The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Farm Bill Contains Funding Boost for Organic Integrity

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

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 »

Faith in Farming

March 6th, 2019

Finding a Way of Life on Windy Acres Farm

[This article was previously published in the winter issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Jason Cole,
Research Associate at The Cornucopia Institute

Photo courtesy of Windy Acres Farm

What is the meaning and purpose of work? Is it simply a means of making a profit and accumulating wealth? Can work build community and nurture the creation? Are we simply miners of the soil, taking all we can get, or are we caretakers so that future generations will also receive the blessing and benefit of the good land?

These were some of the questions that Alfred and Carney Farris came to consider in the 1970s, soon after they moved back to family land in the northern Tennessee foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. There, they began a lifetime learning process through their stewardship of what would become Windy Acres Farm.

Though they both grew up on what might be called “hobby farms,” Alfred and Carney came late to full-time farming, just as Alfred was approaching his 40th birthday. Initially, they farmed like everyone around them, depleting the soil and degrading the land with chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Read Full Article »

Four Cash Crops Take Up Half of Global Farmland

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 »

Real Organic Project Symposium, March 2 at Dartmouth College

February 26th, 2019

Cornucopia’s colleagues at the Real Organic Project are hosting a symposium at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on March 2.

You will hear many passionate speakers from across the fields of farming, policy, science, and activism offer their takeaways and ideas for action regarding the many challenges and opportunities facing organic farmers today.

TED-style talks will be offered by farmers Jean-Paul Courtens, Emily Oakley, Paul Muller of Full Belly Farm, Francis Thicke of Radiance Dairy, Dave Chapman, and many others. Eliot Coleman and author Anne Biklé are keynote speakers. Eliot will describe 50 years of organic farming at Four Seasons Farm and why real organic is important to all of us. Anne will talk about the powerful connection between soil health and human health.

This day-long symposium will be held at Filene Auditorium at Dartmouth College from 9 am to 5:00 pm.

The $25 ticket price includes a delicious lunch and refreshments.
Purchase tickets online.

You can find further information on Facebook. Read Full Article »

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