UPDATED October 18, 2007

Compost cuts black root rot in strawberries

Biotech rice genetic escape “a mystery”

USDA: market will resolve ethanol/food issues

Food co-op to buy, operate Gardens of Eagan

Article addresses organic farming disasters

Compost medium cuts black root rot in strawberries

Strawberry plants grown in compost-filled mesh tubes, or “socks,” had significantly less chance of getting black root rot, a severe threat to yields, than plants grown directly in infested soils in an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study. The compost socks lay on top of the infested soil.
No methyl bromide or any other soil fumigant was used in the study, since they have become too costly for many small growers and non-chemical alternatives are being sought. The sock plants yielded 16 to 32 times more fruit than those from the conventional "matted row" or black plastic mulch systems when grown in infested soil with no soil treatment.


Biotech rice gene escape a mystery, university research lab suspected

A year-long inquest has failed to reveal exactly how genes from a genetically altered strain of rice ended up in other rice throughout the southern United States’ rice growing areas in recent years. An investigation suggests the escape may have happened early this decade at a university research laboratory.

A yearlong U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation found that the genetically engineered rice, which was not approved for human consumption, was grown at a corporate-funded laboratory at Louisiana State University alongside commercial strains of rice that were cross-pollinated and eventually made their way into the food supply.

The FDA subsequently approved the rice for human consumption, but not before the contamination negativelyimpacted rice prices and many farmers. The USDA has decided not to punish the company, citing a lack of evidence.

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2006 story: Firm Blames Farmers, 'Act of God' for Rice Contamination

USDA head forecasts happy ending to ethanol/food price turmoil

Addressing the Consumer Federation of America at the end of last month, acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner said that despite short term difficulties, farmers are responding to rising commodity demands by adding acreage and boosting yields.

"Higher corn prices are not the only or even, I would argue, perhaps the most important factor in higher prices of certain retail food items," he said.

Conner said the market will eventually sort out the best way to use our resources, from high-priced oil to the price of corn and wheat at historic highs. "It is moving faster, I believe, than the experts can keep up with their forecasts. And if you believe—as I do—in the power of markets to put resources to their best use, you should be very encouraged by the signs we see of vibrancy and growth in this market."

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Food co-op to buy, operate Gardens of Eagan

The Wedge, a Minneapolis-based natural and organic food cooperative, has bought the well-known farm of Martin and Atina Diffley for $1.5 million. The company said that Linda Halley would become Gardens of Eagan's manager. Halley is a 2003 Farmer of the Year and 20-year veteran of farm management in Wisconsin and southern California.

In a statement, the Diffleys—Martin is 57 years old and Atina is 47—said they didn't want to keep farming "into their senior years" and that their children didn't want to take over. The co-op will broaden its outreach through internships, tours and other learning opportunities to help people better understand organic farming. The Wedge, a customer of the farm, will continue working in cooperation with the farm’s other existing accounts.

Full story

Article helps organic farmers improve disaster readiness and recovery

"Disaster Readiness and Recovery: Legal Considerations for Organic Farmers" is a booklet that helps organic farmers prepare for, weather and recover from a range of natural disasters. The 44-page article by the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) is a part of its on-going information support tool, Farmers’ Guide to Disaster Assistance.

The article concludes with information about how natural disaster- and disaster-recovery may affect farmers’ organic certification, and includes descriptions of how federal policy needs improvement to more equitably meet the needs of organic producers.

FLAG is a nonprofit law center in St. Paul, Minnesota, dedicated to providing legal services to family farmers and their rural communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land.

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