Biden races against time to unlock Ukraine’s trapped grain

“The Biden administration and European allies have been working for weeks to build out the European Union’s “solidarity lanes,” a patchwork of ad hoc rail and truck land routes out of Ukraine, with the eventual goal of shipping the bulk of the grain to Romania’s seaports, so it can reach fragile countries across Africa and the Middle East reeling from food shortages and severe drought. But for now, they’re trying to keep it from being stolen by Russian forces or spoiling in makeshift containers inside Ukraine as the fighting continues.”

Taking Formula From Immigrant Babies Won’t Fix the Shortage

“Migrants in detention centers aren’t free to leave facilities whenever they want to shop for baby formula. Legally, essential products must be provided to migrant children that the government has detained. “Facilities will provide access to…drinking water and food as appropriate,” reads the 1997 Flores settlement that addressed the treatment of migrant children. A 2015 Customs and Border Patrol document on detention standards noted that “food must be appropriate for at-risk detainees’ age and capabilities (such as formula and baby food).” These legal standards predate the Biden administration.

Nor would diverting baby formula away from immigrant detention centers ease supply chain woes in a meaningful way. Ursula—the facility Cammack singled out on Twitter—holds around 1,100 detainees. The number of American parents who rely on formula to feed their infants is on the order of millions. Though several Republican lawmakers and right-leaning news outlets are agitating about the “pallets of baby formula for all of the illegals who are crossing into the United States,” none have been able to say exactly how much formula is going to detention facilities or how often shipments are arriving.

The baby formula shortage is indeed a huge problem. About 40 percent of top baby formula brands are out of stock right now, and producers are warning that shortages could last for several months. But the shortage wasn’t caused by the government’s legal duty to feed the kids it has confined. “Much of the current shortage is rooted in a February recall of formula after a suspected bacterial outbreak at an Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan,” explains Reason’s Eric Boehm. And while we could re-fill those shelves with formula from abroad, tariffs and quotas “make it burdensome and costly to import the supplies that are now desperately needed.”

You can’t solve the national shortage by making it harder for undocumented parents to feed their babies. Instead of looking for immigrant scapegoats, lawmakers should tackle the trade and regulatory policies that helped create the current shortage.”

Biden’s Baby Formula Airlift Stunt Should Never Have Been Necessary

“America’s current shortage of baby formula is a crisis created, in significant part, by the failures of government policy aimed at protecting domestic companies from foreign competition.

But rather than sweep aside the rules and regulations that have contributed to this mess, the Biden administration and Congress are gearing up to address a problem created by industrial policy with…more industrial policy. We’re now weeks into the crisis, but the best response that our political leaders have been able to muster is an attempt to use public resources to duplicate the market response that would have solved (or at least eased) the mess if it had merely been allowed to operate. The entire saga is a sad and infuriating commentary about the entirely predictable failures of central planning.

Take the White House’s latest idea for addressing the shortage as a perfect example. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced plans to send military aircraft to Europe—”Operation Fly Formula,” as the White House is calling it—to bring back formula for American parents.”

“The baby formula shortage isn’t the result of there not being enough planes to transport baby formula from Europe to the U.S.; it’s the result of the federal government making it nearly impossible to transport baby formula from Europe to the U.S.

As Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown explained earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rules that prohibit many baby formulas made in Europe from being imported to the U.S. have nothing to do with health or nutritional safety issues. Often, those brands are banned because they fail to meet the FDA’s labeling requirements.

In addition, the U.S. imposes huge tariffs—technically tariff-rate quotas, which are designed to make it completely unprofitable to import more than a small amount of a certain product—on imported formula. Those tariffs exist for no reason other than to protect domestic formula manufacturers and the American dairy industry that supplies them. As a result, about 98 percent of the formula sold in the United States is produced here as well.”

“Rather than moving to ease those regulations, however, the House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday that throws $28 million at the FDA to “boost the part of the workforce focused on formula, as well as FDA inspection staff,” according to CBS News. As if the FDA deserves to be rewarded for its incompetence and over-regulation of baby formula. This crisis demands less from the FDA, not more.”

Why the U.S. Needs to Act Fast to Prevent Russia from Weaponizing Food Supply Chains

“it is actually the agricultural aspects of the pact with China about which the world should be most concerned.

The importance of Ukraine’s remarkably fertile soil for global grain supply has gained some attention, amid concerns the conflict will lead to sharp price increases. But the reality is Russia’s control of Ukrainian grain shipments will likely have far greater consequences.

After just one day of the invasion, Russia effectively controlled nearly a third of the world’s wheat exports, three quarters of the world’s sunflower oil exports, and substantial amounts of barley, soy and other grain supply chains. Furthermore, Ukraine alone accounts for 16 percent of the world’s corn exports and has been one of the fastest growing corn producers — a dynamic particularly critical to meeting China’s rapidly growing demand for corn. Importantly, while hydrocarbon production can be immediately surged in different places to meet shifts in requirements, grain production cannot be surged in the same way, and even a major expansion cannot make up for the sheer volume of agricultural output that Russia now controls either directly or indirectly.

Most of the focus has rightly been on the invasion’s impact on people in Ukraine’s most populous cities — but in the background, Russia is completing a hostile takeover of the country’s grain-rich regions and their associated transportation infrastructure. Critically, however, Russia does not even need to fully control Ukraine’s agricultural lands to weaponize the food supply chains they anchor.

As the following map shows, there are only two points of maritime access that Russia needs to dominate in order to be in control of Ukrainian grain shipments: the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov, and the 17 ports in and around Odessa.”

5 reasons war in Ukraine is a gut punch to the global food system

“Guess from where the U.N. World Food Programme sourced more than half of its supplies for the hungry across the globe in 2021? Yes, Ukraine.

When this “breadbasket of Europe” is knocked out of supply chains and aid networks, the world is going to feel it.

The war between Russia and Ukraine, both food-producing powerhouses, has already sent prices for cereals like wheat soaring and European governments scrambling to stabilize markets.”

What the Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean for global hunger

“Dozens of countries across the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa that already suffer from food insecurity rely on Russia’s and Ukraine’s bountiful supplies of wheat, corn, and vegetable oil, and experts say the conflict could send food prices rising and

Billions of animals are slaughtered every year — just to be wasted

“Around one-third of food produced in the US is never consumed, ending up in landfills as waste.”

“According to USDA data from 2010, Americans throw out 26 percent of meat, poultry, and fish at the retail and consumer level. Harish Sethu, a data scientist and author of the blog Counting Animals, says America’s meat waste problem means we’re raising about a billion chickens, more than 100 million other land animals (mostly turkeys, pigs, and cows), as well as capturing around 25 billion fish and 15 billion shellfish (mostly shrimp), only to have them wind up in a landfill.
While the data is over a decade old, the situation is likely worse now, as US meat production rose 10.3 percent from 2011 to 2018 while food waste only decreased by 1 percent.”

““A lot of people think their food is bad when it’s actually still perfectly good to eat,” Dana Gunders, executive director of food waste nonprofit ReFED, told me. “The dates on food are really an indicator of when something is of top quality or it’s freshest, but they’re not telling you the food is bad or that you can’t eat it.”

Her general rule of thumb? “If it looks fine, smells fine, and tastes fine, it’s okay to eat.” She encourages readers to visit SaveTheFood.com, a consumer guide from environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, for more information.”

“Can’t eat it soon? Put it in the freezer. “Freezers are a magic pause button,” Gunders said.”

““A lot of people are in the habit of freezing meat but you can freeze milk if you’re going away on vacation — it may separate a little but it’ll be okay. Eggs you can freeze if you crack them out of their shell and scramble them but don’t cook them.” When it comes to cheese, it’s best to shred it before freezing and then use it in cooking after thawing.

Lastly, plan ahead. “If you can, sketch out an accurate plan of your week and when you’ll eat at home, and have that in mind when you’re shopping,” Gunders said. “That’s really critical because shopping is where you commit to the food regardless of whether you eat it or not.””

“Reducing waste at the farm level is vital because if meat companies can reduce their mortality rates — the percent of farm animals that die before they can be slaughtered — then they can conceivably reduce the number of animals they need to breed in the first place.

The biggest impact can be made in the chicken industry, simply because of its scale.”

“Grocery stores, restaurants, and food manufacturers can also do a lot to reduce food waste.”

Mexico’s ‘Junk Food’ Warning Labels Are Junk

“Mexico’s controversial, year-old, mandatory, front-of-package food warning label law was supposed to help Mexicans make healthier food choices and slash sky-high obesity rates in the country.

The law, which took effect one year ago this week, “requires black informational octagons to be placed on packaged foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium[,] or calories.” Other requirements include that any food which must bear the dreaded black octagon “cannot include children’s characters, animations, cartoons, or images of celebrities, athletes[,] or pets on their packaging.”

Many food producers inside and outside Mexico opposed the labeling law, arguing it’s misleading, burdensome, and paternalistic. The Mexican government, though, claimed the law would lead Mexicans to eat 37 fewer calories per day, which would theoretically result in an average Mexican losing nearly four pounds per year. Some outside Mexico supported the labeling scheme, too. Last year, for example, a World Health Organization (WHO) regional office gushed over the black octagons and gave the Mexican government an award, calling the labels a “public health innovation” that is the “most advanced and comprehensive regulation worldwide.”

But early returns suggest the law’s impact has been negligible at best.

“More than a year after Mexico’s food warning label law took effect, sales of junk food and sugary beverages have not declined significantly, according to a market research firm and a business group,” Mexico News Daily reported last week. “In fact, sales of unhealthy products have increased in some cases, data shows.”

That’s the conclusion of a Mexico-based market research group, Kantar México, which tracks food purchases made by thousands of Mexican households each week. Mexico News Daily also notes that a Mexican government agency says purchases of treats such as candy, chocolates, and soda were higher this past September than they were in September 2020—the same month the WHO rewarded the Mexican government for its purportedly innovative efforts.

Despite the fact the law’s not working as advocates hoped and claimed it would, last week’s Mexico News Daily report notes a Mexican government official praised the labeling scheme as a success because “[c]onsumers are now more informed and empowered to make better choices.””

Food Trucks Still Being Squeezed Out by Local Governments

“Detroit’s city council introduced new rules that will allow food trucks to operate in more parts of the city beginning next spring.

“From an equity standpoint and from a food access standpoint, we believe food trucks should be able to operate in public spaces across the city,” city councilor Raquel Castañeda-Lopez, who introduced the measure, told the Detroit Free Press.”

“While words such as “fairness and harmony” and “equitably” make for a nice word salad, they mask the true, protectionist spirit underlying the new ordinance.

“Food trucks must be 200 feet away from existing restaurants and 300 feet from entertainment and sports arena areas,” the Freep report indicates, also noting that food trucks may no longer operate after 11 p.m. That’s progress?

Maybe to Larson, whose nebulous, we kinda sorta like it remarks aren’t a huge surprise, given that Downtown Detroit Partnership’s member list includes a host of giant companies and traditional food-truck opponents—including brick-and-mortar restaurateurs and the realty groups that rent space to them.

Indeed, in discussions of expanding food truck access to other parts of Detroit—or any city or town in America—the devil’s in the details.”