Chew on this: Barbra Streisand won’t be voting for Mitt Romney this election cycle.
In a recent Huffington Post column endorsing President Obama, she writes that she’s behind Obama in part because his opponents often “challenge current regulations and try to block new regulations that help to protect... the food we eat. Just recently, House Republicans went to great lengths to block the implementation of a new food safety law, while also trying to cut the budgets of agencies that oversee food safety.”
Streisand isn’t the only one weighing in on the presidential candidates and their food policies in the weeks leading up to the election.
Grist’s Tom Laskawy, for example, dislikes "what we know about [Mitt] Romney’s food and agriculture policy" while lamenting what he says is a current president who has in several ways done little more than pay lip service to the priorities of advocates like Laskawy during his four years in office. One Obama shortcoming Laskawy points to is that the president “loves... the regulatory power of the state too little.”
Michael Pollan, the journalist, author, and academic, recently spent 2,000 words in The New York Times Magazine positing the existence of a national “food movement”—something he both suggests may be “millions” strong and admits may be little more than wishful thinking on his part.
Pollan claims that California’s ballot initiative on GMOs, Prop 37, will test whether his “so-called movement” (Pollan’s own words) is a force or a farce. And, writes Pollan, President Obama is “[o]ne person in Washington who would surely take note of the California vote”—at once both welcoming and suggesting the pre-ordination of the incumbent president’s re-election.
Me? I could not care less who will be the next president. Keep Food Legal, the nonprofit I lead, also takes no position in this (or any) election.
Alas, just because the occasional columnist (or singer/actress) weighs in on food-policy issues doesn't mean the candidates themselves have much of anything to say on these issues.
As is so often the case, today's presidential candidates are almost as bad at talking about important issues as they are at dealing with those issues once they’re in office. Food-policy issues are no exception to this rule.
Take the candidates’ recent responses to a questionnaire released by the United Fresh Produce Association, a large produce trade association, in which Obama and Romney each laid out positions on a variety of food-related issues—one of the few times this election cycle where the candidates have even addressed the politics surrounding food.
The responses to the questionnaire are almost without exception superficial frippery. For example, both candidates nod toward reducing obesity. And when it comes to the regulatory burden faced by farmers, the candidates mimic one another’s empty gestures. Obama refers to the need to “reduce regulatory burdens on agricultural producers.” Romney, meanwhile, notes farmers are “vulnerable to bureaucratic overreach.”
While none of this is particularly useful to any potential voter, a close look may reveal some hidden details.
For example, Obama mentions the word “program” seven times in his responses, while Romney mentions the word only once. Obama talks about “supporting programs that focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts and organic crops,” while Romney urges “moving away from decades of government intervention and subsidies toward a more market-based system.”
But a close parsing of the minutiae of a special-interest questionnaire no doubt misses both the larger picture and several pressing food-policy issues. That’s why I’m listing here what I believe are 10 important federal food policy issues the candidates should be discussing but aren't.
1. Raw Milk