Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as:

  • Shortage concerns, domestically and globally
  • Efforts to regulate meatpacking
  • Factors in negotiating future policies

No Shortage of Shortages

With wheat and infant formula shortages deepening, focus shifted to immediate measures taken for relief. Meanwhile, less-urgent shortages provided evidence that supply chains remain fragile.

  • As wheat shortages brought on by the Ukraine war continue and the world hunger crisis deepens, The New York Times covered the effort to free the estimated 25 million tons of grain from last year’s harvest that are at risk of rotting.
  • Food Business News noted that a sunflower seed oil shortage spurred by the war in Ukraine has forced food companies to search for alternatives, such as soybean and canola oils.
  • Bloomberg reported that 74% of stores nationwide ran out of infant formula stocks last week. Ten states and 14 metropolitan areas had out-of-stock rates above 90%.
  • As infant formula shipments from overseas continue to arrive in the U.S., Danone said it would send 5 million bottles of special formula for infants with milk allergies (MSN).
  • The Wall Street Journal reported moviegoers may see fewer options on concession stands this summer as supply chain issues persist. Most notably, movie theaters fear a popcorn shortfall as farmers grow less popcorn in favor of more lucrative crops like corn and soybeans.
  • Just two weeks after the Mexican pizza returned to Taco Bell’s menu, fans are complaining the item is sold out at restaurants (Nation’s Restaurant News). On its Mexican pizza FAQ page, Taco Bell noted that demand was seven times higher than when it last appeared on the menu.

Packing the Stockyards

On May 26, the USDA announced a series of updates to the Packers and Stockyards Act, which has governed relationships between farmers and meatpackers since 1921. The changes come as part of the Biden administration’s push to increase competition in the meatpacking industry and the economy at large.

  • A soon-to-be-proposed rule will require poultry processors to be more transparent about the chicks, feed and other inputs that are provided to growers as well as potential earnings. Furthermore, the USDA is reevaluating some practices used in the “ranking system” that rewards growers who produce the largest birds.
  • Agricultural groups representing farmers — the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union — welcomed the announcement.
  • The North American Meat Institute, which represents meat processors, worried, “While the Meat Institute supports transparency … we remain concerned about further government intrusion in the market.”
  • National Chicken Council President Mike Brown responded, “It’s ironic that these regulations are being proposed under the guise of promoting competition. The performance-based structure of how chicken farmers are compensated is literally the definition of competition.”
  • Politico reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich shared a Washington Monthly piece that examined the Obama administration’s failure to update the Packers and Stockyards Act a decade ago.

National Measures

Legislators and stakeholders got a jumpstart on conversations about large-scale national policies, including the 2023 farm bill, the upcoming White House food & nutrition conference and the FDA’s 2025 dietary guidelines.

  • Talk of the 2023 farm bill has started to brew. For reference, the Congressional Research Service posted this useful explainer for this package of laws that garners a heavy load of commentary every five years: “The farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues.”
  • “This could be the first trillion-dollar farm bill and we know critics who don’t appreciate modern agriculture will come out of the woodwork to try to derail this,” said USA Rice Federation Farmers Board Chair Kirk Satterfield. “The world was a totally different place when the current farm bill was written.”
  • American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall emphasized, “It is our responsibility to engage with members of Congress from urban districts, too, who may not understand how farm bill programs impact all families.” The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) has been included in the farm bill for this very reason.
  • The American Soybean Association listed its 2023 farm bill priorities, which address incentive-based conservation programs, exports and building biofuels.
  • After more than 50 years, the White House in September plans to host a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The goal: “End hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
  • Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle pondered whether the conference will focus on hunger or health topics.
  • Looking far ahead, the comment period for the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines ended in mid-May and some themes emerged. Many observers, including the Nutrition Coalition, said 77% of the comments advocated for a review of low-carb science as a measure to improve Americans’ health.

Worth Reading

Lunar Garden

The Scoop reported that University of Florida scientists successfully grew plants in soil collected from the moon (fun fact: moon soil is also known as “regolith”) on Apollo missions 11, 12 and 17. “After two days, they started to sprout. Everything sprouted. I can’t tell you how astonished we were! Every plant — whether in a lunar sample or in a control — looked the same up until about day six,” reflected Anna-Lisa Paul, a professor in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. Question: Why did they wait so long to try this?

Soothing Hangry Kids

Science Daily shared the results of an Ohio State study on diet’s role in ADHD symptoms in kids. Respondents who ate more fruits and vegetables had less signs of inattention, a hallmark of ADHD. Food insecurity also plays a role in ADHD symptoms: “Everyone tends to get irritated when they’re hungry and kids with ADHD are no exception. If they’re not getting enough food, it could make their symptoms worse,” summarized one of the researchers.

Table Science

Food Ingredients First profiled an ambitious endeavor known as the Periodic Table of Food Initiative. The group, which draws funding from the American Heart Association and the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to create “a technical platform for standardized mass spectrometry-based analytical approaches for deep compositional analyses of food.” In normal words: they’re creating an open database with a molecular breakdown of the 1,000 most important foods in the world.

The Drones Are Coming!

…from Walmart. The retail giant posted about a partnership with DroneUp with the potential to reach 4 million households in six states. “Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. For a delivery fee of $3.99, customers can order items totaling up to 10 pounds, so simply put, if it fits safely it flies.”