House Finally Passes Farm Bill, Drought Decimates California, and More in Food Policy This Week
House Finally Passes Farm Bill; Sends to Senate for Approval
Almost two years behind schedule, the House has finally passed a 939-page, $956.4 billion Farm Bill and sent it to the Senate for approval. The Bill was held up for months amid debates regarding farm subsidies and cuts to the food stamp program. The final version of the bill cuts $8 billion over ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and ends direct payments to farmers, which will cut about $16 billion in government spending over ten years. Both sides are likely unhappy with the final compromise— Republicans wanted more cuts from SNAP and other programs, whereas Democrats argued that any significant cuts to SNAP were unacceptable. But many agricultural groups are urging Congress to pass the Bill so that farmers can see an end to two years of indecision and political infighting.
Drought in California Affects Agricultural Industry
California is the country's leading agricultural state, with an industry-based economy of around $45 billion. But drought in that state has cost many farmers millions of dollars. 2013 was the driest year on record for the state, and farmers anticipate that the impact of that water loss will be felt for several years. Industry experts predict that drought will cost California about $5 billion in agricultural business. Some farmers will reduce the number of crops they plant this year in anticipation of a difficult harvest season. With average rainfall around 7 inches last year, irrigation costs are rising as producers struggle to maintain their livelihoods.
Large U.K. Grocery Chains to Disclose Food Waste Figures
After Tesco recently admitted to wasting over 28,500 tons of food in the first six months of 2013, other retail grocers in the U.K. are under pressure to reveal how much food waste they generate. Large grocery stores have been known to waste large amounts of produce in an attempt to maintain fully stocked shelves at all times. In one example, Tesco said that between in-store waste and consumer waste, over two-thirds of salad greens and 40% of apples were thrown out. This disclosure is one step in an ongoing "greening" of U.K. supermarkets, including cutting carbon emissions and landfill waste. It remains to be seen whether U.S. supermarkets will face similar pressure soon.
Adulterated Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is More Common Than You Think
This fun graphic at the New York Times illustrates how little imported olive oil is truly extra virgin. This phenomenon has been reported on at length, most prominently by author Tom Mueller. Many of the olives used to produce olive oil are grown in countries like Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia, then shipped to Italy, where extra virgin oils are cut with less expensive oils. Officials have attempted to increase regulation of the industry by raiding factories and conducting taste tests, but it remains difficult to trace adulterated extra virgin oil. There are a few brands that sell only "legitimate" EVOO, such as Whole Foods' 365. Keep an eye on your oils' labels to see where the olives originated.