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field of flowers

vol. 2, #12
december, 2007


in this issue...

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farm bill news

the senate adopted a farm bill mid-december (on a vote of 79 to 14) that was a mixed bag of gains and losses for family farmers, consumers, and the environment.  while the senate took significant steps in advancing conservation and competition provisions, it also left out any effective commodity subsidy reform.    a press statement issued by sac describes the status of sac-backed provisions in the final bill, and this updated legislative progress chart  summarizes the status of sac-supported farm bill provisions in the house and senate versions of the bill.   

        conference negotiations between the house and senate are slated to begin in early january at the staff level and late january at the member level.  take a look at how your senators voted on key provisions this week.  please follow up with your senators.  thank them if they voted for family farmers, the environment, or fairness, and hold them accountable if they voted against sustainable agriculture and family farm priorities. 

      dorgan-grassley amendment:  the vote was 56-43, four short of the required 60. 

      community food projects: the senate�s bill would increase cfp funding to $10 million in mandatory annual funding, doubling the program�s previous $5 million. when the house-senate conference committee meets to compromise the two bills, it�s important that the senate�s funding hold up against the house version, which does not give cfp mandatory funds.
       geographic preference language: both the house and senate bills include language clarifications that enable and encourage schools to look for local food first when they order meals through the usda.

      healthy food enterprise development (hfed): the senate bill sets aside $7 million over 5 years for an hfed center, which would provide advice and assistance to support aggregation, processing and marketing of local produce in underserved communities. the bill also includes a provision within the business & industry loan program, adding a priority for local food systems and increased access to healthy foods.
      the food stamp program and tefap (emergency feeding programs):  the senate bill increases both food stamp and tefap funding and makes the monthly benefit adjustable to inflation. it also lifts a former cap on the child care deduction, and raises food stamp household asset limits.

      livestock competition title: the senate agriculture committee included a strong competition title in their farm bill draft, and their competition provisions held without being struck on the senate floor. the bill helps smaller livestock producers compete by banning packer ownership of livestock, in addition to other measures that limit corporate exploitation and empower small producers

      gains in research funding:  several important research provisions were accepted by senate leadership and added to the senate bill as part of the manager's amendment. these include the feingold (d-wi) organic research amendment, which allocates funding from usda�s agricultural research service budget to research on organic agriculture, and the menendez (d-nj) local foods study amendment, which funds a study on the potential growth of local food in the marketplace, and the benefits of advancing local food systems.


sustainable agriculture appropriations fared well in the $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill:

      sare  increased from $16.3 million in fiscal year 2007 to $19.0 million in fy08. 

      attra - after having been slashed by 63% in fy07, it will be funded at $2.6 million for fy08, which is a slight increase over the $2.5 million at which it had been funded for the six previous fiscal years.

     the outreach and technical assistance program for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (the �2501� program) will be funded at $6.4 million, up from $5.9 million last year. 

     conservation security program funding caps that had been placed on csp were removed for fy08!        value added producer grants program got cut from $20.3 million to $18.9 million.  

     organic certification increase:  nop and related certification activities will receive a 50 percent increase under the new bill, with just over $3 million in funding.  the organic transitions research program held roughly steady at $1.8 million and the organic data initiative again received $500,000. 

     farmers market promotion program held steady at $1 million.  

     farm-to-cafeteria continued zero-funding.


energy bill signed:  president bush signed into law the energy independence and security act of 2007, which the house passed by a vote of 314-100.  the final package increases the renewable fuel standards (rfs) for liquid transportation fuels to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, with a limit of 15 billion gallons per year of corn-based ethanol by 2015 and a ramp up to 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels - including 16 billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol per year - by 2022.  the final package will also require automakers to increase fuel efficiency by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.


cloned animals - cfs applauds passage of a provision in the senate�s farm bill that would delay the fda's endorsement of the use of food from cloned animals.  this amendment calls for a rigorous and careful review of the human health and economic impacts of bringing cloned food into america�s food supply.  




delegates condemn global food take-over: an inter press service report from penang, malaysia. many expressed concern over the predatory nature of corporate agriculture and its attempts to corner the entire chain of food production from seeds to sales." syngenta, bayer, monsanto, basf, dow and dupont control 85% of the $30 billion global pesticide market. cargil, bunge and archer daniels midland control nearly 90% of the world's grain trade. eleven firms control half the planet's seed sales, and the biggest corporations are also the biggest ge seed producers. the latest trend in the "corporate takeover of agriculture" involves vertically integrated multinationals that dominate the entire food production cycle.


bali climate conf. - in a declaration from representatives from the 180 countries, the scientists say emissions need to peak and then start to decline within the next 10 to 15 years as a first step, and then be cut in half by 2050 from the level prevailing in 1990.


peak oil + peak soil = peak spoils for corporations - massive government incentives and subsidies, estimated to be as high as us$15 billion/year, are stoking the  agri-fuels boom and spurring alliances that extend corporate power over a larger share of the world/s resources.   this report maps the new corporate alliances propelled by (and propelling) the scramble for bio-based fuels, and also includes info about synthetic biologists who think they can turn microbes into fuel-producing factories.  etc report 

canada supreme court won't hear monsanto case - a six-year battle by a group of saskatchewan organic farmers to sue monsanto canada and bayer crop science has been snuffed out by the supreme court of canada, saying they will not hear the case.. the farmers were seeking compensation for losing canola as a crop due to genetic contamination.  article


nitrogen fertilizer depletes soil carbon - university of illinois soil scientists have published the results of a study showing that adding nitrogen fertilizer to soil doesn't build organic carbon. in fact, they found consistent evidence of an organic carbon decline for fertilized soils throughout the world. the study appears in the november/december 2007 issue of the journal of environmental quality study

rbgh labelling update - serious negotiations are being held between rbgh-free milk dealers, activists, and pa and ohio state officials.  if the processors� ability to tell consumers on their labels that they�re rbgh-free isn�t reinstated, they will most likely sue in pa.  in ohio, the dept. of agriculture has selected a committee to further look at this issue and a strong team of activists has testified to them.   meanwhile a pro rbgh group has formed, (afact), backed by monsanto, to promote the use of such methods.   article  


genetically modified beet   after seven years of keeping sugar from gm sugar beets out of their food, kellogg, hershey's and the wyoming based american crystal sugar state they will use sugar made from gm beets. monsanto's rr sugarbeet seed will be available for planting in 2008.  article  


whole foods market loan program - the company recently started a new program to provide low-interest, long-term loans to small producers around the country near their stores.   more info


gmos in latin america - as gm soybeans take over vast tracts in s. america and reports flow in of genetic contamination of local corn in mexico, grassroots resistance to biotech crops has also grown. the protests form part of people's movements across the hemisphere that tie together a rejection of neoliberalism and agribusiness, and call for land reform, food sovereignty, and sustainable agriculture.  article 

usda revised wic food packages - the new food packages are designed to improve the nutrition and health of our nation's low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children with nutrition education, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to greatly improve dietary quality.  interim final rule


patent infringement cases -  the federal court of canada has issued a judgment against mr. paul beneteau of amherstburg, ontario for patent infringement pertaining to the roundup ready gene in soybeans, and ordered the payment to monsanto of $160/acre.  this judgment follows an earlier court judgment against mr. eddie wouters of northspruce farms ltd. in which the court awarded monsanto over $107,000 or $274/acre on his 392 acres of soybeans planted without monsanto's permission.  monsanto is currently pursuing litigation with three other parties in ontario related to patent infringement.  article


synthetic life forms -  researchers are poised to create new life forms driven by completely artificial dna.   dozens of advocacy groups want a ban on releasing synthetic organisms pending wider societal debate and regulation.   etc  group commented, "ultimately synthetic biology means cheaper and widely accessible tools to build bioweapons, virulent pathogens and artificial organisms that could pose grave threats to people and the planet. the danger is not just bio-terror but bio-error."  article

craig venter�s team makes vast patent grab on synthetic genomes - new claims are broadly framed to seek exclusive monopoly on all synthetic genomes.  find out about �the men & money behind synthia.�


france bans gm seeds- france has formally suspended the commercial use of gm seeds in the country until a vote in early february and ordered a biotech safety study. article  france is set to vote on a new biotech law on february 9.  france's largest farm union, fnsea, has urged farmers to refrain from buying gm seeds ahead of the new biotech law which would require farmers to declare their gm plantings and make them financially liable for any contamination. article


thin-film solar cells: the basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, silicon valley-based nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality.  the company produces its powersheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. with backing from google's founders and $20 million from the u.s. department of energy, nanosolar's first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year.   article   



healthy cafeterias save schools money - researchers analyzed 330 school districts over a five year period and found that shifting school lunch programs towards healthier foods does not reduce student demand and ultimately saves the school money. while serving better meals requires higher labor costs, those expenses are offset by lower costs for more nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables compared with processed foods. learn more


effect of foreign dna/rna on the human immune system werner m�ller, vienna, austria -this review should give policy makers and risk managers the rational basis to widen the view on the risk assessment of genetically modified plants and therefore to include potential impacts associated with synthetic dna/rna fragments of genetically modified plants to the human immune system. review of research


animal production and greenhouse gases - the humane society of the united states (hsus) recently released a  white paper entitled "the impact of animal agriculture on global warming and climate change".   one of the topics hsus is addressing is the role of organic farming in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. if you're aware of research being done or studies that would assist in this regard, please contact them.


national farm to school network launched - coordinated by the center for food & justice at occidental college and the community food security coalition was launched in 2007. you are invited to subscribe to their monthly e-newsletter, farm to school routes, which highlights policies, news, publications, and events, plus featuring a region and profile each month. farm to school online >

ge trees -  very informative article - "trees by design"  article  


model state program to improve local food systems - article


rfa - community food projects   cfp grants program

call to action

farms flooded, need help - the pacific northwest was hit by the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane on december 3rd.  one of the results of this storm was catastrophic flooding in southwest washington.  many farms which work the fertile flood plains along washington's rivers were devastated by record floods set off by more than 12 inches of rain in less than 18 hours.  olympia farmers market farmers relief fund has been set up to send help to these farmers. relief site  and olyblog provides periodic updates on ways people can assist in the recovery effort:        


calendar of events - 2008


january 17-19, 7th annual quivira coalition conference - marriott pyramid, albuquerque, nm.  contact  


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 


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


january 22-24- taking action for healthy eating and active living - california  


january 23-24 - direct seed cropping systems conf - three rivers convention center in kennewick, wa.  found at conference


january 21-23 - ecofarm pre-conf: food safety for organic production and handling - pacific grove, calif. -  california certified organic farmers presents this eco-farm pre-conference, with one day for small to mid-size growers and one day for large growers and handlers   food safety conference

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  


january 25-27 - independent media power vs the corporate coup - santa cruz media strategy summit - confronting corporate control of our media   


february 4 - seattle's 3rd annual farmer chef connection - at seattle mountaineers club, registration after jan. 6th at   


february 4-6 - delicious education:  garden, kitchen, & community as classroom, center for ecoliteracy, berkeley, calif.   a three-day seminar to support teachers want to embed experiential instruction into the academic program, using the kitchen, garden, and community as the contexts for learning.   


february 21-23 - colorado ag. big and small conf. - greeley, co, contact


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    


february 28 - pre-conf national organic action plan (noap) meeting - marriott pyramid, albuquerque

february 29-march 1 - new mexico organic farming conf. - marriott pyramid, albuquerque, nm.  contact


march 2-4 - the 2008 summit on seeds and breeds, radisson reagan national airport, arlington va to debrief from the farm bill and plan for the future of public plant and animal breeding. please contact the hotel directly to reserve rooms, which are being held under �seeds and breeds summit�: 703.920.8600 or 1.800.333.3333.  please note that the block of rooms we are holding will be released on february 8th, 2008.  



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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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