find new friends in Pennsylvania hog scrap
Environmental, energy and animal welfare
with sustainable ag to create new hog options
| Pennsylvania farmers with a
love for open markets and happy hogs are part of a new coalition
in that is resisting further consolidation of pork production
in the Keystone state.
Responding to an initiative growing out Philadelphias
famed White Dog Café, two farm groups have joined the
informal campaign. Its immediate goal is to strengthen the ability
of the states township governments to control corporate-driven
factory farm expansion. New sitings of these operations have
become highly controversial at the local level in the past year,
generating new interest in alternative pork production systems
that would keep local family farmers in business.
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA)
is the most prominent farm group involved, giving it an opportunity
to share a perspective very different from the Pennsylvania
Farm Bureau, which opposes increased local authority in siting
factory farms. Conventional ag power brokers want to maintain
state-centered regulations where they have strong political
influence in the assembly and with current regulators.
"PASA is supportive of any initiative that will make Pennsylvania
family farms more economically viable and expand an innovative,
more sustainable style of hog production throughout the Commonwealth,"
says Brian Snyder, PASAs executive director. "In
that the PIG Alliance is focused on these two goals, we are
fully on board with this new collaborative effort. In fact,
we are proud to represent sustainable farmers in these important
discussions and plans."
Bringing in other family farmers is the Pennsylvania National
Farmers Union (PFU). Its president, Larry Breech, said
this summer that proposed legislation dealing with siting procedures
for factory farming operations was inadequate to the needs of
local communities. He offered several solutions to restore competition
in agriculture, enforce social and environmental responsibility
and protect family farmers and rural communities. To ensure
adequate competition in agricultural markets, PFU recommends
a ban on corporate ownership of livestock held more than 14
days prior to slaughter and production contracts that ensure
fairness and openness.
Energizing the coalition is Judy Wicks, operator of the White
Dog. The Cafe emphasizes high quality, farm fresh ingredients,
purchased from local sustainable farmers whenever possible.
A June 22 field trip to three of the Cafés producers
in Lancaster County was sold out. This tour was organized in
conjunction with the Philadelphia Fair Food Project. Fair Food,
a program of the White Dog Cafe Foundation, is dedicated to
bringing natural and humanely-raised meats to the Philadelphia
marketplace and supporting regional, small-scale farmers.
Providing aggressive, grass-roots legal advocacy of the Community
Environmental Legal Defense Fund (http://www.celdf.org/),
which now lists PASA on its homepage thanks to this collaboration.
Other members include the SPIRA/GRACE project which targets
factory farming, Delaware Riverkeepers Alliance, the Waterkeeper
Alliance, Penn Future (a sustainable development and renewable
energy non-profit), the Food Routes Network (a national group
promoting local food systems) and national animal welfare groups
that help farmers produce and market humanely raised livestock.
The coalition provides a chance for members to hear each other
and find new areas of support where the goals of sustainable
farming, local food systems, humane livestock, sustainable dining,
grass-roots democracy, corporate accountability an ecological
A number of initiatives are under discussion, including a public
education campaign to promote buying locally and sustainably
raised food, as well as to create a viable market structure
for profitable, sustainable pork in the region.
We'll continue to report on this story and on similar coalitions
around the country. Other components of the story to tell: a
budding relationship with Niman Ranch; and production profiles
of hog growers using a sustainable, pasture-based operation.