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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Good food (breast milk). Bad food (subsidized corn)

Above: The problem with subsidies. A Global Development Matters video.

- Mother’s milk: Breast-feeding should be encouraged - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

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Parenthood is not for sissies. Babies are demanding, expensive, frustrating and, for first-time parents, sometimes terrifying. Nevertheless, the vast majority of moms and dads love their infants unconditionally and want to give them the best.

Fortunately, the best, most nutritious, specially manufactured food for babies is free and almost always readily available. Mother’s milk, and the colostrum that comes first, contain all the nutrients, calories and fluids that newborns need, along with immunities passed on from the mother.

That doesn’t mean breast-feeding is always easy or convenient for mothers. And, while it is the most natural way to feed a baby, it simply doesn’t come naturally to all new moms. Sometimes they need help.

Hospital staffs are in a perfect position to provide that help, and a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says they should, and can, do more. ...

- Maternity Ward Swag - Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, for The New York Times

... The support of hospitals is crucial to getting more women to begin breast-feeding and to do it longer. And yet many hospitals hand out free formula samples, which, according to a 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office, tend to reduce breast-feeding rates among the women who receive them. ...

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- Federal farm bill: New version not much improvement - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

The latest edition of the federal farm bill, a 1,000-page tome that Congress produces every five years, continues an unbroken string of laws that would pour taxpayers’ money into a system that helps big farms get bigger, gluts the market with starches, sweeteners and fats — adding significantly to the girth of the average American — and does little to encourage cultivation or consumption of foods that are better for you, in ways that are better for the Earth.

The bill that has come out of the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support, and may make its way to the Senate floor in days, is celebrated by its backers because it does eliminate the least-popular part of the process. Direct subsidies to growers of wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and cotton would be zeroed out, saving some $5 billion a year. ...

... But the Senate bill, according to those worried about the quality of our food, is a big bait and switch. The bill would turn the $5 billion a year that had been spent on subsidies to growers into $9 billion a year in different kinds of supports, mostly to subsidize premiums for insurance policies that would pay off if a farmer’s crop were destroyed by weather or infestation, or if market forces caused the price of a commodity to fall below what it cost a farmer to produce.

Moving farmers from dependence on government to an insurance-based safety net is an idea that has been around for a long time. And it could be a good one, if the taxpayers weren’t going to be paying for insurance policies to protect agribusiness from its own bad practices — practices that include glutting markets and creating monocultures of plants that are particularly susceptible to pests and disease. ...

- Growing profits: Crop insurance has become a taxpayer ripoff - Chicago Tribune Editorial

It's hard to imagine a duller subject than crop insurance, and that suits the farm lobby just fine. If the facts about the billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted on this boondoggle were widely known, no one would stand for it. ...

- Where the Trough Is Overflowing - Robert B. Semple Jr., The New York Times

Every five years or so, Congress promises a new, improved farm bill that will end unnecessary subsidies to big farmers, enhance the environment and actually do something to help small farmers and small towns. But what it usually does is find ways of disguising the old inequities, sending taxpayers dollars to wealthy farmers, accelerating the expansion of industrial farming, inflating land prices and further depopulating rural America. ...

- Farm Bill Faceoff: Sugar Growers vs. Confectioners - Andrew Joseph, The National Journal



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