Saturday, March 26, 2011

Federal Budget Cuts Threaten American Food Safety

Heated debate continues in American politics, as lawmakers seek to cut the budget while maintaining critical programs. Throughout the process, watchdog NGOs have been on the hunt, lobbying for issues that relate to their cause.

Among the most well known and spirited food safety advocates is Food and Water Watch (F&WW). The organization works to insure the availability of clean drinking water and safe food and has a reputation for blowing the whistle on government corruption.

According to F&WW, these are some of the cuts that could endanger American food and water supplies:

 - Major cuts in funding for water infrastructure repair. This money is necessary to keep clean, safe and affordable water flowing to American homes. Rural and small communities could be among the hardest hit as they are more dependent on these funds.

 - Cuts to the Meat Inspection Program in 2011 and 2012 could result in less meat inspections and more imported meat in our supermarkets.

 - Underfunding of the FDA's food safety program may result in less inspection of imported food, and less frequent inspection of domestic facilities.

F&WW is also among the many organizations that are currently speaking out against funding for federal fishing "catch share" programs. These programs are known to reduce fleet size, put fishermen out of business and create "fishing corporations".

While some catch share programs can have benefits for fishermen, dismantling fishing fleets and destroying local communities and replacing them with mega-fishing companies is not in the best interest in American consumers.

Perhaps if more organizations bring these issues into the public eye, consumers will vote out those that are behind these costly and damaging campaigns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food Prices Continue Climbing in the USA

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Food indexes continued to rise in February 2011, with sharp increases in the indexes for fresh vegetables and meats contributing to a 0.8 percent increase in the food at home index, the largest since July 2008.

With fuel prices fluctuating wildly and the Japan Crisis looming, consumers may be in for more high food prices this spring. Now is the perfect time to plant a garden or scout out local farmers markets for the upcoming season.

Japan's Food Crisis

The world watches as each day brings new problems to Japan. Following a magnitude 9 quake and killer tsunami, the loss of life and property has been unthinkable.

Adding to the crisis, the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant has had a series of radiation leaks. Across Japan, radiation has been detected in vegetables, raw milk, the water supply, and seawater.

Most recently, Broccoli was added to a list of tainted vegetables, and U.S. officials announced a block on Japanese dairy and other produce from the region.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, officials have warned mothers not to allow small children to drink from the city's water supply.

The issue of food safety is something every nation must address. Here in the USA, government regulations are wiping out small farmers, commercial fishermen and other small businesses.

Meanwhile the American food supply is rapidly moving towards dependence on imported, processed foods which are controlled by mega corporations.

Although the tragedy in Japan is a horrible event, perhaps it will inspire political leaders to re-think food policies.

One solution might be for the USA and other nations to nurture providers of locally sourced foods. While global suppliers are an important component of the world's food supply, local resources should be recognized for their importance.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2010-11 FAO State of Food and Agriculture Report

According to the FAO in its 2010-11 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture report, if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.

The report found that yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men. The study found that women simply do not have the same access to inputs. If they did, their yields would go up, they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase, the report said.

Women make up on average 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20% in Latin America to almost 50% in East and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The share is higher in some countries and varies greatly within countries.

Where rural women are employed, they tend to be segregated into lower paid occupations and are more likely to be in less secure forms of employment, such as seasonal, part-time or low-wage jobs.

One positive finding concerns new jobs; high-value export-oriented agro-industries offer better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture, according to the report.

FAO To Hold Seminars on High Food Prices

On 8 March 2011, the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that it will, in partnership with stakeholders, run a series of seminars in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Near East to help governments to make informed decisions on how to respond to high food prices.

Global food prices increased for the eighth consecutive month in February. Prices of all commodity groups monitored rose again, except for sugar, according to the FAO Food Price Index. A tightening of the global cereal supply and demand balance in 2010/11 is likely.

With fuel prices on the rise, it would seem that 2011 will be a record breaking year for food costs. In the USA, farmers markets, organic food stores and other small businesses will all be affected.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

USA National Ag Day 2011

Americans will celebrate National Ag Day on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

American agriculture provides food, fiber, clothing, and even fuel. As the world population soars, an even greater demand for renewable resources exists in the United States and abroad.

The nation's agriculture industry is very diverse. Small scale farms provide pick-your-own fruits and farmer's market produce. Larger operations produce grain, beef, pork, poultry, farm raised catfish and other products. American agriculture also supplies the nation with ethanol, oils and other bioproducts.

Programs associated with National Ag Day help to:

 * Educate Americans about how these products are produced

 * Promote the role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy

 * Note the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products

 * Make citizens aware of career opportunities in the agriculture industries.