UPDATED May 12, 2006

    Avian flu workshop highlights now online

    Britain goes organic and local

    National Organic Standards Board looking to fill four seats

    Saskatchewan organic veteran innovator named
    OCIA organic farmer of 2006

    Pipeline project threatens one of America’s oldest organic farms

    Meatrix II bashes dairy CAFOs

    Organic dairy, ingredient rules contended; grazing testimony online


Avian flu workshop highlights now online

A new website features video highlights from an April 2006 workshop in Harrisburg, PA on Avian Influenza. Small-scale poultry producers, owners of "backyard" flocks, extension educators and others can access the site, developed by Penn State Cooperative Extension and the College of Agricultural Sciences, by visiting www.pasafarming.org.

The information is geared to independent pastured-poultry producers; owners of small-scale, hobby and specialty flocks; show-bird enthusiasts; and game-bird breeders. Video presentations and a question-and-answer session cover topics such as biosecurity, surveillance, disease symptoms and other issues.

The Avian Influenza workshop was presented by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Penn State Cooperative Extension, the Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network, The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

For questions concerning Avian Influenza, contact David Filson, Penn State Cooperative Extension emergency preparedness and response coordinator, at (814) 863-6424 or dfilson@psu.edu.

Britain goes organic and local

The Guardian reports: “Consumer demand has forced supermarkets to buy most of their organic produce from UK farmers rather than shipping it in from overseas at a high cost to the environment. The average supermarket availability of UK-grown seasonal organic food staples such as apples, meat and onions has risen 10 points from 72 percent in 2003 to 82 percent in 2005, according to Supermarket Survey, the Soil Association's annual snapshot of the organic credentials of Britain's supermarkets.”

Full story

National Organic Standards Board looking to fill four seats

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which serves in an advisory capacity to the National Organic Program (NOP), has four vacant seats coming up in January. The board is composed of 15 members: four organic producers, two organic handlers, a retailer, three environmentalists, three public/consumer representatives, a scientist and a certifying agent.

Individuals desiring to be appointed to the NOSB at this time must be either an owner or operator of a certified organic handling operation; an individual with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation; an individual with expertise in the fields of toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry; or an individual who represents public interest or consumer interest groups.

Written nominations, with cover letters and resumes, must be postmarked on or before July 14, 2006, and sent to Ms. Katherine E. Benham, Advisory Board Specialist, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 4008-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250. For further information, contact Ms. Benham at (202) 205-7806; katherine.benham@usda.gov; fax: (202) 205-7808.

Saskatchewan organic veteran innovator named OCIA organic farmer of 2006

Dwayne Woolhouse of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Canada, recently received the Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year award from OCIA Research & Education, Inc.

Woolhouse, who has been farming for over 30 years, was selected for his dedication to and involvement in the organic industry, innovative farm practices, superior organic management of pests and weeds, and improving soil quality. In the past three years, Woolhouse has grown durum, black lentils, large green lentils, small red lentils and French green lentils. He has improved soil fertility by using rotations with legumes and by doing green manure plow-downs. Woolhouse stated that it's important to him to rotate plow-down crops, just as you would rotate crops that are harvested.

Ian V. Cushon of Oxbow, Saskatchewan, Canada and Delbert Pratt of Nashua, Iowa received honorable mentions.

Full story

Pipeline project threatens one of America’s oldest organic farms

Certified in 1973, Gardens of Eagan—a 100-acre mixed-vegetable farm outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota—is one of the oldest organic farms in America. Martin Diffley, who runs the operation with his wife Atina, is a fifth-generation farmer. For decades, the Diffleys have resisted development pressure in order to follow their passion of providing healthy, organic food for their community. They have also been mentors to countless other farmers.

Now Minnesota Pipeline Company proposes to construct a pipeline right through their farm, pumping 165,000 of crude oil through their property daily and destroying up to 12 inches of topsoil (the company’s own proposed limit in an agricultural mitigation plan).

Thankfully, there are other routes that could avoid Gardens of Eagan without harming other agricultural/environmental resources. The Diffleys are asking anyone who values the organic farmers in their community to write a letter opposing the locating of the pipeline through their farm. Find out more at www.gardensofeagan.com.

Meatrix II bashes dairy CAFOs

Sustainable Table and GRACE (Global Resource Center for the Environment) are up to their hi-jinx again, with the launching of Meatrix II: Revolting, another parody-with-a-message of the sci-fi thriller The Matrix.

The GRACE Factory Farm Project created significant Internet buzz in 2003 with the launching of The Meatrix. People who had never heard of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations)—or even The Matrix for that matter—found themselves being educated almost in spite of themselves as the infectious cartoon characters Leo (a slapstick pig), Moopheus (a sinister cow), and Chickee (a buxom chicken) battled to expose the truths behind America’s food system.

For all their laughs, neither cartoon pulls any punches when it comes to telling it like it is about factory farming (like when Leo gives a well-placed karate chop to one of the bad guys from “Agri-Corp” and exclaims “This is for small family farmers.”) The sequel takes aim at the conditions and practices of some non-organic commercial dairies, such as hormone and antibiotic use, feeding cow’s-blood-laced milk replacer to calves when they are separated from their mothers, and manure lagoons that leach excessive nutrients into our water supply.

“This is a modern-day dairy factory; it can’t be called a farm,” Moopheus tells his protégé as they tour a wasteland of industrial agriculture. “This is where most of our milk and cheese comes from.”

Doesn’t sound like a laugh a minute? There’s just enough silly slapstick to keep the uninitiated hanging in their long enough for some knowledge to soak in. And the overall message is hopeful: Run to the store and buy some grass-fed beef and free-range chicken eggs while Moopheus, Leo and Chickee are taking on corporate agriculture.

Watch The Meatrix II

Watch The Meatrix

Organic dairy, ingredient rules contended; grazing testimony online

On the heels of an outpouring of testimony on its grazing standards in mid-April, the USDA National Organic Program issued a major rule proposal with a brief comment period that ended this week. These proposed regulations were required by the court's final judgment in Harvey v. Johanns, and to implement the amendments to the Organic Foods Production Act which was signed into law on November 10, 2005.

The proposed rules are neither clear nor complete, according to the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. The NCSA believes that the proposed rule:

  • Fails to clearly prohibit certified dairy operations from continually importing conventionally raised replacement animals and transitioning them to organic management;
  • Fails to prevent use of hundreds of "non-ingredient" synthetic substances in processed organic foods, including processing aids and other materials that contact organic food;
  • Fails to describe the "emergency" process that will be used by the USDA to decide when a non-organic agricultural ingredient can be used in organic products due to "commercial unavailability" of organic ingredients.

Full proposal, a review of the Harvey lawsuit and other details

Written testimony submitted before the NOSB meeting and comments on cards during the dairy symposium in April

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