National Environmental Groups Endorse Ravi Bhalla for Congress

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National environmental groups Food & Water Action and Center for Biological Diversity Action are endorsing Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s campaign for New Jersey’s 8th District.

Mayor Bhalla has been a leading voice in opposing dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel projects in New Jersey. He was a leader in the successful coalition campaign to stop the NJ Transit gas plant, has stated his opposition to the Gibbstown LNG terminal, and is opposed to the gas power plant proposed by Passaic Valley Sewer Commission. He has also embraced the legislative goals laid out in the Green New Deal Champions pledge.

Bhalla is challenging incumbent Rep. Robert Menendez, Jr, who was handed his Congressional seat in 2022, largely due to the influence of his father, Senator Bob Menendez. The elder Menendez has since been charged with corruption, and will be losing his Senate seat at the end of the year. 

Food & Water Action New Jersey Director Matt Smith said: “Mayor Bhalla has been one of the strongest climate advocates in New Jersey, speaking out against new fossil fuel projects and championing public transit as a climate solution. His leadership and passion for climate action and environmental justice would make him one of the strongest voices in Congress for meaningful action on the defining challenges of our time.” 

Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund National Director Brett Hartl said: “We are so excited to endorse Ravi Bhalla for Congress. He has been an amazing climate champion and outstanding mayor. New Jersey deserves better than generational politicians who care more about protecting the establishment and the status quo rather than doing what is necessary for future generations to have a livable planet. Our environment is more important than the corrupt New Jersey Democratic political machine.”

How Biden Is Fighting High Grocery Prices at the Root

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In this month’s State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden spoke to what most people in the U.S. are seeing right now — trips to the grocery store are more expensive than ever. The reason? Corporate greed. 

“Too many corporations raise their prices to pad their profits, charging you more and more for less and less,” he said

We couldn’t agree more. The rise in grocery prices have outpaced that of inflation across the economy, as has the growth of corporate profits, some to record highs. In fact, corporate profits rose five times faster than the inflation rate from 2020 to 2022.

What’s more, a recent report from the Biden administration shows how big companies worsened the supply chain problems that raised prices during the pandemic, to their own benefit.

Corporate greed has taken over our economy, leaving families, workers, and farmers struggling just to get by. And this trend has been enabled by lax antitrust enforcement that has let corporate giants get bigger. As they get bigger, their power grows, too.

Luckily, we know just how to tackle this — and so does Biden. Now, in this year’s election, reining in corporations’ bad behavior and countering their power is on the line.

How Corporate Consolidation Leads to Higher Prices

First, let’s take a look at how corporate consolidation works in the American economy. We say markets are “consolidated” when a small handful of very big companies dominate an entire sector. They do this by buying (acquisitions) or joining (mergers) with another company.

Consolidation gives these giant corporations the ability to dictate what goes on in the market, from prices to working conditions. As the president himself said, “Grocers in consolidated markets charge you more because you have nowhere else to shop.” That’s market power.

And corporations are amassing it all across our food system. A few huge players have taken over the markets for dairy, packaged foods, seeds, grocery stores, and more. 

Previous administrations have failed to stop this trend. Decades ago, the U.S. took consolidation seriously, but more recent administrations have sided with corporations over families. They failed to stop mergers and acquisitions or the unfair practices that big corporations use to cement their reign. As a result, food prices are soaring, while CEOs and shareholders pocket unprecedented profits.

Consolidation Means Big Wins for Corporations and Big Losses for Everyone Else

Consolidation in our food system affects more than just prices. It also whole local economies. For example, big grocery stores can adopt cost-cutting measures that make it impossible for smaller stores to compete. Small businesses shutter. Then, because the big stores are the only option in town, they can raise prices again — and that’s exactly what they do.

Growing consolidation and market power also gives corporations more leverage to pay lower wages, while those at the top hoard profits for themselves. For instance, Walmart is the biggest grocery chain in the country, and it paid its CEO $25 million in 2023. That’s 933 times the median associate’s wages, which are also below the poverty line for a family of four. At the same time, the grocery juggernaut saw a $163 million increase in profits from 2022 to 2023, for a total of over $13.6 billion.

Moreover, market power enables corporations to get away with harmful, cost-cutting practices, like the poor manure management on factory farms that pollutes communities with waste. Such practices directly harm our climate, environment, and public health.

Market power also helps companies get away with shady tactics, like charging us the same amount for less product. This “shrinkflation” is increasing how much we spend on household essentials like food, soap, and toilet paper. 

The bigger and more powerful a corporation is, the more it can duck accountability for its actions — and the more it can influence policymakers by spending millions on lobbying to sway policy in their favor

Biden is Tackling the Real Reasons Behind High Prices

We have antitrust agencies designed to rein in corporate consolidation. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department (DOJ) are supposed to assess proposed mergers and step in if they pose a threat to markets. We also have antitrust laws like the Packers and Stockyards Act, which is supposed to ensure fair and competitive markets in the meat industry.

Yet, antitrust enforcement has fallen — that is, until Biden came into office. The president has taken the kind of action to tackle market power that we haven’t seen for decades. 

His 2021 executive order began tackling monopolies in all corners of the economy, especially in food and agriculture. It included 70 actions to foster more competition, such as directing the USDA to create rules to breathe new life into the Packers and Stockyards Act, two of which have been finalized. 

This executive order also urged the FTC and DOJ to revise merger guidelines. These detail how the agencies evaluate the risks of mergers and decide whether they’ll challenge them. 

And in December of last year, the Biden administration set a record for merger challenges. His FTC and DOJ issued the highest number of challenges since the U.S. began requiring antitrust reviews before mergers, almost five decades ago.

Now, in March, the president announced a new strike force to tackle “unfair and illegal corporate pricing.” These are exactly the kinds of actions we need in order to stand up to corporations and put American families first.

We Can Stop Corporate Greed and Consolidation

In 2024, yet more food consolidation looms on the horizon. In 2022, grocery giant Kroger announced intentions to buy its competitor, Albertsons. They are the second- and fourth-largest grocery stores in the country, respectively. 

The $24.6 billion deal would be a gold mine for the companies’ CEOs and owners, and it would cement Kroger’s place near the peak of the grocery store food chain.

But luckily, Biden’s FTC has recognized the danger that such a merger would pose to everyone else. In February, it announced a suit to block the acquisition, which is scheduled for trial in August. This is a welcome step in preventing this disastrous megamerger, and we look forward to more progress in the future.

That’s why Food & Water Action is working hard to get out the vote this year. We’re working to protect aggressive action to rein in rising food costs and break up our consolidated food industry. This kind of policy is essential to combat corporate greed and level the playing field for families, workers, small businesses, and farmers. 

At the same time, Food & Water Action will keep working to expose the truth behind rising prices and all the other failures of our food system. We’re debunking corporations’ lies and excuses, and we’re shining light on their tactics to profit at everyone else’s expense. We’re fighting for the fair food system we need to ensure healthy, safe, and affordable food for everyone.

This work is only possible with volunteers and supporters. Learn more about how you can join us!

Sue Altman Endorsed by National Environmental Group

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Progressive organizer Sue Altman has been endorsed by the national advocacy group Food & Water Action in the race to represent New Jersey’s 7th District in Congress.

Altman has a long record of championing progressive issues in Trenton, and challenging political leaders on both sides of the aisle – qualities that will be essential to running an energetic, forceful campaign in a battleground district.

“Sue Altman has proven that she isn’t afraid to speak truth to power to advance the fight for a fairer, healthier and more just society,” said Food & Water Action New Jersey State Director Matt Smith. “Winning a high profile race in a battleground district like this will require a determined and passionate voice for social change. Sue Altman is the kind of candidate who can articulate a vision that will motivate voters to show up this November.”  

Food & Water Action is the political arm of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, which has been deeply in grassroots campaigns across the state to stop dirty energy projects and protect clean water for all.   

How a Single Bill Could Wreak Havoc on Our Food System

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Photo CC-BY FARMWATCH_FLKR
by Mia DiFelice and Rebecca Wolf

This past spring, the Supreme Court affirmed a huge win for state authority to regulate agricultural goods. It upheld a California law that only allows the sale of pork, veal, and eggs from animals raised in improved living conditions.

But Big Ag and its cronies in Congress couldn’t let this go without a fight. In June, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced a bill called the “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act.”

The EATS Act would stop many states’ regulations on agriculture and effectively deregulate the industry across the country. Everything from worker protections to food safety measures is now under attack. What’s more, deregulation promises to open the gates for Big Ag to get bigger, by giving it free rein to use the cheapest, most destructive practices it can.

Big Ag Has Its Hands All Over EATS

California’s Prop 12 requires that eggs, pork, or veal sold in the state must come from animals raised under certain conditions, like larger cages for birthing pigs. Californians were clearly in favor, with 60% in support of the law. In response, the pork industry took Prop 12 to federal court, claiming that it violated the Constitution. 

The National Pork Producers Council argued that the law interfered with interstate trade by affecting pork production outside of California. However, the Court ruled in favor of Prop 12.

In arguing against Prop 12, Big Ag once again showed its hand — it will stop at nothing to gain even more control over how food in the U.S. is produced, in this case by tearing down state regulations. This isn’t the first time Big Ag has tried to push dangerous policies like EATS. 

In 2018, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced what is informally known as the “King Amendment” for consideration in that year’s Farm Bill. (He also tried to pass a similar bill in the 2014 Farm Bill.) 

The King Amendment was nearly identical to today’s EATS Act and a huge gift to Big Ag. That was no surprise; Rep. King’s home state of Iowa has the largest number of pigs and chickens in the country. Almost all of them are raised on factory farms.

Now, the EATS Act enjoys the support of Big Ag lobbying organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the Farm Bureau.

The Overreaching Implications of EATS

While Prop 12 galvanized industry and built momentum for a bill like EATS, EATS’ influence would extend far beyond California. 

It would strip states of their right to regulate agricultural products sold within their borders, as it says that if there’s no federal standard, the states can’t make their own.

The approach is “lowest common denominator.” If just one state in the country allows the sale of goods made with a certain practice, every state would have to, no matter how hazardous, destructive, or inhumane the practice may be.

The range of laws that the EATS Act would affect is ridiculously, dangerously broad. The bill broadly implicates “preharvest production,” which could include regulations like:

  • Limits on what tools or chemicals farmers can use on their farms
  • Labor laws that protect workers or prevent child labor
  • Laws that restrict what chemicals can go into baby formula
  • Measures that prevent or contain diseases like bird flu

This poses a huge threat to our entire food system. For example, in Iowa, people cannot bring birds exposed to infectious diseases into the state without veterinary approval. EATS would endanger this law in the middle of a bird flu epidemic that has led to the deaths of nearly 60 million birds.

EATS also defines “agricultural products” so broadly that it could include everything from vaccines to vitamins. In total, the bill could nullify over a thousand state laws.

For years, states have been empowered to enact stronger food and agriculture protections than federal law and carry them out on their terms. But if EATS were passed, states would effectively deregulate the agricultural industry. It would allow Big Ag to use even cheaper, more destructive, and more harmful practices in more places.

The Political Game of EATS in the Farm Bill

As with the King Amendment, extremist politicians will likely push for EATS language in this year’s Farm Bill. And while passing the bill itself would be unlikely, using EATS as an opening move would tip negotiations closer to chaos. This is a terrible show of bad-faith bargaining.

What’s more, it’s deeply hypocritical. The EATS Act contradicts Republican calls for states’ rights. It denies states the ability to protect their citizens with regulations on what gets sold within their borders.

The Act also flies in the face of historical bipartisan collaboration on competition measures. Far from “ending trade suppression” between states, the EATS Act just helps Big Ag get bigger. Deregulation will allow Big Ag to pursue even more cost-cutting measures than it already does. This will in turn hasten corporate consolidation in the name of profit. 

That doesn’t sound like competition to us.

We Must Keep EATS From Passing

The EATS Act is infuriating but not surprising. It’s the latest of many examples of lawmakers bending to Big Ag over the well-being of their own constituents. EATS would gut critical state protections against the whims of powerful ag interests — the same interests already wreaking havoc on local environments, economies, and food systems. 

Even the introduction of the act shows that extreme right-wing politicians are sinking to new lows, throwing out good-faith negotiations. If it passes, EATS would threaten a variety of vital regulations and cut off a crucial avenue for reining in Big Ag. We need to ensure that this bill dies in Congress.

Call on your Congress members to say “No” to the EATS Act!

How Food & Water Action is Fighting For a Fair Farm Bill For All

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by Mia DiFelice and Katy Kiefer

Update (November 16, 2023): This month, Congress extended the deadline for the 2023 Farm Bill to September 30, 2024 as part of a continuing resolution to push back deadlines on must-pass spending bills. In the next 10 months, Food & Water Action will continue building support for a fair Farm Bill for all.

Decades of bad farm policy have made our food system unsustainable — for farmers, for rural communities, for families across the country, and for the planet. But this year, we have an exciting twice-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape that policy. 

The Farm Bill passes through Congress every five years, disbursing billions of dollars for nutrition and agricultural programs. As lawmakers negotiate the 2023 Farm Bill this summer and fall, Food & Water Action is seizing the moment. Our volunteers are working hard around the country to rally support in their communities and help us get the food policy we need.

Why We’re Fighting for a Fair Farm Bill

For decades, Big Ag has hijacked the Farm Bill and federal food policy to benefit corporations over families and farmers. 

For example, the Farm Bill has spent billions a year incentivizing harmful agricultural practices instead of supporting small- and medium-sized, sustainable food production. It also provides funds for infrastructure on factory farms that pollute our air and water and threaten our climate. 

Previous Farm Bills have helped Big Ag get bigger by encouraging record profits and rampant market concentration. As a result, a few mega-corporations rack in the cash, hollowing out rural economies and forcing small independent farmers to get big or get out.

A Fair Farm Bill Works for Families and Farmers, Not Big Ag

We need a Farm Bill that works for farmers and families; for local rural communities and everyone at the grocery store. Through this legislation, we can help shake loose corporations’ stranglehold on our food system, fostering good livelihoods, lower food prices, and greater access to healthy food.

Moreover, the Farm Bill could be a powerful tool to help protect our climate, environment, and public health. It could pull support for destructive practices and megacorporations, then direct that funding toward actually sustainable agriculture.

If the Farm Bill is to serve us and not Big Ag, here’s what it needs to do:

  1. Ban factory farms, which wreak havoc on the environment and rural economies; 
  2. End subsidies for factory farm infrastructure, while directing more funds toward sustainable farming practices;
  3. Create a federal farm safety net that protects small from unpredictable markets;
  4. Break up mega-corporations and stop consolidation; and
  5. Create fair and competitive markets where small- and mid-sized farms can thrive.

Bringing the Farm Bill to Our Communities

As lawmakers negotiate on the farm bill, they need to hear from constituents. That’s why this year, Food & Water Action volunteers across the country are bringing the Farm Bill to their communities. 

We’re tabling at farmers’ markets and other local events. We’re educating neighbors about the Farm Bill and gathering petition signatures to send to lawmakers. And this fall, we’ll meet with legislators to deliver signatures and speak with them about the farm policy we really need.

Katie Olsson has served as a volunteer leader with Food & Water Action for the past year. This summer, she’s joining our Fair Farm Bill Action Team in Michigan, and she shared a bit about what she’s learned with us.

“I can speak about agriculture and the Farm Bill much more intelligently than I could a few months ago and can confidently share that information with others. It has been fun going to farmers’ markets and collecting signatures, too!”

Katie Olsson, FWA Volunteer Leader

Through her work on the team, Katie has learned about the importance of the Farm Bill and how her own state’s senator helped to pass measures supporting small farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

“I have also learned how bad Big Ag is on so many levels and how important small and particularly indigenous farmers are on all those levels,” Katie said. “Small and indigenous farmers care for the earth. Big Ag destroys it!”

Food & Water Action organizer John Aspray tables at a vegan market in Des Moines, Iowa.

A Fair Farm Bill Benefits All of Us

Kathy in Nyack, NY, is a public health nutritionist who has kept her pulse on food policy for years. Since joining the Farm Bill Action Team in June, she’s collected more than 900 petition signatures.

Kathy became interested in food policy thanks to her work and her concerns about the environmental impact of factory farming. But she emphasized that the Farm Bill is important for everyone. It touches so many parts of our food system and, as Kathy said, “We all eat!” 

“So food is a good way to reach people,” she went on. “And that’s what we’re trying to do — reach people and educate people about the food they are eating.” 

A fair Farm Bill would help us ensure the food we eat is affordable, healthy, and supportive of small farmers and rural economies. And it’s not too late to join our fight for it!

Get involved with our Fair Farm Bill Action Team!

The Biggest Threat to the Colorado River: Thirsty Corporations

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by Kat Ruane and Mia DiFelice

Over the past few years, the Colorado River has plummeted to crisis levels, setting off alarm bells for the 40 million people who depend on it for water. 

But recent proposals for cuts on water use have completely ignored a major driver of the crisis: Big Ag. Thirsty mega-dairy cows and cash crops are guzzling the Colorado River at a reckless rate. 

Bad policy and Big Ag’s reign over the Colorado threaten the future of the entire region, especially for those already vulnerable to climate change and water scarcity. To secure a livable future in the Basin, policymakers must completely rethink water use and rein in Big Ag’s water abuses.

Decades of Mismanagement Have Brought the Colorado River to Its Current Crisis

Water on the Colorado River has been tightly managed, going back a century to the passage of the Colorado River Compact. 

Under the Compact, the states split 15 million acre-feet* a year. The Lower Basin states (Arizona, California, and Nevada) get 7.5 million acre-feet, while the Upper Basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) take what’s left. 

Additionally, the Basin is home to more than two dozen American Indian tribes, whose recognized rights make up about a quarter of the River’s flow.

However, the 1922 Compact and its allocations were based on the unusually wet conditions of the time. They didn’t account for the river’s usual flow, for our current climate change-fueled megadrought, or the region’s population boom.

What’s more, the water shortage threatens the vital hydropower produced in the river’s reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. If water levels sink much lower, they won’t be high enough to flow and generate electricity. This would take relatively cheap power off the table for millions in the region.

In June 2022, the federal government gave the Basin states an ultimatum: create a plan for water cuts, or it would write its own. 

This past May, Lower Basin states proposed to cut their water use by 13%. But this interim deal only amounts to a quarter of the cuts needed for Lake Mead and Lake Powell to recover. And states will still need to go back to the negotiating table before 2026.

Alfalfa and Mega-Dairies Monopolize the Colorado River

These state-level negotiations miss the mark entirely, as they ignore a key regional factor in the crisis: Big Ag. 

The Basin is dominated by agricultural industries that just don’t make sense in the desert. That’s part of the reason Basin states use way more irrigation water than other states across the country. (Arizona, for instance, uses over three times the national average.)

One major guzzler: livestock feed crops. These crops, including alfalfa, account for 55% of water use in the Basin. Our partner organization Food & Water Watch estimates that alfalfa in the Basin consumed 2.2 trillion gallons of water in 2022 alone. That’s enough to meet the indoor water needs of 40 million people for three and a half years.

Another major guzzler: mega-dairies, which confine 500 cows or more. Mega-dairy cows in the Basin number collectively in the millions, and together they need 218 million gallons of water every single day for washing and drinking.

Bad Policy Has Allowed Big Ag to Hijack the Colorado River

Adding Big Ag’s water abuses to climate change has created a vicious cycle. The worse the climate gets, the more water big farms need. And the more water those farms use, the less water is available for other uses — a problem that is, in turn, heightened by climate change-fueled drought.

So why are these thirsty industries so huge in this already dry region? Years of poor state-level water governance and federal policies that favor Big Dairy.

Like the rest of our food system, fewer, larger operations have come to dominate the dairy industry. Weak federal antitrust laws and lax enforcement have allowed rampant consolidation, while federal focus on export markets has squeezed farmers’ prices. To compete in global export markets and keep their livelihoods, farmers feel pressured to “get big or get out” — grow their herds or stop farming altogether.

Big Dairy depends on feed crops like alfalfa — and now, researchers can trace 75% of Lake Mead’s decline over the past two decades to irrigation for cattle feed.

But Big Ag’s greed is not the only culprit. It’s gotten a boost from the region’s inflexible and outdated regime of water rights. 

In the current system, the oldest rights are practically untouchable. So despite record droughts, senior water rights holders like those in Southern California still get the same allocations. As a result, alfalfa production levels have changed little in California during the 2011-2017 drought, with some regions actually producing more.

The Bureau of Reclamation is developing new guidelines for water use on the Colorado River. Join us in demanding that it put families before Big Ag.

The Colorado River Crisis Hits Hardest for Those Excluded From Negotiations

While corporations can turn scarce water into cash crops, many people can’t even access the water that’s rightfully theirs. 

Native Americans have lived in the Basin since before the U.S. government existed and have senior water rights over states. Yet, allocation discussions — from the original 100-year-old Compact to today — have excluded them.

The result: a patchwork of realized and unrealized water rights. Many tribes’ lack of infrastructure prevents communities from actually using the water they have rights to, while legal battles have tied up some rights in court.

For instance, the Colorado River borders more than 100 miles of Hualapai land. But the Tribe’s rights to the river are pending in Congress, and it’s currently barred from drawing a single drop.

We Need to Completely Overhaul Water Management on the Colorado River

While some communities can’t even get drinking water, industrial farms are guzzling with impunity. We’ve known for decades that the arid West can’t sustain Big Ag. Our governments need to act like it. Continuing down this path will only lead to harm for communities and ecosystems already struggling to survive in a hotter, drier climate.

Now, Basin states and the federal government are considering allocations beyond 2026. State leaders must seize this opportunity and radically rethink their water use.


* An acre-foot is a measurement of water equal to the amount it would take to cover an acre of land with water a foot deep. One acre-foot is about 325,851 gallons.