Farm Bill failure and the Washington bubble

Barb Kalbach: “Congress panders to corporate ag at the expense of family farms, rural communities, and our food supply.” -promoted by Laura Belin

“This is an evolutionary, not revolutionary Farm Bill,” is the refrain from the Congressional crafters of the recently passed legislation. But this out-of-touch bill locks in a factory farm system that for decades has pushed independent family farmers off their land and left rural residents and our environment worse off.

As our democracy in Washington fails us, important fights at the local and state level are taking on corporate agriculture interests and building a new future for family farmers and rural communities.

Continue Reading...

Hunger in the heartland: Iowans struggle with food insecurity

Jessica Chrystal shines a light on a widespread problem in a state that is supposed to be the bread basket of the world. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I spent part of last week attending events at the World Food Prize in Des Moines. When we think of hunger, we think of homeless people on benches in California. The Salvation Army bell ringer standing outside of Target during Christmas, or the glowing images from our tvs of starving children to donate to various charities overseas.

Rarely do we think of our neighbor next door.

Hunger is everywhere. She’s part of the fabric of every map dot town and big city across Iowa.

Continue Reading...

Keeping all our options open: A vision for a "new century farm" in Johnson County

Thanks to Kurt Friese for this perspective on a controversy that brings together concerns over land use, local foods, and affordable housing. Fellow Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan explained his vote on the proposal here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It what might be called the most contentious vote of my time so far on the Board of Supervisors, on June 23 we chose one of three potential concepts for “phase 2” of the planning for the historic Johnson County Poor Farm. The concept, titled “New Century Farm,” is the most ambitious of the three, and is the only one of the three that keeps all our options open.

What it does not do is sell off public land to private developers, nor “pave the poor farm,” nor create urban sprawl. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little background.

Continue Reading...

Throwback Thursday: The road not taken on Iowa's "Ag Gag" law

A U.S. District Court ruling in August inspired today’s edition of Throwback Thursday. That ruling struck down an Idaho law making it a crime to lie to obtain employment at an agricultural facility, among other things. Iowa was the first state to adopt what critics call an “ag gag” law, aimed at making it harder for animal rights or food safety activists to obtain undercover recordings at farms or slaughterhouses. Idaho’s law went further than the bill Governor Terry Branstad signed in 2012; for instance, the Idaho statute also banned unauthorized audio or video recordings at a livestock farm or processing facility. Still, to this non-lawyer, some passages of federal Judge Lyn Winmill’s ruling (pdf) suggested that Iowa’s prohibition on “agricultural production facility fraud” might also violate the U.S. Constitution, specifically the First Amendment’s free speech clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Bleeding Heartland posted relevant excerpts from the Idaho ruling here, along with a brief legislative history of House File 589.

I sought Governor Terry Branstad’s comment on the court ruling and whether Iowa lawmakers should amend or rescind the language in Iowa Code about “agricultural production facility fraud.” In response, the governor’s communications director Jimmy Centers provided this statement on August 6:

House File 589 passed with bipartisan support and under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office. The governor has not had the opportunity to review the ruling from the federal court in Idaho and, as such, does not have a comment on the case.

“Under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office” didn’t sound right to me. When I looked further into the story, I learned that the Iowa Attorney General’s office neither recommended passage of this law nor signed off on its contents.

Continue Reading...

All Iowans in House vote to block any mandatory labeling of GMOs in food

Late last week the U.S. House approved a bill to make it harder for consumers to find out whether food products contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Although national polls have repeatedly shown that more than 90 percent of Americans believe foods with GMOs should be labeled, all four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for the misleadingly named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” Opponents nicknamed the bill the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” or the “Monsanto Protection Act.”

Follow me after the jump for details on the bill’s provisions, how the Iowans voted on amendments House Democrats offered during the floor debate, and a list of Iowa organizations and business that urged members of Congress either to support or reject this bill.  

Continue Reading...

Iowa Income: Who Gets What?

(Thanks to daveswen for this post. Facts don't support widespread beliefs about Iowans allegedly being too dependent on federal programs. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Depending on where you live in Iowa and who you interact with, you may have some quirky conclusions about how income gets made.  It’s common and correct to conclude that many folks get along with the help of public assistance: many in fact wouldn’t get along at all without public aid.  But most of us don’t have a clue how money gets made in this state, let alone who the recipients of public assistance are.  We go to annual estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get the numbers.

Here's how $138.34 billion in 2013 total personal income was divided up: Two-thirds ($91.3 billion) came from total earnings, which are wages and salaries, payments to proprietors, and the value of all employer-supplied benefits like medical insurance and retirement contributions.  Investment incomes (dividends, interests, and rents) made up 18 percent ($24.7 billion).  And transfers – payments by the federal government or, to a lesser extent, state government to individuals either in cash, vouchers, or direct assistance – were 16 percent of state income. 

Stated differently, 84 percent of our incomes came from market activity, and 16 percent came from governmental tranfers.  Market incomes trumped government payments to individuals by a ratio of better than 5 to 1.  

Continue Reading...
View More...