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field of flowers

vol. 2, #11
november, 2007


in this issue...

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also, all past issues are at      

farm bill news

farm bill update - the full senate did not vote on the farm bill and now are recessed for two weeks. with just three weeks remaining when the senate returns from thanksgiving recess, and a full slate of appropriations bills and other things (like the peru free trade agreement) left to complete, prospects for a farm bill by christmas are very dim, so it will be a 2008 farm bill. we still need you to:

                urge your senators to support the dorgan-grassley amendment on the floor.

                urge your senators to support a livestock title on the floor.

amendments to embrace

         senator wyden (d-or) introduced an amendment that would restore sustainability criteria to the bioenergy crop transition assistance program. bcta will make incentive and cost share payments to producers of perennial bioenergy crops who meet certain stewardship thresholds. priority is given to projects that provide the highest estimated benefits to wildlife, air, soil and water quality; include the participation of beginning farmers and ranchers or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; and include local ownership of the biomass conversion facility.

livestock title amendments

          senator enzi (r-wy) introduced an amendment (captive supply reform act) that will require all forward contracts for the sale of livestock to have a fixed base price.
          senator tester (d-mt) is sponsoring an amendment to clarify that the packers and stockyards act does not excuse market manipulation where the packer has a "legitimate business justification."
          senator harkin is sponsoring another amendment to provide clarification for the courts. it will ensure that the packers and stockyards act is not interpreted as requiring that producers show not only individual harm from anti-competitive practices but also competitive harm to the entire industry.
conservation amendments:  

          senator feingold (d-wi) has filed an amendment that will cap eqip cost share payments at 25% once a recipient has received more than $240,000 under the program in any six year period.

          dorgan-grassley commodity payment limitation amendment places a hard cap of $250,000
          senators feingold and menendez (d-nj) have filed an amendment that would reduce direct payments. after the first $10,000, direct payments would be reduced by 35%. savings would be used to provide block grants to the states for conservation, nutrition, rural development, organic agriculture and renewable energy spending.
           senator kolbuchar (d-mn) has filed an amendment to deny commodity program payments to individuals with an average annual adjusted gross income in excess of $250,000 unless two-thirds of their income is from farming.
           senators lugar (r-in) and lautenberg (d-nj) filed a comprehensive amendment that would entirely replace commodity programs with a program of revenue insurance and  savings accounts.
cloned meat and milk products

                senators mikulski (d-md) and specter (r-pa) filed an amendment directing usda to conduct a series of studies on issues not addressed in the preliminary fda risk assessment. the amendment directs the secretary to conduct a study on the economic and trade impacts on u.s. meat and milk exports; usda's capacity to monitor the introduction of cloned products; the potential public health effects attributable to the consumption of milk from cloned animals; and a study to be conducted with the nas regarding the safety of cloned food. the amendment also extends the current voluntary moratorium on the introduction of cloned food until the studies called for are completed.
                senator mikulski filed a separate amendment (sa 3525) requiring that products from cloned animals or their progeny be clearly labeled as such.



france bans gmos france has announced a ban on the planting of genetically engineered crops until the safety of the crops can be further assessed. french president nicolas sarkozy indicted that the decision was based on the desire to err on the side of safety. "i don't want to be in contradiction with eu laws, but i have to make a choice. in line of the precautionary principle, i wish that the commercial cultivation gmos be suspended," he said.   article

gm crops that shut down pests' genes  monsanto is developing genetically modified plants that use rna interference to kill the insects that eat them, by disrupting their gene expression. the crops, which initiate a gene-silencing response called rna interference, are a step beyond existing gm crops that produce toxic proteins. because the new crops target particular genes in particular insects, some researchers suggest that they will be safer and less likely to have unintended effects than other genetically modified plants. others warn that it is too early to make such predictions and that the plants should be carefully tested to ensure that they do not pose environmental problems. most researchers agree that it's unlikely that eating these plants would have adverse effects on humans.  two papers published concurrently in nature biotechnology show that in some insects, eating doubleanded rna is enough to cause gene silencing. this is surprising: in previous research, rna interfered with organisms' gene expression only when it was injected. technology review

rbgh issues:

        penn.  dept. of ag attacks rbgh-free labeling - agency's new regulations appear to prohibit any kind of rbgh-free labeling on dairy products, including wording such as "our farmers pledge not to use"  ny times article   you may send a message to the pa governor - see call to action section below.  as of the end of nov, public pressure has caused the pa governor to delay enforcement of the rule, originally scheduled for jan 1, for one month.

        chipotle goes completely rbgh-free  chipotle mexican grill has announced it no longer will serve any cheese made with milk from cows treated with the synthetic hormone rbgh.  the move will make chipotle the first national restaurant chain to eliminate rbgh entirely from items on its menu.   article  

gmo corn harms caddisflies - researchers have found that bt corn has the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems in the midwest.  the scientists established that pollen, leaves and other plant parts from bt corn are leaving the corn fields and washing into nearby streams.  lab studies then showed that when these materials are eaten by caddisflies it can cause reduced growth and increased mortality.   article

three million italians sign petition against gmos. the petition was organized by the italy/europe gmo-free coalition, bringing together 32 organizations of farmers, consumers and environmentalists. article


do escaped transgenes persist in nature? - this is the first report of the persistence and apparent introgression, i.e. stable incorporation of genes from one differentiated gene pool into another, of an herbicide resistance transgene from brassica napus into the gene pool of its weedy relative, brassica rapa, monitored under natural commercial field conditions.  abstract


us farmers demand patent reform - re/ patent reform act of 2007 (s. 1145).  american corn growers association urges quick passage of legislation that would help level the playing field for family farmers defending themselves against dubious claims of patent infringement.   farmers in many cases are sued after their fields are contaminated by pollen that drifts.    article


state agency pilots local food program - the texas department of state health services is offering their employees the opportunity to sign up for weekly deliveries of fresh food grown by a local farmer. the agency worked with the sustainable food center of austin to arrange the program, which allows employees to order a $25 basket of produce online and have it delivered to their workplace.   article 


bees - study by beekeeper - bees near cropland less productive than bees away from cropland, clear results warrant more study by scientists, says john mcdonald.   article
           excellent article - what was behind the honey bee wipeout?  from terrain magazine, which is published by the ecology center in berkeley, california.   article 


farm belt residents not gung-ho about ethanol plants - one might expect that ethanol plants would be unconditionally embraced in the farm belt, but farm families are not immune to nimby-ism. when plans for an ethanol distillery were announced for the outskirts of sparta, wis., residents concerned about emissions, odor, and, yes, the view, printed up t-shirts: "good idea. bad location." residents of new castle, ind., are also lobbying against a proposed plant. the new york times    also, in grist: a special series on biofuels

bisphenol a (bpa) in our bodies - a cdc survey of more than 2500 u.s. residents shows that nearly 
everyone in the country carries bisphenol a (bpa) in their bodies and that children carry the highest burden.  
the chemical, used in plastics and food containers, acts as an endocrine disrupter.  article   


pesticides robbing girls of childhood: the falling age of puberty, a report from the breast cancer fund, warns that today's young girls are experiencing puberty two years earlier than their mothers because they are "exposed continuously to low-level endocrine disruptors in their diets, drinking water and air supply."


global warming - this is the key document on climate change, in 23 pages, it is the tightly distilled, peer-reviewed research of several thousand scientists, fully endorsed, without qualification, by all the world's major governments. its official name is a mouthful: the policymakers' summary of the synthesis report of the united nations intergovernmental panel on climate change (ipcc) fourth assessment. so let's just call it the synthesis.

        three western governors challenge congress to cap america's global warming pollution.   governors arnold schwarzenegger (r-ca), brian schweitzer (d-mt) and jon huntsman (r-ut) deliver strong message  article   

      list of global warming facts and figures details the economic impacts of global warming inaction and how much a national cap on global warming will cost.  article

        no more coal by peter montague  [printer-friendly version]


old mcdonald had a farm...and he got arrested?  - good article about regulators cracking down on farm to consumer direct sales.  article  


montana wic program rules out organic food - this is a heads up for the organic market - organic groceries will be cut from the shopping lists of montana mothers who rely on food support from the wic program starting dec. 1.   rapidly rising food costs have forced montana wic officials to choose between limiting the number of people enrolled in the program or limiting what products they can buy.     related article re/ wic funding


possible energy source: burning seawater - cancer researcher discovers hydrogen from salt water can be "burned" by radio frequencies.   he  happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer.  he discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies it would burn.  the discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water as a fuel.   cbs news article  


federal suit to protect salmon from pesticides: commercial fishers and environmentalists joined together to file a lawsuit to stop pesticide applications near rivers and streams in the pacific northwest and california. the suit, filed in u.s. district court in seattle, charges the national marine fisheries service and epa with failing to protect fish from 54 pesticides in west coast streams, despite a 2002 court order to do so. chemical and engineering news has the full report.


the scotts co. will pay a $500,000 fine over allegations that it failed to comply with u.s. rules for field-testing a ge variety of creeping bentgrass used on lawns, athletic fields and golf courses. the civil penalty is the largest allowed by the plant protection act of 2000. article




2007 farming sourcebook with a focus on sustainable and certified organic production,put out by the sustainable industries journal. free copy here! (pdf) 4.15 mb


usda report links payments with land concentration  the report data shows that the concentration of cropland since 1987 grew much more rapidly in areas with relatively high initial payments per acre suggesting that higher initial payment levels are associated with greater concentration of land into larger farms over time. report


new ucs report on biofuels:  the union of concerned scientists has released a report, titled biofuels: an important part of a low-carbon diet, which concludes that the cleanest form of ethanol is cellulose from grasses or wood chips which could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 85 percent.  the study includes a comparative life-cycle analysis of numerous liquid fuel feedstocks including gasoline, liquid coal and cellulosic ethanol.  in addition, the report looks at differences among agrofuels and found that emissions varied widely depending on tilling practices, fertilizer use, previous land use and the fuels used for farm equipment and ethanol plants.


invitation: dairy discussion listserve to serve as a communication conduit to discuss small-scale dairy issues (including regulatory, practical, technical, culinary, etc.). the list currently has 62 subscribers.  to join send email to chrys ostrander     


organic better re/ nutrients. american agribusiness is producing more food than ever before, but the evidence is building that the vitamins and minerals in that food are declining.   lots of info here  


organic better- 9 yr. study - the leopold center for sustainable agriculture reports that after nine years of comparison, clear differences between organic and conventional crop production systems are emerging: the longer rotations and careful management of the organic system show greater yields, increased profitability, and steadily improved soil quality over conventional practices. considered to be the largest randomized, replicated comparison of organic and conventional crops in the nation.  news release


astonishing speech by mayor rocky anderson of salt lake city -  "we won't take it any more!" the address  


corporate "science" re/ gmo's - spilling the beans, november newsletter - posted here


carbon sequestration - who does it benefit?     article   by peter montague


call to action


urge all senators to support the dorgan-grassley payment limitations amendment
please call your senators today 


rbgh labeling - in october, the pennsylvania department of agriculture (pda) enacted a rule which would prohibit farmers from telling consumers that they aren't using artificial hormones on their dairy cows. this is to be implemented on feb. 1, 2008. this ban applies to all dairy products sold in the state affecting dairies all over the country. for instance, this would impact tillamook and nancy�s yogurt in oregon.  moreover, monsanto�s supporters are mounting the same attack in other states, including ohio and new jersey.   send a message to the pa governor  take action here     

or, you can email the governor yourself via the governor's website or by direct email:  governor's website  or   give him your thoughts.  (or call him 717-787-2500)  consumers have the right to know what�s in their food.   dairies have the right to inform consumers what�s in their products.


calendar of events - 2007


dec. 6-7 - wsu economic issues and outlook conference (first annual) - red lion inn at pasco, wa. -  energy and agriculture will be the focus.       the conference web site.


january 18-19, oregon tilth annual conference, salem conf. center, oregon - "organic integrity: principles, practices, and opportunities" will offer a rich variety of topics relevant to anyone involved with food systems, organic agriculture and livestock, sustainability, advocacy.   go here 


jan 21-23 - soils and sustainability - salem conf. center, oregon - 3-day workshop led by neal kinsey re/ applying the principles of the albrecht method for building the best soil.  


january 21-22 - sac winter meeting - asilomar conference center, pacific grove, california,

january 23-26 - ecological farming conference - asilomar conf. center, pacific grove, calif.- the theme for the 28th annual conference is "root values: connecting ecology, community and the land." the agenda includes bus tours of organic farms or school gardens, an extensive workshop schedule that includes some workshops in spanish, and plenary sessions.  go here  


february 13 - organic seed growers' pre-conf. workshop - fundamentals of organic seed production

february 14-15, 2008, 5th biennial organic seed growers conference- salem conf. center, oregon, 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.  go here    


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:  


march 25-27 - sare's 20th anniversary - new american farm conference, kansas city, mo.  register


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   


june 23-27 - rethinking food, health and the environment - berkeley, california - the center for ecoliteracy and teachers college columbia university (tc) announce a five-day professional development institute to support teams from schools and districts that want to create learning connections between the school food environment and curriculum in the classroom .   applications



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)

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