● Over the past few years there has been a minor boom in publishing books critical of conventional systems of agricultural production. I try to read some of these efforts, as they do influence the opinions of urban consumers and often have an impact on public policy debates. Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food (2013) by Frederick Kaufman is one of the better-written examples of this genre. A sample: “ What has gone wrong with food? […] Modern food consciousness has been rooted in the writings of Wendell Berry, Frances Moore Lappé, Marion Nestle, Raj Patel, Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser, to name a few. The activist agenda has been set: slow versus fast, small versus big, nutritional versus chemical, organic versus conventional, diversity versus monoculture, sustainable versus wasteful, farm-to-fork versus transnational, and local versus food from nowhere.” Mr. Kaufman, an editor at Harper’s magazine, does have sufficient intellectual independence to subject the vaporous concept of “sustainability” to withering scrutiny in the book’s chapter entitled “What’s New for Dinner.”

●  When the United States Senate convenes in January, the Pacific Northwest will have two chairmen of major committees: Patty Murray (D/Washington) at Budget and Ron Wyden (D/Oregon) at Energy & Natural Resources.

● Last Friday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 6156, the “Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.” Aside from its convoluted title, the bill is of interest since it (1) allows our exporters of fruit to Russia to benefit from certain international trade rules and (2) signals the end of an amendment that was co-authored in 1974 by Senator Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson (D/Washington) to put pressure on the Soviet Union to allow for the free emigration of Jewish dissidents.

● The American Farm Bureau Federation will lose its executive director of public policy and a person I respect, Mark Maslyn, when he retires next February after 30 years of service to the Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C.  In my opinion, the Farm Bureau’s leadership would be deranged if they did not promote Dale Moore, who now serves as the Farm Bureau’s deputy executive director of international and agricultural policy, to replace Mr. Maslyn.

●  Dale C. Bone died last Tuesday in North Carolina. He was the founder of Nash Produce and also a dedicated supporter of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. I served with Mr. Bone on NCAE’s Executive Committee for some time and admired him. He was a generous person who, for example, quietly provided significant personal funding of NCAE to help keep it afloat when this national association faced some difficult financial times.