True enough, it is funny, but poking at the National Security Agency should not be done without serious pause. The graphic artist that designed a T-shirt with the NSA emblem and the follow-on words “The NSA: the only part of government that actually listens” has been sued by the agency to take the shirts off the market. This news report indicates he is fighting Big Brother on the matter.

In comparison to the NSA, at least, the FDA rates much friendlier, high touch and all ears. Check out this blog post by the FDA’s Mike Taylor about his recent travels and feedback on food safety rules. 

I wonder if the Produce for Better Health Foundation will play an administrative role in the licensing of Sesame Street characters to produce marketers. It would seem to be a logical fit, but when I talked last week with PMA’s Bryan Silbermann, he said discussions about the involvement of other stakeholders/ organizations with the project have not yet occurred. If PBH is not involved in some way in the utilization of Sesame Street characters in fruit and vegetable marketing at the retail level, it would bring into question how well this marketing experiment will be coordinated with existing generic promotion efforts.

Dole shareholders narrowly approved taking the company private, accepting the $1.6 billion buyout by chairman and CEO David Murdock. Ninety-year young David Murdock  has said the fundamental principles of the company remain the same.

In a news release on Nov. 1, Murdock said:

“I plan to have Dole support my strong personal commitment to promoting a lifestyle and diet which includes significant emphasis on fruits and vegetables and proper nutrition as a basis for improved health and longevity. We will continue to support research efforts to study the impact of nutrition on health and longevity at universities and other non-profit institutions, and to write books and publications in order to broaden our collective knowledge base on the value and benefits from eating fruits and vegetables.”

In a sentiment I know he would agree with, I say long live David Murdock.

Recent Cuts in food stamps will hurt produce purchases, too. Because food stamps account for about 10% in grocery store sales now,  the reductions in food stamp distributions will, in turn, hurt fresh produce sales at retail. With fresh produce sales typically running at 10% of store sales or better, that’s a hit. This USA Today story says that food banks are already anticipating an increase in demand because of the cutbacks.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. sent a release out about the $11 billion cuts to food stamps going into effect today and lasting for the next three years.

She explained, in the release, that the cut is a result of an expiration of the 13% increase in food stamp benefits that were provided in the 2009 economic recovery act. In her news release, she noted Congress is currently debating a five-year farm bill; the version supported by Republicans in the House of Representatives contains $40 billion worth of food stamp cuts, while the Senate bill cuts $4.5 billion. Any cuts that come in addition to the $11 billion going into effect today will leave millions of low-income Americans, including children, without necessary access to food, she said. From her release:

“These cuts are terrible for families on the edge, terrible for our economic recovery, and terrible for the future,” DeLauro said. “Imagine we had a miracle vaccine that made everyone who took it healthier, and encouraged children’s growth and brain development. If such a vaccine existed, wouldn’t we try to vaccinate every child in America? We do have that vaccine and it is called food. Food stamps help hungry people get food and it makes a profound difference for people. They have a very real impact on people’s lives, particularly children. I regret the cut in benefits I fought so hard for is happening and will work my hardest to ensure no future cuts occur.”

One press account said a family of four in Texas would receive $36 less per months because of the expiration of the stimulus package. How much of those additional dollars would have been spent on fresh produce?

Here is a nice chart book of infographics on SNAP from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The food stamp program could benefit from increased transparency, however. Here is a report of one newspaper’s litigation with the USDA for data on food stamp redemptions to retailers in South Dakota.