Media/News Archive

Who Certifies Livestock Factories and Hydroponic Operations and What Does It Pay?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia has heard from organic farmers and businesses who have asked their certifiers for a moratorium on hydroponics and to identify fraudulent dairies and egg operations. Cornucopia’s infographic, A Perfect Picture of Corruption, shows an example of the some of these conflicts of interest.

The organic food industry is booming, and that may be bad for consumers
The Washington Post
by Laura Reiley

As organic food shifts from utopian movement to lucrative industry, a war is being waged for its soul.

Record organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion in 2017 according to the Organic Trade Association. Although organic food still represents only 5.5 percent of food sold, its year-over-year growth has been meteoric — taking a cue from conventional agriculture’s mantra: “Get big or get out.”

This has resulted in organic growers and food companies that, although technically adhering to the definition of organic — no chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides — are a far cry from the idealism and high standards with which the movement began.

Now the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group best known as an organic industry watchdog, is trying to promote higher standards among the accredited certifying agents hired by organic farmers, processors and handlers to ensure that their practices comply with regulations established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic farmers’ original intent was to create a level playing field in the market and to provide consumers assurance about a minimum uniform standard for organic production.

In a scorecard set to be released this week, the Cornucopia Institute ranked all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the spirit and letter of the organic law. The institute found significant variation in how certifiers interpret regulations, variation that frequently benefits huge corporate farms and competitively disadvantages those comporting themselves ethically. Read Full Article »

One Organic Dairy Diversifies to Remain Afloat

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Creativity and diversification may help some organic dairy farmers keep their doors open. The farm in the story below has been able to take advantage of its proximity to major cities. While urban sprawl has meant the death of many farm operations, it seems to be saving this one.

Pinke: A grass-fed organic dairy farm stays viable just outside the Twin Cities
by Katie Pinke
Twenty minutes south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, tucked into what is now the sprawling suburbs, is a family farm, Zweber Farms of Elko, Minn.

“The farm has been here since 1906 but actually the Zwebers have been farming in this area for over eight generations. We are currently grass-fed, organic. Today we have not only our dairy farm, which is about 60 percent of our operation. But we also have a grass-fed beef operation. We have a natural pork operation. We also do pasture chickens and free-range laying hens,” Emily Zweber said to me when I recently visited with AgweekTV colleague Trevor Peterson.

You may have never thought of how a family farm stays viable in the midst of urban sprawl.

Emily shared, “For us it’s really been about how do we stay and farm in the area that we’re in, being so surrounded by the urban development? For example, because of where we are, we’re not zoned agriculture anymore. And so that puts a lot of limits on how we can expand our operation or change our operation. For example, buildings. And so we’re not allowed to put on big agriculture structures to grow our operation. So we really have to think outside the box.” Read Full Article »

Farm Bill Contains Funding Boost for Organic Integrity

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The article by OFARM’s John Bobbe below was originally published in The Milkweed. Bobbe is a strong ally in stopping the flow of fraudulent organic imports into the U.S. He has recently retired from OFARM, but he assures us he will continue to work on these important issues.

2018 Farm Law Boosts Funds to Fight Organic Import Fraud
The Milkweed (Subscribe here)
by John Bobbe

John Bobbe and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross
Congratulations to John on his retirement!

In the 2018 farm legislation, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who is also an organic farmer himself, successfully got language of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 inserted into the signed bill (S2927).

That law gives USDA more funding for organic programs, and also stipulates what USDA must do to insure organic integrity throughout the supply chain — especially for imports. Liberal use of the word “shall” leaves little to no discretion for USDA to interpret how the provisions are to be implemented.   Implementation will require at least a year, if not more.  The following are some of the specific provisions and language.

The new farm law provides additional funding to the NOP as follows: $15 million for fiscal year 2018, and increases funding through 2023 to $24 million.  It also provides a one-time appropriation of $5 million for modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems. Read Full Article »

The Dairy Crisis Continues to Deepen

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Wisconsin lost nearly two dairies a day in 2018, most of them family farms. As factory farm “organic” dairies continue to grow their operations, ethical organic farmers continue to lose their footholds as well. Use Cornucopia’s Dairy Scorecard to choose the best milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products for your loved ones. Your dollars count!

Dairy farmers are in crisis — and it could change Wisconsin forever
USA Today
Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Farmers cling to a dream that, for some, has become a nightmare.

Source: Digital Photography Hobbyist

There was a time when the soft glow of barn lights dotted Wisconsin’s rural landscape like stars in a constellation, connecting families who labored into the night milking cows, feeding calves and finishing chores.

Hundreds of those barns are dark now, the cows gone, the hum of milking machines silenced.

“All of our neighbors are done,” said Sue Spaulding, a dairy farmer near Shell Lake, in Washburn County.

She and her husband, Chuck, soldier on, milking about 60 cows on their 300-acre farm that Chuck bought when he was only 17.

Seven years ago, the Spauldings borrowed heavily to modernize their barn and position things for the future.

“It looked good on paper,” Sue said. Read Full Article »

Four Cash Crops Take Up Half of Global Farmland

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Although more kinds of crops are now grown than in the 1970s, almost half of all farmland in the world  currently produces wheat, corn, soy, or rice. Monocultures are notoriously vulnerable to pests, disease, and increasingly wild swings in precipitation and temperature. Biodiversity improves the resilience of the ecosystem as a whole and is foundational to regenerative and organic agriculture.

Global crops are growing more diverse, but just a few still dominate our food system
Anthropocene Magazine
by Emma Bryce

Source: Phil Roeder, Flickr

Global agriculture is increasingly dominated by just a handful of crops with limited genetic richness, says a group of researchers writing in PLOS One.

The research shows that despite an uptick in the diversity of crops grown across the planet over the last 60 years, the largest share of our crops worldwide is now made up of just a few types of plants. As an example, [four] of these particularly dominant crops–wheat, maize, soya, and rice–now take up almost 50% of the farmland on earth.

The researchers, from the University of Toronto in Canada, combined data on 161 plant groups, across 22 subcontinental regions, taken from the six decades between 1961 and 2014. The period they examined kicked off with very little change in crop diversity between 1960 and the late 1970s, but then a period of rapid diversification in the 1980s as agriculture industrialised. This period reflected a rapid surge in the number of crops being grown around the planet, though there were some large regional differences. For instance, in Central America farmers added 30 new crop species to their repertoire between 1961 and 2014, compared to Polynesia’s one.

But crucially, this period of abundance in the 1980s was also when just a few crop species began to rise to the top–mainly cash crops–and start dominating global agriculture. The researchers found that part of the reason for this was agricultural subsidies for specific cash crops like wheat and soya beans began to support their expansion during this era. Read Full Article »