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Activists challenge USDA chief on climate-drought links

Groups want top federal officials to be more upfront about global warming

Drought is devastating a wide swath of U.S. farmlands.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Environmental activists want top federal officials to directly address the possible connections between climate change and the current drought that’s crushing the life out of U.S. heartland, with potential implications for global food supplies.

Specifically, Forecast the Facts and FoodDemocracyNow! want Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to directly address the massive implications of manmade climate change for our entire farming sector. Scientists are clear that climate change is already leading to more extreme weather, such as longer and more severe droughts, according to Daniel Souweine, campaign director for Forecast the Facts. Continue reading

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School cafeteria Tater Tots safe for now, thanks to Udall

An amendment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriations bill will ban a proposed limit on starchy vegetables in federally funded school lunches. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA AND THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Colorado senator blocks USDA rules that would have limited starchy foods in federally funded school lunch programs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Children everywhere are breathing a deep sigh of relief, after Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), passed legislation ensuring that school cafeterias will continue to be a safe haven for tater tots for the foreseeable future.

An amendment to the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill co-sponsored by the two lawmakers would prevent the department from implementing new rules aimed at stemming the rising tide of childhood obesity. Continue reading

Healthier school lunches on the way with new USDA rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to mandate more fruits and vegetables in school lunches, but is facing resistance from the industrial food preparation lobby.

Feds look to boost fruits and veggies while cutting starch and fats

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Just in time for the new school year, the Department of Agriculture is hoping to finalize new rules that require minimum amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in school meals while limiting fats and calories.

Health experts say the new standards will reduce health care costs stemming from health problems partly caused by low-quality school food, including the estimated $344 billion national cost of obesity costs through 2018.

Approximately one in three children is overweight or obese, and rising rates of Type II diabetes among children, along with other health problems such as hypertension, have some origin in the poor nutritional quality of food offered at public schools.

The proposed standards would significantly increase fruit and vegetables at lunch (one cup per day), require that they be served daily, require minimum amounts of dark green vegetables and place limits on starchy vegetables. Continue reading

Colorado: Udall seeks relief for struggling sawmills

Sen. Mark Udall is asking the Forest Service to change some existing timber contracts to give relief to Colorado's struggling sawmills.

Democratic senator says continued operation of wood processing plants critical in ongoing efforts to clear beetle-killed trees from forests around the state

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s struggling timber mills are getting some high-level help from Sen. Mark Udall, who is urging the U.S. Forest Service to modify several timber contracts that are putting financial pressure on the mills.

Udall wants the the Forest Service to rework the timber sale contracts with the sawmills. In addition to employing hundreds of Coloradans, the mills play a crucial role in the fight against the bark beetle and wildfire by providing the infrastructure to help clear 4 million acres of hazardous fuels and beetle-killed trees and processing them into wood products, the senator said in a press release.

The downturn in the housing market and the state’s forest-management economy led to financial trouble for the mills: Intermountain Resources (Montrose), Mountain Valley Lumber (Saguache) and Delta Timber (Delta). Basically, they are losing money on older timber sales, with rates that are higher than what it costs to remove the dead trees from the forest. Continue reading

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