Philip Brasher, the agriculture and food policy reporter recently laid off by the Des Moines Register, launched the FoodWatch blog yesterday to cover "the politics of what we eat, how it’s produced, and why that matters." His first two posts were about a Senate deal to replace current ethanol subsidies with different biofuels incentives and a "landmark deal" on improving conditions for caged hens, announced by the industry group United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States, a leading animal welfare organization.
Many sustainable food advocates were alarmed when the Des Moines Register let Brasher go and closed its Washington bureau. The FoodWatch blog doesn’t have the Register’s high profile, but at least it keeps Brasher’s reporting accessible to the public for now.
Register publisher Laura Hollingsworth assured Paula Crossfield of the Civil Eats blog that the newspaper’s remaining staff and the Gannett Corporation would be able to “provide comprehensive political and agricultural coverage for our readers in Des Moines and beyond.” What passes for a business section in today’s Des Moines Register includes a Gannett Washington bureau report on the Senate ethanol deal and an Associated Press story about the egg industry’s agreement with the Humane Society. The AP report lacks some of the details and context Brasher provides on his blog.
LATE UPDATE: Brasher rejoined Gannett in late August 2011; his articles about food and agriculture appear in several newspapers, including the Des Moines Register.