Margaret Reeves's blog | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Margaret Reeves's blog

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A better food & farm future

News about Farm Bill deliberations can feel wonky and distant, but the debates and decisions lawmakers are making right now on Capitol Hill matter — a lot.

The House is voting this week on the Farm Bill. Today, they are debating amendments that have made it through the first round. Your representative needs to know that you support key conservation programs, including coordinated federal action on the dramatic honey bee declines reported by beekeepers across the country. Please pick up the phone and call today — you'll find talking points and a phone number below. It's easy, and it will make a difference.

Margaret Reeves
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Healthy food & farms: How will Congress vote?

I am neither a farmer nor an octogenarian, yet images of the disastrous U.S. dust bowl of the 1930s are forever etched in my memory. What I am is a mom, who is well aware of how children's health is linked to the food our kids eat — in all kinds of ways. And these two things are are inextricably linked through our food system, and the policies that shape it.

How farmers treat the soil and how they grow and market our food determines, in the big picture, the health of our children. The choices farmers have and the decisions they make are strongly influenced by government policies — policies that are being crafted this week as the Farm Bill moves forward on Capitol Hill. 

Margaret Reeves
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Support for local food systems? Brilliant.

There's plenty of Farm Bill news from DC these days. Hopeful proposals are in the works that support local food economies, family farms and conservation. But we still have lots of work to do to protect the good programs won in the 2008 Farm Bill — most were "stranded" without funding at the end of last year.

Here's a brief rundown of what bits of legislation are moving, what last week's budget proposal from the President means to farmers and conservation programs, and what's up next in the 2013 Farm Bill process.

Margaret Reeves
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What's to debate? It's time for smarter Farm Bill funding.

The Farm Bill is again in motion, and budget negotiations are first up. This past week the House and Senate passed different versions of a Continuing Resolution (CR), the short-term budget fix that will keep programs afloat for the coming year.

The House version fails to fund key conservation programs or provide support for rural communities. The Senate did a bit better, but their version still leaves many important programs stranded. Between now and March 27 Congress will be reconciling these two versions of the budget, and we'll be pressing hard for decisions that support smart, innovative farming. We’ll keep you posted as the process unfolds and action is needed.

Margaret Reeves
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A Valentine's Day wish: Fairness for food workers

Every year around this time, I blog about the invisible impacts of how we spend our Valentine’s Day dollars, and why it matters. Our choices for chocolate and flowers can either support innovative farmers and safe, dignified livelihoods for farmworkers whose labor brings you such Valentine’s goodies — or not.

This year I'm broadening my call for food system justice to include not only the millions of workers who harvest our food, but also the millions who work in restaurants to serve it. Did you know that Valentine's Day is the highest grossing day in the restaurant industry? A perfect moment to show your support and raise your voice for farmworkers and restaurant workers alike.

Margaret Reeves
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Farm Bill extension fails farmers

New Year's Eve proved disastrous for farmers, consumers and the environment. That was the day Congress kicked the Farm Bill can down the road, failing to pass a new five-year law with much needed reforms and improvements — or even the reasonable short-term extension that was on the table.

Instead, legislators passed an awful nine-month extension as part of the "fiscal cliff" bargain. The bill includes no reform of huge payments to the big commodity crops, no disaster assistance and no extension of funding for a range of important programs — from farmers markets to rural micro-enterprise to organic research. The silver lining? We now have nine months to push for a decent Farm Bill that keeps what's working and reforms what's broken. We're rolling up our sleeves.

Margaret Reeves
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Soil-building success stories!

The adage "we are what we eat" supports  food and nutrition education programs across the country. The same goes for the farm — production of an abundant diversity of healthy crops depends on healthy soil and crop management techniques.

Farmers aren't born knowing how to do this, they learn. They learn from each other, and through programs like USDA's new soil health initiative. This is why we're working hard to make sure the next Farm Bill is a strong one that supports innovative farmer education.

Margaret Reeves
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EPA talks pesticides & children's health

EPA recently reviewed the links between mothers’ exposure to pesticides during pregnancy and children's health outcomes, highlighting recent findings in its online newsletter Science Matters. The article, entitled "Mothers Matter: Looking for a Healthy Start," presents the latest science linking prenatal exposure with reduced birth weight and disrupted brain and nervous system development, among other health harms.

It’s very good that EPA is explicitly communicating science, with the implicit intent to change policy. What’s still missing is pesticide use policies that are adequately protective of children’s health. We're hopeful this could be changing.

Margaret Reeves
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Policy still failing U.S. Farmworkers

Last week California’s pro-farmworker governor of the 70s showed himself as a farmworker foe when he vetoed two important bills — The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the The Farm Worker Safety Act. The first would make it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The second bill would have allowed workers to enforce the state’s heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law.

Margaret Reeves

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