnson at PJ Media had an article that made me do a double-take. The background: Congress is working on a bill to give school districts more flexibility, and Mrs. Obama doesn’t like it. (Again, nothing really surprising here; call me when the USDA loses this fight to the 5th graders.) Mrs. Obama explained her motivation:

Michelle Obama… said at a roundtable yesterday with school leaders and nutrition experts that “so many kids write me every day” about the “health crisis in this country.”

Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Mirages In Your Local Food Desert

 

fig1-blount-co-food-desert-overview-500x330James Lileks’ Bleat this morning got me thinking about this “food desert” idea that the First Lady has been talking about. Instapundit had a funny comment about grocery shopping in his local Federally-designated food desert the other day, which was the first I’d heard of the USDA’s interactive map of our produce-free arid zones. Well, I decided to check out the local food deserts for myself. Looking first in my home county (Blount County, Tennessee), I was shocked to find a giant food desert right at the doorstep of my church! In fact, our old sanctuary building is inside the desert, although the new one across the street has escaped this lack of privilege. If you look at the first satellite map, the green region is our food desert. What are the red circles I’ve added, you’re wondering? Don’t get ahead of me, now.

The definition of a food desert on the USDA map is a census zone with both Low Income (“LI”) and Low Access (“LA”) to nutritious food. Now, the trick with a survey of this type is how these things are defined:

  • Low Income is a tract with either a poverty rate ≥20%, or a median family income <80% of the state or region’s.
  • Low Access is a tract in which either ≥500 people or 1/3 of the population live too far from a supermarket. Too far is different for urban and rural areas: >1 mi. for urban and >10 mi. for rural.

OK, with that in mind, let’s look at Blount County’s desert of shame. Remember the red circles I drew? Those are grocery stores. The one just outside the east end is Kroger’s, but it’s outside the desert, so maybe it doesn’t count. The other one is a Wal-Mart Superstore, and it’s inside the desert. So how does this area classify as Low Access? Ahh, but this tract is classified as “urban.” Let’s take a closer look at the denser portion of it, near the southern end.