As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc. That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.
Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”). At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.
In a controversial move, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed a widely supported bill that would give farmers $40 million in aid after a massive two foot/12 hour rainfall in October.
A levee breach at the Columbia Riverfront Canal, Columbia, S.C., during a statewide flood Oct. 5, 2015. The South Carolina National Guard has been activated to support state and county emergency management agencies and local first responders as historic flooding impacts counties statewide. Currently, more than 1,100 South Carolina National Guard members have been activated in response to the floods. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)
Read more here.
On Thursday, July 23, 2015, the United States House of Representatives passed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (or, as opponents call it, the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act) with 275 representatives voting in favor of the bill and 150 opposed. This bill makes the labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) voluntary, and is applied nationally. This has the effect of preempting and overruling the states that are attempting to or have passed laws that require that all GMO containing food-products be labelled accordingly (Maine and Connecticut, for example).
Many food and agricultural companies lobbied for the bill, stating the requirement that some states put on them (or would put on them, should individual states pass label requirement laws) would be heavily burdensome. Conversely, those opposed to GMOs continue to cite that science is unclear on the effects that GMOs have on the environment and on the consumer.
California passed AB 1871, which does two major things, among other provisions. First, it restricts and criminalizes fraud at farmers’ markets in the state. Second, it increases the daily stall fee from $0.50 to $2.
The bill first criminalizes any statement (oral, printed, or otherwise) that is misleading regarding the products area of production, producer identity and method of production. Violation of such law is a misdemeanor, meaning 6 months (maximum) or a fine of $500-$5,000.
The rise in vendor fee is expected to raise $1.4 million annually and will be deposited into the Department of Food and Agriculture Fund. This fund will be used to promote transparency. Vendor fees will be used to evaluate county enforcement procedures, conduct hearings for violating these laws, maintaining a list of farmers’ market locations, maintaining lists of certified producers, and maintaining lists of producers whose certification was revoked.
This law also regulates the use and meaning of the term “California-grown,” directs the administrative agency to pass rules that regulate and promote wholesomeness of agricultural products, and regulates what constitutes a “certified” farmers’ market.
For further information on what this bill means for California, see this article.
Modern methods of livestock care focus on the use of antibiotics – it fattens livestock up fast and, when used as non-therapeutic supplement, it prevents the spread of infectious viruses among cattle. Overcrowding of livestock in factory farm settings creates a huge risk of viruses, infections, and diseases among the animals that can spread fast. Antibiotics, when used supplementary in animal feed, prevent this and allow for more crowded quarters and ultimately a higher yield in animal byproducts.
This use of antibiotics in this manner is detrimental to human health and medical science. When overexposed to antibiotics through ingestion of animal byproducts, people develop a resistance to antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to treat common ailments – the flu, injury infections,etc. The CDC issued a threat report at the end of 2013 that found that 23,000 people in the United States die annually from antibiotic resistance – deaths that should have been avoided with effective antibiotic treatment. The CDC warns that the continued use of antibiotics in animal feed creates a risk of death for simple infections such as strep throat.
Now, for the first time in over 35 years, the FDA is seeing some control over the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock through a new voluntary program. While the FDA is not directly regulating the practice, they have issued guidance documents and recommendations (see #209, #213). THe FDA asks veterinary antibiotic manufacturers to alter the drug labels to no longer provide antibiotics over-the-counter, thus rendering the drugs unavailable for use in animal feed.
On March 26, 2014 the FDA published a list of 25 companies that agreed in writing to no voluntarily comply and no longer allow their antibiotics to be sold over-the-counter.
For more information, see this article.
Why Food Law is an Important Growing Field
To quickly summarize the importance behind Harvard’s new push to open a Food Law Lab:
- “Sell by” and “best by” dates on food have no relationship to safety and are not federally regulated. Americans throw 160 billion pounds of food a year.
- World’s biggest pork producer was purchased by a Chinese company with a jaded history.
- Some countries are now rejecting American grown products outright because of the controversial safety of genetically modified foods
- Agribusiness and meat industry are polluting air and groundwater
- Food workers don’t earn enough to feed their own families.