Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bad News about Pesticides – The Leonard Lopate Showhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/bad-news-pesticides-leonard-lopate-show/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bad-news-pesticides-leonard-lopate-show http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/bad-news-pesticides-leonard-lopate-show/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:52:14 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11799 The Leonard Lopate Show Credit: NRCS Reporter Susan Freinkel talks about what happens to brains of children who have been exposed at a young age to pesticides. She’s joined by Lee Fang, who reports on how the pesticide companies have influenced regulations in Washington and at the local level. Both Freinkel and Fang are contributors to The Nation magazine. Freinkel is the author of the book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and her article Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain and Fang’s

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Credit: NRCS

Reporter Susan Freinkel talks about what happens to brains of children who have been exposed at a young age to pesticides. She’s joined by Lee Fang, who reports on how the pesticide companies have influenced regulations in Washington and at the local level. Both Freinkel and Fang are contributors to The Nation magazine. Freinkel is the author of the book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and her article Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain and Fang’s article The Pesticide Industry vs. Consumers: Not a Fair Fight appear in the March 31, 2014, issue of The Nation magazine.

Play Audio:

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Leaving a Sour Taste: Conventional “Yogurt” Masquerades as Health Food While Organic Keeps It Realhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/leaving-sour-taste-conventional-yogurt-masquerades-health-food-organic-keeps-real/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leaving-sour-taste-conventional-yogurt-masquerades-health-food-organic-keeps-real http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/leaving-sour-taste-conventional-yogurt-masquerades-health-food-organic-keeps-real/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:22:18 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11793 This article is based on Cornucopia’s forthcoming yogurt report and scorecard. Find both later this spring on our website. Yogurt, made the traditional way, is one of nature’s many health foods. Milk from organic grass-fed cows, rich in calcium, protein, beneficial fats and other healthy nutrients, is fermented using live cultures, resulting in a wholesome, live food teeming with beneficial microorganisms. Yet giant food corporations, led by General Mills (Yoplait) and Groupe Danone (Dannon), and

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This article is based on Cornucopia’s forthcoming yogurt report and scorecard. Find both later this spring on our website.

yogurt-spoon-iStock_000013610937smYogurt, made the traditional way, is one of nature’s many health foods. Milk from organic grass-fed cows, rich in calcium, protein, beneficial fats and other healthy nutrients, is fermented using live cultures, resulting in a wholesome, live food teeming with beneficial microorganisms.

Yet giant food corporations, led by General Mills (Yoplait) and Groupe Danone (Dannon), and now joined by others including Walmart and PepsiCo, have managed to turn this health food into junk food.

Many yogurt products on store shelves today are marketed as healthy, but a close inspection of the ingredients list and a look behind the scenes at how the ingredients are produced—the food’s “fine print”—paint a very different picture.  

Conventional yogurt is produced with milk from cows that are nearly always confined and unable to graze on pasture, and given a feed containing genetically engineered grains. During the making of yogurt, chemical defoamers can legally be added to conventional milk. And with the addition of artificial sweeteners or high doses of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, synthetic preservatives and the gut-wrenching thickener carrageenan, many yogurt products are essentially junk food masquerading as health food.

These products are marketed as healthy in part by displaying the “Live and Active Cultures” seal, which supposedly assures a high level of beneficial microorganisms, also known as probiotics.

The seal is found on nearly all conventional yogurt by popular brands owned by corporations such as General Mills and Groupe Danone. No organic yogurt uses the seal. However, testing by The Cornucopia Institute, performed by a food-processing center at a land grant university, revealed that many organic farmstead yogurt products without the Live and Active Cultures seal actually contained higher levels of probiotics than conventional yogurt with the seal.

Consumers tempted to choose products that display the Live and Active Cultures seal over products without it would be wise to reconsider that option.

Cornucopia’s analysis of yogurt also found that many conventional yogurt products on store shelves are not really yogurt at all. The FDA has a “standard of identity” for yogurt that specifies which types of ingredients can and cannot be added to a product labeled and sold as “yogurt.” Artificial sweeteners, preservatives and artificial nutrients other than vitamins A and D do not appear on this FDA list. It is puzzling how any product containing these ingredients can be marketed and sold as “yogurt.” This includes most of the Yoplait, Dannon and other conventional brands, as well as most store label brands, including Walmart’s Great Value.

The addition of these ingredients is not simply a question of legality; it also raises an important question about the healthfulness of the food. Many ingredients found in yogurt may cause adverse health impacts.

For example, research has linked the artificial sweetener aspartame to brain tumors and neurological disease in laboratory animals. Carrageenan, a food thickener, has been shown to promote colon tumors and cause inflammation and digestive disease in laboratory animals. Artificial colors have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. These ingredients and others commonly found in yogurt have no place in a food marketed as healthy.

girl eating yogurt iStock_000017575748Large

Because it costs more to produce, organic yogurt must be pricier at the check-out, right? Not always. General Mills’ Yoplait Go-Gurt costs more per ounce than many organic brands, despite containing milk from conventional, confined cows fed GE corn and soybeans, rather than milk from grass-fed cows. Go-Gurt, a “fruity” drinkable yogurt in a tube marketed to children, has no actual fruit but tastes and looks like it does due to artificial flavors and colors that require a warning label in other countries. The sweet snack also contains carrageenan, a known gastrointestinal irritant, along with artificial preservatives and synthetic nutrients.

In another example, Chobani, a conventional “Greek” yogurt, was priced higher than five different organic brands at a Boston-area Whole Foods Market. (This was before Whole Foods dropped the brand reportedly for using milk from GE-grain-fed cows while marketing itself as “natural.”)

Yogurt is big business. Consumers spend $73 billion on this food staple globally and $6 billion in the U.S., where individuals eat an average of 13 pounds of the creamy stuff each year. No wonder Big Food dominates this market; corporate players include General Mills (Yoplait), Group Danone (Dannon, Brown Cow, 85% of Stonyfield Farm), PepsiCo (Muller), Dean Foods (Alta Dena, Berkeley Farms, Meadow Gold), WhiteWave (Horizon, Silk), and the Hain Celestial Group (The Greek Gods, Healthy Valley, Earth’s Best).Consult Cornucopia’s forthcoming Yogurt Scorecard to see how these corporate brands stack up against independents such as Nancy’s, Organic Valley, Kalona, Wallaby Organic and Clover Stornetta, and regional brands such as Butterworks Farm, Seven Stars, Straus, Hawthorne Valley Farm and Cedar Summit. (Teaser: Cedar Summit Farm, a 100% grass-fed dairy in Minnesota, produces yogurt with more omega-3 fatty acids and 20 times as much of the healthy fat CLA as Chobani, according to independent lab tests.)

Cornucopia’s forthcoming report outlines the various reasons why people should choose organic yogurt over conventional. The USDA Organic seal on a yogurt product is much more important, in terms of healthfulness, than the Live and Active Cultures seal, the “Greek” label or any other marketing claim or label. In essence, all that is required for making healthy yogurt is organic milk and live cultures.

The Cornucopia Institute encourages eaters and food retailers who buy yogurt to purchase minimally processed, organic brands. By doing so you will be supporting organic farmers, sound environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and good health for our families and communities.

This story originally appeared in The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.

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‘Made In Rural America’ But Not For Americanshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/made-rural-america-americans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=made-rural-america-americans http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/made-rural-america-americans/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:12:01 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11789 Honey Colony by Brett Barth, Buzzworthy Blogs Credit: NRCS The steady creep of prices at your grocery checkout might have you wondering about frosts and droughts and the many other challenges confronting agribusiness. That’s kind of you, really, but stop. Truth be told, these are roaring times in the U.S. Farming industry. According to a recent report from The Council of Economic Advisors, net farm income in 2013 (a function of the handful of industrials that control

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Honey Colony
by Brett Barth, Buzzworthy Blogs

Credit: NRCS

The steady creep of prices at your grocery checkout might have you wondering about frosts and droughts and the many other challenges confronting agribusiness. That’s kind of you, really, but stop. Truth be told, these are roaring times in the U.S. Farming industry.

According to a recent report from The Council of Economic Advisors, net farm income in 2013 (a function of the handful of industrials that control most American farmland) hit a 40-year high and marked a 46 percent increase in growth since 2008. As President Obama noted in a recent speech, “agriculture is thriving.”

In the wake of such growth, it would seem the opportunity is ripe to scale down the damage created by our global food system. The system as it currently exists is an inefficient, wasteful commodity trade that enriches the private multinationals dominating global agriculture, while also devastating regional economies, degrading the environment, and diminishing the quality of the food we eat.

Not so long ago, there was a hint that the government agreed. In 2009, the USDA launched the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign to promote small food producers and the virtues of “locavoring.” There were solid economic reasons to do so: The agency’s Economic Research Service found that farms focused on selling locally or regionally not only boosted their revenue, they created more jobs.

Well, the Government is promoting the small farmer again, but this time its sights are set well beyond farm-to-fork economies. A new initiative called “Made in Rural America” has been announced to aid “rural” and “regional” farms in the expansion and sales of product. Not in surrounding communities, mind you, or for that matter, in the U.S. market at all. Instead, “Made in Rural America” proposes a massive education and counseling effort to bring rural farmers into the world trade game.

“I’ve seen how hard it can be to be a farmer,” President Obama explains. “Big corporate farms are doing well, but there are even more small farms, family farms, where folks are just scratching out a living.”

That’s probably true, but will “Made in Rural America” really help small farms? A couple of red flags are immediately apparent: First, the legislation fails to clearly define what it means to be “rural”; second, and more importantly, it fails to divulge “the game” it aims to promote.

The prime beneficiaries of global trade aren’t farmers but corporate middlemen, the distributors, transporters, and traders who take a combined profit of over 90 percent of every food dollar. With such a large combined profit at stake, trade-for-the-sake-of-trade has become an economic engine that drives worldwide agribusiness to needless and illogical ends.

Take, for example, the U.S. importation and exportation of the very same goods. Rice imported from Asia has grown from 4 percent of our domestic market to nearly 20 percent in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, the exportation of rice from the United States is also higher than ever before. We ship off nearly half our rice to Central America, Europe, and yes, right back at you, Asia.

And then there’s corn. The United States is King Corn, the world’s largest exporter, by far. Yet, curiously, the U.S. also imports corn. In fact, we buy more corn than Canada, Russia, Argentina, South Africa, India, and Ukraine combined than we export to foreign markets.

“We’ve had the strongest stretch of farm exports in our history,” Mr. Obama recently announced. “We are selling more stuff to more people than ever before. What we grow here and what we sell is a huge boost to the entire economy, but particularly the rural economy.”

Yes, but local food systems offer more direct economic benefits to the small farmer and not to corporate middlemen eager to crisscross goods wherever they’ll command the best price.

This global import-export mania creates myriad other problems, too. Imported food supplies drive indigenous farmers abroad out of business, which in turn deprives whole communities of fresh, nutritious food. Food trade promotes the destructive ‘monoculture’ farming of ‘cheap’ grains that will sell in the global market rather than healthful, natural foods that will provide nourishment. It creates hunger dependencies, which are too easily exploitable (the U.S. has the most expensive “food aid” in the world [source: Frederic Mousseau, “Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in Our Time,” The Oakland Institute, October 2005.]) And global food transport results in soaring CO2 emissions.

All of this is necessary because the United States, as the saying goes, is the “breadbasket of the world.” Another axiom maintains that if the U.S. didn’t feed the world, 100 countries might go hungry. But that’s a shortsighted claim that assumes the current political, economic dysfunction that drives food distribution is natural. That’s hardly the case in places like Mexico, where the current hunger crisis coincides with massive reserves of locally farmed food held for trade rather than supplied to those at home who need it.

So could regional, or even purely organic, farming feed the planet? Not surprisingly, trade lobbyists insist the answer is no. But according to longstanding research from the Rodale Institute, the answer is yes.  Recent studies from the Union of Concerned Scientists and The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology suggest the marginal difference between the yields of small, organic farming and large-scale, chemical farming wouldn’t matter if food were properly distributed and not scattered around the world.

“‘Can organic farming feed the world?’ is indeed a bogus question,” says Gene Kahn, a longtimeorganic farmer who is now vice president of sustainable development for General Mills. The real question is, can we feed the world? Period.

In other words, can we end the entrenched political and economic barriers to a sensible and sustainable food system?

Brett Barth is a cultural reporter who has covered everything from large-scale environmental disasters in the Gulf Coast to small inspirations like “Precycling” (that’s doing recycling one better by eliminating packaging altogether). He’s currently at work on a novel involving the use of land art to protect wildlife. He lives in Venice, California and in his spare time he makes mixed attempts to repurpose things.

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Funding Restored for Beginning Farmer Training Programshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/funding-restored-beginning-farmer-training-programs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=funding-restored-beginning-farmer-training-programs http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/funding-restored-beginning-farmer-training-programs/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:15:00 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11785 NSAC’s Blog FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist, 202-547-5754 Credit: USDA-NIFA April 11, 2014, Washington, DC – Today USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $19 million in funding for beginning farmer training grants through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).  This highly successful initiative, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations

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NSAC’s Blog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist, 202-547-5754

Credit: USDA-NIFA

April 11, 2014, Washington, DC – Today USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $19 million in funding for beginning farmer training grants through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).  This highly successful initiative, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new producers across the country.

“BFRDP is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers,” says Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “Although the program has only been around for a few years, young farming communities around the country are already seeing real impacts on the ground.”

Since 2009, BFRDP has invested over $70 million to develop and strengthen innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country, and has funded 145 projects in 46 states.  BFRDP was authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill and was provided farm bill funding starting with the 2008 Farm Bill.  The new 2014 Farm Bill has renewed funding for the program, providing $100 million over the next five years.  The program was originally conceptualized by NSAC, which has championed it since the beginning.

“New farmers that are entering agriculture today have different needs and face new challenges compared with farmers who started farming decades ago and are now facing retirement.” Obudzinski continues.  “Beginning farmers are younger on average, and less likely to farm full-time than more established farmers.  They also tend to operate smaller farms, have more diversified operations, and an increasing number come from non-farm backgrounds with little access to farmland, which has traditionally been passed down from generation to generation.”

BFRDP addresses the barriers new farmers face — like access to credit and affordable farmland — by supporting increased technical assistance, innovative farm training and mentoring programs, and land-linking resources to help ensure the success of the next generation of farmers, a generation that faces unprecedented challenges when pursuing a career in agriculture.

It’s been two and half years since the last Request for Applications (RFA) was published for the 2011 Fiscal Year.  The program has been stranded without funding since October 2012 when the 2008 Farm Bill expired, and USDA could not issue an RFA or make any new grants last year.

“We’re excited to see this program up and running again, especially in light of the new Census figures which continue to show the aging of our farm population and a decrease in the number of farmers entering agriculture.” Obudzinski continues. “This important resource has helped thousands of farmers start their careers in farming throughout the country, and will be a crucial piece in growing the next generation of farmers in the years to come.”

The FY2014 Request for Applications announced today includes several changes to reflect new provisions adopted in the 2014 Farm Bill.  Among those changes are:

  • a new focus on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for veterans who wish to pursue a career in farming;
  • a dedicated funding stream for projects serving military veterans;
  • streamlining of grant procedures for project administrative expenses; and
  • the inclusion of projects led by school based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in agricultural production and outreach.

NSAC is pleased that the program retains a strong focus on partnerships with community-based organizations, consistent with previous RFAs and a core element of the program’s success over the years.   Applications are due June 12th, and awards are likely to be announced later this year.

NIFA is hosting two webinars for interested applicants on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second webinar will focus on the funding allocations for socially-disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers.

For more information, click here to read USDA’s press release.

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Monsanto’s Being a Jerk Again, This Time in Oregonhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/monsantos-jerk-time-oregon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monsantos-jerk-time-oregon http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/monsantos-jerk-time-oregon/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:15:09 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11780 Rodale News by Leah Zerbe A potential GMO ban in Oregon’s Jackson County has drawn a slew of corporate money into the state, another sign that international chemical and GMO manufacturers will dump massive bucks into an attempt to restrict local and state government’s and communities’ right to govern themselves. These companies have a lot to lose if consumers and governments start requiring labeling or implanting GMO planting bans. Companies like Monsanto make billions selling farmers genetically

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Rodale News
by Leah Zerbe

I have a right- parentsA potential GMO ban in Oregon’s Jackson County has drawn a slew of corporate money into the state, another sign that international chemical and GMO manufacturers will dump massive bucks into an attempt to restrict local and state government’s and communities’ right to govern themselves.

These companies have a lot to lose if consumers and governments start requiring labeling or implanting GMO planting bans. Companies like Monsanto make billions selling farmers genetically modified seeds and the chemicals required to be used with those seeds.

Trying to defeat grassroots movements away from GMOs using tons of money is nothing new to farming chemical companies. They’ve already successful outspent GMO labeling initiatives in Washington and California.

Here are the companies forking over cash to defeat the proposed GMO on planting GMO seeds in Jackson County. According to Center for Food Safety, these companies spent the following in just one day to defeat the Oregon GMO ban initiative:

• Monsanto, $183,294

• DuPont Pioneer, $129,647

• Syngenta, $75,000

• Bayer, $22,353

• BASF, $22,353

• Dow AgroSciences, $22,353

Opponents of the Oregon county’s attempted GMO ban have outspent local advocates eight-to-one, spending nearly $800,000 to beat the initiative compared for every $100,000 supporting the GMO ban.

“These chemical companies are willing to spend whatever it takes, because they know the truth: Genetically engineered crops offer zero public benefits,” says George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “They only offer risk of genetically engineered contamination to farmers and lost markets, as well as massively increased pesticides and environmental harm. All they do is generate billions of dollars for chemical companies.”

For specific reasons to join the anti-GMO movement, read The Biggest GMO Myths, Busted.

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Death on the Farmhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/death-farm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=death-farm http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/death-farm/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:27:29 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11773 Newsweek by Max Kutner Credit: NRCS On January 21, 2010, a cold, clear day, Dean Pierson woke up early, as usual. The 59-year-old put on a pair of blue jeans and a hooded coat before the sun was up, then went to his barn, turned on the lights, closed all the doors and windows, powered off the fans and cranked up the volume on the radio. He then shot each of his milking cows with

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Newsweek
by Max Kutner

Credit: NRCS

On January 21, 2010, a cold, clear day, Dean Pierson woke up early, as usual. The 59-year-old put on a pair of blue jeans and a hooded coat before the sun was up, then went to his barn, turned on the lights, closed all the doors and windows, powered off the fans and cranked up the volume on the radio. He then shot each of his milking cows with a .22-caliber N1 carbine rifle, about 51 of them, between their horns and eyes, hitting their brains and killing them instantly. Pierson then sat down in a wooden chair with an upholstered seat, pulled a ski mask over his face, picked up a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and shot himself once in the chest.

Around 9 or 9:30, a truck driver from the Agri-Mark co-op arrived to collect milk from Pierson’s tanks. The driver saw a note attached to the barn door warning whoever found it not to enter and to call the police. He called his dispatcher, who called Pierson’s milk inspector, who telephoned Bill Kiernan, the farmer next door.

Kiernan sent his grown son, Walter, and an employee to check on their neighbor. On the way to the barn, Walter ran into Dean’s mother, Pauline, who lived on the farm and happened to be out walking down the road. The two of them entered through the side door while the employee went through the back. Walter spotted Pierson first. Behind the blood-soaked chair, on a narrow wooden desk attached to the wall, were two notes written on yellow cards used to tag cows. One of them had words and phrases written like bullet points: Lonely. Discouraged. Overwhelmed. No hope. Can’t go on. Danger to my family. Worn out. The kids are so talented. Gwynne you are a good person. The other note simply said, So sorry.

The state police arrived shortly after 1 p.m. “It was perfectly quiet, no rattling around of cows in their stalls,” recalls investigator Kelly Taylor. George Beneke, a veterinarian, came dressed in coveralls and boots and brought a stethoscope to determine which cows were dead, although he didn’t need it. By that time the cows were bloated, and they had all fallen backward in identical positions. “He was pretty efficient,” Beneke says of Pierson. “He knew how to kill a cow.”

A Suicide Every Two Days in France

For decades, farmers across the country have been dying by suicide at higher rates than the general population. The exact numbers are hard to determine, mainly because suicides by farmers are under-reported (they may get mislabeled as hunting or tractor accidents, advocates for prevention say) and because the exact definition of a farmer is elusive.

People started talking about farmer suicide during the 1980s farm crisis. By the 1960s, technical innovations had made farming easier, and farmers were expanding operations by taking out loans. But the 1980s brought two droughts, a national economy in trouble and a government ban on grain exports to the Soviet Union. Farmers started defaulting on their loans, and by 1985, 250 farms closed every hour. That economic undertow sucked down farms and the people who put their lives into them. Male farmers became four times more likely to kill themselves than male non-farmers, reports showed. “In the West, the guys were jumping off silos,” says Leonard Freeborn, a horse farmer and agricultural consultant.

Since that crisis, the suicide rate for male farmers has remained high: just under two times that of the general population. And this isn’t just a problem in the U.S.; it’s an international crisis. India has had more than 270,000 farmer suicides since 1995. In France, a farmer dies by suicide every two days. In China, farmers are killing themselves to protest the government’s seizing of their land for urbanization. In Ireland, the number of suicides jumped following an unusually wet winter in 2012 that resulted in trouble growing hay for animal feed. In the U.K., the farmer suicide rate went up by 10 times during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, when the government required farmers to slaughter their animals. And in Australia, the rate is at an all-time high following two years of drought.

Robert Fetsch, a retired professor of human development and family studies at Colorado State University, says there are profound social reasons farmers are reluctant to seek help. “Farmers are extremely self-sufficient and independent,” he says, “and tend to work around whatever they have, because they are so determined to keep moving.”

One factor disputed among agricultural and mental health professionals is the connection between pesticides and depression. A group of researchers published studies on the neurological effects of pesticide exposure in 2002 and 2008. Lorrann Stallones, one of those researchers and a psychology professor at Colorado State University, says she and her colleagues found that farmers who had significant contact with pesticides developed physical symptoms like fatigue, numbness, headaches and blurred vision, as well as psychological symptoms like anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and depression. Those maladies are known to be caused by pesticides interfering with an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter that affects mood and stress responses.

“A lot of farmers are very familiar with the pesticides, so they sort of take it for granted,” Stallones says. “It’s an invisible kind of thing, so if you can’t actually feel it, taste it, touch it, you might not believe it’s an issue.”

Not everyone is sold on the link between pesticides and depression. “I don’t think there’s firm data on that yet,” says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, senior director of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A greater contributor to suicide in rural areas, she says, is the easy access to guns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most suicides in America involve firearms, and more than half of all firearm deaths every year involve suicide. Harkavy-Friedman points to a 1998 study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry that showed the most common means of farmer suicide in England and Wales from 1981 to 1988 was guns. Following firearm legislation in 1989 that reduced access to guns, the total number of farmer suicides went down.

That’s good news in Britain, but not much help in America, says agricultural consultant Leonard Freeborn. “I don’t think you’re ever gonna find a farm without a gun [here].”

Running on Milk Money

Copake is about 110 miles north of New York City, near where New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut meet. This part of upstate New York boomed in the 1940s and 1950s, when men like Dean Pierson’s father started farms there because of the rich soil and close proximity to major cities. For years, Copake ran on milk money. When bulk milk tanks were introduced, farmers there and in nearby Ancram were the first in the country to get them. New technology made farming easier, and farms across the country expanded until the 1980s. Then the farm crisis hit. By 1988, the number of cows in the area was half of what it had been two decades earlier. In 2003, only 15 dairy farms were left. Roeliff Jansen High School, which trained farmers like Pierson, closed in 1999 and remains vacant, and buildings with for-sale signs surround the Copake Memorial Clock at the center of town.

Dean Pierson’s father, Helmer, immigrated to the United States from Sweden with his family when he was 3. The family lived near Copake, and Helmer’s father, Dean’s grandfather, worked as a dairy farmer. Helmer got married in 1942, and the following year, he enlisted in the Army and fought for his adopted country in World War II as an airborne engineer.

In 1951, Helmer and his wife bought a farm, which they renamed High Low. Dean, their only child, was just 1 at the time, and he grew up helping his parents run the farm. He played high school football and participated in 4-H, as his father had. He studied agriculture at the State University of New York at Cobleskill and graduated in 1970. He then returned to High Low, helped expand it, purchasing more land and building new barns. In 1980, he took it over from his aging parents. In 1988, he married Gwynneth Oberly, 12 years his junior.

Just a few years into their marriage, things started sliding away from Dean and Gwynneth. “I could see he was getting very discouraged because it wasn’t working out,” says Beneke, their veterinarian. “He became a very unhappy man.” In 1996, the Piersons auctioned off their cows, tractors and even their immaculate antique Ford Model T, and Dean did other work, including construction and carpentry. People in town found him hard to deal with. “I think that was really when he was starting his spiral down,” says Kiernan, the neighbor.

Two years later, Pierson did something that stunned his neighbors: He reopened High Low, purchased new cattle and built a new barn full of technical innovations. A computerized feeding mechanism circulated hay bales around a track, and the “ventilating system with its four-foot fans is the first in the area,” said a local paper.

A decade later, however, the 2008 recession crushed dairy farms. The government lowered its fixed price on milk, while the cost of fuel, feed and fertilizer went up. In July 2007, American farmers were getting $21.60 for every hundred pounds of milk. By July 2009, that was down to $11.30. “It was just a horrible, horrible year,” says Ruth McCuin, Pierson’s milk inspector at the time.

“I could see there was a change in Dean,” says Jim Miller, who had known him since childhood. Pierson lost interest in hobbies like deer hunting and snowmobiling, and fell out of touch with friends. “He withdrew within himself.”

“I feel lousy, exhausted, and frustrated nonstop, which leaves me with insomnia and general crabbiness,” Gwynneth wrote to a college friend in January 2008. “My marriage is in name only. Dean acts depressed and seems to have a kind of dementia. He is really tough to be around as his thoughts are his only reality.”

Most farms the size of Pierson’s had employees or family members helping, but Dean worked alone. His grandfather had come from Sweden to be a dairy farmer. His father, who died in 2005, had achieved the American dream with High Low Farm. The burden now fell on Dean to save it, and he was in free fall. Susan Johnson, a cousin, remembers something Dean asked his wife around that time: “If I got rid of all the cows, would you love me?”

Seeds of Hope

For over three decades, despairing farmers have been able to turn to Michael Rosmann. Now 67, Rosmann grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Harlan, Iowa. He attended a Catholic seminary, intending to become a priest, but switched to psychology. He eventually took a job teaching psychology at the University of Virginia, but after four years he again started having doubts. “I felt restless the whole time there,” he says. In 1979, he decided to return to farming, but planned to use his psychology skills to help farmers. When he told his UVA colleagues his reason for leaving, they snickered. “Why take care of farmers?” they asked, to which Rosmann replied, “Because somebody has to.”

The basis of Rosmann’s work is what he calls the agrarian imperative, the idea that humans have an innate drive to work the land and produce food for their families and communities. He says farmers take significant risks to satisfy that drive, and if they are unsuccessful, they develop a deep sense of failure. “Farmers are motivated to hang on to land at almost all cost,” he says.

Rosmann helped guide farmers through the bleak 1980s. Then, in 1999, he used funding from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy to establish Sowing the Seeds of Hope, a network of agricultural phone hotlines. It connected farmers in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin with counseling specialists. Between 2003 and 2006, around 700 callers said they were suicidal. During its entire time in operation, the hotline received 75,000 calls and trained over 4,400 professionals.

In 2010, Sowing the Seeds of Hope had to shut down due to lack of financing. “There has been a great cutback in funds with anything that has to do with agricultural safety and health. It’s on the chopping block just like the food stamps program,” Rosmann says. “Everything’s a mess.”

“I’m a Good Listener”

In 1985, when an Iowa farmer named Dale Burr killed his wife, neighbor and bank president before turning the gun on himself, a dean at Cornell University took notice. Then, after a New York farmer’s suicide hit closer to home, the dean said, “This is tragic. We have to do something.” That was the genesis of NY FarmNet, a free and confidential agricultural resource hotline that is similar to Sowing the Seeds of Hope but which has been operating for 28 years and continues to grow. Its headquarters are two small offices at Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y. The goal, its four full-time employees say, is to help farmers resolve personal and financial difficulties long before there’s a call about a loaded gun.

“We’re not really a last-resort suicide hotline type of thing,” says outreach director Hal McCabe. “We’re able to identify a case and start to turn things around before it gets to the point that it is a suicide call.”

When farmers call the 800 number, they talk to Racheal Bothwell. The 15-year FarmNet veteran asks open-ended questions to learn about the farmer’s situation and then assigns the case to one of 47 personal and financial consultants throughout New York state, who reach out to farmers within 24 hours.

“FarmNet is essentially putting their arms around the person who is struggling,” says Judy Flint, one of its consultants. “I’m a good listener.” She estimates that over the years she’s handled 10 to 15 cases in which farmers expressed thoughts about harming themselves. “We understand the way of existing in a farm. That puts us ahead of regular mental health providers, and I think farmers are comforted by that.”

Leonard Freeborn, 82, is the oldest FarmNet consultant. “Farming is not the beautiful thing you people in the city think it is, with beautiful cows running around and you’re making lots of money,” he says. “Farming is a tough damn business.”

Although FarmNet is not a suicide prevention hotline, its staff knows how to handle those calls. The winter before last, a dairy farmer from western New York called at 2 in the morning, saying he had a loaded shotgun at his side. “He needed me to explain to him how we understood farming before he would trust us with the situation. Calling a normal hotline was not for him,” Bothwell says. She kept him on the phone for two hours until he promised to unload the gun. Instead of calling the police, she had a consultant at his farm by 8 a.m.

Last year, the hotline received over 6,000 requests for assistance. The organization’s funding comes mainly from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Office of Mental Health. Most of that money goes to the consultants, and the average case costs the organization only $400. “FarmNet is an investment in the state’s economy,” says Ed Staehr, the executive director. “It’s not a cost.”

“We’re in a period of traumatic change,” says Freeborn. “We’re going to continue to see people who are depressed on these farms, and we have to have people who can spot it and get them the kinds of services they need.”

“More Bags Than You Think”

Spreadsheets and calculators cover Russ and Laurie Bedford’s kitchen table. Dewey Hakes, a FarmNet consultant, is there to help them do their annual operating budget. The list of costs is growing: land rent, fertilizer, equipment and facilities maintenance, computer upgrades, livestock fees, labor, fuel. Every time Russ punches a number into the calculator, he scrunches his face and then sighs at the result. The current expense up for discussion is the barn floor, which needs repairs so the cows won’t injure themselves. “That will just take a few bags of cement and some work,” Russ says, emphasizing the first syllable in cement.

“It takes a lot more bags than you think,” Laurie says. Russ reaches for the phone to call someone for a price quote, but he accidentally grabs the television remote and dials the number on it.

The Bedfords have 95 cows on their 350-acre farm near Oneonta, N.Y., which they run with two full-time and three part-time employees. It’s been a decade since they have taken more than a few days off. Russ’s grandmother started the farm over a century ago, and his father transferred it to him (with Hakes’s help) in 2012, when Russ was 61 and his father was 89. During the transfer, they established the farm as a limited liability company, or LLC, which separated their personal and business assets, something most farmers with smaller operations don’t think to do. It took four hours to sign a stack of documents as thick as a ream of copy paper.

Russ is wearing a red long-sleeve shirt and navy blue suspenders. He sounds like an auctioneer when he speaks, lacing together unfinished sentences and ending the jumble with “I says.” Laurie, wearing a blue pullover and jeans, is the frugal one. “He spends it, and I have to figure out how to pay for it,” she says. Their mini poodle, Alice, is asleep at their feet. Cows smile from all over the living room and kitchen, appearing on cookie jars, napkin holders, tablecloths, curtains, wallpaper and magnets. The collection started years ago with salt and pepper shakers. “They make us happy,” Laurie says of their cows, both real and otherwise.

The Bedfords are still recovering from the 2008 recession, but they know things could be worse. “I was on a farm a month ago where on the whiteboard it said, ‘Welcome to death farm,’ ” Hakes tells them. That farmer lost three cows overnight because of cold weather. “Death is something that we deal with all the time,” Laurie says about farmers.

“I’ve seen the days when I’ve been stressed enough, pissed off enough, that I think I’d be better dead,” Russ says, thumbing his suspenders. “You gotta grab hold of yourself.”

Death on farms is something Hakes has encountered in his seven years with FarmNet. Although he is a financial consultant, FarmNet sometimes assigns him cases involving premature deaths, since he lost his 29-year-old son to leukemia. Around 2006, Hakes visited a three-generation dairy farm after the middle-generation farmer killed himself. That farmer’s father and son both blamed themselves. “I’ve had farmers hugging me, crying, saying, ‘I’m so glad you came. I needed to talk, and I didn’t realize it,’ ” Hakes says. The fact that he too is a farmer who lost a loved one helps him connect with people. It takes only 15 minutes of talking, he says, before “the farmer is spilling his guts” to him.

“Making Too Much Money”

A week before the four-year anniversary of Dean Pierson’s death, Bill Kiernan’s teenage grandsons, Wally and Timmy, are plowing snow and tending to equipment. Across the road, stick-on letters spelling out “D. PIERSON” peel from a rusted mailbox. The chopped remains of lifeless cornstalks poke through the fresh snow. Gwynneth Pierson has been renting High Low Farm to Kiernan since her husband’s death. “It gives you a funny feeling,” he says as he stands near Pierson’s barn. “How did we end up here?”

Inside the green aluminum-sided barn are two rows, each with about 25 cows in tie-stall formation. At the front is a pen for calves, and a side room contains the large milk tanks. The patriarch of the Kiernan clan is a short, earnest, 71-year-old with hairy hands who has been working on farms since age 12. He purchased his father-in-law’s dairy farm in 1972 and moved it to Copake in 1985. Walt’s Dairy, as it’s been called since 1927, has been expanding ever since and now totals 768 acres and has 400 Holsteins.

Kiernan attributes his success to Hudson Valley Fresh, a local dairy program that started in 2003; he joined in 2006. To participate, farmers must be located in the Hudson Valley and produce milk free of bovine growth hormone and with a somatic cell count less than 200,000 per milliliter. (Regular commercial milk usually has around 420,000 cells. The smaller the count, the more omega-3s, which can increase brain function and lower the risk of disease.) Hudson Valley Fresh has been so successful that in 2013, its dairy component had to switch from a nonprofit to an LLC. “We were making too much money,” Kiernan says. His milk is more expensive than regular milk, but cheaper than organic milk, and attracts customers like upscale Manhattan markets because of its local appeal and health benefits.

Not all of Copake’s farmers have been as successful, and the town recently formed a committee to address its agricultural needs. According to the results of a survey the committee sent out, five Copake farmers have operated their farms for over 50 years; eight farms have been around for over 100 years; one has even been in the same family for 300 years. The biggest challenge for local farmers, they said in the survey, is property taxes. Three Copake farmers expect to downsize operations within 10 years, and when asked what opportunities he had to make money, one farmer responded, “To sell the land and go out of business.”

Soon, Pierson’s land will thaw and the Kiernans will clear the fields and plant hay, not far from where they buried all his cows years ago. Elsewhere in town and across the country, farmers are preparing for the new season. With spring comes possibility and an uncertain future.

“They do what they do because they love it,” says McCuin. “There seem to be too many years lately when they can’t do that, and it’s not right.”

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Are Secret, Dangerous Ingredients in Your Food?http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/secret-dangerous-ingredients-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=secret-dangerous-ingredients-food http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/secret-dangerous-ingredients-food/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 20:00:53 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11765 The Washington Post by Kimberly Kindy Food manufacturers are routinely exploiting a “legal loophole” that allows them to use new chemicals in their products, based on their own safety studies, without ever notifying the Food and Drug Administration, according to a new report by an environmental and consumer advocacy group. Natural Resources Defense Council identified 56 companies that were marketing products using 275 chemicals that the company’s hired experts decided met federal safety standards, known as Generally Recognized

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The Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy

Food manufacturers are routinely exploiting a “legal loophole” that allows them to use new chemicals in their products, based on their own safety studies, without ever notifying the Food and Drug Administration, according to a new report by an environmental and consumer advocacy group.

Natural Resources Defense Council identified 56 companies that were marketing products using 275 chemicals that the company’s hired experts decided met federal safety standards, known as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). However, the science behind those safety findings and the use of the chemicals was disclosed to the FDA in only six instances. The New York-based NRDC called its report “Generally Recognized as Secret” and said the lack of transparency with the GRAS process is a public health threat.

“If you don’t know when (an additive) is being used, how can you determine if it’s safe?” said Thomas Neltner, a chemical engineer and co-author of the study that was presented Monday at a Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Science Forum at Washington.

In a prepared statement, the GMA defended the GRAS process, saying, “It is a very thorough and comprehensive process that has, under the current law provided FDA with authority to challenge the improper marketing of an ingredient as GRAS, and if necessary, act to remove products containing that ingredient from the food supply.”

The FDA said that although the law allows for food manufacturers to make their own safety determinations, the agency “encourages companies to consult with the agency when developing new ingredients.” Ultimately, the FDA said, manufacturers “are responsible for ensuring that their food products are safe and lawful.”

NRDC said that Food Additives Amendment of 1958 was enacted, the GRAS process was meant to apply to innocuous additives like vinegar. Instead, it is commonly used for chemicals that are potentially dangerous and have never before been in the American food supply. For example, until recently, artificial transfats were considered GRAS but the FDA has now deemed them dangerous, saying they cause as many as 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

The organization said its findings are “likely the tip of the iceberg,” since the scientific work and GRAS determinations are not publicly disclosed and therefore difficult to track down. The organization spent more than a year reviewing trade journals and talking to food additive consultants to identify the 56 companies that frequently make their own safety determinations.

The FDA’s food additive process allows companies to take several paths to determine the safety of new chemicals or other ingredients.

The most transparent and rigorous path involves companies submitting a food additive petition – along with the science behind why they think the ingredient is safe — to the FDA in an effort to gain formal approval from the agency. Companies use the FDA approvals to promote the safety of their products.

The other, non-public path that NRDC examined allows companies to determine GRAS status on their own without notifying the FDA.

A third path allows companies to voluntarily submit their own GRAS determinations for FDA review and sign off, but they may withdraw the petition if the agency is worried about the safety of the additive. The agency announces the withdrawal but does not disclose whether it had safety concerns. The company may then go ahead and use its own GRAS determination to use the additive in products anyway. The NRDC found that one in every five GRAS petitions were either rejected by the FDA or the company voluntarily withdrew their petition.

NRDC’s report also calls on the FDA to petition Congress for a new law that would require manufacturers to submit their safety determinations to the agency for review and approval. The council said it is encouraging consumers to “demand” that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only food products with ingredients that the FDA has found to be safe.

At Monday’s event, the Grocery Manufacturers Association also announced a new food additive research center it has helped create at Michigan State University, which will be called the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety (CRIS). GMA’s chief science officer, Leon Bruner, said the center will operate independent of the association and will review the safety of ingredients, train future food toxicologists and serve as an “independent and credible source” for the public, news organizations and the industry.

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Cornucopia’s Comments on FDA Proposed “Phase Out” of Antibioticshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/cornucopias-comments-fda-proposed-phase-antibiotics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cornucopias-comments-fda-proposed-phase-antibiotics http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/cornucopias-comments-fda-proposed-phase-antibiotics/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:18:56 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11754 Please read Cornucopia’s comments on Draft Guidance for Industry #213 (Docket No. FDA-2011-D-0889-0155) below. More information on this draft guidance is available here. The FDA needs to hear from you about what you think of the draft guidance. Please click here to comment. To Whom It May Concern: The “judicious use” principles outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in GFI #209 and their planned implementation, as described in GFI #213, are inadequate responses to

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Please read Cornucopia’s comments on Draft Guidance for Industry #213 (Docket No. FDA-2011-D-0889-0155) below. More information on this draft guidance is available here.

The FDA needs to hear from you about what you think of the draft guidance. Please click here to comment.

CI_FDAAntibioticsTakeAction

To Whom It May Concern:

The “judicious use” principles outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in GFI #209 and their planned implementation, as described in GFI #213, are inadequate responses to this threat.Thank you for the opportunity to comment on draft Guidance for Industry (GFI) #213.  As a stakeholder in the fight to improve the safety of our food supply, The Cornucopia Institute believes it is imperative that antimicrobials be used responsibly in food animal production to help slow the development of antimicrobial resistance that has emerged as a major threat to human and animal health.

In the guidance documents, the FDA endorses the continued use of antimicrobials for disease prevention, despite its similarity to the use of these drugs for growth promotion.  We believe concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or “factory farms,” may very well continue to use the same antibiotics in the feed and water, at similar doses, in the name of preventing disease.  Such an occurrence will  lead to the failure of this guidance to slow the threat of antimicrobial resistance..

The Cornucopia Institute also believes the prescribed monitoring program falls short of comprehensively evaluating the changes in antimicrobial use, volumes, and levels of resistant pathogens in our food animals and meat supply.

Likewise, switching the over-the-counter (OTC) antimicrobials to Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) status will make it extremely difficult for farmers lacking on-staff veterinary help who need to obtain life-saving medicines for their animals in times of emergencies.

This may prove especially true in places that have few large animal veterinarians.  Indeed, the Humane Society Veterinary Medicine Association finds the lack of licensed food animal veterinarians to be a major problem with the implementation of this guidance.

The Cornucopia Institute cares about the livelihoods of independent family farms, local, organic and sustainably managed, and there is a legitimate concern that farmers continue to have access to life-saving medicines for their animals when they need them.

We ask that you seriously consider these shortcomings as you continue to revise the guidance document #213.

Sincerely,
Rebecca Thistlethwaite
Farm & Food Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute

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World’s Number 1 Herbicide Discovered in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milkhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/worlds-number-1-herbicide-discovered-u-s-mothers-breast-milk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worlds-number-1-herbicide-discovered-u-s-mothers-breast-milk http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/worlds-number-1-herbicide-discovered-u-s-mothers-breast-milk/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:13:14 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11744 Sustainable Pulse Credit: Occlusion Urine testing shows glyphosate levels over 10 times higher than in Europe Initial testing shows Monsanto and Global regulatory bodies are wrong regarding bio-accumulation of glyphosate, leading to serious public health concerns Testing commissioners urge USDA and EPA to place temporary ban on all use of Glyphosate-based herbicides to protect public health, until further more comprehensive testing of glyphosate in breast milk is completed. In the first ever testing on glyphosate

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Sustainable Pulse

Credit: Occlusion
  • Urine testing shows glyphosate levels over 10 times higher than in Europe
  • Initial testing shows Monsanto and Global regulatory bodies are wrong regarding bio-accumulation of glyphosate, leading to serious public health concerns
  • Testing commissioners urge USDA and EPA to place temporary ban on all use of Glyphosate-based herbicides to protect public health, until further more comprehensive testing of glyphosate in breast milk is completed.

In the first ever testing on glyphosate herbicide in the breast milk of American women, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse have found ‘high’ levels in 3 out of the 10 samples tested. The shocking results point to glyphosate levels building up in women’s bodies over a period of time, which has until now been refuted by both global regulatory authorities and the biotech industry.

The levels found in the breast milk testing of 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l are 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They are however less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the U.S., which was decided upon by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the now seemingly false premise that glyphosate was not bio-accumulative.

Glyphosate-containing herbicides are the top-selling herbicides in the world and are sold under trademarks such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’. Monsanto’s sales of Roundup jumped 73 percent to $371 million in 2013 because of its increasing use on genetically engineered crops (GE Crops).

The glyphosate testing (1) commissioned by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse also analyzed 35 urine samples and 21 drinking water samples from across the US and found levels in urine that were over 10 times higher than those found in a similar survey done in the EU by Friends of the Earth Europe in 2013.

The initial testing that has been completed at Microbe Inotech Labs, St. Louis, Missouri, is not meant to be a full scientific study. Instead it was set up to inspire and initiate full peer-reviewed scientific studies on glyphosate, by regulatory bodies and independent scientists worldwide.

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Strolling of the Heifers 2014 Locavore Index Highlights Benefits of Food from Local Farmshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/strolling-heifers-2014-locavore-index-highlights-benefits-food-local-farms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strolling-heifers-2014-locavore-index-highlights-benefits-food-local-farms http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/04/strolling-heifers-2014-locavore-index-highlights-benefits-food-local-farms/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:36:11 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=11738 BRATTLEBORO, VT (April 7, 2014)— Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group, has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. By compiling the Index, Strolling of the Heifers hopes to strengthen local farms and food systems by encouraging efforts across the country to increase the use of local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions. The 2014 Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current

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BRATTLEBORO, VT (April 7, 2014)— Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group, has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods.

By compiling the Index, Strolling of the Heifers hopes to strengthen local farms and food systems by encouraging efforts across the country to increase the use of local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions.

The 2014 Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current data is available for all states: the number of farmers markets, the number of consumer-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), the number of food hubs — all compared on a per-capita basis — plus the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs. But more data on local foods should be gathered, Strolling of the Heifers says.

LOCAVORE-INDEX-2014-INFOGRAPHIC

Click on the image above to open an new window and then click on the image again to enlarge

“For all the attention that locavorism has received in recent years, reliable and consistent state-by-state statistics on local food consumption are hard to come by,” said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers “If we all agree that growing, buying and eating local foods is good, then we need to do a better job of measuring it,” Munzing said.

The Index says the top three states for locavorism, are (in order) Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, rankings that are unchanged from last year. Oregon moved up to fourth place (from seventh in 2013), and Hawaii came in fifth (from 13th in 2013). Rounding out the top 10 were Rhode Island, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and Iowa.

“This ranking reflects the commitment Vermonters have made to community based agriculture,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets. “From the farm and food system entrepreneurs who are providing local foods, to the schools and institutions that are stepping up to integrate local foods, to the individual Vermonters who are making healthy, local choices, our state has embraced a systems approach to agriculture.”

Along with the Index, Strolling of the Heifers released its list of 10 reasons to increase the use of local foods, stressing that local foods are more sustainable, healthier, better for the environment and economically positive than foods sourced from large-scale, globalized food systems.

Strolling of the Heifers’ 10 reasons to consume local foods:

  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors: A commitment to buy local encourages people to discover new fruits and vegetables, new ways to prepare food, and promotes a better appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism — farmers markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers!

The Components of the Index are:

  • Farmers markets, which are generally cooperative efforts to market locally produced food in a central location where consumers can select and purchase food from multiple farm enterprises.
  • CSAs (consumer-supported agriculture), which are cooperative agreements between farmers and consumers; consumers buy shares in a farm’s output, and have some say in what is grown. When crops come in, they are divided among shareholders according to the volume of their shares, and the rest may be sold at market. CSA farmers get revenue in advance to cover costs of tilling, soil preparation and seed. Shareholders get fresh produce grown locally and contribute to sustainable farming practices.
  • Farm-to-School programsin which schools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods. Participating schools usually also add nutrition, culinary and food science components to their curriculum, and may experiential learning opportunities such as farm visits, school gardens and composting.
  • Food hubs, which are facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region. Food hubs are often cooperatively owned, though many are private enterprises.

Sources for the data used in the Index includes three U.S. Department of Agriculture databases: farmers markets (updated monthly), food hubs, and the Farm-to-School Census; the U.S. Census bureau (July 2012 estimates of population); and the California-based local food resource directory LocalHarvest, a frequently-updated database of CSAs. Here is the complete data grid used in compiling the Index.

LOCAVORE-INDEX-2014-DATAClick on the image above to open an new window and then click on the image again to enlarge

About Strolling of the Heifers:

Strolling of the Heifers has been celebrating local farmers and local food since 2002, most visibly through its agriculturally-themed Strolling of the Heifers Parade, which takes place on June 7 in Brattleboro, Vt. as part of a full weekend of events. The parade features scores of well-groomed heifer calves led by future farmers, and is followed by an all-day festival, the Slow Living Expo, with food, entertainment and educational exhibits. “Stroll Weekend” is preceded by the Slow Living Summit, a conference focused on connected, resilient communities and sustainable living, which brings together concerned citizens from many organizations and sectors to explore and network around “slower” — more sustainable — approaches to many aspects of living ranging from food and agriculture to health and wellness. The Slow Living Summit takes place in downtown Brattleboro, June 4-6.  One the web:www.StrollingoftheHeifers.comwww.SlowLivingSummit.org.

For further information about the Index, please contact Martin Langeveld, Strolling of the Heifers —martin@strollingoftheheifers.com

The 2014 Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index state rankings are: (The number in parentheses is the 2013 rank.)

  1. Vermont (1)
  2. Maine (2)
  3. New Hampshire (3)
  4. Oregon (7)
  5. Hawaii (13)
  6. Rhode Island (11)
  7. North Dakota (4)
  8. Wisconsin (9)
  9. Montana (6)
  10. Iowa (5)
  11. Massachusetts (12)
  12. Idaho (10)
  13. Minnesota (16)
  14. West Virginia (23)
  15. Maryland (29)
  16. Alaska (17)
  17. District of Columbia (24)
  18. Delaware (30)
  19. Wyoming (8)
  20. Connecticut (15)
  21. Colorado (19)
  22. North Carolina (31)
  23. New York (25)
  24. Virginia (28)
  25. Washington (21)
  26. Michigan (22)
  27. South Dakota (14)
  28. Kentucky (18)
  29. South Carolina (37)
  30. Nebraska (20)
  31. Missouri (34)
  32. Kansas (26)
  33. New Mexico (27)
  34. Pennsylvania (32)
  35. Tennessee (40)
  36. Indiana (33)
  37. Ohio (36)
  38. California (42)
  39. New Jersey (46)
  40. Georgia (43)
  41. Florida (50)
  42. Alabama (35)
  43. Utah (44)
  44. Illinois (39)
  45. Mississippi (41)
  46. Oklahoma (45)
  47. Arkansas (38)
  48. Louisiana (49)
  49. Arizona (48)
  50. Nevada (47)
  51. Texas (51)

The post Strolling of the Heifers 2014 Locavore Index Highlights Benefits of Food from Local Farms appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

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