January 24, 2013
Food Truck Wars: Dispatches from the Front(s)
For more than two years, a number of us (Ken, Jamie, Matt, and Chad) have blogged about food trucks (usually just around lunchtime). Here are some articles updating the situation in Chicago and other cities.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune published a story on dissatisfaction among the portable vendors with the food truck ordinance Chicago enacted last year.
December 17, 2012
More than enough farmland?
Apparently, new studies are arguing that we have more than enough farmland worldwide to feed everyone. The conclusion then becomes that we can start converting some of that farmland to protected natural space. Perhaps it is because the study is assessing farmland worldwide (instead of considering its distribution), but these numbers seem hard to accept. (also unclear if the report fully considers climate change implications). If this assessment is correct, what should that mean for all the programs across the nation working to protect ag land?
by the way, the UN has reached a very different conclusion assessing the need for many millions of addition acres.
November 09, 2012
Food Trucks Feed Sandy Survivors
As Hurricane Sandy spread its path of destruction in New York City, there was suddenly an urgent need for a fleet of expensively equipped, city-inspected, self-sufficient mobile food-delivery vehicles that could flee to high ground during the flooding and the winds, then drive to dispense hot meals to the hungry in devastated neighborhoods.
That exotic vehicle already existed. It is called the food truck.
And indeed, dozens of the trucks survived the storm in working order, then immediately began feeding needy citizens in broken neighborhoods where brick-and-mortar restaurants were still closed. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, New York City agencies and sponsoring corporations, much of that food has been free.
A little local entrepreneurship, a little corporate sponsorship, and voila! some hungry, cold New Yorkers get fed! It's always nice to see creative generosity during tough times.
Jamie Baker Roskie
August 07, 2012
More Buffalo Boosting: Artfarms!
I just can't enough of Buffalo these days. Yesterday, I posted about our "zombieness" and today I learned of something fun being done with some of our vacant land (up to 20% of the land in the city of Buffalo is vacant -- no that is not the same thing as open space). Some Brooklyn-based architects are suggesting we turn the land into artfarms. Never heard of artfarms? Me neither. The architects describe them as sculptures that serve as agricultural grow structures. Urban farming meets local artists.
"These above-ground, vertically designed sculptures will provide a means to produce fruits, vegetables and flowers for the surrounding community, but they will also provide a creative basis for expansion. In essence, the concept of Artfarms is to create and erect devices that are not just aesthetically appealing, but that will serve a greater purpose by triggering redevelopment."
I hope they find some funding and support to make these happen. Nothing tastes better than a local ogranic tomato grown on a structure that belongs at Burning Man.
July 30, 2012
The Politics of Chick Fil-A Bans
Matt has the legality of the various proposed Chick Fil-A bans covered. As numerous commentators have pointed out, prohibiting Chick Fil-A stores based on the opinions of the store's owner is flagrantly unconstitutional. While most commentators have focused on the First Amendment, I think Chik Fil-A has an equally strong legal argument under the Fourteenth Amendment given the Supreme Court's decision in Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562 (2000): it is a violation of the equal protection clause to discriminate against a particular landowner due to "animus" against the landowner.
To me, the more interesting question is why city officials would propose something that is obviously unconstitutional (leaving aside the possibility that these officials are dumb, which is of course a legitimate possibility). In fact, if city officials really wanted to prevent Chick Fil-A from locating in their towns, the very worst thing they could have done is announce publicly their discriminatory animus toward the franchise. As land use folks have seen time and again, it's really easy for communities to exclude land uses they don't like (e.g., affordable housing) by citing vague concerns about traffic, noise, congestion, and so on. They rarely make the mistake of saying "we just don't want poor people living here." Now, because of what the various officials in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, etc have said, it will only be harder to exclude Chick Fil-A even if the city has legitimate concerns about traffic, noise, etc because the inference of discriminatory animus will be so hard to shake. So why, to repeat my question, are city officials doing this? There are two possible answers, as I see it:
1) City officials see themselves as having nearly absolute power over zoning. Such a sense of entitlement may stem from a variety of sources: 1) city officials' authority is rarely challenged by repeat-player developers who would rather not anger city officials they may have to deal with again and again; 2) the news media rarely takes up zoning issues as causes celebre, and 3) courts are largely deferential toward local zoning practices. This sense of entitlement may be especially acute in Chicago, where the informal practice of "aldermanic privilege" essentially grants the alderman in each ward the unfettered right to dole out land use permissions.
This is the less likely of two alternatives, however.
2) City officials knew all along that what they were proposing was unconstitutional, and never had any serious intention of banning Chick Fil-A. The real reason for their strident statements: signalling that they are gay-friendly communities. Under the public choice model of local governance, cities are conceptualized as "firms" who compete for affluent residents and tax revenues. Richard Florida has provocatively argued that one of the greatest potential resources for cities are gay residents, who tend to have high disposable incomes and have had a history of revitalizing depressed neighborhoods in many urban areas. Thus, it makes sense that these cities would want to signal their friendliness toward gays, and it especially makes sense that once one city so signalled, others did the same to ensure that they're not seen as any less gay-friendly. In this sense, the proposed Chick Fil-A bans are very similar to then-mayor Gavin Newsom performing gay marriages in San Francisco in 2004 in flagrant violation of California law.
One footnote here: If I'm right, why did New York mayor Mike Bloomberg so forcefully diverge from these other big-city officials and declare that cities have no right to ban Chick Fil-A? Perhaps Bloomberg felt he already had sufficient credibility with gays that this was an unnecessary stunt. In addition, cities aren't just competing for gays but for business. Bloomberg's corporate instincts probably led him to conclude that potential investors in NY real estate might be deterred if the city started engaging in viewpoint-discrimination among different businesses. This shows the delicate tap-dance big city officials have to constantly engage in: give sufficient tribute to the liberal constituencies while not alienating big business.
July 28, 2012
Chick-fil-A, Gay Marriage, Constitutional Law, and Land Use
Even the culture wars often end up in a land use controversy. Over the past few days, public officials in Boston and Chicago made statements that Chick-fil-A restaurants would not be welcome in their jurisdictions because of the anti-gay-marriage opinions expressed by the company's CEO. According to the Wall Street Journal's Jack Nicas, one Chicago alderman went so far as to state that he would personally deny a permit solely on that basis. From First Amendment Trumps Critics of Chick-fil-A:
Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno wrote in the Chicago Tribune Thursday, "Because of [Mr. Cathy's] ignorance, I will deny Chick-fil-A a permit to open a restaurant in my ward."
I don't agree with the CEO's statements either, but it's pretty clear that, under the Constitution, his opinions can't legitimately be the basis for granting or denying land use permission. Cleveland State law prof Alan Weinstein put it best:
Alan Weinstein, a professor of law at Cleveland State University who specializes on the intersection of land-use law and constitutional issues, said he has seen officials try to use zoning laws to block adult stores or religious institutions, but never a commercial enterprise because of political views. He said that beyond the First Amendment, "in the land-use sphere, the government has no legitimate interest" in the political views of an applicant.
That last observation is key. Most of the commentary on this issue has revolved around the CEO's First Amendment rights. And it's true that free speech is one of the only areas where the courts will apply strict scrutiny to overturn government land use decisions. But as Prof. Weinstein notes, this question isn't even really about regulating actual speech on land; it's about the rational basis for land use regulation itself under the police powers.
From a pragmatic perspective, it's pretty easy to imagine a counterfactual scenario where an unpopular political opinion on the other side of the spectrum could likewise result in negative land use decisions under such a precedent. It appears that this constitutional reality is setting in, and the public officials are backtracking. Here's a video interview with the WSJ reporter:
I was one of the other "land use experts" who talked to the reporter, but Prof. Weinstein definitely said it best.
So to sum up: Many of us disagree with the Chick-fil-A CEO's opinions, but everyone seems to agree that it would be unconsitituional to prohibit the company's land use on that basis.
July 10, 2012
CFP: Food Law at Maine
News of a great Colloquium being planned for next year at the University of Maine School of Law, via Sarah Schindler:
The Maine Law Review invites you to participate in its 2013 Food Law Colloquium. The Colloquium presents an opportunity for discussion and debate about the legal architecture of food systems in Maine, the United States, and beyond. To complement the Colloquium, the spring volume of the Review will be devoted to high-quality legal scholarship focusing on a wide range of food law topics.
The Maine Law Review seeks submissions of papers for oral presentation at the Colloquium and for publication in its Spring 2013 volume. We invite contributions in the form of articles or essays addressing any aspect of food law. Topics may include, but are not limited to: local food ordinances and states’ rights movements; the effects of the 2012 Farm Bill on small-scale agriculture; food safety and security; judicial responses to competing interests of seed patent owners and farmers; the challenges of securing financing for farmland conservation; administrative hurdles confronting the seafood industry; cooperatives and securities law; comparative analyses of food law frameworks; and emerging issues in food law. Although traditional, full-length papers are welcome, we principally seek shorter essays (roughly 8,000 to 15,000 words, including references) that will stimulate lively discussion at the Colloquium.
Draft abstracts and queries may be addressed to Aga Pinette, Editor-in-Chief, at email@example.com, no later than September 30, 2012. Please accompany submissions with a curriculum vitae, and indicate your willingness and availability to travel to Portland, Maine, to participate in the Colloquium in February or March 2013.
April 13, 2012
The UGA Land Use Clinic and Food Carts
Today was the very last class for the UGA Land Use Clinic, and my last class as managing attorney. (If this is news to you, you might want to read this previous post for background.) It's a bittersweet day for me, but now I want to take the opportunity to brag on my students a bit.
I've had a fantastic group of students this semester. (My students are always great, but this group is particularly great.) They've worked really hard and taken up a lot of the slack as I've been distracted by my upcoming move and several other challenges, including my husband recently breaking his shoulder.
Several of the students have worked on a Food Cart/Truck project with UGA College of Environment & Design students. It's been a two year effort involving a "Mobile Food Vending Study" as well as a Food Cart Festival and, just this week, a presentation to a committee of the Athens-Clarke County Commission on proposed changes to the local Food Cart ordinance to allow for a few more spaces for food carts and food trucks in downtown Athens.
Per Ken Stahl's recent post, food trucks are a controversial local land use issue. Here there has already been lots of push back from local restaurants. However, it's interesting to note that a local restaurant - Farm 255 - has provided much of the impetus for food carts in Athens, as a "Farm Cart" is an integral part of their business model. My students tell me the reality is there's very little data on the impact of food trucks on restaurants, but that doesn't do much to sooth the fears of the restaurant owners. I may not be around to see the ultimate impact of this project, but I'm very proud of the work the law and the design students have done.
Jamie Baker Roskie
April 06, 2012
Food Trucks, Land Use, and the Free Rider Problem
The food truck wars continue. In this piece on Slate, Matt Yglesias talks about several cities' and states' efforts to ban or regulate food trucks in a way that prevents them from competing with existing restaurants. He cites what he considers a particularly egregious example: a San Francisco ordinance that permits any existing business to comment on an application for a new vending license and directs the city to "consider" whether the new vendor will operate within 300 feet of an existing vendor in deciding whether to grant the license. Yglesias concludes: "a basic rule of thumb seems to suggest itself: The fact that business owners would prefer not to face competition is not a valid regulatory purpose."
This proposition would surely come as a surprise to most land use folks, who generally accept as a matter of course that land use regulations are, at their core, anti-competitive. From large-lot single-family residential zoning that inflates the cost of housing for the benefit of existing homeowners to anti-big-box store laws that are designed to protect quaint mom-and-pop businesses, zoning represents pure economic protectionism. Indeed, the San Francisco ordinance Yglesias mentions is pretty familiar: many zoning laws give neighbors the right to file a protest to a proposed land use change in their neighborhood, which can result in requiring the city to enact the zoning change by a supermajority vote or possibly even block the zoning change (I address the legality of these neighborhood zoning provisions in my article Neighborhood Empowerment and the Future of the City.)
Zoning laws are generally allowed to be anti-competitive because they are thought to be means of combatting free-rider problems. Economists like William Fischel and Bruce Hamilton have argued, for example, that a preponderance of expensive homes on large lots tends to correlate with higher-quality schools. But in the absence of large-lot zoning, people would have strategic incentives to build smaller, less expensive homes in the area just to have access to the better schools. Of course, if too many folks did the same, the very thing that attracted people to the area (the good schools) will be lost as the area becomes congested with smaller homes and more schoolchildren.
Food trucks, it would seem, present an even stronger free-rider problem. Foot traffic is drawn to an area because of the existing shops, restaurants, etc, and the foot traffic in turn generates a demand for more shops, restaurants, etc. Rents and property values go up, as do property taxes, and many high-traffic areas use special assessments or business improvement districts to provide collective sanitation or security services for the area (again overcoming a free-rider problem, as I explain in my Neighborhood Empowerment piece). When a food truck swoops into a high-traffic area, it pays no rent, no property taxes, and no assessments for that privilege, and its lower operating costs enable it to siphon some of that foot-traffic away from existing fixed eateries, thus free-riding on the efforts of those eateries to bring in the foot traffic in the first place. Think of it this way: if the food trucks are sufficiently successful to bankrupt the existing fixed eateries, leaving lots of vacant storefronts in their wake, people will stop coming to the area altogether, and the food trucks will move elsewhere. In other words, the food trucks depend on the existence of fixed eateries to fuel their business. But while fixed eateries pay taxes and fees for the ability to do business in a particular place, food trucks do not. So it should not be a surprise that existing businesses are unhappy.
The solution that suggests itself to me is fairly obvious: since business improvement districts are mechanisms for overcoming free-rider problems, than food trucks should be forced to pay assessments to the business improvement district or special assessment district in those areas where they operate. Legally and conceptually, though, this is difficult to accomplish because special assessments are, as a matter of hornbook law, supposed to be keyed to the benefits that accrue to real property. Because food trucks are not real property, it is difficult to apply the special assessment to them. But wouldn't it be possible for municipalities to use their home rule powers to impose some sort of free-rider fee on food trucks? I would hope that cities and states will consider this alternative rather than simply banning food trucks altogether.
For more on food trucks, see my colleague Ernesto Hernandez-Lopez's piece, LA’s Taco Truck War: How Law Cooks Food Culture Contests.
October 31, 2011
Halloween Land Use Rules
Just got back from trick-or-treating with Peter Pan and a human pineapple. As they sort through the loot, I'm reminded of the increasing trend towards regulating Halloween activity. Where I grew up there weren't any rules, just social norms that controlled things like how late kids could reasonably stay out ringing on doorbells (with law enforcement as a backstop for teenagers out too late or too unruly). But then a few years ago I moved to a town in Ohio, and was surprised to learn that the town promulgated "official trick-or-treat hours" . . . and I'm not 100% sure on this, but I think the official hours to trick-or-treat were the day before Halloween, because it fell on a Sunday, or something. To get even more land use-y, it was restricted to residential neighborhoods only (not sure why you'd want to do otherwise).
Just trolling around the web tonight, I came across this Yahoo article compiling Bay Area Halloween Laws and Regulations. A few examples:
- Sex offenders: stay home; no candy; no decorations, and expect a police visit.
- Curfew laws enforced-- 10 p.m. seems like the most common time for Halloween curfew.
- Parades: several communities have kids' parades, requiring street closures, permits, police.
- Street festivals: for the second year in a row, the Castro District celebration has been cancelled; therefore traffic, parking, etc. will not be disrupted.
- Public safety: last year there was gunfire at an Oakland festival; expect tighter restrictions on large gatherings.
One other thing I have observed the past couple of years: people driving their kids to the more pedestrian-friendly, slightly denser, but still single-family residential neighborhoods to trick-or-treat-- the "sweet spot" (if you will) of efficient foot travel and probability of treats at each house. It turns out that kids are intuitively rational candy-maximizers. Happy Halloween!
October 07, 2011
Schutz on Community Approaches to Rural Land Stewardship
Anthony B. Schutz (Nebraska) has posted Toward a More Multi-Functional Rural Landscape: Community Approaches to Rural Land Stewardship, forthcoming in the Fordham Environmental Law Journal. The abstract:
This Article how farms and ranches can adapt to meet consumer demand for outdoor activities like hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, or simply enjoying the solace of spending time in rural places. These places hold breathtaking landscapes, but they are often privately owned, relatively inaccessible to the general public, and have not been managed to produce the ecosystem services that support these activities, despite strong evidence of consumer demand. Historically, farms and ranches have been managed for a single dominant use, undertaken wholly upon an individual’s landholdings. Entering the emerging market for nature-based experiences requires that farms and ranches adapt from fragmented single-use businesses to multi-functional enterprises that cooperatively operate at larger spatial scales.
This Article explains how lawyers can help farmers and ranchers make such a move. It uses existing private law and Ostrom's principles of collective action to illustrate how these communities should be designed. It also offers some preliminary thoughts on possible areas for legal reform that would facilitate the development of these enterprises.
It also explores the relationships these enterprises have with the emerging local-food movement. As with traditional producers, the multi-functionality these institutions bring to individual farmers can be used as a diversification strategy for local-food producers. The income from these activities, in turn, helps stem the environmental consequences of using land for food production. In addition, the communities that may emerge within the foodshed and those that may emerge to support nature-based entrepreneurship are complimentary. Each may foster, and profit from, the sort of communitarian thinking that is necessary to the other, resulting in a more multi-functional and sustainable rural landscape.
September 19, 2011
Salkin on Bee Siting
Patricia Salkin (Albany), the quintessential "busy bee", has posted Honey, It's All the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Bee Hives (B.C. Env. Aff. L. Rev., forthcoming 2011). Here's the abstract:
Urban beekeeping, along with other types of urban agriculture, sustainable development and green building, has generated quite a buzz in recent years. Small-scale beekeeping has proven to be especially popular among people looking to obtain more of their food from local sources and urban bees provide important pollination services to community gardens, home vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Some people also believe that honey contributes to a healthier lifestyle by providing a minimally-processed sweetener and through its various uses as a homeopathic remedy. Small-scale beekeeping may augment local economies too. Despite the benefits and growing popularity of backyard beekeeping, apiaries are not always welcomed by the neighbors. This article is designed to provide information to land use regulators about the benefits and drawbacks of beekeeping in residential areas, and it offers strategies for addressing beekeeping activities through local laws and ordinances.
September 14, 2011
Salkin & Lavine on Regional Foodsheds
Patricia E. Salkin (Albany) and Amy Lavine (Albany) have posted Regional Foodsheds: Are Our Local Zoning and Land Use Regulations Healthy?, Fordham Environmental Law Journal, Vol. XXII (2011). The abstract:
Governments at all levels have become increasingly interested in fostering healthy eating habits and sustainable agricultural production. Promoting access to locally grown produce is an important part of many policy goals seeking to address these concerns, and the concept of regional foodsheds has risen in popularity as one method to achieve these goals. Research indicates that community based food systems have the potential to address food security, public health, social justice, and ecological health. Food production and consumption patterns are influenced by a range of federal, state, and municipal policies, but meaningful change in regional food system policies is likely to start with state and local governments, which can take proactive measures to strengthen their regional foodsheds through a variety of land use planning and regulatory actions. This Article focuses on how existing land use plans and regulations can promote healthier and more sustainable communities through the foodshed movement. In particular, this Article discusses specific land use strategies that can be implemented in urban and suburban settings to facilitate local and regional food production and distribution that go beyond farmland preservation strategies and examine, among other things, smaller-scale community gardens, residential agricultural uses and farmers markets.
May 11, 2011
Urban Chickens in Albany
We've posted a few times about the curious topic of urban chickens. The issue really crosses a lot of lines between the public-health origins of zoning; class; sustainability; and modern trends like local food.
Local chickens are being debated in my hometown of Albany. Here is the story from the Times Union: Chickens Join City's Urban Sprawl. Apparently it's up to the Mayor now. The reporter also has a blog post asking for feedback here.
Thanks to Helen Festa for the link. Interestingly, Albany Law's Patricia Salkin mentioned this controversy last week when she was telling me that out of all of her (many!) recent pieces, it is her article Feeding the Locavores, One Chicken at a Time: Regulating Backyard Chickens, that has gotten the most SSRN downloads. There must be a lot of passion out there about urban chickens!
March 23, 2011
Foster on Collective Action and the Urban Commons
Sheila Foster (Fordham) has just posted Collective Action and the Urban Commons, 87 Notre Dame L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2011), another interesting and important article on community control of land resources in the urban context. Here's the abstract:
Urban residents share access to a number of local resources in which they have a common stake. These resources range from local streets and parks to public spaces to a variety of shared neighborhood amenities. Collectively shared urban resources suffer from the same rivalry and free-riding problems that Garrett Hardin described in his Tragedy of the Commons tale. Scholars have not yet worked up a theory about how this tragedy unfolds in the urban context, particularly in light of existing government regulation and control of common urban resources. This Article argues that the tragedy of the urban commons unfolds during periods of “regulatory slippage” - when the level of local government oversight and management of the resource significantly declines, leaving the resource vulnerable to expanded access by competing users and uses. Overuse or unrestrained competition in the use of these resources can quickly lead to congestion, rivalry and resource degradation. Tales abound in cities across the country of streets, parks, and vacant land that were once thriving urban spaces but have become overrun, dirty, prone to criminal activity, and virtually abandoned by most users.
Proposed solutions to the rivalry, congestion and degradation that afflict common urban resources typically track the traditional public-private dichotomy of governance approaches. These solutions propose either a more assertive central government role or privatization of the resource. Neither of these proposed solutions has taken root, I argue, because of the potential costs that each carry - costs to the local government during times of fiscal strain, costs to communities where the majority of residents are non-property owners, and costs to internal community governance. What has taken root, however, are various forms of cooperative management regimes by groups of users. Despite the robust literature on self-organized management of natural resources, scholars have largely ignored collective action in the urban context. In fact, many urban scholars have assumed that collective action is unlikely in urban communities where social disorder exists.
This Article highlights the ways in which common urban resources are being managed by groups of users in the absence of government coercion or management and without transferring ownership into private hands. This collective action occurs in the shadow of continued state and local government ownership and oversight of the resources. Formally, although the state continues to hold the regulatory reigns, in practice we see the public role shifting away from a centralized governmental role to what I call an “enabling” one in which state and local government provides incentives and lend support to private actors who are able to overcome free-riding and coordination problems to manage collective resources. This Article develops this enabling role, marks its contours and limits, and raises three normative concerns that have gone unattended by policymakers.
March 23, 2011 in Agriculture, Community Design, Community Economic Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Food, Land Trust, Local Government, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 15, 2011
Salkin on Backyard Chickens
I must admit that whenever I see an announcement of a new article by Prof. Patricia Salkin (Albany), I make sure to do a thorough check of the blog archives because she is so prolific (putting the rest of us to shame) that I don't want to accidentally double-post. But this one seems pretty unique, and because we are on record for posting about urban chickens, the local food movement, and agricultural urbanism, it's great to see this timely article Feeding the Locavores, One Chicken at a Time: Regulating Backyard Chickens, published in Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 34, No. 3, p. 1, March 2011. The abstract:
As the local and regional food shed movement and the urban agriculture movement continue to grow, uses once considered only found on the rural farm are now finding their ways into urban and suburban communities. As a result, municipalities across the country are now facing the challenge of regulating the keeping of chickens in residential districts. From nuisance law to zoning regulations addressing the number of hens that may be kept on parcels, whether roosters are allowed, the size and location of coops and other issues, this article reviews the rapidly developing trends in this area of land use law.
It's a really interesting concept and one that we will be hearing much more about in the near future. I have friends in town who live next to a would-be urban chicken spot (so I hear both pro and con about it), and it's an innovative approach to modern land use, and it needs regulatory attention.
February 15, 2011
Gonzalez on Climate Change and Community-Based Food Production
Carmen Gonzalez (Seattle) has posted Climate Change, Food Security, and Agrobiodiversity: Toward a Just, Resilient, and Sustainable Food System. Here's the abstract:
The global food production system is in a state of profound crisis. Decades of misguided aid, trade and production policies have resulted in an unprecedented erosion of agrobiodiversity that renders the world’s food supply vulnerable to catastrophic crop failure in the event of drought, heavy rains, and outbreaks of pests and disease. Climate change threatens to wreak additional havoc on food production by increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, depressing agricultural yields, reducing the productivity of the world’s fisheries, and placing pressure on scarce water resources. Furthermore, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are occurring at a time of rising global food insecurity. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 1.05 billion people currently suffer from chronic hunger – a figure that represents one sixth of humanity.
This article examines the underlying causes of the crises in the global food system, and recommends specific measures that might be adopted to address the distinct but related problems of food insecurity, loss of agrobiodiversity, and climate change. The article concludes that the root cause of the crises confronting the global food system is corporate domination of the food supply and the systemic destruction of local food systems that are healthy, ecologically sustainable, and socially just. The article argues that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to address the interrelated climate, food, and agrobiodiversity crises, and suggests specific measures that the international community might take through law and regulation to promote sustainable agricultural production.
January 28, 2011
Yes, there are Grocery Stores in Detroit
The Urbanophile shares a story by James Griffioen called Yes, there are Grocery Stores in Detroit. Griffioen is responding to the oft-repeated assertion that the city of Detroit--still the 11th largest city in America with over 800,000 people--does not have any major national chain grocery stores in the city. This asserted fact is often invoked to illustrate arguments about urban decline, problematic land use arrangements, Detroit's particularly sad problems, and the current focus on the link between poverty and health and obesity in urban areas. Griffioen says that the narrative of grocery-less Detroit is . . . a canard (he uses a more pungent term involving bovine scatology).
In the time I’ve lived in Detroit, I’ve come to realize that the most sensational claims and the public perception they create often have little to do with the day-to-day reality of being a Detroiter. This is a complicated city, and even in the most sincere efforts to cull some truth from it, visiting journalists often end up spreading damaging falsehoods.
One of the most annoying is that Detroit has no grocery stores. . . .
What surprises most people who've heard that there are no grocery stores in Detroit is that there are actually independent stores far more appealing than any chain. One of the nicest grocery stores in Detroit is Honeybee La Colmena (I wrote an extensive profile about the store here). Honeybee is owned and operated by individuals who grew up and still live in the neighborhood where the store is located and they have created dozens of jobs for their neighbors. Honeybee has some of the best produce and prepared foods in the metro area, and it is actually a Detroit supermarket where people from the suburbs come into the city to shop.
Griffioen acknowledges that there are indeed parts of Detroit that are underserved by the market, but it is important to note that cities are often much more complex than any attempt to reduce them to a generalized observation or metaphor.
January 11, 2011
Montana v. Wyoming (and North Dakota)
Just in time for today's (my one and only) class dealing with water law . . . the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday about the concept of "beneficial use" in the Western states' prior appropriation approach ("first come, first served" per Chief Justice Roberts) to water law. The case seems to hinge on whether or not Wyoming is in violation of a compact signed by Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota if less water is being returned now to the Yellowstone River basin by Wyoming irrigation systems than was being returned in 1950, the date for the "beneficial use" benchmark. In 2008, the Court appointed Buzz Thompson (Stanford) as special master for the matter. Today's NY Times article suggests that the Court, which has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the matter, is skeptical of Montana's complaint.
When it comes to farms, size matters
In the UK, today was the last day for objections to an application for planning permission submitted by Nocton Dairies’ to build a ‘a US-style ‘mega’ dairy farm’ in rural Lincolnshire for a 3,770 cow dairy unit, dwarfing the average herd that has no more than a few hundred cows. An extraordinary 70,000+ objectors have objected to the proposed development, even though the new farm has reduced the number of cows it proposes to keep (the initial application was for 8,100) and despite impressive commitments to reduce carbon emissions in milk production.
While there are many concerns, objectors link two particularly resonant strands of opposition. The first is that a dairy farm of this size is out of place in the English countryside, the second is that keeping the cows inside, without letting them graze in the fresh air, infringes British beliefs in animal welfare. While much milk is imported into the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the EU, consumers have demonstrated a continuing desire for local dairy products and all the major supermarkets have stated that they would not sell Nocton’s milk in their stores. Campaigners and retailers alike have drawn on understandings of rurality, locality and an understanding of British (as opposed to American) farming to suggest that ‘if this proposal goes through it would not only have a disastrous effect on the well-being of the animals, but will potentially allow other factory farms in to change British farming and our countryside forever’.
As one campaign group puts it (drawing on a British love of tea), ‘Would you drink factory milk from battery cows? Not in my cuppa.’