The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Coalition Challenges Expansion of Hazardous Herbicide

April 24th, 2015

PAN North America
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network,, 916-216-1082
Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice, 808-599-2436
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, 202-547-9359
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, 847-567-4052

Source: Lite-Trac

EPA allows nine additional states to use toxic 2,4-D on GE corn and soy crops

San Francisco, CA – A coalition of conservation, food safety and public health groups filed a motion today (April 20, 2015) challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to expand the use of “Enlist Duo” on genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy crops to nine additional states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and North Dakota.

Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety filed the motion in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition and Pesticide Action Network North America. This motion builds on the coalition’s earlier challenge of Enlist Duo, which already includes six Midwestern states where EPA previously approved the herbicide’s use on GE corn and soy crops. Read Full Article »

Prominent Government Watchdog Asks Obama Administration to Remove Organic Leadership at USDA

April 24th, 2015

National Organic Program Divisive and in Crisis

NOP Deputy Director Miles McEvoy
tours a hydroponic farm
Source: USDA

The nation’s preeminent organic industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, sent a letter today to the White House, and to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, requesting a change in leadership at the regulator’s National Organic Program (NOP).  A radical shift in the unique public-private governance in the organic sector, established by Congress in 1990, has created deep fissures within the organic community and, more recently, resulted in 15 organic stakeholders, including Cornucopia, suing the USDA.

Previous administrations faced plenty of criticism from organic advocates.  However, during the Clinton and Bush years, USDA officials were universally viewed as respecting the purview of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  This 15-member, multi-stakeholder body was established by Congress to review all synthetic/non-organic ingredients and materials used in organic farming and food production.  Congress also mandated that the USDA Secretary seek the counsel of the NOSB on all aspects of implementing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).

“Although the USDA ignored some of the NOSB recommendations in the past, until recently they never went 180 degrees in the opposite direction in deference to the preferences of powerful corporate interests,” said Kevin Engelbert, a former NOSB member from Nichols, New York.  “And they never reversed the 23-year tradition of allowing the NOSB the autonomy to create their own procedure manual, set their own agenda and create their own workplan.” Read Full Article »

Restoring Our Soils by Learning from History

April 23rd, 2015

AgriCultures Network
by Roland Bunch

Source: NRCS

Most of our ideas about soils ignore the millions of years before mankind started farming. But what happened during the 99.9% of a soil’s history contains very important lessons. So let us celebrate the International Year of Soils by looking at what that history can tell us – and build on those lessons for the future.

In the tropical world, fallowing kept farmers’ soils fertile for thousands of years by providing 70 to 95% of their soil organic matter. But today, since most smallholder farmers possess less than 2 hectares of land, in a large part because of population growth, fallowing is in its death throes. As a result, the developing world is experiencing a severe soil organic matter crisis.

The soil organic matter crisis is critical because soils are being so rapidly damaged and depleted, because soil fertility has become the primary limiting factor for the world’s smallholder farmers, and because restoring the soil is a ‘foundational technology’. If a farmer adopts a new cassava variety, it may improve his or her cassava production, but it will do almost nothing for the farmer’s maize, bean, vegetable or animal production. But if the farmer successfully improves her or his soil, it will have a major impact on everything else, too. Foundational technologies, such as soil restoration, can therefore provide the basis for the sustainable, long-term development of an entire farm. Read Full Article »

Back to Basics: Breeding Plants for Organic Agriculture

April 23rd, 2015

CSA News
by Nancy Maddox

Source: USDA

Around 10,000 BC, the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution, human societies began domesticating wild plants. For the next 12,000 years, farming relied exclusively on natural inputs, such as animal manure and compost.

The first synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were developed only about 100 years ago but quickly became mainstays of “conventional” farming. In 1992, virtually all of the 460 million acres of U.S. cropland—all but 0.001%—were conventionally managed.

About this same time, however, a new trend emerged, marked by growing interest in traditional and innovative farming practices that invigorate the soil, without resorting to most synthetic chemicals. The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 laid out the principles of this new “organic” farming and authorized the USDA to establish a program that would identify acceptable organic production inputs and certify farms meeting the agency’s standards. In 2000, the USDA published its final rule for the National Organic Program, which became operational in 2002.

Now, with increased momentum from the farm-to-fork movement and environmentally aware consumers, the organic food industry is going mainstream. Three out of four conventional grocery stores today offer organic products, according to the USDA. And the amount of cropland devoted to organic agriculture rose from just 403,400 acres in 1992 to roughly 3.1 million acres in 2011. In 2014, organic food sales reached an estimated $35 billion.

In fact, organic foods constitute the fastest-growing agricultural sector. Read Full Article »

Conflict Over Soil and Water Quality Puts ‘Iowa Nice’ to a Test

April 22nd, 2015

The New York Times
by Mitch Smith

DesMoinesRaccoon JasonMrachinaSource: Jason Mrachina

MANSON, Iowa — The flat, endless acres of black dirt here in northern Iowa will soon be filled with corn and soybean seeds. But as farmers tuned up their tractors and waited for the perfect moment to plant, another topic weighed on their minds: a lawsuit filed in federal court by the state’s largest water utility.

After years of mounting frustration, the utility, Des Moines Water Works, sued the leaders of three rural Iowa counties last month. Too little has been done, the lawsuit says, to prevent nitrates from flowing out of farm fields into the Raccoon River and, eventually, into the drinking water supply for roughly 500,000 Iowans. The suit seeks to make farmers comply with federal clean-water standards for nitrates that apply to factories and commercial users, and requests unspecified damages. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000