vol. 2, #2
february, 2007

website links:

field of flowers
in this issue...

if your email version is hard to read, please refer to the webpage version:   http://www.westernsawg.org/newsletter12.htm         

also, all past issues are at  http://westernsawg.org/enews.htm      



farm bill update -  

      administration 2007 farm bill proposals:  secretary mike johanns recently unveiled the long-awaited usda farm bill proposal.  after going through what was by far the most extensive set of farm bill listening sessions in usda history, johanns and his cabinet have produced the most extensive and substantive farm bill proposal in recent history.  running near 200 pages, the proposal is available at http://www.usda.gov/documents/07finalfbp.pdf, with additional information at www.usda.gov.   it is a reform proposal, but not always lined up on the side of progressive reform.  the proposal aims to spend $5 billion more than the existing budget baseline for the next farm bill.   they have great sections re/ helping beginning farmers, altho no funding for the beginning farmer and rancher development program.   they continue to support crp, but their funding support of csp is waning, altho the usda proposal does call for the program to be available in all watersheds nationwide every year.    they propose a big increase to eqip but without changes needed so eqip would continue to subsidize farm consolidation and industrialization at the expense of family farms and sustainable livestock systems.   their approach to commodity payments appears to mostly continue support as is, or even making it worse.  on the plus side, the administration backs our sac proposal for extension and expansion of the organic certification cost share program almost verbatim.   there is no mention of the competition title.   see more analysis at: http://www.msawg.org/key-farmbill.html    

       farm bill summit in wash. d.c, march 6-8:  organic farming research foundation (ofrf) and the sustainable agriculture coalition (sac) are recruiting farmers and ranchers to attend a special meeting in washington next month focused on the farm bill. roots to reform: a summit for a sustainable 2007 farm bill�    for the official announcement, see http://msawg.org/pdf/rootstoreformregistrationform.pdf  for a complete agenda, see http://msawg.org/pdf/roots_to_reform_agenda.pdf

        the farm and food policy project ffpp report:  seeking balance in u.s. farm and food policy, has been endorsed by nearly 400 organizations across the country, and is available online.   www.farmandfoodproject.org

        feingold bill:  senator russ feingold (d-wi) recently introduced his �rural opportunities bill� (s. 541) which addresses local bioeconomies and food markets, local renewable fuels and biobased products, broadband internet service in rural areas, and beginning farmers and ranchers.  sac issued a letter of support for the thrust of the bill, as did the community food security coalition and the wisconsin farmers union. 

       leahy & kohl bill - to insure the exclusion of food products from animal clones or their progeny under u.s. organic standards. the legislation introduced by senators patrick leahy (d-vt) and herb kohl (d-wi) would codify without exception the exclusion of milk, meat or other food products from clones or their offspring from the u.s. organic program.  read more >>
        farm bill in brief - the basics - covering general structure -   http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/rs22131.pdf

       easy to use format for letters about the farm bill   �the nation� has a simple format on their website which can be edited to send a letter to your legislators about  the upcoming farm bill to benefit small farmers and consumers. http://www.capwiz.com/thenation/issues/alert/?alertid=8993276

       california farm and food policy platform released by the california food and farming coalition, http://www.foodfirst.org/pressreleases

        impact of us farm policy globally - building sustainable futures for farmers globally:   www.globalfarmer.org


federal court orders halt to new gm field trials    "the court was clearly concerned that the usda has put our nation's environment at risk by exempting many of these field trials from environmental review.  that's why the judge made the decision apply broadly to all future field trials of genetically engineered crops."- cfs - press release.  judge harold kennedy said the usda's past approvals of field trials of genetically engineered bentgrass were illegal and a threat to the environment and these experiments must be halted.     http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/gtbc_decisionpr_2_7_07.cfm

alfalfa suit won - in what will likely be a precedent-setting ruling, u.s. district court judge charles r. breyer of the northern district of california decided (feb. 13) in favor of farmers, consumers, and environmentalists who filed a suit calling the usda�s approval of genetically engineered rr alfalfa a threat to farmers� livelihoods and a risk to the environment.  judge breyer ordered that a full environmental impact statement must be carried out on �roundup ready� alfalfa, the ge variety developed by monsanto. http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/alfalfa_decisionpr2_14_07.cfm    and:  a coalition of farmers, environmentalists and food safety organizations plans to ask a federal judge in california to halt the sale of roundup ready alfalfa seed.   http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7568


rbgh fallout - organizations have filed a citizen's petition to the fda, seeking the withdrawal of approval for monsanto's gm cattle drug 'posilac' - recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbgh) - or to institute the labelling with a cancer risk warning of any milk or other dairy products produced with its use.  the petition was submitted on behalf of the cancer prevention coalition, the organic consumers ass., and family farm defenders. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=63587      


study shows gm crops unstable and risky  a new paper  confirms that genetic engineering of crops not only lacks precision but causes large scale genetic rearrangements of host dna at transgene insertion sites, as well as large numbers of mutations scattered throughout the genome of each new transgenic plant.  the significance of all this genetic damage is that the food safety of edible crops relies crucially on genetic stability.   http://www.bioscienceresource.org/docs/bsr-2-bgervol23.pdf


gm rice fallout  forty-one of the world's biggest rice exporters, processors and retailers have issued written commitments to stay gm-free. the worldwide tide of opposition is contained in the new greenpeace rice markets report, "rice industry in crisis", http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/rice-industry-in-crisis/     also, california rice producers fearing loss of their markets, call for a moratorium on gm rice  http://calriceproducers.org/        

nature article details gm contamination this article rightly concludes, "no amount of regulation can guarantee that these crops will not escape and multiply", even when they involve potent pharmaceutical compounds, but it then concludes that we'll just have to put up with it.  why?  because otherwise it will "have a chilling effect on research".  (argh!)  http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070108/full/445132a.html


bt gene found to persist in soil and aquatic systems  environment canada has determined that the pesticidal bt gene cry1ab, found in gm corn, persisted in aquatic areas near the site where the bt crop was planted.  varying amounts of the cry1ab gene were found in sediment, soil, and surface water samples. the sediments were found to contain about 100-fold more cry1ab dna than the surface water. the cry1ab transgene was also detected as far away as 82 km downstream from the corn cultivation plot.  abstract in the journal ecotoxicology and environmental safety, with links to the complete paper for subscribers at



new $500 million biofuels institute will be built at uc berkeley, with funds from the oil giant, bp, a new member of the biotechnology industry organisation. uc berkeley was previously notorious for its tie-up with gene giant syngenta, but the berkeley-bp deal dwarfs its predecessor by a factor of ten. others involved in the partnership are the weapons-designing lbl national laboratory and the university of illinois.  http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/201/1


bill in congress to ban patenting genes xavier becerra, (d-cal), and dave  weldon, (r-fla), sponsored the genomic research and  accessibility act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature.



pollinator populations declining  bees are critically important to farm ecosystems, pollinating about 40% of crops. colony collapse disorder (ccd) is a phenomenon described by beekeepers, researchers and government officials when entire hive populations seem to disappear, apparently dying out. a ccd working group was recently formed with researchers from the university of montana, the pennsylvania state university, the usda/ars, the florida department of agriculture, and the pennsylvania department of agriculture to analyze the problem. their preliminary report indicates how pesticides may be a factor:  ccd report,   a california beekeeper, eric lane, suspects harm to the bees is linked to imidacloprid, made by bayer cropscience. "it was used in france and killed 70 percent of the bee population in france."

     a new report from the national research council. research indicates that shortages of pollinators for agriculture already exist and that decreases in wild pollinator populations could disrupt ecosystems in the future. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?recordid=11761

     in a landmark decision, the minnesota supreme court ruled that landowners who spray pesticides on their property can be held liable for damages to beekeepers� neighboring apiaries. the case was brought by three beekeepers who raise bees for honey and sale. the ruling could impact pesticide use across the country. http://www.beyondpesticides.org/infoservices/pesticidesandyou/index.htm  


mt organic certification systems meets international standards - usda has announced that montana's organic certification program meets international standardsd. the accreditation under international standards organization guide 65 will make it easier for montana�s organic producers to export their products.  montana is the second state to receive the accreditation; washington was first.






book: food fight: a citizen's guide to the farm bill    this book offers offer a concise, visually dynamic overview of the legislation that literally shapes our food system, our bodies, and our future. it is intended as a farm bill primer available to people and media tuning into the 2007 farm bill reauthorization process. we hope this can contribute to more a sustained citizens' movement that is so essential in evolving a farm policy that truly addresses the challenges we face in the 21st century.  fred kirschenmann and michael pollan have written an outstanding forward and introduction. http://www.watershedmedia.org/foodfight_overview.html

online sustainable ag course -
(sare) program offering a free, online course through the university of california davis for agriculture professionals. the course, sustainable agriculture: basic principles and concept overview, addresses the basics of sustainable agriculture -- farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for people and communities. while intended for cooperative extension and natural resource conservation service personnel, the course also is useful for other agricultural, natural resource and community-development professionals.  http://www.sare.org/coreinfo/ceprogram.htm


agricultural researchers address climate change threat to food supplies   the consultative group on international agricultural research met recently in washington, dc, and experts from 15 agricultural research centers around the world focused on how climate change would affect world harvests. the researchers predict that both drought and flooding will result in reduced food production. the organization has announced its plans to accelerate development of strains of staple crops that will tolerate conditions such as increased heat, prolonged submergence in water, and salt levels. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6200114.stm

 a to z guide to political interference in science   a guide to abuses of the bush administration's manipulation of the science underlying federal policies and action. more than 10,000 scientists of all backgrounds from all 50 states - including 52 nobel laureates - have signed onto the statement. agriculture issues are scattered among the topic areas and include research on cafo airborne bacteria, pesticide regulation, and the impact of agriculture on wildlife habitat. www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/interference/a-to-z-guide-to-political.html

targeted grazing handbook available online   a new handbook that focuses on using sheep and goats to manage vegetation and enhance landscapes was recently completed in a collaborative effort. the handbook covers topics such as using targeted grazing to control invasive species of weeds and using sheep and goats to create fire breaks. it also includes grazing prescriptions that can be used to target specific plant species and examples of how sheep and goats are being used to manage vegetation. http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/rx-grazing/handbook.htm


facing goliath: challenging the impacts of retail consolidation on our local economies, communities, and food security

this new policy brief from the oakland institute exposes how corporate consolidation in food retail has put our access to a reliable supply of healthy and affordable food at risk.  <http://www.oaklandinstitute.org>


biofuel mania  the impact of the current biofuel mania on who gets to eat.  http://www.foodfirst.org/node/1625,



call to action


attra funding in jeopardy - calls needed!  for twenty years, the appropriate technology transfer for rural areas (attra) program has been one of the most reliable sources of information for farmers and others who want fact-based information on a wide variety of agronomic, livestock, marketing, and entrepreneurial questions with reliable information, evaluated and summarized from its extensive database. congress has announced its plan to completely cut the program. you can help by calling your senator and saying that attra is a valuable source of information on sustainable practices and shouldn't be cut.  and,  john boozman (r-ar) is circulating a letter to other representatives asking them to sign on to request that usda fund attra through general support dollars it has at its discretion to bring attra funding back to the $2.5 million total that it has received in recent years.    ask your representative to sign onto the boozman letter.

      call right now, as congress is acting quickly. just call the congressional switchboard, (202) 224-3121, and ask for your legislators� offices and leave your message with their aide who handles agricultural issues.  re/ attra:   www.attra.org


sign ucs petition on pharm crops  the union of concerned scientists (ucs) has a petition, policy paper, database and documents dealing with frequently asked questions about pharm crops posted on its new ucs website at http://www.protectourfood.org


calendar of events - spring 2007

calendar of events

march 2-4 - grow biointensive mini-farming 3-day workshop - willits, california - - the program will consist of lecture, discussion and demonstration, and will include a full range of information on sustainability and efficient resource use, crops and diet, fertilization, compost and compost crops, soil preparation and preservation, seed propagation, and income. appropriate to a more self-reliant lifestyle and for work in developing countries.    www.growbiointensive.org    


march 2-4 - permaculture design weekend - snohomish, wa - 7:00-9:00 pm friday free public slide show followed by two-day workshop. hands-on training in permaculture approach to landscape design. $150-$200, sliding scale. donnalray1@netzero.net.


march 4-6 - the california farm conference,  monterey, california - the state's premier gathering of small farmers and those who support them. the three day educational conference includes on-farm tours, focused workshops, general educational sessions and opportunities for peer networking.    www.californiafarmconference.com  


march 6-8 - sac farm bill fly-in - washington, d.c.- capacity building and strategy sessions for our work on the 2007 farm bill to be followed by visits to capitol hill.   scholarships available for farmers.   www.msawg.org   


march 12-13 - risk management education for sustainable agriculture - reno, nevada - workshops on agritourism, including regulations, marketing, funding, success stories, and more.   nevada agritourism symposium


march 15-17, 2007 - the 4th annual organic dairy conference  fortuna, california - opportunity for certified organic dairy producers to learn more about the latest trends in organic dairy management. topics will include herd health, pasture management, and the impact of organic milk on consumers. the conference is intended for certified organic dairy producers, producers interested in becoming certified organic, educators, government officials, agricultural professionals, and trade vendors.


march 16 - food packaging & renewable energy workshops - vancouver, wa - 9:00 am-6:30 pm, hilton hotel. two sustainability workshops for organic farmers, processors and distributors. hosted by organically grown company and the university of oregon's resource innovations. the workshops build on the ogc 2005 sustainability summit. cost: $175 for each workshop, or $300 for the full day (lunch included).  nwhite@organicgrown.com


march 26-28 - the southwest marketing network 5th annual conference - flagstaff, ariz. -  focuses on expanding markets for small and minority agricultural producers in the four corners region    http://www.swmarketingnetwork.org/index.htm   


march 29 - organic wine grape production -  everett, washington- this evening workshop is part of an organic production series offered by wsu extension of snohomish county. learn the latest on producing organically-grown wine grapes, the challenges and profitable possibilities. http://snohomish.wsu.edu/ag/workshops/organicprod06.htm  


march 30 - taking your sales to the next level - post falls, idaho -rural roots offers this day-long workshop to increase your farm marketing skills. workshop topics will include identifying your target market, maximizing direct market sales, and increasing the quality of your products.  http://www.ruralroots.org      


march 27-29 - bioreality conference -  washington, dc, the 1st annual bioreality conference. there will be three exciting days of education, lobbying and strategic planning on the issues surrounding genetically engineered foods.  http://www.bioreality.org



we administer 3 email listservs:   our monthly enews is sent to all 3.

wsawg list - for all topics related to sustainable agriculture, incl organic

wsawg gmo list - for issues related to genetically modified organisms

wsawg conserve list - for issues related to farm bill conservation

(you may also subscribe to just the enews)

to subscribe, (or unsubscribe) 

simply send an email with your request to jill:  rivercare@blackfoot.net    

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mission: the western sustainable agriculture working group is a non-profit organization bringing together diverse individuals and groups working in sustainable agriculture and food systems to share successful models, realize our collective strengths, build regional capacity and inform the agriculture policy debate.
visit us online at www.westernsawg.org