Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back to Food and Big Ag Writing the Wrong Rules

Back into the BC-Vancouver Summer Sustainability Week. It's a bit grueling today, with more of the wonky stuff -- energy tracking, global greenhouse gasses, climate action plans, sustainability accounting and measuring. One great aspect of a week-long event is the interaction with the 30 students-participants. Food, and the huge global picture, those were discussed. It's admirable that BC is doing things for greening their province, but the bottom line is there are no community stakeholders here that count -- people of color, people of poverty, people of the more deep ecology kind.

So, this is a short blog, introducing something I harp on -- how the USA's food is being ripped out of the small farmers' hands.

Here's Food and Water Watch's newest campaign to stop the machinations of big ag:

While we want to ensure that our lettuce and spinach are always safe to eat, it doesn't make sense to create food safety rules that only the biggest farms can follow. Unfortunately, that's just what USDA is suggesting with its proposal to establish a national Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. If we're not careful, this strategy will hurt small farms and allow Big Ag to write its own rules for food safety.

Can you tell USDA not to let the biggest players in the produce industry write their own food safety rules?

Shortly after the E. coli outbreak in 2006, the leafy greens industry in California got together to try to fix its image, creating something called a marketing agreement for lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens grown in the state. Problem is, the standards developed by the California agreement required drastic measures that were most suited to large-scale producers, including trying to keep all wildlife off of farms. Small farms and those that tried to incorporate water quality protection, wildlife habitat preservation, or organic methods found it hard to comply. Even though the marketing agreement is voluntary, it sure doesn't seem that way to farmers if all of their buyers require participation.

The biggest players in the produce industry want to take this flawed model nationwide and the USDA has proposed a way to do just that. Right now, USDA is taking public comments on its proposal for a national version of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. Tell USDA you don't want the biggest players in the produce industry to write their own food safety rules that hurt small, sustainable producers.

Submit your comment here:

Thanks for taking action,

Katy Kiefer
Education & Outreach Organizer
Food & Water Watch

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