UPDATED December14, 2006

    ERS reports certified organic farmland found in every state

    USDA now says animal ID system is really, truly voluntary; skeptics remain

    Surging domestic corn demand requires dramatic shift in ag policy

    USDA to revisit meaning of “natural” on petition from meat giant Hormel

    Rosmanns recognized for efforts to share sustainable farming success

    The principles—and passion—of local food distilled in fact-sheet series

    Sow study shows beneficial bacteria boosts intestinal health, nutrient uptake

    Grain straw, bean stalks eyed for building materials

ERS reports certified organic farmland found in every state

A report issued by USDA's Economic Research Service confirms that by 2005 certified organic farmland could be found in all 50 US states for the first time. After doubling from 1997 to 2002, the amount of farmland certified organic doubled again from 2002 to 2005, finally reaching every corner of the nation.

Organic farmland may only make up only 1 percent of the total nationwide, but the adoption rate of organic practices is growing at an amazing clip. The ERS report breaks down adoption levels by sector that can be viewed in either national or state-by-state tables. They cover over 40 commodities, crop and livestock, for 1997 or 1995 and 2000 to 2005. ERS also expects to have estimates for 2006 published by December of next year.

Full report

USDA now says animal ID system is really, truly voluntary; skeptics remain

Even after publicly assuring farmers that the proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) will be voluntary and releasing a new set of guidelines, anti-NAIS advocates question what will really happen in the months ahead to farmers and their livestock.

The user guide outlines how producers can participate, should they wish, and outlines how the program might benefit them and the country, and how the program is being implemented. This is all fine, opponents say, but what will state departments of ag now do, and why weren’t the guidelines published in the Federal Register?

A range of groups oppose the requirements for various reasons, nearly all of whom feel the goal of public health and safety can be met as well—or better—without the cost and government intrusiveness proposed in the program.

NAIS user guide

News on range of sentiment

Anti-NAIS site

Surging domestic corn demand requires dramatic shift in ag policy, group claims

If, as expected, corn-based ethanol production doubles in the five years ahead as it has in the 2001 to 2005 period, the Farm Bill needs to manage production in a sustainable way, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The group has released the a report "Staying Home: How Ethanol Will Change U.S. Corn Exports."

One of the report’s author’s concludes: “Given this new context, spending billions of dollars on initiatives such as expanding the transportation infrastructure on the Mississippi River for export markets is an irresponsible investment of taxpayer dollars. Instead, policymakers should focus on building and diversifying opportunities for renewable fuels and energies; promoting farm practices and cropping systems that build soil health and improve water quality; and ensuring that farmers and rural communities benefit from these new opportunities.”

Report summary

USDA to revisit meaning of “natural” on petition from meat giant Hormel

The USDA recognizes that there is significant disagreement about what “natural” means when manufacturers label their foods with the imprecise term, so they’ve announced a rulemaking process to tighten things up. Public comment is invited through Jan. 11, 2007.

A petition from Hormel Foods in November stated that meat and poultry processors are vying for consumer advantage, but do not have a level playing field because of the USDA acceptance of ingredients such as sodium lactate.

Full story

Rosmanns recognized for efforts to learn, share sustainable farming success

A pioneering farm family that has shared deeply of its knowledge throughout the United States is this year’s winner of the Spencer Award from Leopold Center of Iowa State University.

Winners are Ron Rosmann and Maria Vakulska Rosmann and their sons David, Daniel and Mark Rosmann. They operate a 600-acre, diversified organic farm near Harlan in Shelby County, Iowa. They have been leaders in sustainable agriculture at the state, regional and national levels, hosting visitors from all over the world at their western Iowa farm.

The award honors someone who has made a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture and the future of Iowa's family farms.

Rosmann family farm details

The principles—and passion—of local food elegantly distilled in fact-sheet series

Local food advocates, take heart! There are studies documenting solid policy reasons for slicing food miles from our food, but now there’s a strong set of telegraphic fact sheets that make the case clearly, thoughtfully and joyfully.

The four, two-sided sheets explain simply why local food works to build communities, what the economic and political challenges are to making it happen and how you can get involved. One sheet explores the place of food in our lives, and there’s also additional sheets of foodnotes for further digging.

This effort comes from Environmental Commons, a group in California that works to preserve natural areas, protect wildlife, and promote sustainable policies, environmental education, and informed democratic discussions

Read or download series

ARS sow study shows beneficial bacteria boosts intestinal health, nutrient uptake

A probiotic supplement stimulated the immune system and improve nutrient absorption in two separate animal studies recently conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when added to foods or dietary supplements in sufficient numbers, can benefit the consumer in one or more ways.

Healthy animals and humans benefit every day from trillions of natural intestinal bacteria. These friendly bacteria help keep "bad" bacteria from gaining a foothold that could lead to illness or disease.

Full report

Grain straw, bean stalks eyed for building materials

In production: A Kansas company is manufacturing agriboard panels and cores from compressed wheat or rice straw. The panels are intended for use as sub-floor decking, walls, and roofs. The wall panels can be configured as structural or curtain walls and can be pre-engineered to meet specific building applications.

No adhesive additives are added to the wheat straw insulation and only borax compounds are added for safe control of mold and insects. The panels meet all ASTM standards for sound insulation, air exchange, odor emissions, moisture vapor sorption, fungi resistance and fire tests.

On the horizon: Super-strong cellulose lets some super-tall soybeans varieties stand when others would have fallen down. The Agricultural Research Services is evaluating their value as a potential wood substitute.

Commercially straw panels and boards

Soybean research details