House Hits Farmers and Food Workers -- A Glimpse into the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill

larg_scale_farming.jpgThe House of Representatives recently approved the 2015 House Agriculture Appropriations Bill and dealt a heavy blow to livestock farmers. Though we at Wellness Warrior generally deplore the human health, environmental, and ethical risks of large scale factory farming and concentrated animal feeding operations, we also recognize that it is rarely the farmer on the ground who is at fault and rather the big meat corporations (think Tyson, Cargill, JBS, etc.) who are really calling the shots.

The House vote highlighted just how influential these big meat packers are through its approval of an “anti-farmer” rider to the bill that strips rights from farmers. Known as the “GIPSA” rider (named after the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration), this provision will make it harder for farmers to negotiate contracts with meat packers, and easier for vertically integrated meat companies to do things like punish farmers who speak out against them by supplying them with bad feed or poor livestock.  The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition writes:

The rider contained in the FY 2015 House Agriculture Appropriations bill not only prohibits USDA from finalizing the remaining portions of the 2010 proposed rule on fair competition and contract reform; it also forces USDA to rescind the few portions of the rule that it finalized in 2011.  The GIPSA rider overrides the Farm Bill and denies poultry and livestock farmers the most basic protections under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.

Moving from the beginning of the food supply chain to the end, Jerry Hagstrom follows up on the House’s recent controversial vote to allow schools a waiver on the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, and paints a realistic picture of how likely it is that the bill will become a law: Not very! The House vote, as you may recall, was largely influenced by the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) lobbying efforts saying that it was too expensive to feed kids healthy food. Hagstrom walks us through the history of the SNA, explains how it is a fractious group, and divulges its real motives and the large food businesses which it represents. Motives and divisions, he explains, which are giving cafeteria workers a bad name. Despite the scary corporate influence over the SNA, Hagstrom writes:

SNA's problem is that almost everyone else is against them, including first lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the American Medical Association, the national Parent Teachers Association, and retired military officers, who are worried that too many young Americans are too obese to serve their country.

To make SNA's situation worse, 19 former presidents of the association have come out against SNA'S position on the rules. And several current members met last week with the first lady, who is fighting obesity through her Let's Move program, to publicize that they back the new rules and have found ways to get kids to eat the healthier food.”

This is good news for healthy food advocates, but as Hagstrom goes on to explain, the division and rancor amongst the SNA ultimately hurts cafeteria workers, the very group that the SNA is trying to represent! It’s clear that the SNA and the House need to get it together and start doing their jobs to help feed children healthy food!


  Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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