vol. 2, #4
april, 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/newsletter14.htm         

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


farm bill resources roundup

       sustainable agriculture coalition (sac) has a new online �farm bill action center� with current and archived copies of their    weekly update.   we encourage agriculture groups in the west to become familiar with their website and to join sac.   www.sustainableagriculturecoalition.org   you will find: current action alerts, up-to-date information on the status of relevant bills, a legislative tracking template that includes the bill number, summary, status, and background on particular pieces of legislation that are major farm bill priorities of sac, an advocacy toolkit including tips on framing messages, conducting a visit with a member, and writing an effective op-ed.  the sac platform for the 2007 farm bill (�no time for delay�) argues for reforms and new initiatives addressing commodity program reform, insurance, credit, competition, conservation, energy, marketing and rural development, value-added producer grants, and other programs.            

        community food security coalition has a comprehensive policy statement on how american agriculture can be renewed to provide healthy food and revitalize healthy communities.  www.foodsecurity.org, see: legislative priorities for the 2007 farm billalso, cfsc   was one of many collaborators on a broad declaration: seeking balance in u.s. farm and food policy.   endorsements of �seeking balance� by organizations are still being taken at the ffpp website:  www.farmandfoodproject.org

         rural coalition�s farm and food policy diversity initiative policy priorities discussion paper focuses on recommendations for the u.s. department of agriculture to improve equity in program delivery, better meet the needs of minority farmers and ranchers, and ensure that farm workers have a designated office to go to within the agency. 

         national family farm coalition�s food from family farms act addresses the connection between domestic agriculture policy, international trade and the need to respect food sovereignty (the right of every country to establish its own food and farm policy and meet its basic food needs through domestic production). the act details how market price supports, farmer-owned reserves, and conservation compliance can work together to ensure fair prices while meeting food security, humanitarian, and energy needs. 

         national campaign for sustainable agriculture�s federal sustainable agriculture program primer explains all the programs funded through the farm bill: what they do; who administers them; application and eligibility guidelines; funding and status; where to go for more information; and even how to take action to preserve or improve them.    farm and food policy principles and criteria is an evaluation tool compiling a comprehensive list of over a dozen principles ncsa and its partners believe should guide agricultural policy. included are specific questions for assessing a policy proposal�s adherence to each of these principles.  additionally, under the what�s new menu button on ncsa's website, you'll find policy statements from its issue committees. 

         national campaign�s organic committee has developed an 8-point 2007 organic farm bill agenda and is working on an action plan to shape the future of organics for the next 2 decades.  http://www.sustainableagriculture.net/organic.php

        organic farming research foundation has a service sending organic policy alerts and updates and they provide tools to communicate directly with your legislators.    www.ofrf.org

         california farm and food policy platform http://www.foodfirst.org/pressreleases

          food first�s farm bill position papers at http://www.foodfirst.org/issues/usfarmbill


farm bill updates - currently, the ag. subcommittees in congress are hearing testimony and draft farm bill ideas (�marker� bills not intended for passage) are being circulated by various congressional offices. however, more comprehensive language for the farm bill won�t be forthcoming until late spring, after the final congressional budget resolution tells lawmakers how much funding is available for farm bill programs.   here are some of the key marker bills that we are following:

      h.r. 1551 / s. 919 - �healthy farms, foods, and fuels act of 2007,� was introduced in the house on march 15 by representative ron kind (d-wi) and currently has 86 cosponsors.  an identical senate version of the bill was introduced on march 20 by senators menendez (d-nj) with four additional cosponsors (boxer, kerry, cardin, and lautenberg).  the bills contain four titles: conservation, energy, healthy food choices, and new markets and farm viability.  select ffpp recommendations embodied in the bill include: cooperative conservation provisions, an uncapped conservation security program, a socially disadvantaged farmer conservation program, expanded organic programs, and a comprehensive package of programs supporting community-based programs aimed at improving access to locally grown, fresh foods. 

       s. 566, �rural entrepreneur and microenterprise assistance act,� introduced on february 13 by senators ben nelson (d-ne) and salazar (d-co), would create a $50 million annual grant and mirco-loan program to provide microenterprise training, technical assistance, market development assistance, and other related services to small rural businesses.

       s. 541, �the rural opportunities act of 2007,� introduced on february 8 by senator russ feingold (d-wi), contains several sets of provisions central to ffpp, including beginning farmer and rancher programs, expanded sustainable agriculture and organic programs, a restructured and expanded community food project grant program, language clarifying that federally funded school and other feeding programs may purchase locally produced fruits and vegetables, and an innovative grant and research initiative to promote sustainable local and regional bioenergy and biomass production systems.

      s . 622, �competitive and fair agricultural markets act of 2007� (harkin, enzi, et. al.) aims to strengthen the enforceability of laws designed to ensure competitive and fair markets.  along with a number of other bills (s. 305, grassley-dorgan and s. 786, grassley-feingold), it will likely form one of the planks of the senate�s version of the 2007 farm bill.

      and good news:  house and senate conferees on the supplemental appropriations bill agreed this week to lift the cap on conservation security program funding for 2007. the csp is a conservation title program that rewards farmers for undertaking conservation practices on working farmland. lifting the funding cap paves the way for a 2007 csp sign-up in 51 watersheds and ensures funding for contract modifications to enhance conservation measures.   of course, bush will veto the bill because of the inclusion of timetables for the withdrawal of u.s. troops from iraq and the addition of domestic spending.  a second version of the bill will likely be wrapped up and sent back to the president by late may, and we now have hope that csp will stay alive.


usda requires sterilization of almonds -  the new rule, which the usda quietly developed in response to outbreaks of salmonella in 2001 and 2004, traced to raw almonds, mandates that all almonds undergo a sterilization process that includes chemical and/or high-temperature treatments. the cornucopia institute is asking the usda to reopen the proceeding for public comment.  cornucopia contends that the rule was never effectively announced to the public, and that the reasoning behind both the necessity and safety of the sterilization processes should be questioned before the rule goes into effect this september.   www.cornucopia.org


2007 harvest awards: nominate someone that inspires you - glynwood center�s 5th annual harvest awards will recognize innovative farmers, organizations, and businesses that are doing an exceptional job of supporting local and regional agriculture.  our goal is to encourage this growing movement by inspiring others to take action within their own communities.  deadline for nominations is july 17th  www.glynwoood.org.


nosb vote on cloned animals - the national organic standards board voted 12-0 to ban foods from cloned animals and their progeny from the organic market.  regulators apparently recognize, after being flooded with complaints from organic consumers, that cloning is incompatible with the organic foods production act and is prohibited under the national organic program regulations. the real difficulty will be in tracking these animals.  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4699.cfm



bees dying - "colony collapse disorder" (ccd). commercial beekeepers are reporting losses of between 50 and 90 percent in the us and eu, an unprecedented amount even for an industry accustomed to die-offs. research is only beginning and hard data is still lacking.  here are articles about the most likely theories:

        one likely culprit is a new class of very toxic systemic pesticides, which are not only sprayed on crops, but also used universally to dress seeds in conventional agriculture, and can confuse and disorientate bees at very low concentrations. the neonicotinoid insecticides include imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and several others.  imidacloprid is used extensively in seed treatments for field and horticultural crops, and particularly for maize, sunflower and rapeseed (canola).  imidacloprid was detected in soils, plant tissues and pollen. the levels of the insecticide found in pollen suggested probable delirious effects on honeybees.  the insecticide is suspected to be causing the decline of hive populations by affecting the bee's orientation and ability to return to the hive. 


         another candidate is radiation from mobile phone base stations that has become nearly ubiquitous in europe and north america where the bees are vanishing.  this possibility is strengthened by preliminary findings that bees fail to return to the hives if cordless phone base stations are placed in them.    http://www.isis.org.uk/mobilephonesvanishingbees.php

         another candidate is a sublethal effect from gmo crops resulting in impaired immune systems in the bees.   numerous studies have shown immune system effects from consuming gmo�s. 


         a recent candidate is a parasitic fungus, nosema ceranea, a single celled obligate parasite belonging to the microsporidia, which infect invertebrates and vertebrates including humans (i.e. aids).  nosema ceranea causes bees to die within eight days after infection. foraging bees seem to be the most infected and to leave the colony but be too weak to return. nosema ceranea may be a major contributor to ccd but it seems likely that the virulence of the parasite may depend upon the compromise of the bee�s immune system from pesticides or gmo�s or both.   http://www.latimes.com/news/la-sci-bees26apr26,0,2135129,print.story 

carbon credit program  mfu will begin offering a carbon credit program in 28 counties in montana, that allows agricultural producers and landowners to earn income by storing carbon in the soil through no-till crop production and long-term grass seeding and forestry practices.  farmers union has earned approval from the chicago climate exchange to aggregate the carbon credits, which can be traded on the exchange, much like other agricultural commodities are traded.   http://www.nfu.org/       


gm mosquitoes   superb article on the limitations of gm mosquitoes.

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7719   indian public health experts are not excited by the news that american scientists have created gm mosquitoes to help fight malaria,  http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7685


european decision on gmos  the european parliament has rejected a proposal to allow traces of gmos up to 0.9% in organic food.  the result of the vote is a clear indication from european elected representatives that the right to gm-free food is non-negotiable.  http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7705


biofuels  "the grain required to make enough ethanol to fill an suv tank is enough to feed a person for a whole year." - worldwatch institute founder lester brown   http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7633, and from u of minn - article calls on the us to pursue a comprehensive energy conservation program instead of mandates and subsidies for biofuels, to promote solar and wind power, and to invest in research on fuels derived from cellulose.  how biofuels could starve the poor.


pharm rice  the usa rice federation has filed comments with the us dept of agriculture asking "in the strongest possible terms that the permit for ventria [bioscience]'s pharmaceutical rice (to be grown in kansas on 3200 acres using human genes - see last month�s enews) be denied."  http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7708   the kansas rural center and center for food safety have a press release and report:  http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/pharmaceutical%20rice-final.pdf


contaminated rice   four different bayer gm rice varieties have been discovered in us long-grain rice stocks. the four gm traits now known to be in the supply are: ll601, ll62, ll06 and (most recently) ll604. all the contamination appears to be the result of gm rice trials.  http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7707


human-sheep chimera  scientists at the university of nevada have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs. the organs are intended for transplant into humans. there are fears that such transplants could enable viruses to pass from animals to humans.    http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7697


mt senator - bio legislator of the year   the biotechnology industry organization (www.bio.org) announced its selection of senator max baucus (d-mt) as legislator of the year for 2006-2007.  "senator baucus has been a strong proponent of the biotechnology industry and we are grateful for his leadership as the chairman of the senate finance committee. he has been a champion of the federal research and development tax credit,� stated bio president jim greenwood.  http://www.genengnews.com/news/bnitem.aspx?name=15851414


rr alfalfa   organic valley farmers call for permanent injunction of gmo alfalfa. the 975 dairy and livestock farmers of organic valley "feed their animals an all-organic diet that is on average 60 percent alfalfa. each cow eats approximately 32.5 pounds of certified organic alfalfa a day."  organic valley (www.organicvalley.coop) ceo george siemon goes on to say "contamination of organic alfalfa stands or seed stock will devastate the organic farmers who market milk."  alfalfa is a perennial with a three-mile pollination radius, so farm buffers won't work.  http://sev.prnewswire.com/food-beverages/20070417/aqtu52217042007-1.html


banning seed saving  a  report from grain reveals the new lobbying offensive from the global seed industry to make it a crime for farmers to save seeds for the next year's planting. this briefing traces the history of seed regulation, the recent discussions within the seed industry, and explores what will happen if a plant variety right becomes virtually indistinguishable from a patent. monopoly rights over seeds are required for membership in the wto.   http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=202   


gmo free region  washington state has adopted a bill allowing producers of brassica seeds (they produce 1/2 of the world's cabbage seeds) to petition to set up a zone to protect against ge contamination and allowing lawsuits to enforce this isolation.  rules are to be set up by an administrative agency.  a 2 mile buffer is needed for brassica seed crops.   http://www.leg.wa.gov/pub/billinfo/2007-08/pdf/bills/house%20passed%20legislature/1888.pl.pdf      this could set a useful precedent.   could we use this concept for organic zones?  news article:    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/312712_canola23.html    




shopper�s guide to avoid the most contaminated fruits & vegetables  according to the environmental working group's (ewg) analysis of data from over 43,000 tests on pesticides in conventional produce, over 90% of ingestion of pesticides in foods can be eliminated by avoiding the most contaminated foods. the "dirty dozen" most contaminated foods are (in worst order) peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. the "consistently clean" are (in best order) onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya.  download your wallet-sized shopper's guide here: http://www.foodnews.org    


new policy brief from the oakland institute, how food became a casualty of biotechnology's promise, exposes how pharmaceutical conglomerates are using the agricultural sector to underwrite their research and development efforts as they work to transform plants and animals into drug and organ factories to further their profits.   www.oaklandinstitute.org,


eqip, csp assessment:  the soil and water conservation society and environmental defense have released an assessment of the environmental quality incentives program (eqip), the second of four farm bill conservation program assessments.  the assessment of the conservation security program (csp) was released last week, and assessments of the conservation reserve program (crp) and the programs designed to provide technical assistance to producers participating in usda conservation programs will be released in the near future.   www.swcs.org.


sustainable biofuels - iatp report re/ sustainable biomass and how we can ensure that farmers, rural communities and the environment retain the benefits.   read "a fair farm bill for renewable energy," and other resources at iatp's 2007 farm bill web page.

agriculture and climate change - new report from wri - how can managers of agricultural operations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions? what opportunities exist under the conservation title of the 2007 farm bill to enhance climate change mitigation opportunities from the u.s. agricultural sector?   this report makes four policy recommendations linking farm energy, conservation and climate change.  http://www.wri.org/climate/pubs_description.cfm?pid=4252      


federal resources for sustainable farming and ranching - an overview of the major federal conservation programs that provide resources for farmers and ranchers to enhance and maintain sustainable farming and ranching practices. the level of available conservation resources for this area has dramatically increased since 2002. this guide helps farmers and ranchers make their way through the often complex and difficult application processes. access to these resources can open new opportunities to preserve agricultural lands, develop sustainable practices, and open new markets.  www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/pdf/federal_resources.pdf


farming for pollinators - a brochure produced by the xerces society, detailing what you can do on your farm to build habitat for native bees  www.xerces.org     also a bulletin produced by the wild farm alliance includes a list of native trees, shrubs and forbs that support native bees and a chart of native-bee-pollinated crops.   www.wildfarmalliance.org    


field guide to little known genetically engineered organisms by john c. avise  the author guides readers on a fascinating behind-the-scenes journey into the little-known world of genetic engineering.  not only are field marks, behaviors, habitats, and geographic ranges provided for 35 of the world's most top-secret genetically engineered species, but so too are described the historical sagas and personal dramas behind each creature's artificial manufacture.   www.pensoft.net  


 michael pollan�s ny times article on the farm bill (april 22)  - you are what you grow


call to action

animal cloning comment period extended - 30-day extension on draft animal cloning risk assessment; proposed risk management plan; draft guidance for industry;  comments due may 3, 2007    http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org


rbgh labeling   this month, monsanto filed a formal complaint with the fda and federal trade commission, demanding that labeling of rbgh-free diary products be made illegal.  learn more and get involved with oca's "millions against monsanto" campaign by signing on to their petition.  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4698.cfm


patents on seeds -  sign the global appeal against patents on seeds



irradiated foods  the fda is issuing proposed rules that if finalized will allow irradiated foods to be called �pasteurized� instead of irradiated,  plus it will allow the radura to be removed from the packaging.   there will be a 90 day public comment period. the fda is no longer accepting e-mail comments so they have to be made mailed, faxed or posted through the www.regulations.gov web site   here is a link to the proposed rules  http://www.thecampaign.org/fdapr_040407.pdf


sign on petition - center for rural affairs is circulating a petition outlining priorities for the 2007 farm bill aimed at strengthening rural america. to uplift rural values, we must lift up rural communities.   www.cfra.org/nran_endorse.htm



calendar of events - spring 2007

calendar of events

 may 3-5,  herb society of america educational conference - scottsdale, arizona -this conference will cover a range of topics focusing on the botany and horticulture of herbs and the use and delight of herbs. http://www.herbsociety.org/confer.php   


may 4-6 - plant propagation workshop orcas island, wa - techniques for propagating fruit & nut trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and rootstocks.  www.permacultureportal.com/courses_current.html#workshop_plants

may 4 - 9 -  biojustice 2007 - boston - a week long celebration of sustainable food and alternatives to corporate healthcare, being developed by a wide coalition of public interest groups, activists, farmers, scientists, and concerned citizens, working together in response to the biotech industry's international convention scheduled that week in boston.   http://www.biodev.org.


may 7 - 11 - rocky mountain compost school! five days of classroom and field instruction for large-scale composters higlighting issues of local and national intrest   hosted by colorado state university�s department of soil and crop sciences.   www.rockymountaincompostschool.info  


may 11-13 - native plants and permaculture gathering - dexter, or lost valley educational center. a weekend of walks, talks, discussions and activities to explore the roles of native and nonnative plants in cultivated and non-cultivated landscapes and ecosystems. cost: $90 for weekend; $50 for single day.   www.lostvalley.org/nature2007may 

may 17-19 - how to organize a local food coop on the "oklahoma plan" - oklahoma city, oklahoma - the oklahoma food cooperative will host a three day workshop on how to organize and operate a local food cooperative internet-based order and delivery system. topics to be covered include organizing campaigns, producer issues, financial accounting, computer systems, customer and volunteer issues. the event will be held in conjunction with the may delivery day of the oklahoma food cooperative, and attendees will participate in all aspects of that activity.   www.oklahomafood.coop   


may 28 � june 2 - cultivating women's leadership  cortes island, british columbia  more information


may 29 - entrepreneurial sustainable agriculture training  eccles conference center,  utah state university, logan, utah, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. - to help extension/farmers with new direct marketing ideas  http://extension.usu.edu/wrdc/wsare_ag_trng_main.cfm


may 30-june 3 - changing ecologies of food and agriculture - victoria, bc- joint annual meetings of the agriculture, food and human values society (afhvs) and the association for the study of food and society (asfs), celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of both organizations.  www.afhvs.org/2007call.html 

june 22-24 - fairy & human relations congress - 7th annual - skalitude retreat center, twisp, methow valley, north cascades, washington. - communication and cooperation with devas, fairies and nature spirits.  an all ages event.   www.fairycongress.com


july 20-22 - montana herb gathering, near kalispell, montana near flathead lake.     www.montanaherbgathering.org


july 20 - 22  annual natural marketplace - las vegas, nev.   www.naturalproductsassoc.org  


july 21 - 22  northwest herbfest - pleasant hill, oregon   www.herbaltransitions.com  



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