The Cornucopia Institute

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

Hardship on Mexico’s Farms, a Bounty for U.S. Tables

December 8th, 2014

A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico’s mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers. First of four stories.
Please click on the link below to view this story with all images on the LA Times website.

Source: Rusty Clark

LA Times
by Richard Marosi

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers arrive year-round by the ton, with peel-off stickers proclaiming “Product of Mexico.”

Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.

American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.

These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers.

But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship. Read Full Article »

Biotech Group Spent Historic $7M Against Maui GMO Farming Moratorium

December 8th, 2014

Now global seed companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences are spending more on a legal challenge to the voter-approved initiative.

Civil Beat
by Anita Hofschneider

Hawaiian Corn Field
Source: David Casteel

A biotech group backed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences spent a record-breaking $7 million in its failed attempt to defeat a Maui County voter initiative that will temporarily ban genetically engineered farming — if it survives a legal challenge by the companies.

Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban, a political action committee financed overwhelmingly by global seed companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, spent more than $7.2 million seeking to convince voters to reject the bill, according to the group’s campaign spending report filed late last week.

That’s more than any other campaign in Hawaii history.

The measure still passed Nov. 4 by a margin of 1,077 votes. It is being challenged in federal court. Read Full Article »

Food Safety Petition and Action Alert

December 5th, 2014

Food Safety Modernization Act: New Draft Rules
Comments Due on December 15 to FDA
Sign the petition

FDA3Please take action by reading the full Action Alert available on the Cornucopia website:

Although improved over the first draft the FDA’s proposed food safety rules are still onerous enough that they could jeopardize the existence of many of our safest, local organic farms.

Tell the FDA that small farms are not food processing “facilities” necessitating expensive oversight and testing. (It could cost a family farm over $12,000 a year to comply!). Irrigation water should not have to meet the same safety standards as a community swimming pool. And it should be clear that older farmers, without Internet access, or the Amish, can submit reports on paper rather than the web.

At a minimum, please join farmers and their urban-allies by signing on to the letter below. Additionally, we especially encourage fresh market vegetable farmers to also, very carefully, read the full action alert and submit your individual comments, based on your own farming experience, to the FDA. Your livelihoods are at stake.

TO: The Food and Drug Administration
RE: FSMA Food Safety Rules, Dockets FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 and FDA-2011-N-0920-1553
We the undersigned are concerned by several areas of the FDA’s revised food safety rules and endorse the following comments.

  • The cost to farmers for implementing the proposed rules will endanger the livelihoods of organic farmers and their customers’ access to safe and nutritionally superior local and organic food. This regulatory burden, as much as $12,384 for farms with sales of $500,000 or less, is an unacceptable imposition of financial hardship on producers with no history of food safety problems.
  • Farms are not facilities. Growing, harvesting, packing, or holding raw agricultural commodities are clearly part of many farm activities. Furthermore, the regulations should allow for non-contiguous farm parcel locations to be treated as one farm and not discriminate against cooperatives or food hubs.
  • The FDA must clarify that CSAs and direct market farmers are not facilities.
  • The proposed use of the EPA’s recreational water standard is an inappropriate and overly restrictive measure for testing the safety of irrigation water. Before establishing a numeric testing standard for the safety of irrigation water, the FDA must conduct a risk assessment for water used specifically for agricultural purposes, and follow the instructions from Congress that a science and risk-based approach be used for regulation.
  • Recordkeeping requirements should be reasonable, limited to one year, and allow for paper records.
  • The FDA must establish a fair process for any enforcement actions against farmers that allows due process, full documentation of any alleged food safety issues, and the opportunity for a hearing to contest erroneous information.
  • The FDA must respect the exemption from the food safety rules for smaller farms, as guaranteed by the Tester-Hagan amendment. That exemption must be determined by the level of sales of produce covered by the rule, not the total sale of all food grown and raised on a farm.
  • On-farm conservation practices need explicit support in the food safety rules. The grazing of livestock must not be considered manure application.
  • The FDA’s proposed changes made to the manure handling regulations are a needed improvement. The study committee that will be established to assess the risks of manure usage must include sustainable and organic farmers.
  • The FDA should remove the supplier verification program from the Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Control (HARPC) food safety rule. This backdoor approach would allow for large produce buyers to impose more stringent and costly food safety regulations than outlined in the FDA’s proposed rules.
  • The FDA’s new definition of a small business is an improvement over previous proposals.

* denotes a require field

Thank you for your help! 

If you are interested in doing even more, please read the full action alert below: Read Full Article »

Action Alert — Food Safety Modernization Act: New Draft Rules Comments Due on December 15

December 5th, 2014

FDA3In response to recent widespread, and sometimes deadly, outbreaks of foodborne illness, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) charging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with improving their oversight of the food industry.

But the intense blowback the FDA received last year from family-scale farmers and consumers over their proposed food safety rules for produce led the agency to withdraw and rewrite their proposed rules. Your comments last year had an impact!

The FDA has now released their new draft, which addresses many of the objections. However, a number of problems and pitfalls for farmers remain in the new draft. The proposal will also be of interest to the customers of local, organic food purchased through farmers markets, CSAs and co-op grocers.

Public comments are due by December 15 on the draft rules.

The Cornucopia Institute, working with other groups, has requested a 90-day extension to allow for fuller and careful analysis of the latest proposal.

You can comment online, but be sure to do so at both of these locations as the regulations impacting family scale farmers are intertwined in both of these FDA dockets:!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0973!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0920-1553

Or you can comment by mail to Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Make sure you note that you are commenting on dockets FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 and FDA-2011-N-0920-1553. Your letter needs to be postmarked no later than December 15.

According to the analysis performed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, growers with sales up to $500,000 would likely spend 4% to 6% of their gross revenue to comply with the new food safety rules.  For small farms, FSMA could consume more than half of their modest profits. It is important that family-scale farmers producing our nation’s fda2best and safest produce be protected from unnecessary and onerous regulations — this could put some farmers out of business and/or reduce the availability of organic and local food and/or increase pricing.

Key Points to Mention in Your Comments:

  • Tell the FDA that the cost to farmers for implementing the proposed rules will endanger the livelihoods of organic farmers and their customers’ access to safe and nutritionally superior local and organic food.

Read Full Article »

Celebrity Chefs Cook Up Lobbying Agenda

December 5th, 2014

The school lunch debate is only the first test for the culinary political network.

by Helena Bottemiller Evich

Tom Colicchio
Source: David Shankbone

“Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio was about to deliver his critique to the starstruck House Republican aides assembled before him — but not of the wild boar carnitas they prepared for his visit.

It was on their push to roll back the first lady’s school nutrition standards. His verdict might as well been his show’s catchphrase: Please pack your knives and go.

Colicchio is part of a growing army of chefs across the country looking to channel their growing celebrity to influence food and agriculture policy in Washington, from school nutrition to the farm bill to animal welfare and even fisheries management. Their number is legion, their ranks full of names like Rachael Ray and Mario Batali along with scores of local celebrity chefs and restaurateurs — and their increasingly organized effort backs up some of the Obama administration’s sweeping food policy agenda right as it faces down an adversarial Congress.

“I think a lot of us feel food is a right,” said Colicchio, who first got involved in food politics about three years ago. If you mention reproductive rights, you immediately go to the politics. Food? No, you don’t even think about it. It doesn’t come up. Yet everything we care about it gets voted on, whether it’s the farm bill or school lunch.” Read Full Article »

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