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.

USDA Enforcement Failures Leads to Fake Organic Imports

September 19th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia petitioned the National Organic Program for more rigorous certification, oversight, and testing of imports in July due to the lax enforcement we were then aware of at the U.S. border. Cornucopia has been digging into the import fraud issue for 10 years.  USDA’s Office of Inspector General released their critical audit of USDA’s handling of organic imports this week.


Bogus ‘organic’ foods reach the U.S. because of lax enforcement at ports, inspectors say
The Washington Post
by Peter Whoriskey

Source: United Soybean Board

Bogus “organic” products may be reaching the United States because of lax enforcement at U.S. ports, according to a new audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, a finding that helps explain previous reports that millions of pounds of fraudulent “organic” corn and soybeans had reached American ports.

The USDA lacks procedures to check that a shipment meets organic standards, the report found.

The USDA “was unable to provide reasonable assurance that … required documents were reviewed at U.S. ports of entry to verify that imported agricultural products labeled as organic were from certified organic foreign farms,” according to the report released Monday. “The lack of controls at U.S. ports of entry increases the risk that nonorganic products may be imported as organic into the United States and could create an unfair economic environment for U.S. organic producers.” Read Full Article »

The Cultivator – Fall 2017

September 19th, 2017

Fall 2017 Cultivator coverThe Fall 2017 Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter, is now available online. Download the PDF here.

In it you’ll find:

  • Connecting the Dots
  • The Significance of Soil
  • Fraudulent Imports, Urgent Action
  • Conventional Calves?
  • Book Review: Mulch Your Soil, Inside and Out
  • Organic or Grass-fed Beef?
  • Considering Coffee
  • Farmer Profile: Bicentennial Bovine

Read Full Article »

Will Someone New at the Helm of the USDA’s National Organic Program Steer the Ship Towards Congress’s Intent — Protecting Farmers and Consumers?

September 17th, 2017

by Linley Dixon, PhD, Senior Scientist and Mark A. Kastel, Codirector, The Cornucopia Institute

Miles McEvoy
Source: USDA

On September 10, Miles McEvoy resigned from the position of Deputy Administrator at the USDA, running the National Organic Program.  He has held the post since early in the Obama administration.  Included in his resignation letter was a list highlighting his top ten accomplishments as leader of the program.

After the Bush USDA was widely considered to have delayed implementation of the organic standards (12 years after congressional passage of the Organic Foods Production Act, or OFPA), McEvoy took over, with some fanfare, given his background in organic certification.  Initially, The Cornucopia Institute was among those cheering his appointment.

But McEvoy, a darling of the powerful industry lobby, the Organic Trade Association, instead shifted policy during the Obama/Vilsack USDA years to favor the corporate agribusinesses that have acquired most of the leading organic brands (Dannon, Dean Foods, Kellogg’s, Purdue, Coca-Cola, General Mills, etc.).  The USDA became a big cheerleader for Big Organic.

McEvoy failed to enforce many tenets of OFPA, causing ethical, law-abiding family farmers extreme financial distress. Since April of 2015, Cornucopia has formally requested that he be removed from his position.

When McEvoy recently announced his retirement to the organic community, he included a 10-point list of his accomplishments.  However, while he was rearranging the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic, more concerned with “process” than whether organic farms and the food they produced were actually organic, he missed the most important big picture impacts.

The following is Cornucopia’s list of Miles McEvoy’s top “accomplishments”: Read Full Article »

Huge Loss of Fertile Soil on Earth Largely Due to Industrial Ag

September 15th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: The UN’s recent report, Global Land Outlook, names industrial agriculture as the primary destroyer of fertile soil on the planet, and suggests we collectively move toward more sustainable farming techniques and rehabilitate the land. Organic, sustainable agriculture is proven to rehabilitate soil, and Cornucopia believes that additional organic research would prove fruitful in solving this crisis.


Third of Earth’s soil is acutely degraded due to agriculture
The Guardian
by Jonathan Watts

Erosion in a Washington
Wheat Field
Source: USDA, Jack Dykinga

Fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year through intensive farming as demand for food increases, says UN-backed study

A third of the planet’s land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year, according to a new United Nations-backed study that calls for a shift away from destructively intensive agriculture.

The alarming decline, which is forecast to continue as demand for food and productive land increases, will add to the risks of conflicts such as those seen in Sudan and Chad unless remedial actions are implemented, warns the institution behind the report.

“As the ready supply of healthy and productive land dries up and the population grows, competition is intensifying for land within countries and globally,” said Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at the launch of the Global Land Outlook.

“To minimise the losses, the outlook suggests it is in all our interests to step back and rethink how we are managing the pressures and the competition.” Read Full Article »

The Gold Standard in Grass-Fed Dairy

September 15th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic dairy farmers work hard to earn enough to keep their doors open and provide high quality dairy products. This article highlights one of the brands doing exactly that. Visit Cornucopia’s organic dairy scorecard to see which brands are providing high-integrity dairy.


Building a Brand that Stands Apart
The Huffington Post
by Elliot Begoun

When Tim Joseph was 32, he decided to become a farmer. In 2004, Tim and his wife Laura started with 63 cows on 250 acres in a small town in upstate New York called Little Falls. Doing so, with no agricultural experience; while still working a full-time corporate job. Over the next seven years, the Josephs would go from a conventional dairy struggling to pay their credit card bills to being designated as the first national dairy to be third-party certified as 100% grass-fed organic. Maple Hill Creamery is now on the shelves in over 6000 stores nationwide with a range of products from cream top yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, drinkable yogurt, artisanal cheeses, and fluid milk.

In this interview, Tim and I talked about leadership, why he decided to become a dairyman, how Maple Hill Creamery became the Gold Standard in grass-fed dairy products, and what they are doing now to grow the brand.

Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
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