UPDATED May 11, 2007


    Websites support sustainable Farm Bill action

    Think tank says to buy out all crop subsidies

    Judge orders halt to GMO alfalfa planting

    Experts detail pesticide caution for bees

    Sharp food-price inflation seen ahead

    UK tells citizens to eat seasonally


Being a Farm Bill activist was never so easy—or so important

There’s unprecedented support for public engagement by sustainable ag groups in shaping the 2007 Farm Bill. Reframing the comprehensive funding package for the US Department of Agriculture as a “food bill” has tapped into new popular interest in food safety, origin, energy impact and global warming. Opportunities to learn and act include:

  • Accessing “matrix” issue assessment within proposed legislation at the Farm and Food Project, with separate grids for conservation, diversity, farm viability, nutrition and rural provisions. Website includes recommendations, support for involvement.
  • Choosing to “Be a Farm Bill Hero” by using the set of tools offered by the National Campaign For Sustainable Agriculture, a broad coalition of farm and support groups. Their site offers pages on organic issues, renewable energy, competition and concentration, sustainable livestock and stewardship initiatives.
  • Getting briefed on trade issues at the Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy’s Ag Observatory website. Read A Fair Farm Bill for Competitive Markets and parallel reports focusing on overall US ag impacts, renewable energy, the world’s hungry and world agriculture.
  • Learning about Risk Management Accounts, a keystone of Food and Agriculture Risk Management for the 21st Century Act (FARM 21). Under this bi-partisan proposal, the current system of farm subsidies—counter-cyclical, loan deficiency, income loss and direct payments—would gradually be transitioned to a more cost-effective and responsive system of farmer-held income stabilization accounts. The aim is to move into a new era where farmers manage their own assets and harvest what makes sense for them and their land.

Something completely different: Buy out remaining subsidies to give farmers fresh start

Agricultural policy in the United States is interventionist, expensive, inequitable and damaging to American interests abroad, says the introduction to “Freeing the Farm: A Farm Bill for All Americans.” The 20-page position paper was produced by the free-trade oriented Cato Institute.

It claims that over the last 20 years, the “opportunity cost” to American consumers and taxpayers of supporting agricultural producers has totaled more than $1.7 trillion.

As the most politically possible solution, the Institute advocates that the government buy out the damaging and expensive support for farmers by paying them a fixed amount of money, which they would be free to spend as they wish.

The paper

Judge stops planting of GMO-alfalfa; orders test for GMO-contamination

A federal judge has banned further planting of genetically modified alfalfa seed, ordering that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed on the GE crop. The decision basically re-regulates Roundup Ready alfalfa, which the USDA deregulated in June 2005.

The judge had earlier ruled the USDA had not adequately assessed the risk of GE alfalfa contaminating conventional and organic crops. His ruling requires the seed makers Monsanto and Forage Genetics Inc. to provide the locations of all existing Roundup Ready alfalfa plots to the USDA within 30 days so that growers can test their crops for possible contamination.

Monsanto says it may appeal the ruling. Pat Trask of Trask Family Seeds, a South Dakota conventional alfalfa grower stated: “It’s a great day for God’s own alfalfa.”


More details

Bee die-off concern intensifies: paper outlines pesticide cautions

A detailed summary of pesticide families to avoid in order to protect honeybees was recently posted at the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Education Consortium (MAAREC) Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) page. It focuses caution on the use of the neonicotinioid family of insecticides, such as imidacloprid and colthianidin.

Massive bee die-offs are reported across the US, in Europe, Canada and Brazil, prompting increasing efforts to find a cause as potential impact onthe food system is taken more seriously.

CCD page references

Food price inflation could rival global warming in years ahead

Global food prices may double in the next five years, as demand rises, production evens out and energy demand competes with human consumption, a financial analyst predicted recently.

Food input prices are now putting more upward pressure on producer inflation than at any time since the early 1980s. Between March of 2005 and March 2007, the price of US wheat rose 34 percent, corn by 47.4 percent, barley by 59.4 percent and cattle by 41 percent.

Full story

UK government promotes seasonal eating to save the planet

A new government website advises shoppers to help the planet by preferentially purchasing British food when in season. Information alerts consumers to hothouse tomatoes and all produce shipments imported by air due to their energy impact, and says fresh, seasonal and unprocessed foods can cut energy use and increase what consumers learn directly from farmers about how their food is raised and who grew it.


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