Year in review: Bleeding Heartland on food and parenting in 2009

This blog will always be primarily about politics, but I enjoy writing about other subjects from time to time. In fact, one of my new year’s resolutions for Bleeding Heartland is to write more about food and parenting in 2010.

After the jump I’ve compiled links to posts on those topics in 2009. Some of the diaries were political, others are personal. The link I’m most proud of combined the two: My case against Hanna Rosin’s case against breastfeeding.

Any thoughts or suggestions for future topics to cover are welcome in this thread.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Scientists isolate one cause of "colony collapse disorder"

Scientists in Spain isolated a parasitic fungus as the cause of “colony collapse disorder” in some honeybee hives, and were able to treat the affected colonies successfully with anti-fungals. That’s good news for the human race, since we depend on bees to pollinate a wide variety of food crops.

It’s too early to say “case closed” on the honeybee die-offs. In all likelihood more than one factor has contributed to colony collapse disorder. Devilstower laid out seven possibilities in this diary.

Several European countries have banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect honeybees. Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network North America sent an open letter to President Barack Obama earlier this year calling for more regulation of pesticides, putting a high priority on protecting bees and other pollinators.

To my knowledge, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has not taken any steps in this direction–that is, I have been unable to find any reports on new USDA plans to fund research regarding pesticides and pollinators. The Bush USDA refused to halt or even thoroughly study the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

I did find out that the “USDA will be providing two types of parasite-resistant honey bees developed by USDA scientists” to pollinate plants in the organic White House garden.

On a related note, the “people’s garden” that Vilsack ordered to be planted by the USDA headquarters is shaping up nicely. Well done, Mr. Secretary!

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Chemical ag group upset about White House garden

Jill Richardson reported at La Vida Locavore that a group promoting the use of chemicals in agriculture is lobbying First Lady Michelle Obama not to make the White House garden organic. They want the White House to “consider using crop protection products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire U.S. economy.”

Jill posted the full text of the Mid America CropLife Association’s letter to the first lady.

It’s notable that conventional farming advocates were unconcerned about First Lady Laura Bush’s insistence that White House chefs cook with organic food. Former executive chef Walter Scheib wrote that Mrs. Bush was “adamant that in ALL CASES if an organic product was available it was to be used in place of a non-organic product.” It’s fine for the Bushes to be closet organic eaters, but very different for the Obamas to promote growing food without pesticides or herbicides. I think Americans will be surprised by how much one organic garden can produce.

More important, as Think Progress noted, the Bush administration’s agriculture policies repeatedly sought to water down organic standards. That hurts organic growers, not conventional growers. It remains to be seen how far President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will go in rewriting organic regulations. If I were the Mid America CropLife Association, I would probably also be trying to assure the first lady not to fear chemical-based “crop protection technologies.”

Anyone with an interest in food or agriculture policy should bookmark La Vida Locavore and check it regularly.

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