UPDATED August 10, 2006

    USDA revokes organic certifier license

    Restaurant chain goes (more) local

    USDA grass-based rule flusters graziers

    Direct-marketing tips sheets help producers

    Minnesota, Connecticut map organic farms

    Chico State joins UNH in organic dairying

    New test gives instant N, P levels for manure

    Martens asks for greater organic support

USDA revokes organic certifier license

For the first time since the federal Organic Rule went into effect in October 2002, the USDA is moving to revoke the license of a certifier. American Food Safety Institute International in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin alledgedly allowed an organic farm to use banned chemicals and broke several other federal regulations.

Organic certifiers are responsible for ensuring that organic farmers and food producers follow a host of rules, which include not using chemical bug and weed killers. Certifiers are supposed to forward records about organic rule breakers to the USDA.

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Pennsylvania restaurant chain features regionally purchased produce, dairy

The Pittsburgh-based Eat 'n Park Hospitality Group Inc. (www.eatnpark.com) is taking a major step to bring big business to local farms, building its buying of locally grown products from about 3 percent of its overall supply purchases to 20 percent.

The commercial food service company is launching its "FarmSource" program at 100 restaurants this summer, after rolling it out at its senior living and catering divisions within the past few years.

Eat 'n Park senior vice president for food and beverage, Brooks Broadhurst, estimated the company will spend $3 million with western Pennsylvania farms this year. It works with regional produce houses in metro areas where it has clusters of restaurants to establish direct accounts with local farmers ready to meet quality and logistical requirements.

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Proposed USDA grass-based standard disappoints advocates; revision urged

After waiting four years for their recommendations to be shaped by the USDA into a marketable standard, grazing proponents were shocked to see that animals could be fed harvested forage, antibiotics and hormones in a feedlot and still fit the proposed description.

“We are pretty close to our customers, and their perception of grass-fed means animals that go from birth to harvest on pasture, not in a feedlot,’’ said Dr. Patricia Whisnant, president of the American Grassfed Association, at an association meeting in late July.

“This is not what we perceive of as pasture grazing,’’ said the official, Harvey Sprock, a range management specialist in the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado.

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Local marketing tip sheets available

The “Marketing to Enhance Farm Viability” series of bulletins is designed to assist growers and agricultural businesses. Information comes from the persistent work of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) in promoting local agricultural viability and the expertise of experienced farmers, including members of the Women in Agriculture Network. Topics include developing a marketing plan, using paid advertising, working with media and using on-farm workshops and classes.

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Minnesota maps organic farms county by county;
Connecticut shows certified and “pledged” locations

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has released maps showing the locations of the state’s organic farms and processing facilities. The maps show that there are currently 507 certified-organic farms and 137 certified organic processing facilities in the state.

An organic farming group in Connecticut produces a map showing the state’s certified-organic farms as well as those where owners have an affirmed “Farmer’s Pledge.” These producers agree to production management standards separate and distinct from the USDA’s National Organic Program. They reject synthetic pest controls and fertilizers; GMO materials; and promise to treat livestock humanely, market locally or regionally, pay a living wage and support collective bargaining for workers. Unlike the NOP, the pledge is not third-party certified.

Minnesota map

Connecticut map

Chico State begins organic dairy, UNH building on Stonyfield gift

A herd of Jersey and Jersey-crosses is the foundation for the first organic dairy teaching facility in the West, according to Cindy Daley, a Chico State animal science professor. The cattle are already grazing on 45 acres of certified-organic pasture that will provide grazing for about 10 months of the year in this north-central California location.

Earlier, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) announced it has established an organic dairy program on a 200-acre farm that may begin producing milk as early as December. Eight dairy farmers serve on the university’s 20-member advisory board for the initiative.

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UNH story

Prototype on-farm manure analyzer gives farmers instant N, P readings

A new tool using a near-infrared light device sampling two tablespoons of manure for levels of nitrogen and phosphorus will help farmers know how to manage their livestock nutrient. The developer of the tool is James Reeves of the Agricultural Research Service’s Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland.

The prototype machine—a 15-inch cube linked to a laptop—weighs about 20 pounds. Reeves says he plans to make it smaller—about the size of a shoebox weighing 5 pounds or less. He hopes to eventually develop a hand-held, stand-alone unit.

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Martens lobbies ag committee members for organic research, data, crop insurance

At the recent Senate Ag Committee field hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, New York organic farmer Klaas Martens testified on behalf of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Martens described how and his wife, Mary-Howell, has used the Value-Added Producer Program to join in a cooperative with other organic farmers in the area to establish the Lakeview Organic Grain feedmill.

Klaas emphasized the need for increased organic research funding, the establishment of a National Program Leader for Organic Agriculture at CSREES, better organic data collection, more attention to organic producers in Farm Bill Conservation programs, continuation of federal funding for organic certification cost share, whole-farm revenue insurance for all producers, and the removal of barriers and additional charges to organic producers in the crop-insurance programs.

Hearing opening statements