• As Congress let out for its five-week August recess, farm legislature was left unsettled on the floor. The House passed an emergency aid package intended for some large farms, but Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, refused to present the bill for consideration to the Senate. She will work informally with Congressional leaders during the recess to create better farm legislation to be presented in the next session. The Farm Bill and emergency aid bills, which would help the many farmers suffering through a drought-ridden season, are still left unresolved.
  • And speaking of drought: the summer harvest continues to suffer as dry conditions wipe out corn, soy, and other crops across the Midwest and other parts of the country. Already the price of corn is up 90% from last summer, and meat prices are expected to rise 4 or 5% by next year as feed prices increase. BusinessWeek has a nice piece explaining the international consequences of commodity price hikes in the U.S., and also touches on potential ways to preempt such large-scale crop losses in the future.
  • The small country of Bhutan made news this week by proposing that all of the nation's agriculture will soon be produced according to organic standards. Most of Bhutan's 700,000 citizens are farmers, many of whom have been growing pesticide- and chemical-free crops for centuries. But some farmers, who grow primarily export crops such as oranges and potatoes, would be hard-pressed to switch to organic production. Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley is encouraging organic production as a way for the country's citizens to become more in tune with nature.
  • The salmon population in California is severely threatened, but poor management and bureaucratic obstacles have prevented any improvements. Three agencies are involved in regulation of salmon fisheries and water quality in the area, and there is little agreement among the groups as to the proper course of action and evaluation. A new report commissioned by the Salmon Recovery Group reveals these hurdles and hopefully sheds light on the problem for consumers.
  • It's been two years since Mayor Bloomberg of New York City passed new restaurant grading regulations, and the Atlantic profiles the pluses and minuses of the new system. Grades are awarded based on number of health code violations, and restaurants are fined for any grade lower than an A. Customers are largely very happy with this system, but some restauranteurs and chefs have pushed back over the last two years. Meanwhile, salmonella rates have lowered by 14% in the area, a major victory given that foodborne illness was the major target of this campaign.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.


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