Thursday, October 20, 2016

Congress And Food Policy-- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


The stated mission of Tom Colicchio's group, Food Policy Action, is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production. This week they put out their 3rd annual scorecard to highlight how members of Congress have been voting on food-related issues.

Among the many bills they focused on were these dozen with very specific aims:
H.R. 1284- Directs EPA to suspend registration of certain pesticides until they can be proven safe for bees, and to conduct research on the health of bees and bee mortality.
S. 1332- Gives USDA the authority to issue mandatory recall of contaminated meat and poultry products.
H.R. 913 and  S. 511- Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale of food that has been genetically engineered or contains genetically engineered ingredients, unless that information is clearly disclosed.
H.R. 1061 and  S. 569- Increases annual mandatory Farm to School funding from $5 million to $15 million and increases the maximum grant award to $200,000. Expands the program scope to include pre-schools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs. Creates incentives for beginning, veteran and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to participate in the program.
H.R. 1728 and S. 613- Expands eligibility for summer food service, increases the number of reimbursable meals, and establishes a competitive grant program for solutions to limited transportation to congregate summer food sites.
H.R. 2627- Requires USDA to establish and implement a plan to increase the use of salad bars in schools, including through a competitive grant program.
H.R. 3164 and S. 1832- Raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour for most workers by 2020, and provides a formula for an annual increase after that.
H.R. 3316 and S. 540 - Authorizes USDA loan guarantee program for school kitchen infrastructure improvements, and authorizes targeted grants for infrastructure and training and technical assistance.
H.R. 704- Eliminates the Renewable Fuel Standard’s corn-based ethanol requirement, caps the ethanol blend amount into gas at 10%, and requires EPA to cap cellulosic biofuels levels at current production levels.
S. 190- Authorizes FDA program for inspection of imported seafood, and amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the importation of any seafood from a foreign country unless the country complies with U.S. standards for seafood manufacturing, processing, and holding.
They singled out six congressmen as "Food Policy Failures," Tom Graves (R-GA), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Kenny Marchant (R-TX). Most Democrats did well and most Republicans did poorly. But... there were some exceptions. Democrats with failing grades included this batch of shit-heads:
Collin Peterson (Blue Dpg-MN)- 41%
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 43%
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 50%
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog)- 53%
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog)- 56%
Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE)- 60%
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- 60%
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)- 63%
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)- 64%
David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)- 65%
Cedrick Richmond (New Dem-LA)- 67%
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)- 67%
Tim Walz (D-MN)- 67%
Jim Clyburn (D-SC)- 69%
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)- 69%
George Butterfield (D-NC)- 69%
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)- 71%
Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL)- 71%
Ironically, the last name on the list, Gwen Graham, was elected as Food Policy Action's first big success. They helped oust reactionary Republican Steve Southerland in a close, hard-fought race in 2014. Graham has turned out to be
a- better than Southerland
b- worse than almost any Democrat in Congress
c- pretty bad on Food Policy Action's issues
They probably need to get a little more sophisticated about understanding that not all Democrats are any good and that the worst thing anyone with a progressive agenda can ever do, is take advice from the creeps at the DCCC, DSCC and DNC, likely where lots of the board members, Colicchio included, have friendly contacts. Stick with them and you wind up wasting your money and efforts promoting garbage candidates like Gwen Graham. There 6 House endorsements this year come straight from the DCCC and include 2 California candidates who might turn out to be good-- Michael Eggman and Emilio Huerta-- and three who will turn out to be as bad or worse than Graham: "ex"-Republican Monica Vernon (IA), and two grotesque Wall Street-oriented Blue Dogs, Brad Schneider (IL) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ), who will eventually have all the Food Policy Action folks sitting around in a circle weeping and cursing. (The 6th endorsee, Anna Throne-Holst, Steve Israel's Suffolk County girlfriend, is going to lose badly, so it isn't worth speculating about how bad she would wind up being on food issues in Congress.)

Two much better endorsements-- but not ones the DCCC or Pelosi would have ever told them about would be Tom Wakely, the progressive Democrat running against House Science Committee chairman, Lamar Smith, and DuWayne Gregory, the progressive Democrat running against GOP hack Peter King-- in other words, against two reactionary Trumpists who failed the Food Policy Action scorecard with miserable scores. "With Lamar Smith and this insane brand of conservatism," Wakely told us, "it's all about the bottom dollar. He doesn't care if pesticides make you ill. He doesn't care if you want to know where your meat is sourced. Smith and his cronies only care about promoting enterprise at any cost, and unfortunately the cost is usually the well-being of our citizens. This is becoming taxation without representation. We're paying the salaries of congressmen like Lamar Smith so they can be stewards of everything but the people they were elected to represent. When I'm elected I'll always vote in a manner so that the people will have a right to know how their food was prepared. It's simply common decency."

And DuWayne went through the Food Policy Action scorecard report on King and told us that the Long Island congressman "has an abysmal 31% record when it comes to food safety. Voting against common sense measures to ensure our food supply is healthy to consume shouldn't be complicated. I understand the importance of dangerous chemicals being restricted from our food supply and hold those accountable with strict regulations. We need members of Congress that will fight for the people and not loosen laws for violators."


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