Healthy Farms, Healthy Families

INVESTING IN SMART, HEALTHY FARMING — Most modern farms are far too reliant on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that can stay on our food or drain into and pollute our drinking water. It's time to implement low-chemical farming practices, and protect our health and environment.

If you are like most Americans, when you go grocery shopping, you’re probably focused on choosing healthy, tasty food for you and your family, at a good price. You might also be among the growing number of people who are buying organic, or just paying more attention to how your food is raised and grown. 

Unless you’re a farmer, you probably aren’t paying too much attention to the complex and, in many ways, miraculous agricultural system behind all that abundance and variety — a system that provides enough food to feed hundreds of millions of Americans, and many more around the world. 

But it’s also a system that has profound implications for our health and a huge impact on our environment. And if we don’t act soon to improve it, the decisions we make in the coming years could affect the food we eat and the water we drink for decades to come. 

OUR FARMS ARE TOO RELIANT ON CHEMICALS 

There is a growing body of evidence, including some research done by farmers and scientists at Iowa State University, that suggests we can dramatically reduce the use of some synthetic chemicals while still growing as much food as we do now — and maybe more.

Why is that such a big deal? Most modern farms have become far too reliant on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These chemicals can stay on our food or drain into and pollute our drinking water, and have been linked to all kinds of problems:

  • American farms used nearly 900 million pounds of pesticides in the most recent year for which we have data, and chief among them is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The chemicals in Roundup have been linked to cancer and other health problems, and are showing up in our food and water.
  • Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide used on many fruits and vegetables, which often remains on the produce when it’s bought at the grocery store. One EPA analysis estimates that almost 90 percent of women of childbearing age have traces of chlorpyrifos in them, and the insecticide has been shown to cause brain and developmental damage in children
  • Runoff from farming fields can find its way into our drinking water. Nitrate runoff can be especially harmful to infants, according to the EPA, and is linked to “blue baby syndrome” because the babies have difficulty transporting oxygen.

WE'RE SUBSIDIZING THIS CHEMICAL OVERUSE

Every year, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on subsidies for insurance on crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans. These heavy subsidies incentivize farmers to plant the same crop year after year.

However, planting the same crops over and over again drains the soil of nutrients, and farmers must rely more and more on fertilizers to replenish the soil, and on pesticides to keep weeds, insects and more from flourishing, in order to ensure a successful harvest. This increased chemical use puts our food, our drinking water and the health of our families at risk.

But many farmers and researchers agree we can grow as much food as we do now, without relying so heavily on chemicals. In one study done over the course of 13 years at Iowa State University, farmers and researchers were able to reduce the use of herbicides by 88 percent by using diverse crop rotations. And those researchers believe there is a realistic possibility these systems could be expanded to a larger scale in order to “greatly reduce the need for fossil fuels, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, without sacrificing yields or profitability.”  

These techniques aren’t borne out of some new, untested technology either. As an author of the study put it, “these were simple changes patterned after those used by North American farmers for generations. What we found was that if you don’t hold the natural forces back they are going to work for you.

WE HAVE THE TOOLS FOR HEALTHIER FARMS

Shouldn’t our tax dollars be invested in the best farming practices? Practices that not only grow all the food we need, but protect our health and the environment at the same time?  

Implementing these changes will be crucial to protecting our health and the safety of our food and drinking water. That’s why we’re building a wide coalition of concerned citizens, farmers, health professionals, and anyone who’s concerned about the health and safety of the food they feed their family or the water they drink. We’ll be in the cities that rely on the food we grow, and the farming communities that are most directly affected by the use of these chemicals. 

Together, we can spread the word so our decision makers know that people are paying attention, and that they want our policies to support healthy farms, and healthy families. 


Image credits, from top: Oticki/Shutterstock, MN Studios/ShutterstockChafer Machinery CC by 2.0

Issue updates

Result | Tax

No tax giveaway for Comcast

The Oregon Department of Revenue has denied Comcast a big payday at taxpayer expense, following a public outcry and petitions from thousands of Oregonians across the state opposing a tax giveaway for the internet giant.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Oregon awarded a “B” on health care price transparency—but the state is still failing consumers | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

OSPIRG has been pushing for years to increase access to accurate, actionable health care price information for Oregon consumers. So you’d think we would be celebrating when a national scorecard from the transparency advocates at Catalyst for Payment Reform recently gave Oregon a “B” rating—up from an “F” in every prior year—for progress toward making price information more widely available. Unfortunately, there’s much less here than meets the eye.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Getting Personal with Chemicals

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially the ones our families use every day, directly on our bodies. However, we looked into common ingredients in popular personal care products, and found that when we use these products, like shampoo, baby wipes, deodorant, shaving gel, or perfume, we are often dosing our bodies with chemicals that can disrupt our hormones, cause developmental problems, cause cancer, and more.

This consumer guide describes the results of our investigation of 10 popular personal care products that contain chemicals of concern.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Proposed health insurance rate hikes up to 32.3% merit close scrutiny, raise stakes for containing rising health care costs

Many of Oregon’s biggest health insurers have proposed large double-digit rate hikes for 2017, and according to new OSPIRG Foundation analysis released today, these proposals highlight not only the need for close scrutiny of health insurance rates, but also the urgency of action to contain the rising cost of health care services.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Tax

Poll: Public Wants Federal Agencies to Disclose and Restrict Corporate Tax Write Offs for Out-of-Court Settlements

A new poll shows that Americans want federal agencies to better disclose information about out-of-court settlements with corporations and to restrict companies from writing off these payments as tax deductions.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation

Spirit Is Most Complained-About Airline

Spirit Airlines passengers are most likely to complain about their experience, according to a report released today by OSPIRG Foundation. Among major airlines, Spirit generates the most complaints for its size and generates an increasing number of complaints each year. Other most-complained about firms include Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Tax

Oregon Receives an “A-” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Oregon received an “A-” and ranked 2nd in the country for government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the OSPIRG Foundation.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Tax

Despite Improvements in Reporting, Some Information on Economic Development Tax Subsidies Still Remains Out of Public View

A new study released today by OSPIRG Foundation examined the reports made available on Oregon’s transparency website as a result of a three-year old transparency law, and found that while the largest and most widely used economic development subsidy programs covered by the law have information made available to the public online, key information is still shielded from public view.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Report: Mistaken Identity Tops Debt Collection Complaints

Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by OSPIRG Foundation.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon's proposal to raise individual health insurance rates

LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon’s 26,405 members with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 37.2%on average, and as high as 45%, if the premium rate hike proposed by LifeWise goes forward.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on Moda Health Plan's proposal to raise individual health insurance rates

Moda Health Plan’s membership of more than 102,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 25.6% on average, and as high as 54.12%, if the premium rate hike proposed by Moda goes forward. Moda currently has the largest market share in Oregon’s Individual market. Moda’s increase is the largest proposed by the dominant carrier in the individual market since 2010, when new rules heightening scrutiny of health insurance rates were implemented.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Health Care

The Whole Shebang at a Glance: Proposed Health Insurance Rates for 2016 | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Here’s the skinny on OSPIRG Foundation’s new analysis of 2016 rates proposed by four Oregon insurers—LifeWise, Moda, PacificSource and Regence. There’s some good news, some concerning news, and some very concerning news, but the best news of all is that thanks to Oregon’s health insurance rate review process, the insurers don’t get the last word.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Tax Season and Health Care: What You Need to Know | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Tax season is here, and many Oregonians may have questions about new tax forms and provisions, including health premium tax credits and the new requirement to purchase health insurance. Here’s what you need to know.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Open Enrollment: Here’s What You Need to Know | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

The countdown is on for enrolling in health insurance for 2015. With all of the changes coming to health care in Oregon, it’s more important than ever to get the facts about what’s happening and how you and your family can get coverage that works for you. Here’s our guide to Oregon’s open enrollment period, which starts November 15.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Health Insurance Rates for 2015 Announced Today | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Today, the Oregon Insurance Division—the state’s insurance regulator—announced its decisions on health insurers’ rate proposals for next year. These decisions come after OSPIRG Foundation’s in-depth analysis raised numerous questions about some of the larger proposed rate increases.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

The Whole Shebang at a Glance: Proposed Health Insurance Rates for 2015 | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Here’s the skinny on OSPIRG Foundation’s new analysis of 2015 rates proposed by four Oregon insurers—Moda, PacificSource, United and Health Net. There’s some good news, some concerning news, and some very concerning news, but the best news of all is that thanks to Oregon’s health insurance rate review process, the insurers don’t get the last word.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports OSPIRG Foundation’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support OSPIRG Foundation’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.