Farm bill update: good news first

There’s good news and there’s bad news out of the U.S. House of Representatves Committee on Agriculture. The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) passed by a bipartisan 35-11 vote. The committee rejected amendments to alter the no-cost sugar program and also voted not to remove the Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP) from [...]

More About the Food Safety Act

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson Remember the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act fiasco? It was all but enacted when someone discovered a Constitutional glitch: it should have been passed first by the House and sent over to the Senate, because it included a money-raising provision. Well, the House passed the Senate version of the bill on [...]

Senate Adopts Food Safety bill

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson In the wake of this year’s spate of food-borne illnesses, the Senate on Tuesday morning passed the most comprehensive food safety bill since the 1930s. S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, grants new regulatory authority to the Food and Drug Administration, charges food producers with responsibility for maintaining safety [...]

Raw Nerves Over Raw Milk

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson The big guys in the dairy industry, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), have their long knives out for rural dairy farmers who sell raw milk locally. We needn’t be surprised. We’re seeing the convergence of two social trends: a growing concern among people [...]

USDA Awards Specialty Products Block Grants

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson  The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has announced $55 million in Specialty Crops Block Grants to support 827 projects in the specialty crop industry – people who produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including flowers. Block grants go to states to fund projects proposed by local entities [...]

On Pesticides and Children

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson Agricultural pesticides, long suspected of being especially harmful to children, are receiving additional scrutiny, thanks to three recent studies. And – no surprise here – children who live in agricultural areas turn out to be particularly vulnerable. Scientists are cautious in their conclusions, awaiting results of further testing. But two classes [...]

Mexico Rejects Meat, US Eats It

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson Sometimes – often, actually – I worry about our nation’s lack of trust in its government. In yesterday’s blog, I said if I wanted to become a dictator, I’d promote distrust so people would give up and stop paying attention. So it’s with considerable trepidation that I return to the subject [...]

How to Become a Dictator — and How to Prevent It

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson In 1994, and for several years thereafter, I chaired the Western Massachusetts local of a trade union for freelance (independent) writers. Bill Clinton was in his second year as president. The morning after the mid-term election, in which the Democrats lost their majorities in both the House and the Senate, I [...]

Is This Why They Call It Frankenfood?

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson Heading out to a meeting I knew would start way later than announced, I grabbed the March 30 issue of the New Yorker to keep my mind occupied and my prefrontal cortex from getting angry while I waited. [Note: The reference to the site of anger in the brain is an [...]

Feedlots, MRSA, and H.R. 1549

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson So far this year, three friends have come down with a serious bacterial infection known as MRSA. The acronym stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It describes forms of the staph bacterium that have evolved to be immune to antibiotics of the penicillin family, which used to be the first line of [...]