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News for May 3, 2010

Muslim immigrant fills niche raising goats on Virginia farm

Mukit Hossain drove up to a large Centreville home one day last week, rummaged in his Jeep Cherokee and pulled out two plastic bags. Looking harried after spending two hours on Interstate 95, he hurried up the driveway and called out to the couple waiting inside.

On the granite island in their kitchen, he spread out packages wrapped in white paper and labeled "Hams," "Neck" and "Ribs." The lady of the house, Seema Khan, handed him a glass of water. "So, now, did you slaughter the goat by yourself?" she asked.

"Yes, I did," Hossain said proudly.

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Distributors Slow To Embrace Local Food Movement

Local produce and meat are projected to be the two most popular items on restaurant menus this year, according to the National Restaurant Association.

But as more institutions like schools and hospitals look to "buy local," they're finding themselves in a bind -- large food distributors may not carry items those customers are looking for. And fragmented networks of local farms don't know how to distribute the food efficiently.

Inside the cafeteria freezer at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital, near Madison, Wis., Amy Miller, the hospital's food service director, points at a pile of spindly thighs and breasts inside a Ziploc bag. Miller provides up to 200 meals a day, and a few months ago, she decided she'd served enough of this mass-produced poultry.

"We wanted to have a product we were comfortable with as far as not having the antibiotics -- all the additives that go into chicken today," Miller says.

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The Audacity of Hope Springs Eternal

Among the many unique aspects of living in Iowa is our first-in-the-nation caucus system. Three years ago, after going out with other campaign volunteers and planting trees for Earth Day, I had the honor of meeting a skinny, unknown, African American, freshman Senator from Illinois who had the audacity to believe he could be elected president. I had about three minutes to determine firsthand whether I wanted him to or not.

So I asked him why it was, despite Iowa being and "agricultural state," none of the candidates on either side was talking about agriculture. He told me he expected they would be, but that he preferred to talk about food and health. He then went on to quote chapter and verse from the previous weekend's New York Times Sunday Magazine feature by a UC Berkeley Professor named Michael Pollan.

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Milk pricing imbalance causing many local dairy farmers to sell off herds

MILANVILLE - Brian Smith needed convincing to enter the barn where he milked dairy cattle for 17 years.

"I haven't been in here since I got rid of the cows," Mr. Smith said as he stepped around an empty bulk milk tank.

He turned on the electrical power, flipped a light switch, stood along a wall and glanced at empty pens as a bleating Holstein calf broke the silence. Cats scurried about, outnumbering livestock in the stable.

Mr. Smith, 47, a Wayne County commissioner who operated dairy farms for 27 years, sold his 45 milking cows April 21 in Lancaster County. He is among the latest casualties in the ranks of dairy farmers trampled by a cost-payment imbalance devastating the industry.

"I lost at least $2,000 a month last year," said Mr. Smith, whose 123-acre farm is about 16 miles northeast of Honesdale. "Dairy farmers need more money to stay in business. If they don't, they'll be gone like me.

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Doyle: Make raw milk bill your crowning act

Dear Editor: The raw milk bill allowing limited sales just passed our state Legislature and will go to the governor to be signed. (Anyone who cares how we handle dairy animals raised for product consumption should view abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=9670185.)

In addition to being a marketplace-access issue, raw milk is an ethical issue tied together with a public health issue.

How can stressed animals warehoused in crowded, dirty barns on industrial farms nourish us? And do we not owe them a decent life and easy death in exchange for what we take?

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Need perspective on dangers of raw milk

Dear Editor: In the United States, between 1998 and 2008, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths were reportedly related to raw milk.

Compare these numbers to those related to community-acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which kills nearly 20,000 Americans yearly.

One study in Iowa at a large swine farm found that 49 percent of animals and 45 percent of workers tested positive for MRSA.

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Raw milk: Healthy or health threat?

A bill passed by the Wisconsin Assembly Apri 23 to allow farmers to sell raw, unpasteurized milk directly to consumers gets mixed reactions locally.

Limitations added to the bill persuaded her to vote for it, said state Senator Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls.

As a representative of his state organization, he spoke against the bill at the hearing, but Pierce County farmer Mel Pittman said there may be health benefits to raw milk.

She and fellow health workers are concerned about the increased potential for illness among children and people with weak immune systems, said Pierce County Public Health Director Sue Galoff.

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Framingham may loosen raw milk regulations

FRAMINGHAM - Eastleigh Farm's raw milk sales were temporarily halted last week and the Board of Health last night discussed loosening the regulation that forced the brief shutdown.

The Edmands Road dairy started selling non-pasteurized milk in late March after a battle to get the Board of Health's OK, and owner Doug Stephan operates under rules that include he must immediately report problems.

Board of Health Director Ethan Mascoop said tests taken last week that measure the lactating cows' white blood count came back at 510,000 cells per milliliter, when 350,000 is the maximum allowed.

While it technically was a violation, Mascoop said it's not unusual for the count to fluctuate and the exceeded level wasn't a health hazard.

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Fight Over Raw Milk Moves East, Amid Charges of Collusion with Big Dairy

The movement to fight off the federal and state campaigns against raw milk over the past three years has been viewed by the mainstream media as pretty much a fringe thing. A bunch of crazy farmers who refuse to send their milk for pasteurization, and even crazier consumers, who insist on supposedly endangering their health with the unprocessed milk.

The battle has raged mostly in the West and Midwest. In California, movie stars like Martin Sheen joined demonstrations with bad-boy raw dairy farmer Mark McAfee, who runs the largest raw dairy in the country, during 2008 in a vain effort to pass legislation that would have loosened regulatory restrictions on raw milk. Over the last six months, in Wisconsin, a growing citizen movement on behalf of raw milk has led to passage of legislation that would reverse the state's long-standing prohibition on raw milk sales, and allow consumers to buy it from the farm. The governor has indicated publicly that he'll sign it, but in the charged atmosphere over this issue, anything is possible.

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A New Deal for Local Economies

Locally grown food has soared in popularity. There are now 5,274 active farmers markets in the United States. Remarkably, almost one of every two of these markets was started within the last decade. Food co-ops and neighborhood greengrocers are likewise on the rise.

Some 400 new independent bookstores have opened in the last four years. Neighborhood hardware stores are making a comeback in some cities. Most students graduating from pharmacy school report that they would rather open their own drugstore than work for chain. Last April, even as Virgin Megastores prepared to shutter its last U.S. record emporium, more than a thousand independent music stores were mobbed for the second annual Record Store Day, a celebration of independent record stores that drew hundreds of thousands of people into local stores, became one of the top search terms on Google, and triggered a 16-point upswing in album sales.

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Murphy stresses local food is vital to New York economy

UNION VALE — U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, said he believes buying food from local farms is incredibly important when it supports them and New York's economy.

On Friday, Murphy held the Buy Local Agricultural Conference at Tymor Park in the Town of Union Vale to have farmers, consumers and leaders in the food community discuss ways to help local farms.

Murphy, who represents the 20th Congressional District, said he is the only member of the House Committee on Agriculture from New York. While other members are used to large corporate farms, Murphy said his district has many small, family-owned farms.

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New 'safety plan' would control what you eat

Critics say a bill pending in the U.S. Senate would do for Americans' food supply what "Obamacare" is doing to the nation's supply of health-care resources.

And it's generating a surge of alarm among small-farm operators and natural food advocates.

"S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, may be the most dangerous bill in the history of the U.S.," writes Steve Green on the Food Freedom blog. "It is to our food what the bailout was to our economy, only we can live without money."

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