Opinion/Editorial Archive

An Update on Frey Vineyards

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: The Frey family has been a longtime leader in the organic and Biodynamic communities. They were an important voice in responding to powerful elements in the wine industry who wanted to change the federal regulations banning artificial preservatives in organic wine (sulfites).

The family has lost their homes but certainly not their spirit to continue, and we are so happy that none of them were killed or injured in the terrible fires that have burned north of San Francisco.

From Katrina Frey:

We would like to share an update on Frey Vineyards. All of our family members and winery staff are safe.

This vineyard suffered about 10% loss
Source: Travel Nevada

Our beautifully rustic office buildings, tasting room, and bottling line have burned, but the main house and the insulated warehouse holding our case goods are unscathed. Our stainless steel wine tanks and the majority of the crush pad are also fine. Although vineyards typically don’t burn, with the intensity of this firestorm we did lose about 10% of our estate vineyards along the peripheries of the ranch. In addition to the home ranch, we have 300 acres of satellite vineyards scattered throughout Redwood Valley and Potter Valley that are in great shape.

Fortunately, we broke ground two months ago for our new winery site on West Rd in Redwood Valley, and this land is untouched. We are mourning the loss of many of our grand oak trees that provided summer shade and a diverse wildlife habitat, but at the same time we are grateful that healthy stands of oaks are thriving at our new location. Read Full Article »

NODPA’s Ed Maltby: Organics Under Attack

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: This article first appeared in the NODPA News, published by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and is written by its executive director Ed Maltby. His essay is a comprehensive overview of the current environment in organic agriculture. As Ed notes below, if we work together and educate ourselves, we can more effectively work within the regulatory process to preserve the integrity of the organic label.

Organics Under Attack
by Ed Maltby

Ed Maltby

The integrity of the USDA Organic program is currently in a precarious position. It is under attack from Congress, the NOP, and from organic advocates. The organic dairy pay price, and subsequently family farm income, is collapsing under the strain of a surplus brought on by poor supply management by milk buyers, poor implementation of existing regulation by the NOP and certifiers, and the failure of the NOP to pass regulations to uphold the integrity of the organic standards. The unique process of organic certification that has held consumer confidence and allowed organic products to stand out in the marketplace is also under attack and the results could well be more long-term and devastating than a drop in pay price.

The threats come from three distinct areas: the 2018 Farm Bill; from the bureaucratic inertia at the NOP; and by single-issue organic advocates who are looking to bypass the established process and change regulations through Congressional action. This article will explore how and why these areas of threat are so important because the defense of organic integrity and the changes to Federal regulations happen in many different ways and we all need to understand how an action in one area will affect a possible solution in another. Read Full Article »

More Pesticides Build More Resistance in Weeds

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Recent surveys across the nation show that some weeds are showing resistance to dicamba, an older pesticide which has recently been reformulated for use in a supposedly less volatile form. Dicamba is touted as an important weapon for farmers seeking to kill weeds which have become resistant to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide glyphosate. The pesticide treadmill will continue to build pesticide resistance in weeds while poisoning the land and its inhabitants. Dicamba and glyphosate are prohibited in organic agriculture.

Trouble in the fields: Why the superweeds are winning
The Des Moines Register
by Nathan Donley, Center for Biological Diversity

Palmer amaranth in the field
Source: Delaware Agriculture

Across a 1,000-mile long expanse of farm country from the Great Plains to the Midwest, millions of acres of crops have withered, leaving some fields little more than a brown swath of death.

With thousands of complaints of crop damage across more than 3 million acres in 24 states — including some 100 complaints in Iowa — a longtime University of Missouri plant researcher is calling it possibly the greatest pesticide-caused crop damage in U. S. history.


The culprit is the notoriously drift-prone pesticide dicamba that was supposed to be the answer to weeds’ escalating resistance to the world’s most popular pesticide — Monsanto’s glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. 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?

Sunday, 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 »

Climate Change Moving Faster Than U.S. Ag Policy

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Long time agricultural writer Alan Guebert shares his concerns below about how climate change and technological advances are outpacing agricultural policy in this country. He opines that sustainable energies will come into use out of necessity in the changing worldscape. Rural Americans, and farmers in particular, he says, will need to lead the way with creativity.

Guebert: Commodity agriculture’s dark ‘green’ future
Globe Gazette
by Alan Guebert

Source: Tony Hall

A generation ago, GMO sounded like the name of an American muscle car, a text was what the preacher based his Sunday sermon on, and Facebook was two words that meant face and book.

Now, 25 short years later, genetically modified seeds dominate American agriculture, texting has replaced baseball as our national pastime, and Facebook’s market value is more than two times the value of Deere, Monsanto, AGCO, and General Motors combined.

Even more telling, that short, post-1992 list does not include GPS, drones, robotic milking machines, gene editing, climate change, and a Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” equal in size to New Jersey.

If rapid change continues — and what’s going to slow it? — American agriculture will be even more different a generation from now than a generation ago. The big driver behind much of the coming change, however, may not be, as it was in the past, choice. The biggest driver will likely be necessity. Read Full Article »