Thinly sliced: Justice Department approves Bayer-Monsanto merger, Moby joins SNAP debate, and more

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Bay-santo. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department has decided to allow the Bayer-Monsanto merger to happen after both companies sell off a few assets. The deal has been on the horizon for a long time—here’s a backgrounder we published in summer 2016 on why it matters.

Stress test. Last month, we reported on legislative efforts to reauthorize a mental health resource program for farmers called the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Yesterday, Mother Jones covered the coalition of farm groups throwing their weight behind the bill: In a letter to Congress, 36 rural farming organizations asked legislators to fund the program, citing low farm incomes and high rates of suicide among farmers.

Trade dispute. “The farmers will be better off than they ever were,” said President Trump in response to a question about the possibility of a trade war. It’s not clear whether anyone believes his promise to “make it up to” the agriculture industry. And the Washington Post has the story of an Indiana family that both wins and loses in the tariff tangle—their business is steel and soy.

Peak IPA. More craft breweries closed in 2017 than in any other year in the past decade, the Washington Post reports, and the total beer market dropped by one percent in volume. But it may not be the end of craft beer just yet: While 165 breweries closed, 1,000 opened.

Well-marked. Ever wonder how McDonald’s manages to get its logo on every highway exit sign while local cafes never seem to make the cut? Turns out, one company—Interstate Logos—maintains those signs in 23 states. Businesses in Virginia, for example, shell out about $1,000 a year to be included, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Sea vegan. Not all vegans are created equal, and neither are their food sources. Whatever the reason for their dietary choice—environment, health, religion, or ethics—the definition of a ‘living thing’ can still be a bit murky for folks who don’t eat foods derived from them. Case in point: bivalves, which a burgeoning “seagan eating” movement argues have a place in vegan diets. Scallops seem like an obvious no-no in the no-living-things bible, right? Wrong, Vice‘s Munchies reports.

College food. Colleges make a lot of money off of overpriced dining plans. But to stay competitive for a generation that uses Uber Eats and Postmates like their parents used grocery carts, institutions of higher education are getting into delivery, the Boston Globe reports. At Boston College, students can place orders to-go through an app on their phones, or order dining-hall food to their dorms. A student-run startup at Boston University offers delivery from nearby restaurants to dorm room doorsteps. Pretty genius, considering that only students have access to dormitories (Sorry, Grubhub). Next-up: A WeWork tenant whose startup idea is lunch delivery to other WeWorkers? Betcha that’s already in the works.

Fakers gonna fake. Iran and the United States may not have the most amiable diplomatic ties, but that hasn’t stopped Iranian eaters from getting their hands on knock-off versions of U.S. fast food, Atlas Obscura writes. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Ayatollah-led government has restricted western influences, from literature to food. But the people still want fried chicken and burgers and they’ll create their own KFCs and McD’s to get ‘em. Think: pretty much the same, but just a little different. “Mash Donalds” and “Subways”, for instance. Technically, the fast-food franchises being mimicked have grounds to litigate against copyright infringement, but why bother? They would first have to register trademarks in the Islamic Republic, which isn’t worth the money considering that they can’t set up shop there. Until then: Fighting western hegemony, one Pizza Hot at a time?

A SNAP op-ed by … Moby? Noted vegan Moby graced the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Monday to proclaim that the SNAP program shouldn’t support junk food purchases. The piece sparked some (predictable) outrage, though close readers may note Moby’s argument is more than 50 years old.

The Counter Stories by our editors.