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.

Keep Fragile Ecosystems Wild

March 28th, 2017

[Read Cornucopia’s comprehensive comments on this issue.]

Comment to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) by March 30

Though organic agriculture promotes and enhances biodiversity, organic regulations do not explicitly protect sensitive native ecosystems from being converted into organic production – in fact, they incentivize it!

Image source: Airwolfhound

The National Organic Program’s (NOP) three-year waiting period for land to be free of prohibited substances unintentionally incentivizes producers to convert native ecosystems, since this land is instantly ready for organic production.

By eliminating the incentive to convert native ecosystems with a rule change, producers will be encouraged to transition the right land: the 99% of U.S. agricultural land that is still conventionally managed.

Over the last two years, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has received public comments describing loss of high value conservation and fragile ecosystem acreage when farmers transition to organic production. The NOSB has been asked to review this issue and propose some incentives and disincentives to reduce conversion of high value conservation ecosystems.

Tell the NOSB to eliminate the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic production.

Post your comments online today — deadline March 30 Read Full Article »

Regenerative Agriculture Improves Soil

March 28th, 2017

Building Organic Matter, Storing Carbon, Combating Drought

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

by Marie Burcham, JD, Farm and Food Policy Analyst &
Jennifer Hayden, Ph.D, Communications and Development Director at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: USDA

Many of the soils in the U.S. are depleted— unproductive, eroded, lacking microbial life, high in salts, and unable to retain water. This depletion has both global and local consequences that regenerative agriculture seeks to remediate.

Regenerative agriculture is not a new idea, but it is gaining steam as awareness of climate change, drought, and food security issues become more universal and pressing.

A principle goal of regenerative agriculture is to improve the land by building healthy soil, benefitting ecosystems and humanity. Read Full Article »

Remote Working Means More Support for Food and Farm Mission

March 27th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Since its founding 14 years ago, Cornucopia has been virtually officed. Although we have a volunteer who distributes mail, a board member, and farmer-members in the Cornucopia, Wisconsin area, our staff work from home offices across the country. Cornucopia’s cofounders and key staff live and work in the upper Midwest, Colorado, Oregon, and Maine, while our newest policy analyst, an attorney with training in agricultural law, resides in California.

This allows Cornucopia to better utilize contributions to support our mission upholding the integrity of organic and local food and farming, rather than for occupancy and overhead expenses related to physical office space. It also eliminates commuting, which is beneficial for the environment, and allows staff to spend more time with their families and communities. Most importantly, being virtually officed has helped us conduct nationwide recruitment campaigns that have resulted in a uniquely qualified, talented, and passionate staff who are truly dedicated to supporting economic justice for family-scale farms across the country.


Video: Telecommuters leave the car at home, and work from home, too
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
by Rick Barrett

Click on the image above to watch journalist Rick Barrett interview Cornucopia cofounder Mark Kastel. Read Full Article »

The Case for Soil in Organic Agriculture

March 27th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic soil-based farmer Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm offers this update on keeping the soil in organic. Public comments to the USDA are due by 11:59PM (ET) this Thursday, March 30.


The Battle for Soil in Organic Agriculture
Long Wind Farm
by Dave Chapman

Dave Chapman testifies
at the spring 2016
NOSB meeting

This letter is to catch up on efforts to keep the soil in organic farming. The fall NOSB meeting was a disappointment, as we had hoped that the recommendation crafted by the Crops Subcommittee would be permitted a vote, and we would finally make some progress in returning the organic standards to their original meaning. But the proposal was sent back to committee for further review. Apparently the 3 months since then still wasn’t enough time to come up with a more detailed recommendation. The Crops subcommittee has been swamped when all five of the new NOSB members were assigned to it.  So instead of a vote, there will be a discussion document at the Denver meeting in April. Delay is the hydro lobby’s best strategy, and it is succeeding. Hopefully there will be a vote on a final recommendation prohibiting hydro in the fall meeting.

The question that so plagues the NOSB is whether hydroponic production should qualify for organic certification. Although this sounds like an obscure question, one NOSB member has described it as the most significant issue the NOSB has ever faced. It goes to the very heart of defining organic. Read Full Article »

Microbes in the Soil and in Our Guts

March 24th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Please enjoy this review of The Hidden Half of Nature by David Montgomery and Anne Biklé. Given the science and practical work of microbes in soil, it is clear that soil is crucial to our health. Our friend Fred Kirschenmann suggested this book.


The scientists whose garden unlocked the secret to good health
The Guardian
by Lucy Rock

When Anne Biklé and David Montgomery fed their failing soil with organic matter, they were astonished by the results. Stimulating the microbes that live beneath the surface led the garden to flourish. Then, when Biklé was diagnosed with cancer, the couple had an idea…

Juicy is the best word to describe Anne Biklé and David Montgomery’s garden, even in the dying days of autumn. Emerald green, dewy grass; a vegetable patch where leafy kale stands tall and arugula nestles low; shrubs and trees – cork bark maple, Persian ironwood and wax myrtle – screening the area from passersby and a late-flowering rhododendron bearing plump red blooms.

It is this oasis that led them on a remarkable journey into another world, one that exists beneath our feet and is run by microbes, creatures invisible to the naked eye. Read Full Article »

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