Opinion/Editorial Archive

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 »

Monolithic Grocers Sell Monolithic Labels

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia strongly supports co-ops and other independent grocers who stock truly local and organic food, pay their staff a fair wage, and grow communities. Many consumers have a choice when it comes to food shopping, and choosing to support a member-owned co-op rewards family-scale farmers and gives you access to the healthiest food. Journalist and creator of the Deconstructing Dinner podcast, Jon Steinman, hopes you’ll consider the impact that grocery stores have on our food landscape.

Who Owns Your Grocery Store?
The Tyee
by Jon Steinman who is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to support the development of the book, Grocery Story – The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants. Jon is also the writer and host of the Deconstructing Dinner television and radio series.

In the age of monolithic grocery giants, food co-ops offer a promising alternative.

People’s Food Co-op
Source: Robyn Kingsley

Who owns the grocery store you shop at?

I love this question. It’s a bloody important one, a solid entry-point into a much deeper inner dialogue about the type of food system we choose to invest in each time we pass through the grocery checkout. If you’re like most Canadians, your investment is probably not so much a choice but an exercise in necessity, habit or convenience. Most of us, after all, are sorely limited in choosing which among the country’s grocery giants our food dollars will support.

The national market share of Canadians’ grocery dollars is telling, with 30 per cent of us investing our food dollars in Loblaw Companies Ltd., 26 per cent in Sobeys (Empire Company Ltd.), and 25 per cent in Metro, Walmart or Costco combined. That’s right, over 80 per cent of Canada’s grocery dollars end up in the pockets of only five companies. Read Full Article »

Does Your Favorite Ice Cream Contain Glyphosate?

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Longtime organic dairy farmer Will Allen wrote this piece below about Ben & Jerry’s empty promises to farmers and consumers. Because Ben & Jerry’s is made from conventional milk, The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently found glyphosate residue in the ice cream. Sign OCA’s petition to Ben & Jerry’s CEO telling them to go organic.

Cornucopia recommends eating only certified organic ice cream and offers shoppers this organic dairy scorecard to find the best brands in your area.

Will Allen: Time’s up on the Ben & Jerry’s charade
VT Digger
by Will Allen

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Will Allen, who is the co-founder of Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford and Regeneration Vermont www.regenerationvermont.org , collaborating with Kate Duesterberg and Michael Colby to promote regenerative farming systems as a solution to environmental and economic problems in Vermont.

Source: Organic Consumers Association

You can’t blame Ben & Jerry’s for feeling surrounded – it is. After years of letting its marketing outpace its reality, its claims of “social responsibility” are ringing hollow, especially when it comes to its foundational product: milk. While the spotlight shines brighter on the economic, environmental and animal welfare calamities of Vermont’s industrial dairy industry, Ben & Jerry’s has been having it both ways: ignoring the farm injustice and pollution while reaping the economic benefits of the cheap milk. Consider this, while dairy farmers are paid less than it costs them to produce their milk and Vermont taxpayers are being asked to pony up a couple billion dollars to clean up the waterways befouled by the mega-dairies, Ben & Jerry’s is aiming to be a billion-dollar-a-year corporation by 2020, growing by more than $100 million a year. Read Full Article »

Hydroponic Lobby Seeks to Rewrite Organic Rules

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Giant “organic” hydroponic growers, alongside “organic” CAFO operators, are pressing for relaxed regulations. They have called for technological advancements in organics while they refuse to disclose what they fertilize their plants with. Cornucopia stands firm with organic farmers: organic is rooted in soil. For more, visit Can a Soil-less Growing System be “Organic”?

Coalition For Sustainable Profits declares war on National Organic Program at US Senate
Keep the Soil in Organic
by Dave Chapman, Long Wind Farm

Theo Crisantes says it is time to limit the power of the NOSB.

Anne MacMillan, in red, was Deputy Chief of Staff
to former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack,
and she deserves a raise.
Source: USDA

Another blow against Real Organic came last week with the Senate testimony of the misnamed Coalition For Sustainable Organics, which I will henceforth refer to as the Coalition for Sustainable Profits. Only through the extraordinary success of their latest and most expensive lobbyist, Anne MacMillan, was the Coalition able to testify before Congress twice in the last month.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Roberts said at the hearing that the federal National Organic Standards Board and organic regulations were rife with “uncertainty and dysfunction,” and asked “producers” for recommendations on how to improve the advisory board. Read Full Article »