Politics may be local, but food supply chains span the globe. Developments over the past fortnight illustrate how trends in agriculture, food and beverage production are influenced by events near and far:

  • Policies and policing problems shaped imports and exports.
  • U.S. politicians searched for sound bites on food and farm policy.
  • Friends and families gathered for summer holidays.

Worldly Affairs

Global food production depends on imports and exports of consumable foods, agricultural products and, occasionally, even policy. Here are some recent developments on those three fronts:

  • The United States halted inspections of avocados in Mexico after two USDA employees were assaulted, prompting fears of another avocado shortage. The Associated Press covered the situation after U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar traveled to Michoacán to try to smooth things over  with Mexican officials. 
  • The Wall Street Journal detailed complications in ocean shipping worldwide that will cause higher prices in everything from consumer goods to agricultural products. 
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation summarized the U.S. ag trade deficit, the fourth in six years. The $32 billion deficit is due in part to an increase in importing fresh fruits and vegetables, which are cheaper elsewhere due to labor costs.  
  • Reuters explained the tax on livestock carbon emissions in Denmark, which will help the EU’s major exporter of pork and dairy reach its 2030 GHG emissions goals. 
  • With a broader European perspective, Agri-Pulse reported on the recent EU elections and their potential worldwide impact. “Left-wing losses in elections for the European Parliament have boosted conservative political clout and signaled a potential shift away from the European Union’s climate and energy policy goals.”

Money Talks

Leaders in both chambers of Congress have proposed versions of the farm bill, setting up debates around hunger relief, climate policy, crop insurance and states’ influence on out-of-state farming practices, all while striving for good sound bites.

  • On June 12, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) released farm bill priorities for Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Boozman stated, “We believe that our framework reflects the chamber’s shared commitments across all twelve titles while putting more farm in the farm bill.” Optimistic.
  • Organizations representing commodity farmers thanked Boozman for “moving the farm bill forward,” with the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council and Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance all issuing supportive statements. Grateful.
  • The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition objected that the Senate Republicans’ framework removed support for “local and regional food systems, and … climate-focused conservation resources.” Environmentalist groups, such as Earthjustice, echoed these complaints. No-nonsense.
  • The following week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated its projections of several portions of the farm bill. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) touted the report as proof that Republicans’ bill is based on “magic math and wishful thinking.” Meanwhile, Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) told The Fence Post: “There are still clear discrepancies between [CBO’s] forecasts and historic realities.” Pithy.
  • In a Farm Journal interview, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented: “I think we have to lower people’s expectations and we have to really take a look at what is absolutely necessary.” Too honest.

Our Takeaway: Now that everyone has had a chance to get their political zingers in, the actual negotiations can begin. Given Congress’ track record, the process is likely to continue right up to (and beyond) the September 30 deadline.

Dishes & Deals

Holidays are great opportunities for friends and families to share culinary traditions and for food makers to offer promotions.  Here’s a sample plate of what’s been happening around summer holidays.

  • Six ways restaurants can commemorate Juneteenth | National Restaurant Association 
  • Fast food Pride Month menu items you need to try | Mashed
  • The best Father’s Day food deals of 2024 | Delish
  • Best 4th of July food deals 2024: Dunkin’, Sonic, & more | Dextero
  • 5 festive Juneteenth dishes | The New York Times
  • How on-site dining is celebrating Juneteenth through food | Foodservice Director
  • What is queer hospitality? | Eater
  • Here’s what Americans are buying most for their July 4th cookouts | Food & Wine
  • Fourth of July cookout costs in US rise by 5% this year, survey finds | Reuters

Worth Reading

Books Worth Devouring

New York Times reporter Sallie Tisdale reviewed Frostbite, by Nicola Twilley, calling the book “a thoughtful consideration of how daily life today is both dependent on and deformed by … artificial cold.” While the cold chain preserves almost three-quarters of the food Americans eat, Twilley considers the so-called “smart” refrigerator far from perfected. In other book news, Alec MacGillis of The New York Times penned a review of The New Breadline. Jean-Martin Bauer’s book showcases efforts to vanquish hunger amid major disasters, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the Syrian civil war. MacGillis says the book leaves “the reader oddly hopeful … having given us a glimpse of the deeply committed people working to overcome [these nightmares].”

Juiced Milk

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously backed a jury’s $4.75 million award to a northeastern Iowa dairy that suffered from a stray electrical current in the ground from a nearby natural gas pipeline. Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that Northern Natural Gas Company disputed that it caused the problem or that it was negligent in creating the nuisance. Cows are more susceptible than humans to electric current in the ground, and the effects of “stray voltage” are well documented.

I’m at the Combination IHOP and Applebee’s

Start the day with pancakes and end it with brew pub pretzels, all at one place — what a time to be alive. Nation’s Restaurant News interviewed Dine Brands CEO John Peyton to follow up on its February announcement that it would be testing dual-branded IHOP/Applebee’s restaurants at U.S. locations in Q1 2025. While these fast-casual mashups have been successful overseas, they’re taking a test-and-learn approach domestically. Operationally, the complementary dayparts create more efficient back-of-house “flow,” which they hope will double the revenue of either stand-alone restaurant.

Yellow (Spice) Journalism

Turmeric, the spice with the active component curcumin, has long been a leading natural supplement. And the health claims remain widely accepted, despite recent investigations that prove the one prolific author behind scores of studies promoting curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits used shoddy or falsified research. Just this week, the National Institutes of Health released data showing a correlation between the increasing popularity of concentrated turmeric supplements and a growing incidence of acute liver injury. Maybe just save it for the curry.

Artificially Illustrated
cow surrounded by electricity
Who expected natural gas to deliver a shock to the dairy system?

Midjourney illustration by Heyward Coleman