What Is Your Government Doing to Protect Small Farmers from Big Food?

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It’s no secret that we ES-ers are all for locally sourced, minimally processed food. You may remember forkitude’s post about how big food conglomerates have an outsize say in what America eats. Clearly, we’re wringing our collective hands about such things. But apparently, not everyone agrees. I had an interesting conversation on this matter last week and received the surprising response that I was anti-business and a “borderline hippie.” I find it interesting how divergent food views have become and how efforts at improving the quality of food are often ridiculed or even worse, politicized.

Surprisingly, it appears our government may actually be listening. The US Department of Justice and the USDA recently convened a series of public workshops exploring corporate concentration and competition in food and agriculture. The five meetings, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, included discussions about the dairy, poultry and livestock industries and how corporate food is affecting small farmers and consumers.

While we do not know yet if these meetings will yield any real change, it was impressive to see how many small farm and community groups made sure they were heard. The big industry voices were not present, but that may be because they can relay their opinions through other channels (like lobbyists). Here are a few of the topics touched upon:

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Did the New York Times Exaggerate the Government’s Involvement in Cheese Promotions?

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The New York Times smacked down the USDA this past weekend. In While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales, Michael Moss insinuates that while the Department of Agriculture urges Americans to choose healthier foods, another arm of the department, Dairy Management, pushes consumption of cheese, aka saturated fat, into Americans’ stomachs.

Food news junkies ran with the story, including bar food expert Scott Reitz, on Young & Hungry, declaring he wanted less cheese on his bacon cheeseburger.

But not so fast! (Although, yes, one slice of cheese should be enough for a burger.)

While there is a connection between the USDA and Dairy Management, it may not be as sinister as NYT claims. Bloggers are continually bashed for being uninformed, unscrupulous non-writers, however, there’s been some deep digging on this side of the internet.

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