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field of flowers

vol. 2, #10
october, 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 full senate is scheduled to vote on the farm bill the week of november 5.  we are at the final stages of the farm bill debates and this is the last chance to institute real reform before the bill moves to the conference committee.  like the widely denounced house bill payment limit provision, the senate committee bill maintains the current waste, fraud, and abuse approach to commodity payment limitations that leads to mega-payments, farm consolidation, and the slow demise of family-scale agriculture.  it also soaks up precious resources that then cannot be spent on key programs that are short-funded by the bill.  real reform must now be made in the form of a senate floor amendment introduced by senators byron dorgan (d-nd) and chuck grassley (r-ia).  the dorgan-grassley amendment will put a hard cap of $250,000 on commodity payments, close loopholes, and shift the savings to rural development, beginning and minority farmer, conservation, nutrition, and anti-hunger programs.  it will be the major floor amendment on the farm bill, and the vote count is expected to be very, very close.  every single vote will count.    [call your senators - - see call to action below]

the dorgan-grassley farm program payment limitation reform amendment would:

      limit annual per farm commodity subsidy payments to $250,000 the amendment would establish effective caps of $40,000 on direct (fixed) payments, $60,000 on counter cyclical (and crop revenue) payments, and $150,000 on loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains, including gains on generic certificates and forfeited commodities.  the combined limit would be $250,000.  
      close loopholesno longer would farmers be able to use generic commodity certificates or forfeitures to the government to evade the limits.  those limitation-avoidance mechanisms would now count against the limits.  all payments would count toward an individual's limit, whether received directly or through a corporation or other type of entity.  it would become far more difficult to create paper farms for the purposes of exceeding the limits. 
       ensure that payments flow to working farmerscurrent law attempts to target payments to working farmers, but fails miserably in doing so.  the amendment improves the measurable standard by which usda determines who should and should not receive farm payments.  it requires that management be personally provided on a regular, substantial, and continuous basis through direct supervision and direction of farming activities and labor and on-site services. 

       re-invest in high priority programssavings from the amendment are re-invested in programs to support minority and beginning farmers, rural economic development, conservation, and nutrition and anti-hunger efforts, programs which received no funding or insufficient funding in the bill reported by the senate agriculture committee.

re/ conservation   thanks to the unflagging support of senator harkin the conservation security program emerged from committee fit as a fiddle and with a new name: the conservation stewardship program. as part of the comprehensive stewardship incentives program for working lands conservation the bill offers the new csp on a nationwide basis and a mandatory sign up of at least 13 million acres a year; nearly 80,000 acres over the life of the farm bill. the bill also provides an easy crosswalk for organic farmers allowing them to simultaneously establish eligibility for the csp and organic certification.


highlights of the senate ag cmte's proposed farm bill and other expected amendments go to our primary lead on the farm bill, the sustainable agriculture coalition (sac), we also work closely with the community food security coalition, (cfsc) which also has farm bill updates that can be found on their website:   our monthly enews is archived at  

conservation biological control work group - western region - gwendolyn ellen at oregon state university's integrated plant protection center and 16 other collaborators across the northwest have been granted usda-csrees funds to create the first western region cbc work group.     story    

bt corn may affect aquatic ecosystems,  a study led by an indiana university environmental science professor suggests a widely planted variety of genetically engineered corn has the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems.   article 


global warming - threshold has been crossed - an ipcc report to be released next month will show that the rise in greenhouse-gases that scientists had hoped to avert has already been surpassed. article 



     corn ethanol and water - national research council released a report which concludes that the projected increase in corn ethanol production could significantly degrade water quality and result in water supply problems at the regional and local level    report
     biofuels 'crime against humanity' a united nations expert has condemned the growing use of food crops to produce biofuels as a crime against humanity.  article
     dvd of presentation available  david fridley, staff scientist at lawrence berkeley lab, active in san francisco bay area peak oil groups, gave a presentation entitled "the myths of biofuels"    link


cloned meat - who is pushing it - the food industry is not very interested in cloning as it is both expensive and unreliable. the push for producing food from cloned farm animals comes largely from one small sector of the biotech industry, not from meat and dairy producers. two biotech companies - cyagra and viagen   article


lawsuit - aurora dairy  acting on behalf of organic food consumers in 27 states, class action lawsuits are being filed in u.s. federal courts, in st. louis and denver, against the nation's largest organic dairy. the suits charge aurora dairy corporation, based in boulder, colorado, with allegations of consumer fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment concerning the sale of organic milk by the company.  this past april, aurora officials received a notice from the usda detailing multiple and "willful" violations of federal organic law that were found by federal investigators.  press release


pennsylvania dept. of ag attacks rbgh-free labeling - new regulations appear to prohibit any kind of rbgh-free labeling on dairy products, including wording such as "our farmers pledge not to use�"  article and press release


codex to authorize gmo contamination the codex alimentarius commission, which establishes food standards on behalf of the un's food and agriculture organisation (fao) has decided to advance a proposal that would allow low-level contamination by gmos that have not been authorized in the importing country.  phil bereano, prof emeritus at university of washington, who has been closely involved with the codex process, writes, "no country is under any obligation whatsoever to adopt any codex document - they are all voluntary.   article


epigenetics - startling scientific discoveries illuminate the emerging field of epigenetics, in which single nutrients, toxins, behaviors or environmental exposures of any sort can silence or activate a gene without altering its genetic code in any way. rather, the environmental exposure triggers a chemical change in the body or brain that mobilizes a group of molecules called a methyl group. the methyl group attaches to the control segment of a gene and either silences or alternately activates the gene.  "we can no longer argue whether genes or environment has a greater impact on our health and development, because both are inextricably linked." "each nutrient, each interaction, each experience can manifest itself through biochemical changes that ultimately dictate gene expression, whether at birth or 40 years down the road." said two genetics researchers.    moreover, epigenetic changes can also be passed down from one generation to the next.   article

ge crops not approved in eu the european union has blocked the approval of a genetically modified potato and three genetically modified varieties of corn. health regulators in several european countries expressed serious concerns about scientific data suggesting possible problems with the biotech plants. all of the proposed plants are already approved for use in the u.s.  article


national farm to school network launched its new and improved web site, the portal for farm to school information in the u.s., including extensive content with easy access for submitting information about programs, upcoming events, news and funding opportunities, and online discussion forums to dialogue on issues facing farm to school programs. an exciting new feature includes a state profile for each of the 34 states with active farm to school programs   related attra publication:   bringing local food to local institutions


why gmo's are not safe - australian scientists inserted a gene from a kidney bean into peas to make them resistant to a weevil. they then fed the gm peas to mice for four weeks and noted health effects.  the scientific community was surprised because the gene, when it was in the kidney bean, had been known to be safe. however, further tests revealed that when the gene was introduced into the pea, the pea had attached different chemicals to the protein produced by the gene, changing its safety. the scientists were forced to conclude that a gene that is safe in its native plant may become unsafe when inserted into a gm plant - contrary to what had been assumed by the gm regulators.  article


grass fed label standard issued:  usda's agricultural marketing service issued the long-awaited standard for a grass and forage fed livestock marketing claim.  ruminant livestock and meat producers who want to have a usda process verified grass fed label on their products must meet this standard.  the federal register notice with the final standard, which includes ams comments on the previously submitted public comments on the proposed standard, is posted at usda page.  the standard takes effect on november 15, 2007.





turning farms into factories - new report about factory farms (cafos) that explains the environmental, public health, and economic consequences of cafos, as well as the policies and players that are driving their growth,   posted at       national map of factory farms at:    


livestock production and ghg - un fao report estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport (trucks, suvs, cars, airplanes, trains, etc) which releases 13% of ghgs.     article   


underserved producer grantwriting assistance project - the michael fields agricultural institute recently announced a new project funded through usda's risk management agency. the underserved producer grantwriting assistance project will pay experienced grantwriters to assist producers in submitting proposals to federal agencies to support their work. the project places priority on serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. currently, the project will only operate in the south, west, and midwest regions.  article


organic fraud protection program -the national cooperative grocers association (ncga) announced its partnering with hanover co-op food stores, pcc natural markets and unified grocers on a program exploring the use of the organic industry's first system-wide, retailer-based organic fraud detection and prevention program. ncga has contracted with the international organic accreditation service (ioas) to determine appropriate methods retailers could undertake to limit the incidence of fraudulently traded organic products and to increase the chances of early detection when it takes place within the retail supply chain.

spilling the beans, october issue
how corporations engineered the non-regulation of dangerous genetically modified foods, by jeffrey m. smith   click here  


disaster assistance for organic farmers new article focuses on aspects of federal disaster assistance that are of particular relevance for organic farmers. the first part of the article discusses steps that organic farmers may take to reduce the impact of natural disasters that may occur in the future. the second part of the article discusses federal programs that provide assistance to farmers in order to recover from natural disaster.  article.


farm to school - this article, local carrots with a side of red tape, does a great job of describing the ups and downs of schools buying local food.  article

nutrient levels in u.s. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields - this "critical issue report" from brian halweil at the worldwatch institute documents the extent of nutrient decline, reviews ways that farmers and breeders can increase nutrient density, and explains the importance of doing so in order to improve public health.   report

farm to hospital: supporting local agriculture and improving health care direct sales from farmers to hospital food service departments are helping ill people eat better and recover faster. this six-page brochure from the community food security coalition and the center for food & justice (cfj) addresses the ins and outs of developing partnerships between hospitals and local farms, looks at ways hospitals can improve the food they offer, tells how farmers can effectively market to hospitals, and provides case studies of successful efforts.  brochure.

organic food is better early results of a �12 million 4-year eu study indicate organic fruit and vegetables contain 40% more antioxidants (believed to cut the risk of heart disease and cancer) compared to non-organic items. there were also higher levels of other beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc.  article


call to action

urge all senators to support the dorgan-grassley payment limitations amendment
please call your senators today 
the full senate vote will be the week of nov 5  its easy to call:
contact the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or locate your senators at  congress .


factory farms alert - while you are at it, urge your senators to oppose bills that would exempt hazardous wastes from cafos from the health and environmental protections that cercls, epcra, and eqip provide, and support bills that would set the limit on eqip payments to $240,000 so that cafo's would not be able to bogart the funds.


gm sugar beets- leading u.s. sugar providers have announced they will be sourcing their sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets (rr) beginning this year and arriving in stores in 2008. like gm corn and gm soy, u.s. products containing gm sugar will not be labeled as such. sugar beets are grown on 1.4 million acres by 12,000 farmers in the u.s. from oregon to minnesota.  meanwhile candy companies like hershey's are urging farmers not to plant gm sugar beets, noting that consumer surveys suggest resistance to the product. in addition the european union has not approved gm sugar beets for human consumption.    take action


calendar of events - 2007


november 1-2 - sustainable ag expo - paso robles, california - this event offers crop-specific and general seminars featuring researchers, extension consultants and growers. topics addressed are appropriate for row crops, strawberries, vineyards, orchards, nurseries & more. sustainable ag expo


november 1-4 - international holistic management conference albuquerque, new mexico - keynotes are joel salatin, temple grandin, thom hartmann, and allan savory. whether your focus is land desertification, food security, public lands, meeting consumer demand for organics, or global warming, you'll exchange ideas with knowledgeable experts and discover the solutions that are working now.  conference website  


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 - green festival - san francisco, calif.,  877.727.2179


november 9-11 - tilth producers annual conference - yakima, wa, yakima convention center. keynote speaker will be lynn miller, editor of the small farmers' journal.   206.442.7620


november 27 - 4:30 - 8:30 pm - ncsa organic cmte and nat'l organic coalition pre-nosb meeting - arlington, va, holiday inn, contact: liana hoodes, 845-744-2304,    

november 28-30 - nosb national organic standards board (nosb) will meet in dc on november 28-30 to conduct the sunset review process for a number of national list substances and consider the recommendations of the six nosb subcommittees on several key issues.  for meeting logistics and an agenda go to usda website


november 29 - focus on farming conference iv:  from soils to sales lynnwood convention center, i-5 & 196th street sw, lynnwood, wash.,  8 am 6 pm (check-in begins at 7 am), cost:  $30 until november 15; $40 after november 15; under 18 - $10 with pre-registration   information

february 13 - organic seed growers' pre-conference workshop - one-day fundamentals of organic seed production short course and then....

february 14-15, 2008, 5th biennial organic seed growers conference- hosted by osa in partnership with oregon state university, washington state university, and organic materials review institute, this is the largest meeting of seed professionals engaged in organic seed production, research, and plant breeding in the us. this event brings together seed growers, organic farmers, university researchers and extension agents, seed industry professionals, and food industry participants from across the country and internationally.


march 2-4 - the 2008 summit on seeds and breeds, washington, dc to debrief from the farm bill and plan for the future of public plant and animal breeding.   more info later:  


april 22-26 - ecocity world summit 2008 - san francisco, california   website


may 5-7 - sw marketing network 6th annual conference - santa fe, nm, la fonda hotel, website



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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.
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