Cornucopia News Archive

Urban Ag in the Heartland

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

by Elizabeth Wolf

Big Muddy Urban Farm
Omaha, Nebraska

Say “farm” and, despite the spread of industrial-scale agriculture, images of red barns, lone farmhouses and acres of crops growing in the country come to mind. Yet as the world becomes increasingly urbanized (over 80% of Americans live in cities), so too has food production. In fact, the USDA estimates that 15% of the world’s food supply is now grown in urban centers.

Whether via community gardens, vacant lots, backyards, front yards, municipal orchards, patio containers, rooftop gardens, window boxes, indoor systems or other means, urban agriculture is a growing trend—or, more accurately, a returning practice. Long before WWII victory gardens grew 40% of all vegetables in the U.S., from ancient times cities have produced at least some food within their borders.

Big Muddy Urban Farm is reviving this tradition in Omaha, Nebraska. Read Full Article »

Groups Challenge Major USDA Change to Organic Rule:

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Customary Public Comment Process Averted to the Chagrin of Petitioners

CI_USDAgrossDisrespect_1Organic stakeholders have filed a lawsuit in federal court, maintaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed established procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food.  A coalition of 15 organic food producers and farmer, consumer, environmental, and certification groups asked the court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and reinstitute the agency’s customary public hearing and comment process.

When it comes to organic food production, consumers and producers expect a high level of scrutiny and are willing to pay a premium with the knowledge that a third-party certifier is evaluating compliance with organic standards. The burgeoning $35+ billion organic market relies heavily on a system of public review and input regarding decisions that affect organic production systems and the organic label.  The multi-stakeholder National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)[1], appointed to a 5-year term by the Secretary of Agriculture, holds semi-annual meetings to solicit public input and to write recommendations to the Secretary on organic policy matters, including the allowance of synthetic and non-organic agricultural materials and ingredients.

The unilateral agency action taken to adopt major policy change without a public process, the plaintiffs maintain, violates one of the foundational principles and practices of OFPA —public participation in organic policy-making. Read Full Article »

See No Evil

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Organic Industry Bigwigs Dispute What Cornucopia’s Aerial Photos Reveal

by Mark A. Kastel

MBA Poultry, marketing under the trade name Smart
Chicken, maintains 40 barns near Tecumseh, NE.
On the day this photograph was taken, all had
fencing but with gates open, freshly mowed grass,
doors closed, and no sign of birds ever being outside.
This was true of all 40 barns.
In stark contrast to MBA/Smart Chicken’s
industrial-scale operation, RedHill Farms, multiple
coops on multiple farms in Marin County, California,
gives laying hens access to pasture all day long, as
as enrichment such as this handmade perch.
Photo courtesy of RedHill Farms

Organics was founded on a loving collaboration between family farmers and eaters who established an alternative to the industrial paradigm of how our food, including livestock, is produced.

When we founded The Cornucopia Institute, nearly 11 years ago, there were two CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations or “factory farms”), each producing “organic” milk from thousands of cows. Today, there are over 20.

The Organic Foods Production Act, passed by Congress, is a good law but both the Bush and Obama administrations have rolled out the red carpet for corporate agribusiness lobbyists to shape organic regulations and enforcement with an emphasis on profit rather than organic integrity.

Over the past decade, Cornucopia has hammered the USDA and the White House on grossly incompetent, or intentionally harmful, management of the organic program. We have filed numerous legal complaints, some of which have shut down factory farms or constrained their production, while others have been ignored or dismissed. Read Full Article »

Town Hall Meeting: Pay Now or Pay Later — We Can’t Afford Not to Eat Organic Food

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Mark Kastel Poster v2Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst 
at The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group based in Wisconsin, will present a talk entitled:  Connecting the Dots: Climate Change, Human Health and the Economy — We Can’t Afford Not to Eat Organic Food.  The speech will be held in the Park School Auditorium on the Ithaca College campus on April 14, 2015 at 7:00 pm.

Kastel is a nationally recognized expert on food and farm policy. The Cornucopia Institute acts as an organic industry watchdog.

With the cheapest food in the world, and the most expensive health care, the US has health outcomes that are rapidly falling behind the rest of the industrialized world. Read Full Article »

Carrageenan Update

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

What Cornucopia Is Doing to Remove this Inflammatory Ingredient from Organics

by Will Fantle

Source: iStock

Part of The Cornucopia Institute’s commitment to protecting the integrity of organics has been increased scrutiny given to non-organic and synthetic materials proposed for use in organic agriculture or in the processing of organic food products. Federal regulations ban the use of these materials unless specifically reviewed and approved. The substance must be deemed essential (without natural or organic alternatives), and its manufacture, use and disposal must not harm the environment. Most importantly, it must not harm human health.

Should a material pass these thresholds, it is placed on the USDA’s National List of allowed and prohibited substances. These permitted materials require after five years another similar review by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to determine whether or not they should remain on the National List.

One of Cornucopia’s wake-up calls regarding National List materials came with the controversial approval and listing of a synthetic, algae-based DHA oil for use in organic foods in 2011 (see our report Replacing Mother: Infant Formula Report). The questionable approval of DHA, pushed through by raw corporate power, led Cornucopia to take a much closer look at all non-organic and synthetic substances proposed for use in organics (or up for sunset renewal). Read Full Article »