In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Marion Nestle's Last Column, Shrimp Harvests Fail, and More in Food Policy this Week

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A cranberry bog. [Photograph: andwat on Flickr]

Shrimping in Maine at All-Time Low

Typically, the shrimping season in Maine runs from December through the spring. But this year, after historically low harvests, the season was cut short after just a few weeks. The shrimp supply has been so depleted by overfishing and warming waters that fishermen were returning with little to show for their efforts. Maine's shrimp harvest has declined sharply in recent years—in 2011 shrimpers caught about $11 million worth of shrimp, in 2012 they caught just $2 million. Regulators are hoping an off-season will allow time for the shrimp population to return to normal levels. Maine shrimp are often exported to Europe, though some New England restaurants and consumers will purchase them as well. The shrimp are smaller and sweeter than farmed shrimp.

Cranberry Surplus to Become Part of School Lunch

Because of an unexpectedly large cranberry harvest in Canada this year, which flooded the American market, American cranberry producers experienced a huge surplus. The USDA purchased some of the surplus for food assistance programs, but the 75 million pounds of extra cranberries needed more markets. So the Congressional Cranberry Caucus petitioned the USDA to add cranberries to their "Foods Available List," which details what foods schools can buy as part of their breakfast and lunch programs. The USDA approved dried cranberries and cranberry sauce—a partial solution, though one that will require processing and added sugar. Meanwhile, cranberry growers are looking to target international markets for the rest of the surplus.

Marion Nestle Writes Last Column at San Francisco Chronicle

Marion Nestle is one of the preeminent writers on American food policy and politics. This month, she published her 70th and final column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which recently closed its stand-alone food section. Nestle writes about her optimism for the future of a healthy, sustainable food system. She recaps a few of the strides made this year in food policy, including the success of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program, the FDA's voluntary regulations on antibiotic use in meat production, and fast food workers' continued and growing demands for higher wages. She also calls for further investment in a "stronger and more compassionate safety net for the poor and unemployed." Nestle will continue to write on her personal blog as well as other publications.

Farm Bill Negotiations Could Wrap Up This Month

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reportedly remains confident that Congress will send a completed, compromised Farm Bill to the President by mid-January. The Bill has been stuck in negotiations for several months. Congress's two main points of contention were changes to direct subsidies for farmers, and cuts to the food stamp program. Initially, the House bill called for $40 billion in cuts to SNAP over 10 years, whereas the Senate bill called for $4 billion in cuts. Sources say the final compromise will be around $10 billion in cuts.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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