Cornucopia News Archive

Anemic National Organic Program Listening Session Ends Quickly

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

By Will Fantle


Miles McEvoy (center) at a recent NOSB meeting.

The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) held the first of what they described as a series of listening sessions on the afternoon of Thursday, October 16. Following introductory remarks from Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, who oversees NOP operations, the teleconference session was turned over to participants on the call who were given three minutes to provide feedback to the NOP.

Ten people chimed in and, despite repeated requests for more participation, the call – scheduled to last two hours – was adjourned after approximately 45 minutes. Of those callers who did share perspectives with the NOP, most were harshly critical of the recent controversial changes imposed by the USDA to the National Organic Standards Board’s authority and governance.

In particular, callers zeroed in on the USDA’s changes to “sunset” and the higher threshold now required for removal of synthetic and non-organic materials from what had been presumed to be their temporary use in organics. Following is a short synopsis of what callers said: Read Full Article »

Biotech and Agribusinesses Spending Heavily to Defeat State GMO Food Labeling Votes

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute releases shopper’s guide red-flagging pro/con food brands involved with Colorado and Oregon Initiatives    [Contribution data will be updated on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until election day, and a final poster will be published in early December.]

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-16-14: More new money from Big Food and Biotech interests flows into fight against GMO food labeling votes in Oregon and Colorado. Coca Cola drops $1.168 million, Pepsi puts up another $1 million, Kraft adds another $870K, with Land O’Lakes putting in an additional $900K. Supporting the consumer’s right to know, the Center for Food Safety adds $1 million, Dr. Bronner’s puts in another $285K, Presence Marketing adds $175K and the Organic Consumers Association spends another $100K. The NO vote forces are outspending supporters by more than 3 to 1. Full details on the updated infographic below.  

UPDATED AGAIN  10-8-14:  Kellogg drops $250K against GMO food labeling + other contribution updates to the YES and NO positions.

UPDATE 10-2-14:  Cornucopia’s GMO food labeling infographic has been updated and now includes the contributions made to the Oregon Right to Know committee, which was organized to help get Measure 92 on the ballot. (Information on contributions for petition gathering are listed separately by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and were not previously included.)  This update also includes significant additional contributions reported over the last couple days to both the Vote Yes on Measure 92 committee in Oregon, and the Right to Know Colorado committee.  Stay tuned for additional revisions of this infographic based on campaign finance reporting deadlines in Oregon and Colorado!

For a larger, easier to view version of the infographic please click on the image. Once downloaded (please be patient) you can click a second time to enlarge that further. A high-resolution file, suitable for enlargement and printing, can be found at the linked pdf below the graphic image.

Cornucopia, WI: Citizen initiatives on the November 4 ballots in both Colorado and Oregon would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. The pending votes have sparked a high-priced battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.

Opposition to the state food labeling measures is coming from giant biotech companies (DuPont, Dow and Monsanto), that sell genetically engineered crops, and the well-heeled Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national business lobbying organization. Millions of dollars are being spent on the two campaigns with advertising blitzes underway.

Now The Cornucopia Institute has released a detailed infographic that reveals which food companies are supporting or opposing the food labeling initiatives (with many of the major manufacturers opposing passage owning leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace).

Measure 92 Prop 105

(click on the image above to view a quick loading larger version,
and then click on it again for an even larger version

Download High Resolution PDF for printing purposes by clicking here

“Many consumers will likely be surprised to learn that owners and management of some of their favorite organic and natural brands are fighting against the right of consumers to know what is in their food,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group. “We want to spotlight this issue so that consumers can vote in the marketplace for manufacturers and brands that reflect their personal values.” Read Full Article »

Clarification: Cornucopia Independent Corporate/Governmental Watchdog Receives No State or Federal Funding

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

cornucopia logo bigThere is an Arab proverb that states, “When the king puts the poet on his payroll, he cuts off the tongue of the poet.” A recent New York Times article may have mistakenly led some to believe The Cornucopia Institute receives funding from “the king”—the federal government.  Not true!

Responding to the USDA’s announcement of a new $52 million program to support local and organic farming, I was quoted in the September 28 NYT article as saying, “It’s a really nice bump for us because we’ve been getting chump change for research.”  By “we” I was referring to the organic community, but at least one Cornucopia member understood it differently. This farmer-member let us know that, while he wholeheartedly supported our work, he would not be financially contributing in the future since, he believed, Cornucopia was receiving federal funds (after I responded that wasn’t accurate he reaffirmed his ongoing commitment to financially support our work).

Although we applaud the increase in funding for research by the USDA, it should be noted that we are still not getting our “fair share.” Organics is over 4% of the market, organic milk at about 6% and produce industry experts estimate organics share of fruits and vegetables at over 11%. We will be happy when the federal government supports organic agriculture at a commensurate rate — many European countries, recognizing the societal value of shifting away from using toxic chemicals to produce food fund at a much higher level.

I can assure you, The Cornucopia Institute serves as an independent organic industry watchdog—in both overseeing agribusiness and governmental activities. Read Full Article »

Eye in the Sky

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Cornucopia’s Aerial Photography Investigates Factory Farm Cheating

by Will Fantle

idalou all barns 04
Chino Valley’s poultry operation in Texas is
estimated to confine hundreds of thousands of
laying hens in barns that appear to offer little, if
any, outdoor access, as required by organic law.
Cornucopia has captured hundreds of images of
massive “organic” livestock operations in 12
(and counting). Click on image to enlarge.

When The Cornucopia Institute was founded in 2004, a primary goal of the fledgling organic watchdog was to draw attention to and rein in abuses from the rise of factory farm confinement dairy operations in organic agriculture. Not only were these industrial-scale operations squeezing out the opportunity for family farmers to make a real living in organics, they were also cheating consumers who thought they were purchasing a healthy food produced humanely with sustainable practices.

Cornucopia’s spotlight focusing on the scofflaws and abuses led to the loss of organic certification for several operations, as well as to the creation of a farmer and consumer drive that ultimately won the passage of new regulatory benchmarks for pasturing for dairy herds and other ruminants. Yet confinement-style factory farms, like a stubborn weed, persist in organic agriculture. These giant operations have become widespread and dominant in egg production, and continue to produce a significant amount of the organic milk.

Regulators at the USDA have been asked how these operations can be considered to comply with federal organic law. “The head of the USDA’s National Organic Program, Miles McEvoy, told me he had personally visited some of the huge complexes located in Texas that we photographed,” says Mark Kastel, Cornucopia’s Senior Farm Policy Analyst. “And,” continues Kastel, “he further told me that, and I quote: ‘all the farms we visited in Texas were in compliance.’” Read Full Article »

10 Years, 10,000 Members & 100,000 on Facebook

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Cornucopia in 2014: The Power of the Organic Farmer–Organic Eater Connection

[This story originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.]

Commentary by Mark Kastel

Credit: Dollar Photo Club

Some of our members have probably heard me say this before: Farmers have no clout in Washington or the marketplace. With less than 2% of our population engaged in production agriculture, after the presidential candidates get done kissing the rear ends of the ethanol lobbyists in Iowa during the primary season, you will never hear about food or farming again.

But organics is different. Although farmers continue to make up the base of our constituency and membership, Cornucopia’s secret weapon is partnering with millions of our urban-allies who passionately care about the quality and authenticity of their food and are willing to stand with farm families they respect.

Most of you who receive this newsletter are financially supporting our mission at Cornucopia. You have our sincere thanks. The remaining recipients, generally staff or board members of other nonprofits, have complimentary subscriptions because we appreciate their service to the organic community.

It’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago that Will Fantle and I co-founded The Cornucopia Institute, in response to the increasing corporate encroachment upon and erosion of organic values. While we are celebrating our anniversary, I thought I would mention a few incremental successes we’ve had lately: Read Full Article »