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.
Managing Conflicts of Interest in the National Organic Program
[This article was previously published in the winter issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]
by Anne Ross, JD Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute
Many federal and state laws, professional bodies, and associations establish policies that recognize conflicts of interest and take steps to mitigate those conflicts.
Federal employees in the executive branch of government are restricted from performing certain post-employment activities, like advising foreign political governments and parties. Similarly, there are restrictions on former congressional members, imposing “cooling off” periods before they can lobby Congress.
Lawyers are governed by strict rules of professional conduct specifically addressing potential conflicts of interest. Lawyers must obtain consent from a former client before representing a new client in matters that are averse to the interests of former clients.
The pharmaceutical and medical device industries are required to disclose consultancy relationships with physicians to avoid the appearance that medical entrepreneurship is prioritized over research or patient care.
The National Organic Program (NOP) should enact similar measures to engender confidence in the organic sector. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: Use of the herbicide glyphosate has skyrocketed around the world since the introduction of crops genetically engineered to be Roundup Ready (resistant) in 1996. While the EPA insists that glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans, some research reviews have come to different findings. U.S. Right to Know seeks transparency in the food system, and the article below catalogs the science and the politics of glyphosate safety studies.
Glyphosate: Health Concerns About the Most Widely Used Pesticide U.S. Right to Know by Stacy Malkan
Source: NRCS, Tim McCabe
Glyphosate, a synthetic herbicide patented in 1974 by the Monsanto Company and now manufactured and sold by many companies in hundreds of products around the world, has been associated with various health concerns. Glyphosate is best known as the active ingredient in Roundup-branded herbicides, and the herbicide used with “Roundup Ready” genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Herbicide tolerance is the most prevalent GMO trait engineered into food crops, with some 90% of corn and 94% of soybeans in the U.S. engineered to tolerate herbicides, according to USDA data. A 2017 study found that Americans’ exposure to glyphosate increased approximately 500 percent since Roundup Ready GMO crops were introduced in the U.S in 1996. Here are some key facts about glyphosate:
Cornucopia’s Take: According to Nielsen data, organic produce sales continue to grow at a much faster pace than conventional produce sales. Nielsen posits that “mindful moms”—those seeking the best and safest food for their children and families—are driving the continued upswing in organic food purchasing.
Retail View: Data show that organics still thriving The Produce News by Tim Linden
Scan data at the nation’s supermarkets show that organic produce sales continue to outperform their conventional counterpart and now represent 14 percent of all dollar sales in the produce department.
This nugget of information was provided by Nielsen Vice President Brian Lechner at the mid-December Organic Grower Summit in Monterey, CA. He and Organic Trade Association Chief Executive Officer Laura Batcha talked about both the numbers and consumer attitudes during a breakout session at that meeting.
Lechner said growth in the organic produce category is outpacing conventional produce growth by a factor of five to seven times. “Organics are still a very strong trend compared to conventional,” he said, even if they aren’t keeping up the torrid double-digit pace that has been in play for most years of this century.
He added that while organic product sales are increasing throughout the store, they continue to be led by gains in the produce department. One exception is the baby food aisle, where it now accounts for more than a quarter of all sales in that category.
That makes perfect sense to Lechner, who noted that the “mindful mom” is driving the gains in organic sales. He defined that demographic as female heads of households with a college degree who live in urban environments and have kids at home younger than six. That group fueled organic sales in the baby food sector, and as their kids age moms are buying organics in the produce department as well. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: Many farmers have lost opportunities or remain uncertain as to how they will get needed loans for the upcoming growing season with USDA FSA offices closed during the shutdown. Secretary Perdue announced that offices will be open January 17, 18, and 22 to producers with existing loans only.
Farm Country Stood by Trump. But the Shutdown Is Pushing It to Breaking Point. The New York Times by Jack Healy and Tyler Pager
In Georgia, a pecan farmer lost out on his chance to buy his first orchard. The local Farm Service Agency office that would have processed his loan application was shut down.
In Wisconsin’s dairy country, a 55-year-old woman sat inside her new dream home, worried she would not be able to pay her mortgage. Her loan had come from an Agriculture Department program for low-income residents in rural areas, but all of the account information she needed to make her first payment was locked away in an empty government office.
And in upstate New York, Pam Moore was feeding hay to her black-and-white cows at a small dairy that tottered on the brink of ruin. She and her husband had run up $350,000 in debt to keep the dairy running after 31 of their cows died of pneumonia, and their last lifeline was an emergency federal farm loan. But the money had been derailed by the government shutdown.
“It has just been one thing after another, after another, after another,” Ms. Moore, 57, said. Read Full Article »
Cornucopia’s Take: Producers with existing farm loans who need assistance or 1099s for taxes have three days to get help during the federal government shutdown. Share this story with farmers you know!
USDA FSA offices temporarily reopen during government shutdown Feedstuffs.com
Offices will be open Jan. 17, 18 and 22 to assist producers with existing farm loans and provide 1099 tax documents to borrowers.
USDA Secretary Perdue
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Jan. 16 that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Jan. 17-18, in addition to Jan. 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 21.
In almost half of FSA locations, staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure that the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. Read Full Article »