Opinion/Editorial Archive

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 »

Farmland Conservation Practices Prevent Soil Erosion

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: As markets drop, many farmers are plowing new fields to increase harvests, sometimes removing old windbreaks to do so. Shifting weather patterns present further challenges. The proposed Farm Bill would cut conservation funds, removing incentives for farmers to take much-needed steps to prevent wholesale soil erosion.

When the dust settles, farmers focus on land stewardship
Center for Rural Affairs
by Cora Fox

Source: Shutterstock

In recent past, the Great Plains has experienced extreme weather conditions. Most recently, we witnessed very high winds combined with dry conditions, resulting in dust clouds reminiscent of the 1930s.

With a challenging agricultural economy, partnered with changes in land values, larger equipment, and farming practices, many farmers and ranchers are removing windbreaks. Budgets are tight and producers are trying to maximize use of the land, but risk the loss of valuable topsoil. Windbreaks can be used to control soil erosion by wind and water, enhance crop production, and protect livestock. Read Full Article »

Small Organic Dairy Farmer Speaks Out

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: As “organic” factory dairies flood the market with their questionable version of “organic” milk, real organic milk prices are tanking too. Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, Jim Goodman, shares his thoughts below. Cornucopia offers a dairy scorecard to help shoppers choose truly organic dairy from truly organic farmers.

Retailers Want to Own Farmers – CAFOs Fill the Bill
National Family Farm Coalition
by Jim Goodman

Jim and Rebecca Goodman

As dairy farmers have seen many times in the past, a glut of milk has flooded the market and dropped farm pay prices to the point that some farmers will be forced out of business. Generally it is the smaller farmers that go first. For them, credit, to try and ride out the storm, is harder to come by.

CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operation) seem to be the preferred method of dairy production in the US. Processors and retailers like the model, sort of a one shop stop to get as much milk as you need. Consistent volume of production pretty much year round makes sourcing easy an no pesky farmer co-ops complaining about low prices need be involved.

I personally never thought the CAFO model would show up in the organic dairy business, at least in my lifetime. Sadly I was very wrong. Read Full Article »

Dow Likely Greased Wheels for Chlorpyrifos, a Nerve Gas, to Remain in Food Usage

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Chlorpyrifos was originally developed as a nerve gas, meant to cause harm to human beings. It is now used to kill pests on our food, which it does quite well. Although EPA scientists had agreed it should be banned from agricultural production for our safety, particularly that of children experiencing brain damage from its drift, Trump’s EPA management has reversed that decision. Donald Trump also received $1 million contribution from Dow Chemical for his inauguration.

Trump’s Legacy: Damaged Brains
The New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof

This is what a common pesticide does to a child’s brain.

Dow Chemical in Freeport, TX
Source: Roy Luck

The pesticide, which belongs to a class of chemicals developed as a nerve gas made by Nazi Germany, is now found in food, air and drinking water. Human and animal studies show that it damages the brain and reduces I.Q.s while causing tremors among children. It has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults.

The colored parts of the image above, prepared by Columbia University scientists, indicate where a child’s brain is physically altered after exposure to this pesticide.

This chemical, chlorpyrifos, is hard to pronounce, so let’s just call it Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it may be inside you: One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.

And now the Trump administration is embracing it, overturning a planned ban that had been in the works for many years. Read Full Article »

Closing Comments of Francis Thicke at End of NOSB Term

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Francis Thicke retired from the NOSB yesterday. As a highly respected soil scientist, organic dairy farmer, and former employee of the USDA, he brought a unique perspective to the NOSB in his role as an environmental representative on the board. He was a mentor for many fellow NOSB members. We have shared his closing remarks below.

by Francis Thicke
November 2, 2017

Francis Thicke

There are two important things that I have learned during my five years on the NOSB. First, I learned that the NOSB review process for materials petitioned for inclusion on the National List is quite rigorous, with Technical Reviews of petitioned materials and careful scrutiny by both NOSB subcommittees and the full board.

The second thing I learned, over time, is that industry has an outsized and growing influence on USDA—and on the NOSB (including through NOSB appointments)—compared to the influence of organic farmers, who started this organic farming movement. Perhaps that is not surprising, given the growing value of organic sales. As organic is becoming a $50 billion business, the industry not only wants a bigger piece of the pie, they seem to want the whole pie.

We now have “organic” chicken CAFOs with 200,000 birds crammed into a building with no real access to the outdoors, and a chicken industry working behind the scenes to make sure that the animal welfare standards—weak as they were—never see the light of day, just like their chickens. The image consumers have of organic chickens ranging outside has been relegated to pictures on egg cartoons. Read Full Article »