SESSION NAMES, TIMES AND ROOM ASSIGNMENTS
Mon. July 25, 10:15-11:45 AM, Conv. Ctr. Rm. 316
|Pittsburgh, July 2011 (Wilde)|
At the White House this afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama will be joined by corporate chiefs from Walmart, Walgreens and SuperValu, and smaller regional market chains as she announces a new initiative to support the Let's Move! campaign, an East Wing official tells Obama Foodorama. The corporate giants have agreed to open or expand 1,500 stores in underserved communities--identified as food deserts--to make affordable, healthier food options more accessible to more than 9.5 million customers. The First Lady will speak about not only the health benefits of combating food deserts, but the jobs that these new projects will create in their communities. Leaders from foundations and small businesses will also join Mrs. Obama in the East Room for the 2:00 PM announcement.As somewhat of a counterpoint, the Obama Foodorama blog also points out the same study that our U.S. Food Policy commenters noticed.
Mrs. Obama in 2010 announced a Let's Move! goal of completely eliminating food deserts in the US over the next seven years, and the new initiative is designed to meet that goal, and comes as the US unemployment rate hovers at 9.2%. USDA defines a food desert as a Census tract where 33% or 500 people, whichever is less, live more than a mile from a grocery store in an urban area, or more than ten miles away in a rural area.
Partnership for a Healthier America, the foundation set up to monitor and continue Mrs. Obama's work, arranged the corporate partnerships for the campaign, an East Wing official says. They will select locations for where the stores are built. There is no federal financial commitment to the partner corporations, although in 2010 Mrs. Obama established the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a $400 million fund to combat food deserts, financed by Treasury, USDA, and HHS. It was not funded in the President's 2011 budget.
The First Lady's announcement comes on the heels of a major study on food deserts and food access published on July 11 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study tracked the food purchasing habits of thousands of people in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland for fifteen years, and found that "greater supermarket availability was generally unrelated to diet quality and fruit and vegetable intake, and relationships between grocery store availability and diet outcomes were mixed."
Even though Cattlemen's Beef Board Chairman Tom Jones and CEO Tom Ramey have resigned in the aftermath of an eavesdropping scandal, there's still plenty of concern from several state livestock groups that the scandal has eroded the very purpose of the CBB.The National Farmers Union suggested a complete separation of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Beef Checkoff Program:
It is impossible to build a firewall strong enough when you have one organization that picks the members of the committees that make all of the funding decisions for the checkoff and are also involved in program evaluations. The ongoing firewall breaches are no longer allegations, but have been proven in a compliance audit review that has uncovered multiple financial irregularities and misappropriations of checkoff funds.The U.S. Cattlemen's Association -- a competing trade association without the NCBA's heavy reliance on federal checkoff money -- published an editorial on Friday:
On July 1 the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) formally requested that the Secretary of Agriculture initiate a full investigation into circumstances surrounding the expanding contractor financial irregularities within the national mandatory beef checkoff as well as those circumstances surrounding the resignation of the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) CEO. Since then, unfortunately, circumstances have grown even more serious with the resignation of the CBB Chairman, Tom Jones. It is unprecedented in beef checkoff history for the CBB chairman and chief executive officer to have been driven out of office. As USCA president, I want cattle producers to understand what USCA has discovered and what is behind USCA's decision to ask for the Secretary's intervention. Please become engaged in this very important process because what happens in the next few weeks will directly impact the future of the beef checkoff.I spoke today (.mp3) with Don Atkinson, the farm news editor for the Voice of Southwest Agriculture (VSA), which is part of the Clear Channel radio networks, providing farm news coverage through affiliates in Oklahoma, Texas, and several other states. I have no idea what beef producers will want do next, but it does seem like the program needs to be changed. Cattlemen might want to convert the program to a private-sector program with voluntary contributions, or they might want to accept greater oversight and greater separation between the federal program and the NCBA. Either option seems more reasonable than the status quo.
I am so sorry to the members of this Board who truly want what’s best for every producer. Keep doing the right thing. Doing what’s right is all that matters. Some board members put their allegiance to their chosen association before their oath of obligation to serve all producers who pay the checkoff. This is a dangerous position to take. The checkoff program could benefit from positive change and it is difficult to work for that when your allegiance causes you to wear blinders to the change that is needed. It will also be impossible to defend those attitudes if or when this program is challenged.The Agwired coverage mentions Jones' family reasons for resigning, but did not include these two sharp paragraphs. There is extensive coverage of recent events on the independent beefcheckoff blog.
I have never in my life seen as much public defamation and misrepresentation as I’ve seen lately. I know many of you as friends. This kind of behavior is beneath us as people of agriculture. When I see that kind of action, I look for the real purpose behind it. More often than not, that purpose is fear – fear of change, fear of the future. Fear may cause someone to want to hide the true issues, which are often based on the desire for money and power. My resignation from this Board certainly won’t solve all of the issues before the Board. You still have a lot of work to do and empty calls for “getting along” won’t get you anywhere.
Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato, and then moves on to commercial growers who operate on tens of thousands of acres, and eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation’s top restaurants.I described my visit to Immokalee in this blog in 2009.
On March 24 of this year, NCBA leadership filed charges of misconduct with the CBB Executive Committee against CBB leadership. The sequence of events speaks for itself. Who wins with this resignation? NOT checkoff-paying cattle producers.Congress should hold hearings to investigate the beef checkoff program, DTN ag policy editor Chris Clayton suggested this week. The beef checkoff is the semi-governmental program that collects a mandatory assessment or tax from beef producers and sponsors advertisements such as "Beef. It's What's for Dinner."
Recent documents from the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association reveal a wide-ranging rift over possible reforms and changes to the checkoff. Columnist Alan Guebert highlighted those problems last month, and posted related documents on his website.Over the years, U.S. Food Policy has given extensive coverage to the strange world of federal government checkoff programs. For more information, see the long archives under the checkoff tag and, for a discussion of the tensions with federal dietary guidance, a 2006 article in the journal Obesity.