February 19, 2020

New York Times Against Food Labeling Bill

Categories: Biotech

Recall that the Senate Agriculture Committee was scheduled to consider a bill┬átoday, “that would prevent states from requiring labels on genetically modified foods.”

The Committee subsequently delayed the scheduled hearing, but The New York Times editorial board offered an opinion on the topic in today’s paper.

The Times stated that, “The Senate could soon join the House to try to make it harder for consumers to know what is in their food by prohibiting state governments from requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. This is a bad idea that lawmakers and the Obama administration should oppose.

In July, Vermont will become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified food. Many food companies and farm groups say such laws are problematic because they could dissuade consumers from buying foods that federal regulators and many scientists say pose no risk to human health. But that is an unfounded fear and states should be free to require labels if they want to.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee is considering a bill by its chairman, Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, that would prohibit state labeling laws. The committee is likely to approve it, primarily with Republican votes. The House passed a similar bill last summer along party lines.”

Today’s editorial indicated that, “There is no harm in providing consumers more information about their food. A study published in the journal Food Policy in 2014 found that labels about genetic modification did not influence what people thought about those foods. Some companies are deciding on their own to increase the information they provide to consumers without fear of losing sales. Campbell Soup said last month that it would begin voluntarily disclosing whether its soups, juices and other products had genetically modified ingredients. Around the world, such labeling is commonplace, with 64 countries requiring it, including all 28 members of the European Union, Japan, Australia, China and Brazil.”

Concluding, the Times said: “Usually, Republicans in Congress are eager to give states more power to set policy in areas like environmental protection, health care and social services when they think that legislatures and governors will weaken regulations or cut spending to help the poor. In this case, however, they want to take power away from states that want to impose new rules that their residents support. The only thing these lawmakers seem to favor consistently is protecting corporate interests.”

Keith Good

The Outlook for U.S. Ag- USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson

USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson provided an outlook for U.S. agriculture today at the at the Department’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in northern Virginia.

In part, Dr. Johansson indicated that, “U.S. economic growth is expected to be near 3 percent in 2016 and 2017 before gradually moving to a longer term growth rate of 2.3 percent…[and]…the real value of the dollar increased substantially in 2015 relative to competitor and customer currencies and that growth is expected to continue through 2017.”

Does that mean a stronger U.S. economy and strong U.S. dollar adversely impacts the U.S. agricultural economy? Clearly, a stronger dollar means it is more difficult to sell products to countries with weaker currencies, such as Egypt and Nigeria (major wheat importers) and it is easier for countries, such as Canada and those in the EU, to sell their agricultural products abroad, making for an extremely competitive trade environment. However, a strong economy also helps U.S. producers in several ways. First, it is easier for U.S. buyers to import goods, such as fertilizer, from countries with weakening currencies, such as Canada, Russia, and Ukraine.

“Second, a stronger U.S. economy provides improved off-farm income opportunities for a large majority of U.S. farm households. Since the latest recession ended in 2009, median farm household income has grown faster than U.S. median household income (see figure 9). Between 2010 and 2016, median farm household incomes are forecast to have increased by more than 50 percent. Most of that growth has come from improved off- farm income opportunities. Off-farm income and on-farm income for median farm households are all projected up in 2016. That is true for both smaller residential farm households as well as larger commercial farm households.”