vol. 2, #6
june, 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/newsletter16.htm         

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



farm bill resources   our primary lead on the farm bill is the sustainable agriculture coalition (sac), which has a new online �farm bill action center�, www.sustainableagriculturecoalition.org  with all the information you might need to be informed and current on the farm bill process.   a list of partner farm bill resources is in the may enews, and one to add is:  iatp's farm bill web page which includes six briefing papers, related documents and proposals, and their e-newsletter.   we also work closely with the community food security coalition, (cfsc) which also has farm bill updates   http://www.foodsecurity.org/policy.html

          policy info center in food stores:  we have posted a photo of a policy info center at www.westernsawg.org/issues.htm.  the center is to alert shoppers of important farm bill issues and encourage them to send a letter to their legislators.  information fliers, sample letters, paper, pens and envelopes are all available on one of the 3 sides of the center.   we would like to place these in other food stores in the west.  let us know if you want to bring one to your store. 
           policy priorities:  the first version of a chart summarizing the status of our farm bill priorities is up on the sac farm bill action center webpage.


farm bill outreach team - we are building a network of action teams in each state in the west, and you are invited.   please contact us if you will be part of a team in your state to help disseminate information and/or action alerts when quick action is needed to communicate with our legislators re/ the farm bill.   email:   rivercare@blackfoot.net   minutes of outreach team conference calls are here .


farm bill action although schedules frequently change in congress, here is our latest information on the timeline for the farm bill:

  * week of july 9: house: full agriculture committee meets

   * week of july 9: senate full agriculture committee meets to mark up their proposal (very tentatively)

   * week of july 23 or 30: scheduled farm bill debate on the house floor

during the july 4 recess, members of congress will be in their home districts, and there may be opportunities for you to meet with them or their staff personally at events around the community.    urge legislators to support organic provisions in the farm bill, including cost share and conversion provisions, a fair share of the research dollars, and crop insurance for organics.   conservation provisions needed include full funding for csp and make it mandatory funding (more below).


farm bills watch:   (more bills are at the sac website)

        farm program payment limitations:  it is not looking good for payment limitation reform.  the house commodity subcommittee voted to extend the current (2002) commodity title, thereby eliminating, for the time being, the modest payment limit reform that had been included in the mark by chairman peterson.  tougher amendments will hopefully be raised on the house floor.

      farm 21 act of 2007 - is a proposed alternative to commodity programs, sponsored in the house by ron kind (d-wi) and in the senate by richard lugar (d-in).  it proposes a tax-preferred savings account, which would provide tax benefits in proportion to funds invested in the accounts, and would spend the large savings generated by ending commodity programs on conservation, nutrition, energy and other programs.  that sounds good, but as currently proposed; the program would once again benefit the well-off far more than the average farmer.  like most tax subsidies, the more disposable income one has available to invest in the tax preference, the larger the benefit.  if a farm family does not have disposable income to invest in any given year, then there is no tax sheltering to be gained.  unlike commodity payments that at least have the framework for targeting to moderate-sized farms through payment limits, the proposed tax accounts are untargeted.  most of the tax subsidies will flow to mega-farms.  also, instead of doing anything to restore the $4.3 billion that has been taken from the csp in recent years, the farm 21 proposal would invest over $2.8 billion more into the environmental quality incentives program without any reform to its huge subsidies to cafo expansion and overproduction. the bill currently does not provide any new funding for organic agriculture.  it would provide $25 million and then $30 million a year for community food grants, or half the level recommended by the community food security coalition.

      community food projects (cfp): on june 14th, cfp was reauthorized at $30 million per year by the house nutrition subcommittee.  please call your member of congress and urge them to support continued mandatory funding for cfp at $30 million or more.

     geographic preferences/local procurement: in order to ensure clarification of language in the 2002 farm bill to allow school food service directors to buy fresh, local food, cfsc continues to seek inclusion of this brief but important language in the house agriculture committee draft of the farm bill.  this language is currently stuck in a jurisdictional disagreement between the agriculture committee and the education & labor committee (chair: george miller, ca-7th).   urge your legislators to encourage chairman miller to allow jurisdiction of the geographic preference issue for school nutrition purchases.

       the healthy food enterprise development program (hfed), which would provide funding for local food infrastructure, was not in the mark, nor does it have a firm champion yet.   cfsc is working with a number of members to see if this can be introduced as an amendment at full committee. northeast midwest institute has been doing much of the advocacy for this new program.

        the direct to consumer marketing assistance program (formerly the farmers' market promotion program) has a number of members ready to offer an amendment at full committee, which would include a percentage of the funding for ebt at farmers' markets.


preemption - part of farm bill -  see call to action below


csp news - the supplemental appropriations bill made additional funding available for the conservation security program, in addition to current csp participants receiving payments for contract modifications they have previously agreed to, there should be an announcement from usda soon that a new 2007 sign-up will be held this year, to occur in the 51 watersheds that have been previously announced by usda.   we are asking congress to fully fund csp so that everyone is eligible, not just people in certain watersheds.


biofuels issues - - new field of synthetic biology to engineer bacteria that can make hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.  startup company ls9 is developing microbes that produce hydrocarbons.     http://www.technologyreview.com/biztech/18827/


synthetic bacteria - entirely man-made -the venter institute, named for its founder and ceo, craig venter, the scientist who led the private sector race to map the human genome, is applying for worldwide patents on what they refer to as "mycoplasma laboratorium." the world's first-ever human-made species, the novel bacterium made entirely with synthetic dna in the laboratory. the patent application claims any version of "synthia" that can make ethanol or hydrogen. since the research was partially funded by the us dept of energy, the us government will hold "certain rights" to the patent, if approved     www.etcgroup.org  


terminator   bill to ban terminator introduced in canada - news release, etc group, may 3, www.etcgroup.org   the full text of the canadian bill   www.banterminator.org/canada


rr crop successor - since so many resistant weeds are emerging, monsanto is developing a new line of herbicide tolerant crops - this time tolerant to dicamba.  they say: if farmers can rotate between dicamba-resistant (dr) and glyphosate-resistant (rr) crop varieties, the likelihood of weeds gaining a foothold will fall.  the new plants also feature an interesting safety mechanism: the dicamba resistance gene (taken from a bacterium) lives only in the plants' chloroplasts. because chloroplast dna is only inherited through the maternal side, this means that the gm gene can't be spread through the male pollen.  monsanto is also hard at work on "gene stacking" -- combining genes for multiple herbicide resistance into one plant.    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/5/31/105543/484   dicamba is actually an old herbicide that served alongside �agent orange� in vietnam [7], and has been resurrected as an environmentally friendly chemical through the magic of public relations.  dicamba is not safe nor environmentally friendly.  http://www.i-sis.org.uk/dicamba_ready_gm_crops.php

ftc to block organic retail supermarket merger federal trade commission will sue to block the whole foods market acquisition of wild oats markets. the organization for competitive markets is an nonprofit organization working for open and competitive markets as well as fair trade for american food producers, consumers and rural communities.   www.competitivemarkets.com  


mad cow disease - has the u.s. stopped feeding slaughterhouse waste to cows?  no - the united states, right now, continues to legally feed billions of pounds of slaughterhouse waste to cattle in the united states. this waste includes cattle blood, cattle fat contaminated with protein, meat and bone meal, fat and blood from pigs, and something called poultry litter.   read this article if you have the, well, guts:  http://www.bioneers.org/node/1467   


alternatives to organic certification - close to 500 u.s. growers have joined certified naturally grown (cng), a non-profit group formed by farmers, specifically for small-scale direct market farmers using organic methods.  according to their website, at www.naturallygrown.org cng �encourages people to purchase from the small diversified farmers that make up their local landscape,� which includes farmer profiles.  smaller groups such as the montana sustainable growers union in missoula have created their own �homegrown� label after realizing their standards were the same or stricter than the national standard.  read their pledge regarding growing methods at http://www.homegrownmontana.org/


organic news

       usda seeks nominations for the national organic standards board (nosb) - deadline for application is aug. 17, 2007.       go to:

 http://www.ams.usda.gov/news/070-07.htm for the full announcement 

       organic aquaculture symposium � the nosb and the nop are hosting an organic aquaculture symposium on tuesday, november 27, 2007 in conjunction with the fall nosb meeting to be held wednesday, november 28 through friday, november 30, in washington, dc. the purpose of the symposium is to obtain scientific and academic input to assist the nosb in making final recommendations to the nop on two major unresolved issues regarding the organic standards for finfish aquaculture. http://www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/meetingagendas/html
eu ministers to allow contamination of organic food with gmos. the ministers adopted a new law, which allows organic food containing up to 0.9 percent "adventitious or technically unavoidable" gmo content to be classed and labeled as organic.  but the soil association and organic farmers and growers, which together certify more than 90% of the uk's organic food, pledged to keep their own criteria at the current 0.1 per cent, the lowest level at which gmos can be detected. http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8006

pesticides disrupt nitrogen fixing  a new study shows that the presence of organochlorine pesticides in soil, including ddt, can harm the ability of leguminous crops in fixing atmospheric nitrogen through symbiosis with nitrogen fixing bacteria. published in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences, the study reports, "that a subset of organochlorine pesticides, agrichemicals, and environmental contaminants reduces recruitment of rhizobia bacteria to host plant roots, fewer root nodules are produced, with lower rates of nitrogenase activity, and a reduction in overall plant yield at time of harvest. the environmental consequences of this are increased dependence on synthetic nitrogenous fertilizer, reduced soil fertility, and unsustainable long-term crop yields.


new �farm not arms� movement-  "we'd like to see another back to the land movement!  whether its returning veterans, young people looking for alternatives to the military, or farm laborers looking to have a farm of their own, we need to replenish our farms with people who will love the land, grow our fuels, and grow our food closer to those who will eat it.  maybe in doing so, we can help get our country back on track, with the beauty and grace of a simpler lifestyle, one that doesn't need world conquest to feed it or the destruction of our planet to sustain it.�   http://www.farmsnotarms.org/default.aspx   


�junk� dna? � not so:  scientists have been forced to rethink how the human genome turns a single cell into a complex living being following the most intensive study of our genetic code ever undertaken.  the research reveals that genes make up only a tiny fraction of the role played by the 3bn letters that constitute the human genome.   large swaths of the genome, previously dismissed as "junk dna" because it was thought to serve no practical purpose, have been found to be highly active inside the cells in our bodies. other sequences of genetic code are thought to be "on standby", awaiting a time further down the evolutionary path when they will be beneficial to human beings. the results, published in nature, are the culmination of a $42m, five-year project called encode (encyclopaedia of dna elements) involving 80 different scientific teams in 11 countries.


 wto talks still broke - june 21 - negotiations among four key world trade organization governments over a new global agreement collapsed today, with india and brazil blaming u.s. and eu unwillingness to cut farm aid.  the ministers from the u.s., the eu, india and brazil have been meeting since june 19 in potsdam, germany, aiming to reach a breakthrough on cutting agriculture subsidies and lowering hurdles for goods crossing borders.   www.tradeobservatory.org

oregon requires 25 percent renewable power by 2025   
 oregon governor ted kulongoski signed legislation earlier this month that requires the state's utilities to draw on renewable energy for 25% of their power needs by 2025. the state's aggressive new renewable energy policy includes interim targets of 5% renewable power by 2011, 15% by 2015, and 20% by 2020. to meet the requirement, utilities can draw on wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, wave, or tidal energy resources. utilities can also meet the requirement with new hydropower projects or efficiency upgrades to existing hydropower facilities. also, the governor signed house bill 2925 to encourage wave energy development in the state.  senate bill 838.    also, a bill requires that contracts for construction or renovation of public buildings designate at least 1.5% of the total contract price for solar energy technology and upgrades. press releases on the wave energy and solar power bills and the full texts of hb 2925 and hb 2620.

of note:  "the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion)�. - - dr. marcia angell, former editor in chief of the new england journal of medicine





farm energy resources - the national center for appropriate technology has created a handy �one-stop shopping� search tool for farms and ranches interested in funding and building renewable energy projects, reducing energy costs, and becoming more energy self-sufficient. the tool is at  www.attra.ncat.org/farmenergysearchtool 


nanotechnology  - for those concerned about the potential risks to human health and the environment from nanotechnology, the july issue of consumers report has an in-depth article about it.  at the nanoscale, where the mind-bending principles of quantum physics can apply, the characteristics of materials change: carbon becomes 100 times stronger than steel, aluminum turns highly explosive, and gold melts at room temperature.  a growing number of scientists say the unique properties of nanomaterials might pose substantial risks, which are largely unexplored, to both human health and the environment.  (on their web site they just post the first part of the article.)  www.consumerreports.org      


michael pollan in ny times -     �you are what you grow� - to speak of the farm bill's influence on the american food system does not begin to describe its full impact - on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration.


global ag. trade - global agricultural trade policies over the last several decades have resulted in price declines, increasingly concentrated market power of a few companies, and the industrialization of agriculture at the expense of people and the environment. last month, the ecofair trade dialogue put forth a series of reform proposals designed to fundamentally rethink global agriculture policies.    "slow trade-sound farming: a multilateral framework for sustainable markets in agriculture."


terminator plus �report examines new research on gene excision technologies (i.e., molecular methods to snip out transgenes at some point in a plant's life). dubbed exorcist by etc group, the technology is a strategy for both biocontainment and for restricting access to proprietary germplasm.  find:  suicide-seed sequel: eu's "transcontainer" turns terminator into zombie:  www.etcgroup.org   


ocean acidifying - several articles - rachel's democracy & health news #910   www.rachel.org   


community action on global warming:   david gershon's book: low carbon diet: a 30 day program to lose 5,000 pounds
this is for families, and communities.  the community campaign begins with a community gathering, called a global warming caf�, to engage citizens in a conversation about climate change and then move them into personal and community action.  the global warming caf�, a proven social technology, engages people emotionally and builds community ownership for change. it can be initiated by a community group, local government, faith-based group or business. it works best when all sectors of the community work together. http://www.empowermentinstitute.net/lcd/   

biofuels critique -  this spring planetary health published a booklet:  "let them eat ethanol: the hidden costs of biofuel" that examines the adverse health and environmental effects of biofuels. it includes sections on gmos and biotechnology, including information on a new government-funded pilot program in japan to develop rice ethanol (with gm varieties) on up to one third of the country's rice fields.   http://www.amberwaves.org/media.html  

    also, from wri: �thirst for corn: what 2007 plantings could mean for the environment�     www.wri.org/policynotes/                                             

    also, from grain:  a special issue of seedling magazine, focusing on biofuels (or as they call them: agrofuels) and their impact on developing countries, local communities, biodiversity and climate change:   http://www.grain.org/go/agrofuels


call to action


preemption -  house agriculture committee to consider language in the farm bill that would deny state�s rights to protect citizens from risky foods  the u.s. house subcommittee on livestock, dairy and poultry passed new language added to the 2007 farm bill that would bar states or localities from prohibiting any food or agricultural product that the usda has deregulated. the new language reads:
title 1, sec. 123. effect of usda inspection and determination of non-regulated status.  notwithstanding any other provision of law, no state or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the secretary of agriculture has� (1) inspected and passed; or (2) determined to be of non-regulated status.

the primary intent of this passage is to deny local or state rights to regulate genetically engineered crops or food. this would wipe out the restrictions passed by voters in four california counties and two cities, and could limit the powers of the california rice certification act and its ability to prohibit the introduction of ge rice varieties.  local and state laws pertaining to ge crops have also been passed in colorado, florida, hawaii, idaho, maine, minnesota, nebraska, north carolina, oregon, south dakota, vermont, washington and wisconsin. all of these democratically enacted laws are threatened by this language.    take action here:   http://ga3.org/campaign/house_ag/      


no to patents on seeds and animals- a global coalition is forming to stop the patenting of life.  big companies such as syngenta are claiming broad patents on basic staple crops.  but not only seeds are subjected to broad monopoly claims. according to greenpeace, monsanto is filing dozens of patent applications in the context of normal pig breeding.  to co-sign their global appeal:   http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org.


rbgh labeling  monsanto is asking the fda and ftc to curtail rbgh-free labeling. please contact the fda directly to tell them you don't want unreasonable restrictions on rbgh-free labeling.  go to www.centerforfoodsafety.org   and then under "urgent actions" on the right, click on "your right to know: does your milk have artificial hormones?"


calendar of events - spring 2007

calendar of events

july 18 � smart energy management in agriculturelivingston, california
farmers, dairies, ranchers, and wineries tired of high energy costs can learn to save money through energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. get updates on the latest incentives and financing options, meet with energy consultants and go on a farm tour. space is limited. to reserve call the ecological farming association at (831) 763-2111.


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  


august 4 - 12 - herbal intensive - pleasant hill, oregon    www.herbaltransitions.com  


september 15-29 - montana permaculture design course - 2nd annual 2007 - hot springs, montana - michael pilarski, larry korn, and others. alameda's hot springs retreat (406) 741-2283 www.alamedashotsprings.com    


september 25 � 28 - pacific northwest ecological restoration conference  yakima, wa - the joint conference of the nw chapter of the society for ecological restoration and the society of wetland scientists will focus on the conservation and restoration of the columbia basin and the pacific northwest. abstracts for oral and poster presentations are due by april 30.   www.ser.org/sernw/conference_07.asp 

october 3 - 5 - annual provender alliance conference  - vancouver, wash.   www.provender.org 


october 4-7 - montana barter fair 2007 - near hot springs, montana (north of missoula). a producer-to-producer economic event. the goal of the 2007 montana barter fair is to bring together people from around montana to barter and sell food they have grown, crafts they have made, and various and sundry other useful goods. another goal is to socialize, make music, and have fun.  still being organized.     friendsofthetrees @ yahoo.com   


october 12 - 14  annual natural products northwest  - seattle, wash.   www.nnfa-northwest.com   


november 9-11 - tilth producers annual conference - yakima, wa




we administer 1 email listserv, which also receives our monthly enews.  the wsawg list is for all topics related to sustainable agriculture, including organic,  genetically modified organisms, and conservation issues.   to subscribe, (or unsubscribe) simply send an email with your request to jill: rivercare@blackfoot.net    

(you may also subscribe to just the enews)

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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