Obligations and Opportunities for Farmworker Justice

by Caitlin Joseph

Anyone who cares about public health and nutrition, affordable and healthy food access, agricultural sustainability, rural communities, international trade, or corporate social responsibility, should be paying close attention to how the recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy will impact the people the U.S food system is currently dependent on: farmworkers. On Wednesday, April 19, farmworker activists from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) who live and work on the frontlines of these issues will be at the Friedman School to talk about their current campaigns and their perspective on the recent political landscape.

Since its inception, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program (FFP) has revolutionized the fresh tomato industry in Florida, which Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once described as “ground zero” for modern slavery (Stern, 2013). Hired farmworkers remain among the most economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. They have some of the lowest wages in the workforce and experience frequent periods of unemployment, due to the seasonal nature of their work (CIW, 2014). According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, between 2007 and 2014, 25 percent of farmworkers worked more than 50 hours per week and were paid an average of $9.57 hourly. During that time, 24 percent of workers also had non-farm jobs throughout the year, 55 percent had children, and average family incomes ranged from $17,500 – $24,999 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

In addition to the economic hardship of farm labor, many workers face brutal working conditions that include extended exposure to the elements, sexual harassment and assault, physical and verbal abuse, and often-toxic contact with pesticides and farm chemicals (CIW, 2014; National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016; Strochlic, 2010). Moreover, an average of 66 percent of farmworkers did not have health insurance between 2007-2014 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

The CIW Approach: Third-Party Verified Corporate Social Responsibility

Through worker-led advocacy, CIW engages downstream brands in produce supply chains to gain commitments for its Fair Food Program (FFP), through which, companies agree to pay an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they purchase in exchange for verification that growers in their supply chain are in compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which includes zero tolerance for forced labor, child labor, violence and sexual assault. Participating growers agree to use the premium they receive to increase wages for workers, and receive inspections from the Fair Foods Standards Council (Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility, 2015).

Why is it effective?

Over time, retailers have gained an increasing share of the food dollar from farm to plate. As Figure 1 shows, the average monthly retail price of tomatoes in 2015 was 75 cents higher than in 1992, while the value received at the farm gate was one cent lower. Between 1992 and 2015, the percentage of the retail value received at the farm gate (the farm share) declined 17 percent.

 

Figure 1: Farm to Retail Price Spreads, 1992-2015

Source: Calculated by ERS, USDA, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

 

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the consolidation of market share in the retail industry and placed downward pressure on the prices for tomato growers (Kaufman, Handy, Mclaughlin, & Green, 2000; Sexton, 2010). While retailers took home the lion’s share of food dollar gains since the 1990s, farmers faced tightening margins and increasing import competition from Canada and Mexico, which now account for one third of U.S. fresh tomato consumption (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). Mexico invested heavily in the development of protected plant varieties in recent years, allowing its growers to capture a growing share of the import market (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). As a result, domestic farmworker wages remained stagnant at rates reflecting those of the 1970s (Asbed & Sellers, 2013). The FFP premium allows farmers to recapture the one-cent per pound of the revenue lost to retailers since the 1990s and siphons those gains to farm-laborers.

Wendy’s and FFP

Despite CIW’s success in securing commitments from major restaurant brands and retailers in recent years, Wendy’s remains the only one of the five largest fast food companies that has yet to participate in the FFP. Instead, it developed its own Code of Conduct, meant to satisfy organizers calling for the company to improve its practices. This code, however, doesn’t come close to providing the verifiable protections that the FFP’s Code of Conduct involves. Wendy’s has also shifted its tomato procurement to Mexico since the FFP began operating in Florida. As a result, CIW is calling for widespread pledges to Boycott Wendy’s until they comply.

Anti-Immigration Policies: Impacts on Agriculture and the Food Supply

While it remains unclear how the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies will hold up to further challenges in federal courts, we don’t have to look far into the past to find examples of how harsh policies and rhetoric can negatively impact domestic agricultural industries. In the years following the passage of strict anti-immigration policies in Alabama and Arizona, for example, workers fled, crops rotted in the field, and farmers lost revenue. Production of certain fruit and vegetable crops in those states dropped, as many produce farmers retired early or shifted production to trees and other less labor-intensive crops. Farmers and poultry processors in Alabama tried to save their industries by recruiting unemployed U.S. citizens to work in their fields and factories, but found that these workers simply weren’t up to the task, and many quit early.

 

These case studies serve as a warning sign that mass immigrant intimidation and deportation could result in shocks to our food supply, increased food waste to field losses (and associated natural resource waste), increased food prices, less wholesome foods on our plates, and further blows to rural agricultural economies that are already struggling. Conversely, analysts project that increasing farmworker wages enough to lift most out of poverty would 1) yield minimal impacts on U.S. consumer spending; 2) drive mechanization in agriculture, potentially increasing agricultural efficiency and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables; and 3) pose little threat to the global competitiveness of U.S. agricultural industries (Martin, 2011). Such estimates imply that ensuring safe, dignified lives for farmworkers in U.S. could benefit nearly everything we work for here at the Friedman School.

The Friedman Justice League will host the April 19th seminar, and hopes that faculty, staff, and students alike will attend to learn why we as citizens, students, and food system professionals should look to farmworkers’ struggle to lead our practice, knowing that their pathway to justice is the same pathway that can lead us to a healthier, more sustainable food system.

Caitlin Joseph is a second-year master’s candidate in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program, specializing in Food Systems Planning and Public Health. She approaches food systems issues from a human rights framework, and hopes to use the tools she’s gaining at Tufts to help manifest a brighter future for people and the planet. Before grad school, her hobbies included gardening, teaching kids to garden, and making as many things as possible out of rhubarb (also from her garden).

Works Cited

Asbed, G., & Sellers, S. (2013). The Fair Food Program: Comprehensive, Verifiable and Sustainable Change for Farmworkers. U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change, 16(1). Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jlasc/vol16/iss1/3This

CIW (2014). Fair Food Program, 2014 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. Retrieved from fairfoodstandards.org

CIW (2015). Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. (2015). Retrieved from http://fairfoodstandards.org/15SOTP-Web.pdf

Kaufman, P. R., Handy, C. R., Mclaughlin, E. W., & Green, G. M. (2000). Understanding the Dynamics of Produce Markets: Consumption and Consolidation Grow. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=42295

Martin, P. (2011). Would a raise for fruit and vegetable workers diminish the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture? (EPI Briefing Paper No. #295). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/files/page/-/old/briefingpapers/BriefingPaper295.pdf

National Agricultural Workers Survey (2016) U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and

Training Administration. Retrieved 20 November 2016 from https://www.doleta.gov/agworker/naws.cfm#d-tables

Sexton, R. J. (2010). Grocery Retailers’ Dominant Role in Evolving World Food Markets. Choices Magazine, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, 25(2). Retrieved from http://econpapers.repec.org/article/agsaaeach/94763.htm

Stern, S. (2013). Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-Day Slavery: Report of Recommendations to the President. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/advisory_council_humantrafficking_report.pdf

Strochlic, R. (2010). Toward a More Socially Just Farm Labor Contracting System in California.

USDA Economic Research Service (2016). Tomatoes. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/tomatoes.aspx).

 

 

 

 

“Food Will Win the War!” American Food Policies During World War I

by Jennifer Pustz

“The consumption of sugar sweetened drinks must be reduced” . . . “use less meat and wheat” . . . “buy local foods.” These are familiar phrases at the Friedman School in 2017. But these slogans and many others could be found on posters one hundred years ago after the United States officially entered World War I in April 1917. Friedman student Jennifer Pustz a story from food history that may offer inspiration for the promotion of gardening, conservation, and sustainability in the twenty-first century.

One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1917, the United States ended over two years of neutrality and officially entered World War I. Although the war ended in November of the next year, the nineteen-month period of involvement had an enormous impact on everyday life in the U.S., especially when it came to food and government engagement in food supply and distribution. In Victory Gardens, canning clubs, and kitchens all over America, women engaged in a massive effort to produce, preserve, and conserve food to support the war effort.

By the time the United States entered the war, the issue of food production and conservation had become a top priority for American soldiers and European civilians. After nearly three years of constant ground war, Europe’s agricultural fields were ravaged, much of the labor force had joined the military, and trade was disrupted both on land and at sea. The result was a humanitarian crisis that required the assistance of the United States, whose policy of neutrality and geographic distance from the front lines had protected agricultural production from serious harm.

President Wilson established the United States Food Administration by executive order on August 10, 1917, and Congress passed the Food and Fuel Control Act, also known as the Lever Act. Herbert Hoover, a former mining engineer with prior experience in facilitating food aid to Europe, was hired to serve as the administrator. The Food Administration’s goals were broad—from regulating exports and managing the domestic food supply, to preventing hoarding and profiteering, to promoting agriculture and food conservation. In addition to the federal program, state branches of the Food Administration promoted programs that met the needs of their residents and responded to their own unique food production and consumption issues.

Food will win the war. Wheat is needed for the allies, 1917. Charles Edward Chambers, illustrator. Boston Public Library Prints Department. http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/ft848v37p

 

Hoover took no salary to provide a model of self-sacrifice that he hoped to see in other Americans. One remarkable aspect of the World War I Food Administration story is the overwhelming success of a voluntary effort. In a report about the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety, published shortly after the war’s conclusion, the author noted the following:

“At no point, even in the most intense shortage of sugar, did the Food Administration establish any legally effective system of rationing for householders; and in the case of both sugar and wheat substitutes, the selfish disregard of Food Administration requests, shown by a few, was much more than offset by the voluntary efforts of that great majority who went well beyond the requested measures, and brought about a total saving far greater than would have been possible by a mechanical rationing program” (311).

Efforts to increase food production targeted large-scale farmers to homeowners with very little land, and almost everyone in between. Even industrial sites engaged in food production. At the American Woolen Company’s 50 mills, over 500 acres were cultivated; factory workers produced over 45,000 bushels of potatoes, 40,000 ears of sweet corn, and thousands of bushels of root crops and summer vegetables. The industrial production was so successful that it was “recognized by many manufacturers that such provision for their employees is of great value, not only in contributing to the support of families, but in its bearing on permanence of occupation and on contentment of mind” (339).

Household Victory Gardens sprouted up in “all manner of unheard-of-places” and allowed homeowners to reduce their dependence on the national food supply by growing their own produce for immediate consumption and canning the surplus for winter months. The U. S. Food Administration advocated for raising livestock as well and promoted “Pig Clubs” for boys and girls. Pigs could aid in reduction of food waste by eating the family’s household scraps. In Massachusetts, the supply of pigs was unable to meet the demand for them.

A massive publicity and communication campaign supported the public adoption of conservation methods. Posters that promoted reduced consumption of sugar, wheat, and meat played upon emotions of patriotism and guilt. Literature on food conservation was translated into at least eleven languages in Massachusetts: Armenian, Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Syrian, and Yiddish. More than 800,000 of these leaflets were distributed. A group of five cottages, surrounded by demonstration gardens, were located in the Boston Common between May and October 1918, where visitors could hear lectures, see demonstrations, and pick up educational materials.

War garden entrance on Boston Common during war with Germany, 1918. Leslie Jones, photographer. Boston Public Library Print Department. http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/5h73qd62f

Americans who participated in home gardening and preserving their harvests took some burden off of the general food supply. In Topsfield, Massachusetts, a canning club provided facilities and services for fruit and vegetable preservation. For a 50-cent membership, one could order and buy from the club’s stock at 4 percent discount, send her vegetables and fruits to be preserved in exchange for the cost of labor plus overhead, or could do her own canning using the club’s facilities, which were open 4 days per week. In one season, the canning club produced 3000 jars of fruits and vegetables, 1800 glasses of jelly, and 500 pounds of jam.

Americans voluntarily adopted practices such as “Wheatless Mondays” and “Meatless Tuesdays,” as did hotels and restaurants, which participated in “No White Bread Week” between August 6-12, 1917. Recipes that conserved sugar, wheat, fats, and meat dominated women’s publications and cookbooks of the time. The 1918 book Foods that Will Win the War and How to Cook Them included this recipe for “War Bread”:

2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons fat                 

6 cups rye flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cake yeast 

To the boiling water, add the sugar, fat and salt. When lukewarm, add the yeast which has been dissolved into the lukewarm water. Add the rye and whole wheat flour. Cover and let rise until twice its bulk, shape into loaves; let rise until double and bake about 40 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

Young people were not exempt from “doing their bit.” The U. S. Food Administration published books, including some for use in schools, to influence young readers who would pass the message on to their parents. Home economics textbooks for college classes applied lessons on macro- and micronutrients and energy metabolism to the state of the food supply in the United States and abroad.

After the war ended on November 11, 1918, the activities of the Food Administration slowed and the agency was eliminated in August 1920. The government implemented mandatory rationing during World War II, but since then, Americans have experienced little to no government interference with their food consumption. Many of the voluntary efforts promoted in the name of patriotism in 1917 and 1918 resonate with some of the food movements of today, such as reducing the amount of added sugar in foods and increasing consumption of whole grains. One would hope it would not take a war and a national propaganda campaign to change behaviors, but perhaps it is worth looking back one hundred years for inspiration to promote gardening, healthier and more sustainable eating habits, and reduced food waste.

Jennifer Pustz is a first-year NICBC student in the MS-MPH dual degree program. In her previous professional work as a historian, Jen’s research interests focused on the history of domestic life, especially the lives of domestic workers, the history of kitchens, domestic technology, and of course, food.

Works Cited:

C. Houston and Alberta M. Goudiss. Foods that Will Win the War and How to Cook Them. New York: World Syndicate Co., 1918; George Hinckley Lyman. The Story of the Massachusetts Committee On Public Safety: February 10, 1917-November 21, 1918. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1919.

 

 

Agricultural Workers Should Organize

by Maddy Bennett

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a farm workers’ rights group founded by laborers on Florida’s tomato farms. The organization now operates in many states to secure fair wages and to oppose involuntary servitude in the U.S. agriculture industry. CIW succeeded in bringing large food retailers to meet the terms of the group’s Fair Food Program. The work of CIW proves that when labor organizes to reclaim its rights, society benefits. Learn more by attending Friedman Seminar on April 19.

The valorized “efficiency” of the American farming system has historically relied upon shamefully poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, who, in the post-slavery era, were often immigrants. Slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, and guest worker programs provided exploitative and profitable business models rooted in unjust and predatory landowner–laborer relations. Today, the mistreatment of labor in agriculture remains a national embarrassment and a poignant reminder of our country’s apparent incapacity to rectify the historical and ongoing injustices committed against these indispensible yet highly vulnerable workers.

Now more than ever, large-scale fruit and vegetable farms in the United States are heavily dependent on migrant labor coming largely from Mexico and Central America. As most of these migrants are undocumented, they live and work under especially precarious conditions and may therefore be hesitant to organize to demand better wages, humane working standards, and an end to human trafficking, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence prevalent in farm labor. Yet those who dismiss farm labor abuses allege that the current paradigm is a necessary evil—or simply an inevitability—required to meet both the scale of production and low prices demanded by consumers. Not only is this patently false, but such a facile argument serves to discredit the development of alternatives to oppressive practices in the American farming system. In fact, one such alternative has proven its success in securing workers’ rights without unduly burdening farm owners, food retailers, or consumers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a workers’ rights and social justice organization started by farm laborers in Immokalee, Florida in 1993 in response to falling wages in the state’s tomato industry. CIW gained influence and industry recognition after organizing a hunger strike, a series of work stoppages, and fast food franchise boycotts that brought about improvements in wages and working conditions for tomato harvesters in Florida. CIW has also led the fight against endemic human trafficking and slavery taking place on American farms.

Six years ago, CIW rolled out the Fair Food Program (FFP) that educates farm workers about their rights and conducts third-party monitoring to ensure that just labor practices are being followed. FFP enlists large retailers, including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, to sign on to be Fair Food Certified. By paying a premium, retailers help finance the enforcement of good labor standards, thus ensuring that worker dignity and human rights are upheld on tomato farms in Florida. Since 2015, FFP’s reach has expanded to farm laborers across six other states. Through its Campaign for Fair Food, CIW has educated consumers about the causes of and solutions to the rampant abuses against farm laborers. Mobilizing consumers to apply pressure to the largest food retailers has led to 14 companies joining FFP.

CIW is proof that farm worker agency, the right to organize, and cooperation among laborers, farm owners, and corporate retailers can help eradicate the scourge of unfair and inhumane labor practices and abuses in American agriculture, and that doing so need not come at the expense of consumers.

To learn more about CIW and its endeavors, please attend the Friedman Seminar on April 19—brought to you by the Friedman Justice League—during which CIW organizers will share their experiences, successes, and struggles.

Maddy Bennett is a second-year FPAN student and anti-work leftist from subtropical Texas. She enjoys vegan baking and tweeting hot takes.

Following our Food: A Northern California Supply Chain Adventure

by Christina Skonberg and Krissy Scommegna

How do people at different points of food production make decisions? As part of a directed study on Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Friedman students Krissy Scommegna and Christina Skonberg spoke with representatives at three different food and beverage businesses in California to learn how producers weigh costs and benefits to yield optimal results.

While the Obamas packed up the last of their belongings at the White House on January 19, 2017, we walked through the doors of Jaharis for our last first day of school ever (hats off to the indefatigable PhD students who may still have a few more to go). As we anticipate our transition away from Harrison Avenue in May, we reflect on this crossroads between academia and employment. The Agriculture, Food, and Environment curriculum has taught us to use sound data sources and unbiased modeling techniques to substantiate every claim we make, encouraged us to address how the food system disproportionately advantages some at the expense of others, helped us develop a systems approach to analyzing food production and consumption, and much, much more.

As we embark on one last semester of group study sessions and post-class beers, we return to a central question that drove many of us to attend graduate school in the first place:

How will we effectively apply these tools to real situations involving real people beyond the boundaries of academia? Do farmers in the Northern Plains actually develop quantitative models to determine which wheat varieties they should cultivate given climatic conditions, prices, and market demand? Do food and beverage packaging specialists conduct elaborate life cycle assessments to determine which materials have the lowest carbon footprint? Do retailers meticulously vet suppliers based on environmentally sound soil management practices? Or, do many of these producers forego elaborate methodologies to instead make decisions based on instinct and habit?

In our last four months at Friedman, we’re seeking to address some of these questions through a directed study on Sustainable Supply Chain Management. In speaking with over 20 food industry professionals who operate at different points of diverse supply chains around the country (read: Nebraskan cattle ranchers, Californian coffee procurement specialists, and Pennsylvanian butchers), we hope to explore how food producers optimize outcomes given their unique goals and constraints. In the classroom, we immerse ourselves in the minutiae of soil health, herbicide resistance, tillage techniques, and other important facets of on-farm production. Through site visits and interviews, we hope to deepen our understanding of decisions and tradeoffs beyond the farm gate and into the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and waste sectors of the wider food system.

Eager to escape the New England winter and set out on our supply chain quest, we ventured to Northern California over winter break to conduct our first few interviews. Below, we share stories from a handful of the inspiring producers we met.

Front Porch Farms: Healdsburg, California

Interviewee: Johnny Wilson, Farm Manager

Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg, California Photo from Front Porch Farm’s Official Website: https://fpfarm.com/

Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg, California
Photo from Front Porch Farm’s Official Website: https://fpfarm.com/

On a rare rainy day in Northern California, we trekked to bucolic Healdsburg to see how Front Porch Farm Manager Johnny Wilson cultivates the scenic 110 acre, 30+ crop farm. Perhaps most famous for their perennial cut flowers, wines, and Italian heritage polenta, Front Porch Farm is in many ways a paradigm of ecologically sound production. Drip irrigation systems line orchards, organic compost fertilizes fields, and their giant but gentle puppy Hilde assists in predator control. When asked about how the team determines which seeds to select from catalogs like Baker’s Creek and Seed Savers Exchange (yes, farmers still buy seeds from catalogs!), Johnny explained that while profitability is an undeniably important factor, the team also focuses on the ecological and cultural significance of crops. Enriching the agricultural diversity of Sonoma County (winegrape cultivation currently dominates the region), maintaining a polyculture system that fosters long term soil health and wildlife biodiversity, and experimenting with new varieties that excite the team are all considerations that go into the seed selection process. For Front Porch Farm, the generation of social and environmental value is inextricably linked to the success of their business. To see what diversified farming looks like at Front Porch, check out the map of their impressive agricultural mosaic in Healdsburg.

Blue Bottle Coffee: Oakland, California

Interviewees: Jen Flaxman, Learning and Development Manager & Melissa Tovin, Finance Operations Manager

Blue Bottle’s Roastery and Production Facility in Oakland, California Photo from the Washington Business Journal, December 2016

Blue Bottle’s Roastery and Production Facility in Oakland, California
Photo from the Washington Business Journal, December 2016

Jen Flaxman and Melissa Tovin of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland are intimately familiar with the complexity of international supply chains. As the Learning and Development Program Manager, Jen ensures that effective employee training and education programs help Blue Bottle employees in California, New York, and Japan thrive in their jobs. Melissa is Blue Bottle’s Finance Operations Manager and she spends much of her time forecasting appropriate procurement quantities for all Blue Bottle cafes (there are 33 globally). Among the many fascinating things we learned from Jen and Melissa was that much of the decision making around procurement quantities of green coffee (unroasted coffee beans) lies within the Finance department of Blue Bottle rather than in the Production department. Melissa—a veritable Excel whiz—explained that this improves accuracy in predicting and meeting demand, allowing the company’s green coffee buyers to focus their energy on developing supplier relationships in the field and upholding coffee quality standards. For Blue Bottle, technical tools like modeling are critical to supply chain decisions, and starting this summer you can taste the quality yourself in Boston. (Students in Chris Peters’ Food Systems Modeling course this semester may want to take note and highlight those analytical skills on their resumes!).

Three Thieves: Napa, California

Interviewee: Roger Scommegna, Thief

Left: Current Packaging for Bandit 1L Tetra Pak; Right: Roger Scommegna in his element Photos Courtesy of Roger Scommegna

Left: Current Packaging for Bandit 1L Tetra Pak; Right: Roger Scommegna in his element
Photos Courtesy of Roger Scommegna

Over a warm cup of non-Blue Bottle Coffee in Berkeley, we discussed the wine industry with beverage entrepreneur Roger Scommegna. Full disclosure, he may have been coerced into this interview due to family ties. As one of the founders of Three Thieves, Roger has spent the past 16 years working to bring high quality wines to the masses at low prices—a noble cause for grad students on a budget. Three Thieves achieved this model by initially packaging their wine in one-liter glass jugs and later establishing an offshoot brand, Bandit, available in half and one-liter Tetra Paks instead of traditional bottles.

Roger provided many insights into the beverage industry, but perhaps most interesting was his perspective on getting products into retail establishments. Roger discussed “gatekeepers” (wine buyers at different grocery chains like Safeway and Costco), and their authority in determining which products to purchase, in what quantity, and at what frequency. While one might expect grocery chains to use a reliable algorithm to determine which products will fare best on shelves, these gatekeepers often make decisions based on the crucial relationship forged between client and buyer. This camaraderie, the client’s ability to highlight differentiating features of their product, and even the restaurant where the business dinner takes place can all sway purchasing decisions. The gatekeeper is a powerful stakeholder in this context and can have a profound influence on a supplier’s brand. Roger recounted an instance when a purchaser told him that while his grocery chain had once regarded Three Thieves as a cutting edge brand, a lack of rebranding efforts had rendered their products outdated. In a successful response, Three Thieves conducted a branding overhaul and regained the favor of this key buyer.

At this early stage in our adventure, we’ve learned that—as is typically the case in science—the answer to our question about how producers make supply chain decisions depends. It depends on product, scale, metrics of success, and several other factors. Some decisions are based on models and economic analysis while others are more grounded in personal experience and preference. We look forward to speaking with the rest of our gracious interviewees over the course of the semester to learn more about the tools and motivations people use to make discerning production decisions. We’re indebted to the professors and faculty who’ve poured their energy into honing our technical skills and expanding our intellectual curiosities, and we hope that this opportunity helps bridge our academic lives with the professional endeavors we pursue after graduation.

Christina Skonberg is a 2nd year AFE student from Berkeley, CA who is trying to embrace the New England winter but couldn’t resist smuggling a suitcase full of Californian produce back to Boston in January. Krissy Scommegna is also a 2nd year AFE student who was happy to see her home in Boonville, CA in its rainy glory in January, even if it meant digging trenches against flooding and building fires in the wood stove to stay warm. Second-year AFE student Carrie DeWitt will also be participating in this directed study, but was unable to attend meetings in California in January. Stay tuned for more information about their end of semester presentation on Best Practices in Supply Chain Management, coming in May.

My(Policy)Plate: What Presidential Candidates Bring to the Table on Ag and Nutrition Issues

by Katie Moses

Election Day is just a few days away. What do our presidential candidates have to say about food and agriculture? Katie Moses takes a look at the issues.

Food: 0

Nutrition: 0

Agriculture: 1

This is the number of times the major party candidates stated these words in the three 2016 presidential debates. Even though the cultural conversation around food and agriculture seems to grow louder every day, the only reference in the debates was by Hillary Clinton when discussing the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti. Why? Not one of the 70 unique questions asked in the three 2016 presidential debates were about nutrition or agricultural policy.

This doesn’t mean the presidential candidates and their parties have been completely silent on nutrition and agriculture issues. Other sources such as campaign websites, representatives and whom they seek council from can fill in some of the blanks regarding where the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates stand on issues that relate to the future of food and nutrition. Continue reading to learn where they land on the issues you care about.

Farm Bill and Snap Benefits

Programs in the farm bill protect farmers, ranchers, and consumers by helping American farms keep growing, ensuring a robust and affordable food supply, and providing food assistance for insecure populations. Where do candidates stand on protecting these programs?

hillary

 

Clinton: The 2016 DNC platform states that “proven programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—our nation’s most important anti-hunger program—help struggling families put food on the table.” At the October 19th Farm Foundation Forum, Kathleen Merrigan, acting as a surrogate for the Clinton campaign, confirmed that Clinton aligned with the DNC on the importance of agriculture and nutrition programs remaining under the umbrella of the farm bill. Additionally, Clinton’s “Plan for a Vibrant Rural America” advocates for expanding “SNAP recipients’ access to fresh food” as a part of building strong local and regional food systems.

trump

 

Trump: In Donald J. Trump’s vision for the US economy, the increase in SNAP participation during the Obama administration is listed as a key issue, but his vision for the economy does not making recommendations to change the SNAP program. At the October 19th Farm Foundation Forum, Sam Clovis, Trump’s lead adviser on agriculture policy, provided clarity on Trumps stance on SNAP benefits advocating that the way to reduce nutrition spending is to promote economic growth that will put more people to work, rather than cutting the budgets of these programs. Clovis stated that Trump would not advocate for the removal of nutrition programs from the Farm Bill. Trump campaign representative’s statement clashes with the Republican Party Platform 2016 that recommended separating SNAP from the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bill.

Local and Regional Food Systems

Will local and regional food systems thrive or waiver in these candidates administration?

hillary

 

Clinton: As a New York Senator, Clinton partnered with Foodlink and others for a Farm to Fork initiative that helps distribute locally grown produce in rural counties to the state’s regional centers. “Hillary Clinton’s Plan for a Vibrant Rural America” fact sheet breaks down four key focus areas for strengthening rural America. Under “raising agricultural production and profitability for family farms,” Hillary lays out a plan for building a strong local and regional food system as a continuation of her Farm to Fork initiative as a Senator. She proposes “doubling funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program to expand food hubs, farmers markets, SNAP recipients’ access to fresh food, and to encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers.”

trump

 

Trump: On the campaign trail in Iowa, the Associated Press reports that  Donald Trump called family farms the “backbone” of America and promised to cut taxes on these smaller farms. His platform does not address regional and local food systems directly. While Trump shines a spotlight on small farms on the campaign trail, his recently announced agricultural advisory committee is composed of big players and advocates for the industrial agriculture. Whether local and regional food systems will thrive in a Trump administration is not foreseen, but his advisory committee illustrates that big ag will always have a seat at his table.

Agricultural Animal Rights

After selecting their choice for the next president, Massachusetts voters will be asked where they stand on the new proposed standards for farm animal confinement. Supporters of question three on the Massachusetts ballot argue that the proposed guidelines for raising animals should be the minimal ethical standard in food production and will help promote similar legislation in other states. Opponents argue that question three would raise the cost of eggs and pork, negatively affecting taxpayer-funded assistance programs and low-income individuals and families. While neither candidate is a registered Massachusetts voter, this is what they’ve said about the underlying issue.

hillary

 

Clinton has an entire section of her platform devoted to protecting animals and wildlife: “As president, Hillary will… protect farm animals from inhumane treatment by encouraging farms to raise animals humanely.” While she hasn’t made a statement on the risk of increased food prices, the former Secretary of State takes a clear aspirational stand on improving conditions for farm animals.

trump

 

Trump: The republican presidential candidate does not address farm animals in his political platform. With the announcement of his agricultural advisory committee and candidates for Secretary of the Interior, many have analyzed what his approach to farm policy would be and have concluded that legislation like the proposed measure in Massachusetts to improve farm animal welfare would not be approved on his desk.

For more on the candidates’ stances on the concerns of farmers and ranchers, see this post from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Katie Moses is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist born and bred in the heart of Cajun country. With Sicilian, Syrian, and Cajun-French grandparents, she’s had a unique culinary upbringing, and finds ways to adapt traditional dishes to fit current nutrition recommendations. Outside of the teaching kitchen, Katie is a first year Nutrition Intervention, Communication, and Behavior Change student and a passionate advocate for expanding access to dietitians’ nutrition counseling services.