The Starting Line – Food Fight! Farm Bill Leaves People Hungry, Animals Hurting

July 16, 2012 –The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation late last week that will cut $35 billion from the federal food and nutrition budget, about $16.5 billion of which come from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — more commonly known as SNAP or food stamps. The cuts work by eliminating “categorical eligibility,” which provides assistance to families whose assets or income put them slightly above the technical line for SNAP eligibility. Repealing categorical eligibility means that between two and three million Americans will lose access to food stamps and roughly 280,000 children will drop out of their automatic enrollment in the free lunch program at school. SNAP assistance saved five million American from poverty in 2010 and halved the number of children in poverty in 2011.

Bowing to pressure from agribusiness combines, the House Agriculture Committee also approved an amendment that will deny states the ability to regulate any farm product, overturning animal welfare, food safety and environmental laws related to any farm product in all 50 states. The midnight vote, at the end of a marathon debate on the five year agriculture measure, would block California’s ban on the sale and production of foie gras, and a voter approved measure requiring that caged veal calves, breeding sows and laying chickens should be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and freely extend their limbs. Also gone will be state laws that limit pesticide use on fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile, foie gras fans are fighting their own battles in California against the recently imposed ban on the fatty goose and duck livers.San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club restaurant is claiming that they are exempt from the law because the restaurant sits on federally owned parkland. Local attorney Bryan Pease and other advocates for the ban are pushing back, vowing to picket the restaurant and take legal action. A Canadian duck-farming trade organization, a New York producer of duck delicacies and a Los Angeles restaurant group have joined together in a lawsuit to strike down a new California law prohibiting the sale of foie gras. They’re asking the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for a preliminary injunction, which would freeze the law until it can be hashed out in court.

Amazon’s coming to California; lookout retailers!.. Responding to pressure from local businesses and the ever increasing bleakness of the State’s bottom line, California has negotiated a deal with to collect sales taxes. For years the internet retailer fought such moves tooth and nail; last year they made a radical shift in course. By agreeing to collect sales taxes, the company can now set up distribution centers in or close to major markets. They’ve acquiesced on the taxes because Amazon believes that its size now enables it to pull off universal next day delivery with same day service being an achievable upgrade. Amazon is opening two massive distribution centers near LA and Bay Area, with a projected ten additional complexes over the next three years. The company will spend $500 million and hire 10,000 people for its new California operations. Not bad for a company that just got it taxes raised, huh? The downside for this will be its potential impact on brick and mortar retailers already operating; getting something shipped almost instantly means shoppers will no longer have to fight traffic and crowds. It’s another excuse to never put down your smart phone or get up from your keyboard. And that, Amazon is betting, is huge.

How the media censors edits your news.  A story in the New York Times today admits that major news organizations are allowing both the Romney and Obama campaigns (and the White House, generally) to edit comments attributed to the candidates and their underlings prior to publication. Bloomberg News, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all agreed to conduct interviews under those terms. I’d expect this practice to spread over the next few years, now that the precedent has been set, to include corporate big wigs and state & local officials. It’s already virtually in place here in San Diego, where Mayor Saunder’s administration has an iron clad grip on anything any city employee says to the news media. Outlets that publish information critical of the administration are simply denied any future cooperation from the City. Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio’s campaign practices towards the press (reporters are even blocked from campaign Facebook & Twitter feeds) are a good predictor that such polices will continue should he be elected.

From the ‘You’d better be sitting before you read this department’:  As I am so often critical of our Mission Valley media moguls, it may come as a shock to you that I have a few kind words and even a plug for the UT-San Diego today. Their much vaunted remake of the Sunday edition of the local daily was, in my opinion, a smashing success. Bigtime visuals and the sense that somebody actually cared about the quality of content were a huge hit in my household. More telling was the fact that it actually took me more than twenty minutes to read the entire paper (I am a fast reader). I hope they can keep it up. I did, however, get nausea upon opening the editorial page. What a shame it is that a newspaper that could be a twenty-first century success story has an editorial board whose opinions seem to be drawn from the Guilded Age. I don’t expect or demand that they agree with my point of view. It’d just be nice to see an original thought from time-to-time. (Fact-based opinions would also be nice.)

Finally, a UT-SD crusade I can get behind… Writer/columnist Mathew Hall is proposing that baseball fans (that includes me!) get together and make a statement to end the local blackout of televised Padres games many outlets. They may be a crappy team, but dammit, they’re San Diego’s crappy team! I’ll quote from his Friday column:

Yet here we are, midway through a sorry season, after an All-Star Game that didn’t even feature the lone Padre on the roster, and still about 40 percent of San Diego County’s TV viewers can’t watch our, ahem, team.

That’s a term I do use loosely.

This is our team, though. And our town. So what’s a frustrated fan to do? Here’s my plan. And yes, I am serious.

Let’s meet July 22, a week from Sunday, outside Petco Park at 10 a.m. to protest the fact that impasses between Fox Sports San Diego and distributors Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-Verse and Dish have kept the Padres off TV.

That’s three hours before the team’s 1:05 p.m. start against the Rockies. It should give us plenty of time to vent before you enter Petco Park or saunter off to enjoy a San Diego Sunday.

So I’m extending the invitation. I’ll show up at 10th Avenue and Park Boulevard. I’ll listen and see what happens. But one guy can only do so much. What happens next is up to all of us.

San Diego, you have a week to prepare. Want to RSVP? Email me at Or just show up.

Padres fan Erik Bruvold (@ebruvold) even sent a proclamation via (multiple) tweets in support of the event:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to protest the lack of Broadcast of baseball games… decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the protest… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) should be able to watch subpar baseball and a stuffed as a friar

I’ll bet these guys could use some professional help (been there, done that, got the tee shirt, since the late 60’s) when it comes to protesting. I’ll be there to lend a hand, if needed.

On This DayIn 1945 the United States detonated the first atomic bomb in a test at Alamogordo, NM. In 1966 Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed the band Cream. In 1969 Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, FL, and began the first manned mission to land on the moon.

Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 3 – 7 pm

I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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