Aaahhh, travel. Let’s dream of July in Rome, experiencing Italy’s food culture and learning Italian food history through the concept of terroir. Study this complex food culture with Robin Derby, Professor of History, UCLA, and Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy, observing sustainable food production, tasting local cuisine, and learning about the emergence of international food governance through the twentieth century. Click here for more information.
by Diana Winters
The Resnick Center is excited to share the publication of “Setting the Table for Food-Based Pro Bono Opportunities: A Resource Guide for Pro Bono Attorneys,” authored by Tommy Tobin, a member of the Resnick Center’s Advisory Board, and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. The guide is designed to facilitate connections between attorneys seeking meaningful pro bono work and anti-hunger organizations.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in the United States, and the amount of resources needed to address the crisis is staggering. Attorneys seeking pro bono work can assist with direct client services, legislative research, and policy advocacy, among other things. This guide seeks to describe these opportunities and to assist in forming these partnerships.
We are grateful to Tommy Tobin, Mazon, and Perkins Coie LLP for their work on and support of the guide. The guide will be updated periodically.
The scope of honey fraud is enormous. Demand for honey has doubled in the U.S. in the past 25 years, but production has not kept up. The increase in demand for honey has coincided with a critical decline in honey bee populations globally. So to keep consumers’ honey pots full with cheap honey, producers have increasingly cut honey with cheaper substances like corn syrup.
As adulterated honey takes over the mass market, beekeepers and legitimate honey producers cannot recoup their expenses by selling pure honey and are going out of business. The loss of these businesses has dire consequences for our declining honeybee population, which in turn has repercussions far beyond honey production.
Those trying to solve these two problems—honey market fraud and the loss of bee populations—must recognize that they are inextricably linked. The failure to do so may be catastrophic. This is because the decline in honey production is the least of our worries when it comes to declining honeybee populations; the consequences of reduced pollination are far worse. Three out of four fruit or seed crops need pollinators to continue producing, and the loss of bees has led to what some see as a pollination crisis.
Commercial beekeepers’ revenue comes from the sale of both honey and pollination services. When beekeepers go out of business because they cannot compete on price with honey producers mixing cheaper products into honey, they also cease providing pollination services.
But this linkage has not been effectively addressed by policymakers. One reason is that the declining honeybee population is seen as an environmental problem, while fraud is an economic one, and these problems are addressed by different federal agencies. Notably, a 2014 effort by the White House to address the pollination crisis did not include the FDA, the only agency with the authority to address honey adulteration. Moreover, the FDA’s approach to honey fraud has been anemic. It focuses on labeling rather than stronger action like setting out a specific formula or method of production for honey.
Michael T. Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law School, has published a white paper with the support of the American Honeybee Producers Association that identified an approach to stopping honey fraud while also saving the honeybee.
First, federal agencies—including the FDA, the USDA, and the EPA— must work together to adopt food-systems thinking with the twin goals of addressing pollination and honey production. If the White House fails to order coordination among these entities, Congress should legislate this coordination. And regardless of whether the White House or Congress act, the FDA should take immediate action against honey fraud. Next, retailers should work with the American Honey Producers Association to develop strategies to address honey fraud and to save pollinators. For example, in the absence of governmental standards, retailers should consider creating private standards in the supply chain to counter fraud.
Moreover, all the stakeholders in this pollinator economy—including regulators, retailers, and beekeepers—must educate the consumer on the value of unadulterated honey.
Currently, there are overwhelming incentives and an absence of consequences for food manufacturers to engage in honey fraud, and this takes a vast toll on consumers, the legitimate honey producer, and pollinators. To fix this, we must make the connection between healthy pollinator populations and pure, authentic honey as clear to everyone as it is to beekeepers and legitimate honey producers.
Executive Director Michael T. Roberts recently spoke by Zoom for the San Marino Rotary Club on the “Role of Food Law in everyday consumer products: Olive Oil and Honey. How do we know what’s in our plates?” Regarding the presentation, he commented, “I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of questions from the members. We ran 30 minutes overtime, as questions about Ractopamine (animal drug) and Isotopes (chemical fingerprinting) surfaced.” A video of the talk is here.
Also this week, Assistant Director Diana Winters participated in a Duke Law Food Law Society Zoom panel on Slaughterhouses and Covid-19, with David Muraskin from Public Justice, Hannah Connor from the Center for Biological Diversity, and Delcianna Winders, the Director of Lewis & Clark Law School’s Animal Law Litigation Clinic. The panel discussed failures in food safety and worker protection regulation that have led to the rampant spread of Covid-19 in meat processing plants.
Welcome back to On Food Law! We are excited to be back from our summer break and can’t wait to see what the rest of 2020 will bring. (Kidding.)
We have some exciting news – Laura Yraceburu Dall’s (UCLA Law ’20) article on the effect of Proposition 218 on retail water rates for community gardens in Los Angeles, which won the 2020 California Water Law Writing Prize co-sponsored by the California Water Law Symposium Board of Directors and the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, has been published in the California Water Law Journal.
Laura, who was deeply involved with the Resnick Center during her time at UCLA Law, writes that she came to the topic in her Food Law & Policy Clinic:
Community gardens in Los Angeles County have seen water rates increase from a flat rate of $1.41 per hundred cubic feet (HCF) in March 2016 to $2.095/HCF plus variable adjustments in July 2019 – a 289 percent increase. As a result, some community gardens have been forced to quadruple their member gardeners’ monthly dues to cover the increasing cost of water. In three years, this increase in the price of water has made gardening significantly more expensive and has priced out low-income, largely immigrant community members who rely on these gardens to supplement their diets with fresh produce. Community gardens across Los Angeles now face the choice of either having their membership change from subsisters who rely on the gardens for dietary needs to hobby gardeners who can pay more to fund the gardens or, alternatively, closing their operations. Either result increases food insecurity for the most vulnerable members of the gardens’ communities.
California has a long history of resisting tax increases through voter-approved propositions, known in short-hand as the California Tax Revolt. This effort has generally made it more challenging for cities and utilities to raise needed revenue for local services and programs, including water service, but a deeper problem exists than a shortage of funds. Proposition 218, which amended the California Constitution, imposes substantive and procedural requirements on local agencies by limiting property-related fees, including retail water rates. Proposition 218’s shifting of rate setting authority to the electorate has paradoxically contributed to a significant water rate increase for Los Angeles’ community gardens. While the goal of the Tax Revolt was to keep taxes and rates low, certain ratepayers have not received such benefits and in fact have experienced disproportionate rate increases.
This paper begins with an overview of community gardens and the history of the California Tax Revolt, primarily focusing on Propositions 13 and 218. Next, this paper will evaluate Proposition 218’s consequences for community gardens in the Los Angeles area. An analysis of how Proposition 218 was sold to voters will follow. A discussion of practical steps towards reform will precede the conclusion.
This important work can be found here.
By Diana Winters
A food law and policy career, especially for attorneys interested in working in the public interest sector, can take many shapes. Food policy work often intersects with other legal subject matters, such as housing, health care, education, and family law. For this reason, the Resnick Center has put together a digital guide to Careers in Public Interest Food Law and Policy to help law students and graduates understand the varied directions a public interest food law career can go, and how to embark upon such a career path.
Although the guide contains some resources specific to UCLA Law students, it also contains many more general resources, and will be useful to all law students and law school graduates seeking to explore public interest food law and policy careers.
We’re excited about this guide, and hope it can help grow our vibrant field.
by Diana R. H. Winters
One of the country’s largest pork processing facilities announced that it is closing indefinitely. The Smithfields Foods, Inc. plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will close after almost 300 of its workers tested positive for coronavirus. The plant employs 3700 workers and produces about four percent of the pork production in the United States.
Other major meat producers, including JBS USA and Tyson, have closed facilities after workers tested positive, and in some instances, died.
These closures illuminate significant worker safety problems at meat production plants. Manufacturers have been slow to provide protective equipment to low-wage workers standing close together to process meat and have pressured employees to remain working even if sick.
Moreover, these closures are one of many Covid-19 food supply chain issues resulting from the shutdown, which also include the inability of food producers to repackage food meant for institutional or restaurant use for retail use. The New York Times reported on the resulting massive food waste this past weekend.
All of the articles linked in this post can be found in the Resnick Center’s and the UCLA Law Library’s resource guide to Covid-19 and food law. Here in the blog we will occasionally highlight important trends and stories we see emerging. Please explore our guide, and forward relevant material for inclusion in the guide.
Today, the Resnick Center in conjunction with the UCLA School of Law Hugh and Hazel Darling Law Library launched a Covid-19 and Food Law Resource Guide. The guide will provide resources on the intersection of Covid-19 and food law and policy for scholars, researchers, and officials, which comports with the Resnick Center’s mission to provide cutting-edge legal research and scholarship in food law and policy.
This library guide will consist mainly at its start of substantive popular press articles, links to various open-access repositories of media reports, and helpful government sites. Over time, this library guide will be populated by legal scholarship and reflective, analytical publications relevant to legal scholarship that will be organized by subject matter and in some cases annotated.
If you come across interesting material at the intersection of Covid-19 and food law and policy, please submit it to be considered for this guide to the Resnick Center.
by Diana R. H. Winters
I will be attending CLE International’s Annual Food Law Conference on March 2-3, 202, in San Francisco. This is a terrific conference, which I highly recommend.
This is one of the few food law conferences where you can hear from both defense and plaintiff’s counsel, industry associations, and advocacy organizations. I learned so much last year. Michael T. Roberts, the Resnick Center‘s Executive Director, is a Co-Chair, and I am speaking on state law regulation on Tuesday, March 3. The featured speaker is Laura Eichhorn Kurpad, Esq., Associate Chief Counsel US Food and Drug Administration, to give us views from the FDA. You can find more info here: https://web.cvent.com/event/091ab345-25cd-4928-adf0-9212b7768bd5/summary?RefId=cle.com%20more%20info
Seriously, this conference is the cream of the crop! Hope to see you there.