Monica Potts

Monica Potts is an Arkansas-based writer, currently writing a book about the women of her rural hometown.

Recent Articles

Crash Diet

Obama still has time to redeem his food-production policy.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
In October 2008, Michael Pollan, a food writer and critic of American agriculture policy, wrote a letter in The New York Times Magazine addressed to the president-elect, whom everyone then assumed would be Barack Obama, on how to make our food more healthful. Obama wouldn’t win the election for another month, but the lithe, urbane candidate had earned a reputation for eating well on the campaign trail; he eschewed hot dogs for salmon, arugula, and Honest Tea. Food policy had not been at the forefront of the campaign, Pollan argued, but was key to a number of policy goals Obama had raised: “Unless you [reform the food system], you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on—but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to...

A Quick-Step Forward

Dancing with the Stars challenges ballroom dancing's rigid gender roles.

You’d be forgiven if, like me, you spent several years avoiding ABC’s ballroom dancing contest show, Dancing With the Stars . It belongs to that saccharine genre of reality show geared toward “families,” which usually means it’s sterilized and scrubbed until there’s nothing left to either like or be offended by. It’s a cousin of the ready-to-be-euthanized American Idol . Its pen pal is the British show Britain’s Got Talent , which gave us Susan Boyle. This genre has a lot to make up for. But one night not long ago I caught the 13th Season on Hulu. The moment I was hooked came in week three, when J.R. Martinez, a former All My Children actor who had served in the Iraq War. (SPOILER ALERT: Martinez won last night). When he was 19, his Humvee hit an IED. It burned half his face, and on the show he’d already talked about his 32 surgeries. On this episode, he dedicated a Viennese Waltz to all of the soldiers who have died in Iraq and...

Bending the Rules

Congress keeps finding new ways to attack farm-bill reform.

Yesterday, the House and Senate released their final appropriations bill for the current fiscal year. Like the House bill passed in June , the bill, which provides funding to the Department of Agriculture, cuts a number of programs. The National Sustainable Agriculture coalition discusses the programs most hurt in a detailed blog post. One of the areas most hurt is conservation: On the whole, programs that help preserve land were cut by almost $1 billion. But the most senseless provisions were, perhaps, the ones that prevent the USDA from finishing revisions to the rules that govern how meat markets work. The rules, which are enforced by a division of the USDA known as the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA, regulate the markets through which chicken, hog, and cattle farmers interact with meatpacking companies. Food advocates have long described the ways in which power has consolidated among meatpackers so that a handful of companies control the...

Relief for Chicken Farmers

The USDA updates rules protecting small-livestock farmers from big business.

Late last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent new rules designed to protect small-scale livestock farmers to the White House for final approval. Farmers have waited more than three years for the changes, which the USDA was directed to review in the 2008 farm bill. The rules haven’t been updated for several decades and have often gone unenforced. In the meantime, the meatpacking industry has grown more powerful, and small farmers have struggled to make ends meet. That is especially true in the chicken industry, in which farmers have basically been forced to contract with a handful of chicken-processing companies and have seen their wages decline drastically. I wrote about it last year for the Prospect in a piece called “The Serfs of Arkansas.” The updated rules will reform the way poultry packers contract with their farmers. Before they can be issued as final, the Office of Management and Budget will determine their cost. The rules will guide...

The Shame of the NCAA

Penn State should not be allowed to continue playing football.

AP Photo/Eric Gay
In a front-page editorial in Harrisburg’s Patriot-News today, the editors of the paper, published in central Pennsylvania, call for the immediate resignation of Penn State’s president , Graham Spanier. They also say that Joe Paterno, the iconic head coach of the Nittany Lions football team, should retire at the end of the year. Unlike their colleagues, the college’s vice president for business and finance, Gary Schultz, and its athletic director, Tim Curley, they aren’t charged with crimes related to the scandal in which Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach, is charged with sexually abusing eight boys since 1994. But the paper argues they failed morally by not doing more than the bare minimum the law requires. They didn’t call police after the initial reports that Sandusky had raped young boys, and they didn’t follow up with the victims, the paper said. All they did was place an unenforceable ban on Sandusky that he not bring kids on campus...