Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food for Thought

Once upon a time, I worked in a grocery store. More than just simply having a job, I was a Produce Department Manager for a Texas-based private grocery chain called H.E. Butt Grocery Company. The red apples, the sweet [and sour] grapes, and the salad green lettuces spread along the department perimeter. I learned about and promoted the benefits of organics. Shoppers were amazed with the taste-sampling derived from biting into a succulent ear of shuckless cob corn.

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Five ways to feed America

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of those federal government agencies that works -- well, we know who and what they do -- kind of. It's has something to do with agriculture (aka food)...right? The USDA states that the agencies' mission is, we provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. In a nutshell, the USDA is all about the regulatory business of Food (I think we said that earlier...didn't we?).

Via a national program of regulations, laws, and cooperative partnerships, the USDA goes about its business (keyword: food). Some of the regulatory programs that are exercised and overseen by the USDA include:
No one individual or consumer, to include farmers/ranchers as well as agricultural law attorneys, can possibly keep up with all of the federal regulations pertinent to America's food and agriculture production. Yet many of us have our own pet topics of interests. The Federal Seed Act and/or the PACA are near and dear to the hearts of many. Perhaps at the bottom of the topic list for many is my top-of-mind USDA regulatory program interest. The Cool Program.

My fascination with Cool goes back to my produce department management days. For the life of me, I never understood (beforehand) how grocery stores could sell fresh apples year-round...when my backyard apple tree only produced fruit in late summer. The answer: importing the apples from other countries (coin the phrase, global economy).

Country of origin labeling (aka, COOL) helps me to know where my fruit is grown. Perhaps my peaches are from Georgia (state) -- from Mexico or Peru -- maybe from a major peach exporter such as China. Is that a concern for you or me? Certainly...the water supply that irrigates peaches from China, Georgia, or wherever is a major piece of the consumer food safety of peach exports. Labeling is a BIG DEAL!

Governing Food

During this (2013) time of budgetary sequestration, federal agency downsizing, and fiscal conservatorship, the question of how much versus how little begs to be heard. Yearning for the days of long ago when America was abundant with family farms and ranches, the brand names on the produce and meats mirrored that of the family names of the producers.

Today, we have agricultural conglomerates, consortiums, and international food syndicates. The regulation of food and agriculture, while perhaps not as important to the production and supply thereof, is as important to the post-production food distribution chain as is environmental protection is to oil drilling.

Food needs protection, regulation, and civil involvement. With the stakeholder partnerships of Food producers, ranchers, distributors, consumers and advocates, as well as the USDA, we can all enjoy a healthy and wholesome abundance of food consumables for generations to come. The main question is a simple one: how important (to you) is the food that you eat?

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