Happy Spring, Folks!
We at CFSA are celebrating good news about organic agriculture! We’re over the moon that USDA is looking to y’all to comment on its proposal to include animal welfare standards for certified organic livestock. We’re loving that Costco is scrambling to find innovative ways to increase its organic offerings–and we hope they’ll look to the Carolinas! And, we’re thrilled that USDA’s collection of data about organic farming is showing us all what we suspected–that organic is growing fast with more farmers, more acres, and a huge economic impact. This is the kind of data that helps us advocate for sustainable agriculture policy for all the reasons we choose it: it’s better for the environment; better for farmers and farmworkers; better for livestock. So, celebrate the wins and learn more about the coming policy battles in this month’s Buzz.
Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director
April’s Must-Read Sustainable Ag. Stories
When you plant seeds, what do you look for, or hope your farmer is looking for? If you’re hoping for the ones that produce plants that won’t keel over at the first exposure to wilt; will survive our hot, muggy summers; are tough enough to withstand vine borers; and still taste good – here’s an article for you. Consolidation in the seed industry is making it harder and harder to find the plants that do well and taste good where you live. CFSA works diligently to support traditional plant breeding, to encourage and assist farmers in developing varieties that grow and produce well in the Carolinas, and survive our changing climate.
By now, you may have heard that the USDA’s Ag Marketing Service’s grass-fed label is a thing of the past. This makes it really tough for farmers to market their beef, and for consumers who want grass-fed beef to know if they’re getting it or not. There’s an effort to get USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to reinstate the regulated “grass-fed” standard. Check out this (pretty wonky) blog post about the effort to make sure “grass-fed” means what it says.
After a long wait, the National Organic Program has proposed rules that will introduce animal welfare standards into the program. The rules were recently released, and CFSA is still in the process of reviewing and discussing them with our organic farmer members before we tell USDA what we think. If you want to be kept in the loop about CFSA’s position and to learn about how you can help organic family farmers, make sure to sign up for CFSA’s federal Action Alerts.
Duke Energy will begin using hog and poultry waste generated on farms in eastern North Carolina to create methane gas to power 10,000 homes. We at CFSA are keeping an eye on this development. Anything that increases North Carolina’s reliance on concentrated animal feeding operations rather than moving us toward sustainable agriculture gives us pause.
Costco’s customers want organic produce, and Costco can’t keep up with the expanding demand. So it’s piloting an effort that will help farmers buy land and equipment to grow the food that Costco’s customers want. For now, the initiative is small and is purchasing land in Mexico. Do you think the Carolinas should be on Costco’s radar as a great place to invest in organic farms and farmers? We sure do!
Even though Costco can’t meet its customers’ demands for organic produce, organic production is still one of the fastest growing sectors of the ag economy. Check out USDA’s recently released data on the expanding number of organic farms and the economic impact of organic food. This is the kind of data that make it harder for policy-makers to ignore the needs of organic farmers and food businesses. Let’s keep it up, folks!
Do you ever wonder how your Representative or Senator up in DC is voting on key farm and food policy issues? Food Policy Action just put out a scorecard that will help you see how the people you elect are voting on the issues that matter to you. We at CFSA hope that you’ll take the time to ask your elected officials about their votes on these issues and others. Many of them will be home campaigning soon; so go ahead and ask! Want to talk food and farming with state and local officials? Check out CFSA’s Questions for Candidates.
Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network organized farmers from around Mississippi to come to the state capitol in Jackson to urge state law-makers’ support for small and beginning farmers, sustainable agriculture and the development of a local food system. Check out MSAN’s blog post about the event and start thinking about what you’d like to tell your state legislators about food and farming.
Some NC restaurants with a passion for local food have been using foraged mushrooms in their dishes and the results were yummy. And illegal. By law, only foragers deemed “experts” at mushroom foraging could sell their finds…but there was no way to be designated as an “expert”. It sounds like that’s about to change. So look forward to a new career, mushroom experts, and to more exciting options at local restaurants.
Have you ever heard that the government considers pizza and ketchup to be vegetables when they’re served as part of school lunch? I’ll bet you wondered how on earth that happened. This article gives a readable explanation of the power processed food holds in the US political system. Check it out and join CFSA in trying to turn the tide!
It seems that processed food businesses don’t hold all of the political power. Read this article to learn how the tiny state of Vermont took on the big food businesses and, so far, is winning. Vermont’s GMO labeling bill will go into effect this summer unless Congress or a federal court take action to change that. This article goes in depth to explain what Vermont did, and why it’s working.