The concept of the government prohibiting by law what a farmer can grow, what people can eat , and what can be served in schools may seem more fitting for a communist dictatorship than a free market democracy, but that is what is occurring today in the US. In Washington, the Obama White House is trying to force feed school students with food they don’t want to eat; while out in the states, anti-GMO groups are spending millions of dollars to dupe voters into passing local laws that restrict what farmers can grow.
A measure currently before a House committee would allow local school districts to opt out of the mandates imposed by the Obama administration. The mandates are for certain levels and types of whole grain, fruits, and vegetables. But not all vegetables; you see, some are politically incorrect. Potatoes are an example of food items that Michelle Obama does not feel belongs on school lunch menus. The measure, part of a GOP sponsored agricultural appropriations bill, would allow local school districts to opt out of the mandates after they show 6 months of financial losses. The push for the waiver is coming from the school districts themselves. Many have said the mandates are too restrictive and costly. Schools pushing for changes say limits on sodium and requirements for whole grains have proven particularly difficult. Some school officials say kids are throwing the fruits and vegetables they are required to take into the trash. The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, endorsed the provision and said that schools need more room to make their own decisions. President Leah Schmidt said the group supports the waiver as a temporary solution until Congress considers renewal of a school foods law that expires in 2015.
The first lady went on the attack last week, rallying her food police activists to pressure Congress to not allow the waiver. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called in the cavalry — literally holding a press conference with several retired military officers, making the case that children need to be fed healthy diets in school to make them physically fit enough to join the military. (I am not making this up). “Being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist and represents a major threat to national security,” Vilsack said.
The appropriations bill also would require the USDA to make some adjustments in the WIC and SNAP programs. The WIC program gives vouchers for healthy and nutritious foods to low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and children. The Agriculture Department does not allow the purchase of white potatoes to be subsidized as part of WIC because they say people already eat enough of them.
Meanwhile out on the west coast, local voters in Oregon voted to pass a law to prevent farmers from growing GMO crops. With most of the ballots counted in last week’s all-mail election, Jackson County voters approved the measure by a 2-to-1 margin. A similar, lower-profile measure in neighboring Josephine County led 58 percent to 42 percent with nearly two-thirds of expected ballots counted. This local issue drew national attention, and money poured in from both sides. A pair of competing campaigns raised $1.3 million to sway the county’s 120,000 registered voters. Nearly $1 million of that money was raised to defeat the proposed ban. This vote is meaningless because Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill last fall which prohibits local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops. An exception was made for Jackson County because its measure had already qualified for the ballot. Yet, it sends a warning that agriculture must be vigilant.
Vigilance is the key. There are very powerful and determined forces that want to regulate, dominate, and mandate food production and consumption in this country. While health and nutrition are important issues, these power hungry bureaucrats and activists are using these issues to force feed their agenda on the American public.
By Gary Truitt