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Alliance for Food and Farming

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) acts as a front group for the fruit and vegetable industry, declaring the safety of numerous pesticides.[1] According to its website, the group "was formed in 1989 and currently has a membership of approximately 50 agricultural groups representing a wide range of organizations including commodity boards, major farm groups and individual grower/shippers." [2] It was registered as a non-profit in 1997 and did not disclose its member organizations until 2012, when it posted its California tax return, including its contributors, on its website (see contributors below).[3] In July 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming held a webinar and released a paper aiming to "debunk" the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables that should be purchased as organic whenever possible.

The AFF reported an annual revenue of $267,617 in 2011.[4]

Attack on the Environmental Working Group's "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce"

In June 2012, AFF renewed its attack of the Environmental Working Group's "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce," or 'Dirty Dozen' List which lists the types of produce known to have the greatest amount of pesticide residues as well as those with the lowest. The list has been credited with helping increase sales of organic produce. The list has existed for ten years during which is had educated consumers about the relative levels of pesticide residues on commonly-purchased fruits and vegetables. AFF called on EWG to cease publishing its 'Dirty Dozen' List after analysis by a panel of scientists and nutrition experts show that EWG's list is negatively affecting consumption.[5]

In June 2012, the AFF released a "Scared Fat" report, which found that consumers are less likely to trust pesticides after reading or hearing EWG findings. Analysis conducted by an "expert panel" found that almost 10 percent of low-income consumers stated that they would reduce consumption of fruits and vegetables after hearing “Dirty Dozen” list messaging taken directly from EWG statements. The AFF called EWG's list "publicity fueled mis-information and scary messaging." The AFF said that the study confirmed its suspicions about the EWG's impact on consumers and its only regret is that they "should have done it sooner." It used the study to defend the creation of its website Safe Fruits and Veggies, with claims that consumers need to hear the other side of the story.[6]

AFF showcases a "12 Reasons Not to Use the 'Dirty Dozen' List" on its website, Safe Fruits and Veggies. The AFA used its own 2012 research to back up claims such as, "After hearing EWG statements about the 'Dirty Dozen' list, almost 10 percent of low income consumers stated that they would reduce their consumption of fruits and vegetables."[7]

In an AFF blog post titled, "I Don't Ask For Much, The Truth Will Do Just Fine, the AFF calls the EWG contradictory, finds discrepancies in the 'Dirty Dozen' list and asks the EWG why they refer to AFF as a "“pro-pesticide front group." The EWG has reported that The California Department of Food and Agriculture is sending the alliance $180,000 in federal funds to finance its plan to combat pesticide industry critics. [8]

In June 2011, The AFA issued a press release attacking the EWG and its "Dirty Dozen" list. The AFF called the list misleading to consumers and urged them not to use it when making purchasing decisions. AFA claims EWG develops its list through "manipulation of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program results and the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s pesticide sampling data. In an attempt to debunk the validity of work done by the EGA, the AFA released a new calculator tool on its website. "The calculator is based on a scientific analysis which shows that even a small child could eat hundreds or even thousands of servings of a fruit or vegetable without any impact at all from pesticide residues," says the release. [9]

In July of 2010, AFF launched an attack of the Environmental Working Group's "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce." AFF began its attack by claiming that EWG's Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides was scaring consumers by making them afraid of pesticides, thus inhibiting peoples' consumption of fruits and vegetables. AFF started a three-year campaign to dissuade consumers from buying produce containing less pesticide residues, whether organic or not.[10][11] As part of this campaign, AFF published an "Expert Panel Report" written by Penny Fenner-Crisp, Carl L. Keen, Jason R. Richardson, Rudy Richardson, and Karl K. Rozman.[12]

Grant Awarded to Defend Pesticides Use on Food Crops

In September 2010, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced a grant of $180,000 to the Alliance for Food and Farming for a project titled "Correcting Misconceptions about Pesticide Residues."[13] The CDFA press release describes the project as follows:

"The project seeks to correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues. Claims by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides have been widely reported in the media for many years, but have largely gone uncontested. Continued media coverage of this misleading information is damaging to producers of California specialty crops and may also have a negative impact on public health. Utilizing sound science backed by a team of nutrition and toxicological experts, the Alliance for Food and Farming will seek to provide the media, the public and various target audiences with information about the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal is to generate more balanced media reporting and change public perception about the safety of produce when it comes to pesticide residues."

The grant money awarded was through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for 2010, a program authorized in the farm bill. ("Specialty crops" refers to fruits, nuts, and vegetables.)

Contributors

According to the taxpayer's copy of the AFF's 2011 California tax return, the following contributed $5,000 or more to the AFF in 2011:[14]

  • California Grape & Tree Fruit (Fresno, CA)
  • California Pear Advisory Board (Sacramento, CA)
  • California Strawberry Commission (Watsonville, CA)
  • California Carrot Advisory Bd. (Dinuba, CA)
  • Produce Marketing Association (Newark, DE)
  • River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC (Salinas, CA)
  • Western Growers (Irvine, CA)
  • Taylor Farms (Salinas, CA)
  • California Tomato Farmers (Fresno, CA)
  • U.S. Apple Association (Vienna, VA)
  • U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (Folsom, CA)

Personnel

Staff

According to the AFF's website as of March 2013, the following are key staff:[15]

  • Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director
  • Teresa Thorne
  • Rosi Gong, Administrative Support

Board of Directors

The AFF's Board of Directors in 2011 consisted of:[14]

Directors:

Previous Directors:

Contact Information

Alliance for Food and Farming
P.O. Box 2747
Watsonville, CA 95077
Phone: (831) 786-1666
Fax: (831) 786-1668
Websites: http://www.foodandfarming.info and http://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/

Articles and Resources

External Resources

References

  1. Environmental Working Group Public Affairs Chemical Agriculture Group Says, Shut Up and Eat Your Pesticides, July 15, 2010
  2. Website Accessed July 1, 2010.
  3. Alliance for Food and Farming, About the Alliance for Food and Farming, organizational website, accessed March 2013.
  4. Alliance for Food and Farming, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, March 12, 2012.
  5. Farmer Group Calls On EWG To Cease Publishing ‘Dirty Dozen’ List, Business Wire, June 19, 2011
  6. Alliance for Food and Farming, Alliance Releases New "Scared Fat" Report - We Should Have Done It Sooner, organizational website, accessed June 19, 2012.
  7. Alliance for Food and Farming, Safe Fruits and Veggies, organizational website, accessed June 27, 2012.
  8. Taxpayers Funding Pro-Pesticide PR Campaign, EWG, June 27, 2012
  9. Alliance for Food and Farming, Safe Fruits and Veggies, organizational website, accessed June 27, 2012.
  10. Jill Richardson,Meet the Food Industry Front Groups That Push for Carcinogens in Your Food Alternet, July 6, 2010
  11. Rachel Cernansky Pesticide Lobby Blames Organics for Americans Not Eating More Veggies, PlanetGreen.com July 17, 2010
  12. Expert Panel Report: A Review of the Science on the potential Health Effects of Pesticide Residues on Food and Related Statements Made by Interest Groups, Alliance for Food and Farming, 2010.
  13. California Department of Food and Agriculture 2010 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program – Farm Bill, California Department of Food and Agriculture, September 2010.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Alliance for Food and Farming, Form 199: California Exempt Organization Annual Information Return, organization's California tax return, 2011.
  15. Alliance for Food and Farming, Contact, organizational website, accessed March 2013.