September 17th, 2014
by Andrew Jenner
In 2010, a young man on a quest for enlightenment walked into the office of Jerry Hatfield, director of the USDA’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. His name was John Kempf, and he was eager to learn more about Hatfield’s plant physiology work, which deals with the complicated interactions of plants, soils and the atmosphere.
The two talked agronomy for several hours before Hatfield sent Kempf on his way with a stack of literature to devour. The visit was just one of many steps on Kempf’s journey, which had begun six years earlier in a blighted cantaloupe patch. Desperate to rescue his family farm from worsening disease and pest problems, Kempf dove into deep-end science, looking for solutions he couldn’t find in the conventional farming playbook.
In the process, Kempf became a staple on the alternative-ag lecture circuit and the CEO of a rapidly growing consulting firm that his followers hail as the next best thing in sustainable, profitable agriculture. The most hopeful even say that he and his company offer a glimpse of a better farming future, uniting the best that our various schools of agricultural thought have to offer.
Kempf is just 26 years old. He is also Amish, and has only an eighth grade education. Read Full Article »
September 17th, 2014
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The mechanical force that a single fungal cell or bacterial colony exerts on a plant cell may seem vanishingly small, but it plays a heavy role in setting up some of the most fundamental symbiotic relationships in biology. In fact, it may not be too much of a stretch to say that plants may have never moved onto land without the ability to respond to the touch of beneficial fungi, according to a new study led by Jean-Michel Ané, a professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Many people have studied how roots progress through the soil, when fairly strong stimuli are applied to the entire growing root,” says Ané, who just published a review of touch in the interaction between plants and microbes in the journal Current Opinion in Plant Biology. “We are looking at much more localized, tiny stimuli on a single cell that is applied by microbes.”
Specifically, Ané, Dhileepkumar Jayaraman, a postdoctoral researcher in agronomy, and Simon Gilroy, a professor of botany, studied how such a slight mechanical stimulus starts round one of a symbiotic relationship — that is, a win-win relationship between two organisms. Read Full Article »
September 16th, 2014
NOTE: PCC Natural Markets, in Seattle, coordinated a letter to members of Congress expressing the concerns from three dozen retailers about the arbitrary changes made by the USDA to NOSB governance and advice over organic food and agriculture. These changes continue to trouble Cornucopia and many others in the organic community.
PCC Natural Markets
To the Congressional Organic Caucus,
We the undersigned organizations are writing to ask you to advocate reversal of USDA’s unilateral changes to the organic program’s Sunset Provision. We believe these changes violate the intent and the letter of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).
A high bar to allow and renew synthetics
We have re-read OFPA and the letters from Sen. Leahy and Rep. DeFazio to Sec. Vilsack, as well as the letter from three former chairs of the National Organic Standards Board, and we respectfully disagree with the Deputy Administrator’s statement that the changes “shouldn’t make it harder” to remove items from the National List.
NOP staff has admitted in various settings that materials up for Sunset from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances were subject to being removed by a minority vote, and that materials some interests wanted to renew [leave on the list] weren’t getting enough votes, so USDA changed the voting process. In other words, NOP staff has admitted publicly it changed the rules to make it easier to keep synthetics on the National List.
OFPA established the two-thirds supermajority requirement for “Decisive Votes” [Sec. 2119 (i)] intentionally to establish a very high hurdle for prohibited synthetics to be allowed, even temporarily, in organics. Within the context of the overarching principle in Sec. 2105 [7 USC 6504], that foods labeled organic must be “produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals …,” Congress certainly intended the Sunset Provision to emphasize the temporary nature of exemptions. Read Full Article »
September 16th, 2014
Learn the core principles of traditional diets, inspired by the teachings of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and explore how embracing this lifestyle can contribute to one’s health, wellness and longevity.
Hosted at Shelburne Farms, The Vermont Traditional Foods and Health Symposium is a program sponsored by The Forrest C. and Frances H. Lattner Foundation.
Registration is required to attend the Symposium. In order to make the program accessible, the program is being offered on a suggested sliding scale of $0 – $75 per day, which includes lunch (Friday &Saturday) and traditional foods tasting (Friday evening) provided by The Farmhouse Group, and more.
Register here. Read Full Article »
September 15th, 2014
In one of the most far reaching changes in U.S. meat inspection history, federal regulators this fall will allow poultry plant employees – instead of USDA inspectors – to help determine whether chicken is contaminated or safe to eat, a move critics fear could spread to beef and pork processing plants.
Indeed, a severe shortage of federal inspectors in slaughterhouses is so widespread that critics and some inspectors claim some meat in supermarkets stamped as “USDA inspected” may never have been inspected at all. Read Full Article »