Weekend Quick Bites

| Fri Jun. 24, 2011 6:05 PM EDT

Civil Eats' Paula Crossfield breaks down Gannett's absurd decision to lay off the last D.C. beat reporter covering ag policy: Phil Brasher, former mainstay of the Gannett-owned Des Moines Register. This is what you get when newspapers are owned by faceless corporations, not community members. The move is even more absurd given that we're moving into a presidential election and negotiations over the 2012 Farm Bill.

• On Grist, Monica Potts dives deep into something I covered briefly last week: the House's move to keep the USDA from protecting small farmers against the market power of giant meat companies.

• HuffPo's Lucia Graves goes long on the suspicion that Roundup, Monsanto's flagship herbicide, is linked to birth defects. This is an explosive story. Roundup rains down on millions of acres of farmland each year. I'll have more to say next week.

• On Pesticide Action Network's Ground Truth blog, Kathleen Schafer delivers the latest on a more definitive herbicide-birth defect link: the one involving Syngenta's atrazine.

• This week, I wrote about how my esteemed representative to the US Congress, Virginia Foxx, had taken a break from bashing gays and immigrants to try to stamp out the progressive wing of Obama's USDA. Turns out, she's even busier than I thought—in debate over the same House bill she managed to use as a club to pummel the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, Foxx essentially tried to do away with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), reports belmontmedina of Postbourgie. Classy! Belmontmedina notes that "half of all American infants and about a quarter of kids under 4 have participated in WIC," and that "every dollar spent saves three in health care costs during the first 2 months of a child's life."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

• The agribusiness lobby is about to convince its friends over in the Senate to remove pesticides (including above-mentioned herbicides) from the purview of the Clean Water Act, Grist's Tom Laskawy reports. Pesticide Action Network lays out what we can do to stop this travesty.

• I agree with James Howard Kunstler, scourge of suburban sprawl and Cassandra of peak oil, that skyscraping urban "vertical farms" are a dumb idea. But I think he might be a tad hard on urban ag in general—and I think he overplays the the line between the rural and the urban. Here's my take, from a while back.

• Hard-copy magazine lovers: political-literary doorstop Lapham's Quarterly has a whole beautiful issue devoted to food (some of which is online); and the hipsters over at McSweeny's have teamed with the hipsters clustered around Manhattan's Momofuku restaurant empire to launch a new magazine called Lucky Peach (none of which is online). But: Really, Lucky Peach? Just one woman highlighted in the teaser for the first issue—and her task is an "instant-ramen taste test"?

The New York Times discovers home beer making.

NYT columnist and Chez Panisse chef David Tanis on what to do with the first potatoes of summer.

BREAKING: Fruits, vegetables (except potatoes?), and whole grains are really good for you; red meat, sweets, and soda, and soda, not so much.