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.
Cornucopia’s Take: Truly organic crop farmers recognize the importance of feeding the soil, not the plant. Cover crops provide fertilizer and some amount of weed control—and they improve yields. As conventional farmers begin to reckon with the enormous costs of fertilizer, pesticides (plus loss of pesticide effectiveness), and falling yields, some are turning to more sustainable production methods.
The Dollars and Cents of Soil Health: A Farmer’s Perspective USDA by Elizabeth Creech, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Last year, the United States lost 2 million acres of land in active crop production. As the global population grows towards a projected 9.8 billion people by 2050, so too does demand for the food, fuel and fiber grown in America. The result? American farmers are looking for sustainable ways to produce high yields year after year.
To support this growing demand, many farmers are incorporating soil health management principles into their operations. Conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till are widely recommended to build soil health over time, but do these practices actually improve crop yields and lead to stable profit margins? To answer this question fully we will rely on universities, private scientists, government researchers and those most directly impacted: farmers themselves. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: Since 1975, the United States has seen shocking increases in produce imports from other countries, detailed in the article below. In order to accept produce from places that are home to invasive pests and disease, the USDA has increased pesticide applications at the border. The FDA reports that nearly 10% of imported produce, compared to about 3% of domestic produce, violates federal standards for pesticide residues. Given current fraud estimates for imported organic grain, Cornucopia has serious concerns about cheap “organic” produce imports as well. Small, organic, soil-based farmers provide fresh, highly nutritious produce to their customers. Support your local farmer!
Most of America’s Fruit Is Now Imported. Is That a Bad Thing? New York Times by David Karp
It’s obvious to anyone who visits an American supermarket in winter — past displays brimming with Chilean grapes, Mexican berries and Vietnamese dragon fruit — that foreign farms supply much of our produce.
Imports have increased steadily for decades, but the extent of the change may be surprising: More than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries.
Although local, seasonal and farm-to-table are watchwords for many consumers, globalization has triumphed in the produce aisle. And despite the protectionist “America First” message coming from the Trump administration, the growth in imports appears likely to continue. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: The corporate takeover of organics began long before President Trump thought about running for office. Hydroponic production was allowed under previous National Organic Program director Miles McEvoy during the Obama administration, while the National Organic Standards Board was packed with corporate executives eager to grow their brands. Thus far, the Trump administration has shown no inclination to change what is already in motion.
There is one additional note about the story below. Francis Thicke has clarified his position on which he is quoted in the article:
“I did not advocate for ‘the abandonment of the National Organic Program altogether,’ as the article implies. I told the reporter clearly that the Real Organic Project is an add-on certification that will require certification in the USDA-NOP program. So, it is not about abandoning the NOP; it is about shoring up the weaknesses in the NOP due to the NOP selling out to the interests of industrial agriculture.”
Is the USDA the Latest Site of Corporate Takeover in the Trump Administration? The Nation by Jasper Craven
Big Ag’s increasing influence has some farmers wondering whether it’s time to abandon the organic label altogether.
The US government’s organic-agriculture program isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a nest of corporate lackeys and anti-environmental actors. And yet, at a recent meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Jacksonville, Florida, that’s exactly what Iowa dairy farmer Francis Thicke alleged.
“Big business is taking over the USDA organic program,” Thicke said, addressing his colleagues in a speech marking his retirement. “Because the influence of money is corroding all levels of our government.”
The organic sector has exploded in recent years, as millions of Americans have shown themselves willing to fork over a bit more money on the promise of pesticide-free, high-quality food grown by well-paid farmers. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic sales jumped to $47 billion in 2016, an 8.4 percent increase from the previous year compared with the stagnant 0.6 percent growth in the food market overall. This increase in market share means new opportunities for farmers who are passionate about growing using organic methods—but it has also attracted aggressive interest from multinational food companies eager to take advantage of the profitability associated with the organic label. Organic products, once relegated to the shelves of crunchy food co-ops, now feature prominently in the portfolios of every major food corporation: Coca-Cola owns Odwalla; General Mills controls Cascadian Farm, Annie’s, and Lärabar; and grocery giants like Walmart sell USDA-certified organic products in every region of the country. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: The active ingredients in synthetic pesticides, like glyphosate in Roundup, are often under fire for their toxic effects. This study takes a look at the other additives, called adjuvants, in commercial pesticide formulations. Adjuvants may increase the toxicity or penetration of the active ingredients, and they are frighteningly unregulated. These pesticides are prohibited in organic agriculture.
Commercial pesticides: Not as safe as they seem Science Daily Source: Frontiers in Public Health
New regulations are needed to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide ingredients that are not currently subject to safety assessments. This is the conclusion of the first comprehensive review of gaps in risk assessments for “adjuvants” — ingredients added to pesticide formulations to enhance the function or application of the active ingredient. Ignoring the potential dangers of other ingredients in commonly used commercial pesticides leads to inaccuracies in the safety profile of the pesticide solution, as well as confusion in scientific literature on pesticide effects, finds the review published in Frontiers in Public Health.
“Exposure to environmental levels of some of these adjuvant mixtures can affect non-target organisms — and even can cause chronic human disease,” says Dr Robin Mesnage from King’s College London, who co-wrote the review with Dr Michael Antoniou. “Despite this, adjuvants are not currently subject to an acceptable daily intake and are not included in the health risk assessment of dietary exposures to pesticide residues.” Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: For more than 30 years, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has sprayed dangerous pesticides without proper analysis of risks to human health or the environment. The agency sprayed toxins on public and private lands, including organic farms, without notice or public input. A judge has recently ruled that pesticide spraying must be in line with current environmental laws moving forward.
California Court Ruling Ends Decades of State Pesticide Spraying EcoWatch by Center for Biological Diversity
A judge has ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture to stop using chemical pesticides in its statewide program until the agency complies with state environmental laws.
The injunction, issued late last week, is a sweeping victory for 11 public-health, conservation, citizen and food-safety groups and the city of Berkeley. The coalition sued the state after unsuccessfully attempting for years to persuade the agency to shift to a sustainable approach to pest control that protects human health and the environment.
Despite thousands of comment letters urging the department to take a safer approach, officials in 2014 approved a program that gave them broad license to spray 79 pesticides, some known to cause cancer and birth defects, anywhere in the state, including schools, organic farms, public parks and residential yards. Read Full Article »