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.

Farmer Loans On Hold Until the Federal Government Re-Opens

January 17th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Many farmers have lost opportunities or remain uncertain as to how they will get needed loans for the upcoming growing season with USDA FSA offices closed during the shutdown. Secretary Perdue announced that offices will be open January 17, 18, and 22 to producers with existing loans only.

Farm Country Stood by Trump. But the Shutdown Is Pushing It to Breaking Point.
The New York Times
by Jack Healy and Tyler Pager

Source: www.SeniorLiving.Org, Flickr

In Georgia, a pecan farmer lost out on his chance to buy his first orchard. The local Farm Service Agency office that would have processed his loan application was shut down.

In Wisconsin’s dairy country, a 55-year-old woman sat inside her new dream home, worried she would not be able to pay her mortgage. Her loan had come from an Agriculture Department program for low-income residents in rural areas, but all of the account information she needed to make her first payment was locked away in an empty government office.

And in upstate New York, Pam Moore was feeding hay to her black-and-white cows at a small dairy that tottered on the brink of ruin. She and her husband had run up $350,000 in debt to keep the dairy running after 31 of their cows died of pneumonia, and their last lifeline was an emergency federal farm loan. But the money had been derailed by the government shutdown.

“It has just been one thing after another, after another, after another,” Ms. Moore, 57, said. Read Full Article »

USDA FSA Offices Open Temporarily During Shutdown on January 17, 18, and 22

January 17th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Producers with existing farm loans who need assistance or 1099s for taxes have three days to get help during the federal government shutdown. Share this story with farmers you know!

USDA FSA offices temporarily reopen during government shutdown

Offices will be open Jan. 17, 18 and 22 to assist producers with existing farm loans and provide 1099 tax documents to borrowers.

USDA Secretary Perdue

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Jan. 16 that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Jan. 17-18, in addition to Jan. 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 21.

In almost half of FSA locations, staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure that the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. Read Full Article »

Organic Advocacy Groups File Legal Action to Prohibit Hydroponics from Organic

January 16th, 2019

[Read the rulemaking petition to the USDA.]

Healthy Soils are a Legal Requirement of Organic Production
Soil-less “Organic” Systems are Misleading to Consumers, Undercut Farmers

Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a new legal action demanding the Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibit hydroponic operations from the organic label. Hydroponic production systems—a catch-all term that applies to food production methods that do not use soil—do not meet federal organic standards and violate organic law, which requires that organic farming include soil improvement and biodiversity conservation. Hydroponic systems cannot comply with the organic standard’s vital soil standards because hydroponic crops do not use soil at all. The CFS filing was endorsed by over a dozen other organic farmer, consumer, retailer, and certifying organizations, including the Organic Farmers Association, Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), PCC Community Markets, and the Cornucopia Institute.

Source: Adobe Stock

“Mislabeling mega-hydroponic operations as ‘organic’ is contrary to the text and basic principles of the organic standard. Right now there is a pitched battle for the future of organic, and we stand with organic farmers and consumers who believe the label must retain its integrity,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director.

Consumers trust the organic label and pay extra for the assurance that it indicates a more healthful and environmentally-friendly way of producing the food they buy. Since the federal Certified Organic label was introduced more than twenty years ago, the organic food market has grown exponentially and is now a $60 billion industry in which multinational corporations have bought organic brands and compete with small food producers growing food using environmentally-friendly methods.

“Allowing hydroponic systems to be certified as organic undercuts the livelihood of organic farmers that take great lengths to support healthy soil as the bedrock of their farms,” stated Kate Mendenhall of the Organic Farmers Association. “Hydroponic producers getting the benefit of the organic label without actually doing anything to benefit the soil undermines the standard and put all soil-based organic farmers at an untenable economic disadvantage.” Read Full Article »

Who Needs the Organic Label

January 16th, 2019

Is It Really Worth Fighting For?

[This article was previously published, in abbreviated form, in the winter issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Mark A. Kastel
Executive Director at The Cornucopia Institute

Mark Kastel, Executive Director

My mother is proud to tell me that 64 years ago she bucked the trend by breast-feeding me for a whole week or two. God knows what the comparative quality was of infant formula back then. We know how it compares to breastmilk now—it doesn’t.

Subsequently, I lived a typical American childhood, downing an occasional Coca-Cola (with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup) after a grilled “cheese” sandwich of Kraft Velveeta on Wonder Bread. Luckily, whole milk was less than occasional.

By my 20s, I was low-energy and by my 30s I had a legitimate health crisis. Fortunately, I saw a progressive physician-allergist who suggested I eat all organic food (by then I already had a pretty healthy, whole foods diet— long before there was any store by that name).

After decades of eating, gardening, farming, and advocating for organics, my health is excellent. Having recovered from pesticide poisoning/environmental illness, I’m very protective of my diet. I need organic food!

Many people, like me, come to organic food because of what it doesn’t have: agrichemicals, drug residues, and novel foods that have never been part of the human diet—GMOs. But what might be its greatest attribute, and what might have saved my health, is its comparable nutrient density. Read Full Article »

Restaurants Frequently Misrepresent What’s Organic

January 14th, 2019

USDA Will Enforce–But Consumers are the Frontline Investigators

Many consumers who choose organic food for home cooked meals want the same benefits of organic certification when they eat out. Unfortunately, many are being misled or defrauded.

Restaurants recognize that local and organic foods are no longer narrow niche markets and that promoting organic food can bring in a wider customer base, but the rules and regulations surrounding how restaurants can market their organic offerings are sparse. The federal organic regulations for retail operations generally consider restaurants exempt from organic certification.

However, it is still illegal to co-mingle or misrepresent the organic status of anything sold in a grocery store or as an ingredient used in food preparation at restaurants. The term “local,” although abused, is not a regulated term.

“A problem arises when a restaurant uses the term ‘organic’ in their name, signage, or marketing materials,” said Marie Burcham, a policy analyst and attorney for The Cornucopia Institute.  “It can and often does make consumers think the majority of what they are eating is certified organic.”

Gil Rosenberg experienced this confusion when he started eating at Bareburger, a New York City restaurant chain. Bareburger displayed that it sold organic food front and center, advertising “organic grass-fed burgers” and burgers “made with our custom proprietary organic blend,” along with other marketing on awnings, windows, and menus that flaunted the term “organic.” A burger at Bareburger will cost around $15–not cheap by American standards.

“People want organic food and they are willing to pay for it,” continued Burcham, “But what if they are not getting what is advertised? That’s misrepresentation.”

Rosenberg commented that he had been eating at various Bareburger franchise locations for nearly five years before discovering their misrepresentations. “When I would go [to Bareburger], I was told that the burgers, fries, and onion rings were ‘organic,’” stated Rosenberg. “They had the word ‘organic’ inside the restaurants, on the walls, burger clam shell boxes, takeout bags, menus, servers’ t-shirts, ketchup packs, and attached to their logo and awnings. Now it is clear to me that their marketing was designed to convince the public that all their food is certified organic, when only a small percentage of their menu is.” Read Full Article »

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