website links:

field of flowers

vol. 2, #8
august, 2007


in this issue...

if your email version is hard to read, please refer to the webpage version:         

also, all past issues are at      


farm bill update � the house passed their version of the farm bill in late july.  with respect to the targeted legislative agenda set out in the document, �seeking balance� by the ffpp coalition  ( ) and endorsed by more than 400 organizations, significant gains were made in the house bill, h.r. 2419.    however, gaping holes remain to be closed.  weak commodity payment limitation provisions, elimination of the funding base for the conservation security program (csp), and the loss of mandatory funds for the innovative community food projects program are evidence of misplaced priorities.   indeed, many of the program funds are only given discretionary spending, inclusion of which in the federal budget is at the annual discretion of congressional appropriators.  because of this, it is conceivable that many of the programs listed with discretionary funding will either terminate or never be implemented.    now the action shifts to the senate.  here is an easy way for people to send a message to congress:


farm bill resources   our primary lead on the farm bill is the sustainable agriculture coalition (sac), which has a very useful onlinefarm bill action center�,  with all the information you might need to be informed and current on the farm bill process.    we also work closely with the community food security coalition, (cfsc) which also has farm bill updates that can be found on their website:

         policy info center in food stores:  we have posted a photo of a policy info center at  the center is a display to alert shoppers of important farm bill issues and to facilitate them sending a letter to their legislators.  let us know if you want to bring one to your store. 
         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.   email:  
minutes of outreach team conference calls are here .


farm bill actionwe need to continue to stress the importance of limiting commodity payments, supporting conservation programs and small but powerful programs like community food projects and the need to adequately fund them with mandatory money.   sen. baucus, (d-mt) the chair of the senate finance committee, is a key for finding money for desired increases in the farm bill.

mcmansion bill introduced:  senators ken salazar (d-co) and ben nelson (d-ne) have introduced a bill (s 1904) intended to end commodity support farm payments to non-farmers who are not producing any commodities. 

          food safety bill announced:  john dingell, chairman of the house energy and commerce, has released a draft bill to increase fda monitoring of imported food.

emphasis on conservation  - by senator tom harkin � chair of sen. ag. cmte:  �there is no higher priority in the new farm bill than to bolster programs that encourage good stewardship of the land, protect streams and rivers, expand wildlife habitat and provide environmental benefits for all americans.  the cornerstone of the new conservation title (that we are crafting) will be a new program called the comprehensive stewardship incentives program, (csip) which will offer a one-stop-shopping solution for agricultural producers seeking conservation assistance. this program would integrate and coordinate our primary working lands programs: the conservation security program, the environmental quality incentives program and the wildlife habitat incentives program. read more 

conservation security program (csp) sign-up news - usda secretary mike johanns announced $35 million will be made available for the completion of csp payments for 2007, including contract modifications from previous enrollments.  in addition, $2.93 million is being released to help producers and nrcs staff prepare for future csp signup.  sometime after the start of the new fiscal year on october 1, 2007, a new csp sign-up will occur in the 51 watersheds, covering nearly 24 million acres of cropland and grazing land in all fifty states, that were originally targeted for enrollment in 2006 and 2007.   see:  eligible watersheds


energy in the farm bill - the house farm bill provides a total of $3.3 billion in program funding for energy title programs, still short of the $1 billion per year goal.  it includes several innovative ideas and increased resources for already successful programs. the environmental law policy center has provided a summary:  

aurora �organic� dairy forced into consent agreement with usda/ams - the usda agricultural marketing service (ams) has entered into a consent agreement with aurora organic dairy in response to a notice of proposed revocation issued earlier this year alleging violations of national organic program (nop) regulations. under the consent agreement, aurora�s platteville, colo., facility must meet several conditions in order to continue to operate as a certified organic dairy operation. these conditions include removing certain animals from the organic herd and ceasing to apply the organic label to certain milk.  this enforcement was brought about by citizens� action spearheaded by the cornucopia institute:   

change to gene theory challenges biotech - the $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded.   last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of the way genes function (the central dogma).  the exhaustive, four-year effort was organized by the united states national human genome research institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. to their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a "tidy collection of independent genes" after all, with each sequence of dna linked to a single function, like a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease.   instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood.  according to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists "to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do."         article in iht  


monsanto taking it in the chops

          kroger co. going rbgh free, one of the nations�s largest retail grocery chains has announced plans to switch to milk free of gm hormones. the announcement is another blow to monsanto, which already had been reducing inventory of its gm milk hormone rbgh as starbucks and other retailers rejected it.

monsanto looses attempt to stop rbgh free advertising - federal regulators (ftc) have turned down monsanto�s request to take action against dairy companies that advertise milk as free of synthetic hormones, saying that the ads it reviewed did not make any misleading claims about the safety of recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rbst,  read more  

napa investment firm goes after monsanto   harrington investments, inc., (hii) a socially responsible investment advisory firm, has introduced a binding by-law amendment that would limit monsanto corporation's ability to protect directors when they violate their fiduciary duty in cases resulting in "harm to the natural environment, public health, or human rights."  in addition to monsanto, harrington has introduced several other binding corporate bylaw amendment resolutions this year. if approved, these bylaw proposals would result in such innovations as the creation of corporate human rights committees.

          monsanto discharged pcbs - a university of west florida (uwf) study has found potentially unsafe levels of pcbs in mullet and other fish in the pensacola bay system. the pcb "hotspot" is in upper escambia bay and the lower escambia river. according the study, an industrial plant on the river - at the time it was monsanto - discharged one to three gallons a day of pcbs during the late 1960s.

          monsanto appeals roundup ready alfalfa ruling - seeking to overturn the permanent injunction on planting roundup ready alfalfa. this is the second time the case has been appealed.   the injunction was issued may 3rd, when judge charles breyer ordered that all sale and seeding of roundup ready alfalfa stop until usda completes an environmental impact statement (eia). judge breyer did allow that roundup ready alfalfa planted prior to march 30th could be harvested, but only under special handling requirements which prevent neighboring fields from being contaminated.

           monsanto lost four patents on gm crops in less than five months, thanks to the challenge mounted by the public patent foundation. the patents were all on gene sequences involving the cauliflower mosaic virus (camv) promoter, which is crucial for getting engineered genes to work.


biotech beets gaining approval  rr sugar-beet seed is expected to be in widespread use next year, as governments and sugar processors approve the biotech beets.   read more


ecotrust chosen to lead farm to school programs in the western united states  ecotrust food & farms program has been selected to serve as the regional lead agency (rla) for the national farm to school network. as rla, ecotrust is charged with overseeing efforts to change the face of school food to reflect local foodsheds and promote health in the western united states. ecotrust was chosen from a field of non-profit organizations based on its proven track record in developing and implementing programs in the farm to school arena, as well as its successful history of collaborating with organizations and individuals on a local and national level.


merger between whole foods and wild oats - a three-judge panel of the u.s. court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit denied a request by the ftc to block the $565 million merger.   article    




farm-to-consumer legal defense fund launched -  to protect the rights of farmers to provide meat, eggs, raw dairy products, vegetables and other foods directly to consumers. according to the group's legal counsel, its educational services will include up-to-date information on legal and regulatory issues as well as model contracts for cow-share, herd-share, farm-share or other contractual agreements that may be needed in order for consumers to obtain raw dairy products and other nutritious foods directly from farmers. in addition, the fund will lobby for passage of laws favorable to raw milk sales, on-farm processing and grass-based, organic and sustainable farming methods.   


genetically modified foods:  toxins and reproductive failures � by jeffrey smith � spilling the beans newsletter  spilling the beans is a monthly column available at the website also offers eater-friendly tips for avoiding gmos at home and in restaurants.  view newsletter click here.   for a more in-depth look at 65 health risks of gm foods, excerpted from jeffrey smith's comprehensive new book genetic roulette: click here.


biofuels critique � altieri, miguel and elizabeth bravo. the ecological and social tragedy of crop-based biofuel production in the americas. 


rr alfalfa hotline - conventional and organic farmers who raise or plan to raise alfalfa can now call a toll-free number at the usda to determine if nearby fields are planted with gm alfalfa. the usda is providing a list of states and counties in which rr alfalfa is grown as part of a court order which vacated usda's 2005 decision to deregulate rr alfalfa. the toll-free line: 1-866-724-6408.

farm to hospital resource -  the center for food and justice and the community food security coalition recently released farm to hospital: supporting local agriculture and improving health care (pdf/219 kb). this brochure introduces interested farmers and hospital food service departments to the ins and outs of developing partnerships between hospitals and local farms. included are examples of ways hospitals can improve the food they offer, issues for farmers to consider if they are interested in selling products to area hospitals, and specific case studies of successful programs.


call to action

comments needed � *** vip ***  usda/aphis releases draft eis for gmo regulation:  ahpis will take comments on the draft eis until september 11, 2007.  the draft environmental impact statement (eis) offers a range of options on 10 issues central to the new rules.   one of the most important issues in the draft eis (issue 4) discusses the regulation of �pharma� crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals in food crops.  despite its demonstrated inability to adequately protect the food supply from contamination in the past, the usda's preferred option for future pharma/industrial crop regulation would essentially maintain the status quo.   instead, usda should adopt alternative 4 for issue 4, which would ban outdoor production of �pharma� food crops.  for a more in-depth analysis of the risks to the food supply from outdoor production of pharma/industrial food crops, see the ucs policy paper and supporting documents:  for those without the time or inclination to do formal comments, you may simply send a form letter re/ issue 4 via:  send letter.  

you may submit your comments addressing the 10 issues in the draft eis by either of the following 2 methods:
1.  federal erulemaking portal: go to, select ``animal and plant health inspection service'' from the agency drop-down menu, then click ``submit.'' in the docket id column, select aphis-2006-0112 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials, including the deis, that are available electronically. information on using, including instructions for accessing documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket after the close of the comment period, is available through the site's ``user tips'' link.
2.  postal mail/commercial delivery: please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to docket no. aphis-2006-0112, regulatory analysis and development, ppd, aphis, station 3a-03.8, 4700 river road unit 118, riverdale, md 20737-1238.   please state that your comment refers to docket no. aphis-2006-0112

send letter to your senators:  current farm and food policies create an unfair playing field - one that works at the expense of local markets, family farmers, and the environment. we need your help to bring our communities access to affordable locally-grown food today.   fill out the form at this link, and we'll send the posted letter to your representatives in congress. for every 100 messages sent from your city or state, we will hand deliver a package of healthy, local food to your senators and representatives.     


organic beer alert: despite anheuser-busch responding to public pressure saying they will use organic hops, the usda apparently still plans to officially rank organic hops as "commercially unavailable."  this will allow beer-makers to use chemically grown hops in their beers labeled as "organic", instead of supporting family farmers who are currently growing organic hops.  please take a moment to sign this new petition to anheuser-busch, thanking them for pledging to use organic hops and requesting they tell the usda to remove conventional hops from the national list of approved organic ingredients, thereby requiring all organic beer makers to use organic hops.  take action


pasteurized almonds - under pressure from industrial agriculture lobbyists, the usda has quietly approved a new regulation that will effectively end distribution of raw almonds, while putting many family farmers out of business.  the rule requires pasteurization of almonds, including organic, yet allows those same almonds to continue to be labeled as "raw". nutritionists point out that raw, organic almonds are far superior, in terms of nutrition, than pasteurized almonds.  one of the fda-recommended pasteurization methods requires the use of propylene oxide, which is classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the international agency for research on cancer and is banned in canada, mexico, and the european union.  organic and family-scale almond farmers are protesting the proposed rule, saying it will effectively put them out of business, since the minimum price for the pasteurization equipment is $500,000.

the agency claims pasteurization is necessary, since there have been two food contamination incidents with raw almonds since 2001.  but both of these incidents, in fact, were the result of blatant mismanagement on large industrial-scale almond farms.   take action

protect communities from fumigants - us epa is reviewing dangerous fumigant pesticides for re-registration and considering what precautions applicators must take to protect the public from the health hazards of these volatile poisons.  epa is currently soliciting public comment on fumigant re-registrations and your input is needed.  fumigants are among the most toxic pesticides in use today, causing birth defects, cancer, parkinson's disease and acute poisonings. they are used in large quantities to sterilize soils before planting -- an archaic tool of chemically-reliant industrial agriculture, the antithesis of soil-nurturing sustainable farming. it is time for them to go!   take action now! sign pan's petition to epa to demand the highest safety precautions for fumigant pesticides and help farmers change over to least-toxic soil pest management methods.  for more information see pan's fumgant campaign page.

ask for food aid reform - the present food aid system is cumbersome, slow, expensive, and undercuts farmers in poor countries. president bush (wonder of wonders) has rightly proposed shifting $300 million from farm subsidies to enable governments and relief groups to buy food locally.   this plan struck a responsive chord almost everywhere except the congress.  farm policy continues to be dominated by farm-state legislators who prefer the status-quo of sending surplus food abroad, further enriching heavily subsidized farmers as well as the shipping industry.   take action  


pesticide news and action alert - children vulnerable to chemical contamination: the world health organization's program on children and environmental health issued a new report stating, "air and water contaminants, pesticides in food, lead in soil, as well many other environmental threats which alter the delicate organism of a growing child may cause or worsen disease and induce developmental problems. over 30% of the global burden of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors." read more.   senate moves to undo bush's attacks on the toxic release inventory act (tri): the senate public works and environment committee passed a bill by senators boxer and lautenberg to undo bush's weakening of the tri. the tri forces companies to disclose the emissions and pollution they are releasing into communities.  the bill is expected to go before the full senate in the fall. omb watch has launched a campaign for the bill: click here to ask your senator to support the boxer-lautenberg bill to restore the tri.


calendar of events - spring 2007

calendar of events

september 14-16: teach-in: "confronting the triple crisis: climate change, peak oil, and global resource depletion"
washington, dc.  the international forum on globalization, the institute for policy studies, and the global economic transitions project are cosponsoring this teach-in, subtitled "powering-down for the future: toward an international movement for system change: new economics of sustainability, equity, 'sufficiency' and peace." confirmed speakers for the teach-in, to be held at lisner auditorium at george washington university, include maude barlow, tony clarke, randy hayes, richard heinberg, wes jackson, winona laduke, frances moore lappe, jerry mander, vandana shiva, and david suzuki.  international forum on globalization >


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    


september 19 - december 12 � sustainable small acreage farming course - everett, washington, wsu snohomish county extension offers this 13-week course, cultivating success, combining classroom and on-farm learning experiences. local farmers and university specialists will share their expertise   


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. 

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

october 4-7 - montana barter fair 2007 - at a hot springs 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.   helpers welcome.    friendsofthetrees @   


october 5-7 - democracy school - missoula, mt.  for the first time in montana, thomas linzey, co-founder of the grassroots community environmental legal defense fund and featured speakers at the 2006 bioneers conference, leads this powerful, inspiring workshop.   participants explore the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and learn how to confront corporate control with a powerful single front:  people's constitutional rights.   


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


october 19 - 21 -  bioneers conference - san rafael, calif. and beamed to 20 cities in the us.  the bioneers conference is one of the world's largest annual gatherings of visionaries and activists applying practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies to restore the earth and communities. bioneers conference >   


november 6-7 -  center for ecoliteracy (cel) seminar: rethinking school lunch, berkeley, california
when this two-day seminar, based on cel's rethinking school lunch program, was offered in fall, 2006 and summer, 2007 all spaces were filled in advance. we recommend registering early. read more >


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:    

(you may also subscribe to just the enews)

back to top

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