Opinion/Editorial Archive

Former Dairy Farmer Jim Goodman: My Retirement was Mostly Voluntary

Friday, December 21st, 2018
Mark Kastel and Jim Goodman
with Jim’s Cows

Cornucopia’s Take: I’m proud to call Jim Goodman a valued friend. We met 25 years ago, when I worked as a lobbyist for the Farmers Union and Jim was an activist with Family Farm Defenders. He’s a good man. Intellectually powerful, as you can tell by his writing, with a big heart. Jim has not given up fighting for farmers and is currently president of the National Family Farm Coalition.

Ironically, the post I created the other day, concerning the farmer in Wisconsin who attempted to take his own life, used an image of Jim’s pristine and sweet-smelling barn–when it was still populated by the cows he loved.


Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done.
The Washington Post
by Jim Goodman

After 40 years of dairy farming, I sold my herd of cows. The herd had been in my family since 1904; I know all 45 cows by name. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take over our farm — who would? Dairy farming is little more than hard work and possible economic suicide.

A grass-based organic dairy farm bought my cows. I couldn’t watch them go. In June, I milked them for the last time, left the barn and let the truckers load them. A cop-out on my part? Perhaps, but being able to remember them as I last saw them, in my barn, chewing their cuds and waiting for pasture, is all I have left.

My retirement was mostly voluntary. Premature, but there is some solace in having a choice. Unlike many dairy farmers, I didn’t retire bankrupt. But for my wife and me, having to sell our herd was a sign — of the economic death not just of rural America but also of a way of life. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to walk through our barn and know that those stalls will remain empty; knowing that our losses reflect the greater damage inflicted on entire regions is worse. Read Full Article »

Eliot Coleman: Organic is a System of Agriculture That Acknowledges the Pre-Eminence of Soil Life

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Pioneering organic farmer Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm in Maine has shared his knowledge of the soil and growing food with growers from around the world. He has also been a vocal critic of the USDA National Organic Program. Read his latest commentary on the NOP and organic below.

by Eliot Coleman

Eliot Coleman at
Rally in the Valley
Source: Real Organic Project

Organic farming began as a statement of faith in the nutritional superiority of food grown on biologically active, fertile soils. The early organic farmers knew that quality food can only result from the quality soil care practiced by the good farmer. Unfortunately, that idealistic stance is no longer the reality for much of the food sold as organic in the US today.

I am one of a group of old-time organic farmers who have been battling against the US Department of Agriculture for allowing hydroponic produce to be sold as certified “organic”. The enabling legislation of the US Organic Standards passed by Congress states clearly that maintaining and improving the fertility of the soil is a requirement for organic certification. Traditional organic farmers understood that crops grown in water or some inert medium utilizing liquid fertilizers could not be the same as soil grown crops. Hydroponic food can no more duplicate the nutritional quality of soil-grown food than Nestle’s artificial baby formula can duplicate that of human breast milk. Read Full Article »

Agroecology Brings Innovation and Sustainability to Farms Worldwide

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Grassroots movements to improve soil health, increase biodiversity, and take legitimate stock of the true and terrible costs of chemical-based, industrial farming are spreading around the globe. Governments in India, Africa, and Europe are funding farmers’ use of agroecological principles as well. Cornucopia applauds the scientific and practical innovations of sustainable farmers everywhere.

Bringing Farming Back to Nature
The New York Times
by Daniel Moss and Mark Bittman

Source: National Agroforestry Center

Farming the land as if nature doesn’t matter has been the model for much of the Western world’s food production system for at least the past 75 years. The results haven’t been pretty: depleted soil, chemically fouled waters, true family farms all but eliminated, a worsening of public health and more. But an approach that combines innovation and tradition has emerged, one that could transform the way we grow food. It’s called agroecology, and it places ecological science at the center of agriculture. It’s a scrappy movement that’s taking off globally.

Representatives of more than 70 countries gathered in Rome recently to discuss this approach to creating a healthier and more sustainable food system. (We were there.) It was an invigorating and encouraging gathering, made more so when José Graziano da Silva, the director general of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, called for “transformative change toward sustainable agriculture and food systems based on agroecology.” Read Full Article »

Aurora Dairy: Destroying the Environment = THAT’S NOT ORGANIC!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

It’s bad enough that the only legal obligations corporations have are to their shareholders and investors. Many companies and brands talk a good game when it comes to “sustainability” practices, but, as this commentary illustrates, their very model is destructive.

In the case of Aurora, not only will they have semi-trailers worth of raw milk coming in from Texas and Colorado (where their corporate-owned mega-dairies are located), they will be shipping truckloads full of packaged milk, from Columbia, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine — undercutting the livelihoods of family-scale dairy farmers around the country and their regional processing/marketing partners who deliver to stores within a couple hundred miles rather than thousands.

Aurora’s entire model, in terms of environmental stewardship, is anything but “organic.” It is a gross betrayal to the values of the farmers, entrepreneurs, and consumers who have built the organic movement (which Aurora and its investors are all too happy to exploit).

– Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst

KEN MIDKIFF: Aurora Organic Dairy an example of unintended consequences
The Missourian
by Ken Midkiff

Source: Taber Andrew Bain

President Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for creating the Interstate Highway System. He did it to expedite troop movements. Recently, we traveled on Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 to and from Fort Collins, Colorado. We saw absolutely no military vehicles. Instead, there were many 18-wheel trucks and even more passenger cars and SUVs.

What President Eisenhower did was create a system that enables civilian travel and has little or nothing to do with troop movements. His unintended consequence in creating the Interstate Highway System for the military inadvertently benefited the military very little and benefited commercial and non-commercial travel considerably. Also unintended was the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from all those cars and trucks.

Such is the case locally. The Regional Economic Development Inc. folks worked for months to bring a processing plant for Aurora Organic Dairy here, and there is little doubt that construction jobs were created and, when the plant is fully operational, other high-paying jobs (the company says 100) will exist. Read Full Article »

Organic Cattle Farmer Speaks Out on Antibiotics

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Although the FDA banned the use of antibiotics solely as a growth-promoter for livestock in 2017, the agency did not establish any real tracking of antibiotic use by ranchers. The FDA rule also allows veterinarians to prescribe antibiotics for disease prevention, even when no animals in the herd are ill. Overuse of antibiotics in the food system has resulted in antibiotic-resistant disease and may contribute to poor digestive health in humans.

Antibiotics in Meat Could Be Damaging Our Guts
The New York Times
by William D. Cohan

The F.D.A. banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals last year. One organic cattle farmer is sure the ban is being flouted.

Source: Chris Murphy

In 2015, Sandy Lewis, a small-time organic cattle farmer in upstate New York, bought 13 bulls, for around $5,000 each, from a breeder in Oklahoma. A few weeks after the animals were trucked to his farm near the Vermont border, Mr. Lewis discovered that two of the bulls had died. He could see holes in their abdomens from where they had gored one other.

A field autopsy proved inconclusive. When two more bulls among the new herd fell sick, Mr. Lewis shipped them off to Cornell University to be examined. One died along the way, but a blood test on the living bull provided the answer: It had anaplasmosis, a bacterial illness that destroys red blood cells and deprives the animals of oxygen, causing them at times to act violently. The disease is relatively rare in the Northeast, yet a quarter of Mr. Lewis’s herd ended up becoming infected. He lost another six animals to the disease and spent more than $100,000 trying to save the rest. Ultimately, another 100 animals had to be culled. Read Full Article »