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News for April 7, 2010

Mid-size dairies win consumers with less-processed milk

"Oh, my God. The cream! You gotta taste the cream!" said Warren Taylor. "It's pale yellow. And it's got this amazing smell. You have to get some."

To say that Taylor, the founder of Snowville Creamery, is excited about dairy products is an understatement: "If you cut me, I bleed white," he likes to say. Taylor wants to elicit that same level of enthusiasm from everyone. It's why his milk comes only from grass-fed cows, which he believes creates a more vibrant flavor. It's why the milk is pasteurized for just 17 seconds at 165 degrees, as low as the law allows, to preserve that taste. And it's why the Pomeroy, Ohio, creamery has 24 part-time workers dedicated to handing out samples in grocery stores in the hopes of proving that all milk is not created equal.

Sparking a new American love affair with milk would be an ambitious enough goal. Per-capita consumption has plummeted 30 percent since 1970, according to government figures. Many American consumers long ago accepted milk as a bland and watery, if nutritious, obligation. But Taylor's evangelism is aimed at not only consumers but also his fellow milk producers. "The big lie is that all milk is the same, and therefore everyone gets paid the same for producing it," he said, referring to the government guidelines that regulate the price most farmers receive for their milk. "That is what is crippling the whole. It keeps the entrepreneurs and the little guys from rising up."

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U.S. needs more FDA food inspections: govt report

(Reuters) - Federal inspectors are conducting fewer reviews of food manufacturing plants, with many facilities going more than five years without being checked, a government investigator said on Wednesday.

The drop in inspections could make an outbreak of foodborne disease more likely, putting the public at risk, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general.

A shrinking workforce at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for much of the drop in the number of facilities inspected, including those deemed high risk by the agency, the report said.

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Local food saves the day

Tiny Hardwick, Vt., has embraced the local-food movement with such gusto that it’s showing other locales the way toward an “agrepreneurial’’ economy, to use author Ben Hewitt’s term. In his book “The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food,’’ Hewitt examines how the town has ensured itself against financial uncertainty and a threatened food supply. Companies in and around Hardwick include Vermont Food Venture Center, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Jasper Hill Farm, and Vermont Soy Company.

A native Vermonter, Hewitt, 38, lives on a 40-acre farm in nearby Cabot, where he and his family tend cattle, sheep, and pigs, grow vegetables and berries, and supply about 80 percent of their own grocery needs. If that sounds like a back-to-the-land dream circa 1970, Hewitt’s book explains how complex, and often controversial, Hardwick’s efforts have been to build a sustainable local-food network.

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Local is Not What You Think

Local is not about buying the same stuff at higher prices from a local vendor. Local is about happiness.

I believe that the concept of Local is not well communicated. When people suggest that we “buy local,” it comes off as preachy and turns many of us off. How many times have you gone into a corner store and left feeling like you’d been ripped off? The $2 Coke or $1.50 orange may as well be considered marketing for Target, Walmart, and Costco, which sell the same Coke and orange at lower prices. The math doesn’t work. And it should be said that these retailers aren’t inherently bad. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way.

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Chicago schools adopt healthier menus

Chicago Public Schools ' plans to revamp nutritional standards for its menus in the upcoming school year will include fewer nachos and a daily variety of vegetables, but apparently no change in who will provide the food.

The Tribune first reported most of the expected changes to the district's menu two weeks ago, but CPS finalized those plans and revealed more menu alterations Wednesday at McAuliffe Elementary School in Humboldt Park.

A company executive for Chartwells-Thompson, which last year had the $58 million contract for the district's food services, attended the event and said the company had submitted the lowest bid for the next contract.

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USDA's Open Government Plan: A Commitment to Transparency and Openness

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released its Open Government Plan, formalizing plans to integrate openness, transparency, participation and collaboration into the Department's every day operations.

When Abraham Lincoln founded USDA in 1862, he referred to and labeled it as "The People's Department." It is a description that is as true today as it was then. The Department touches the lives of Americans every day, in every way. The Department's core values of accountability, customer focus and professionalism are critical to the success of being more fostering greater participation, being more transparent and collaborative.

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Begin your sustainable farming internship search now

Last year, Kim Severson of the New York Times declared farming to be a popular summer internship opportunity. As the nation’s focus on green jobs has continued, it is likely that sustainable farming internships are going to be in big demand again this year. Although it is only April, summer is quickly approaching, and if you’re interested in obtaining a summer internship with a sustainable farm operation, now is the time to begin your search.

A good place to start your internship search is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Farms across the nation have already begun to update the database with their internship and apprenticeship openings. Here are just a few of the internship opportunities available for summer 2010.

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USDA Eyes Japan Beef Import Talks, Denies Pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sought on Wednesday to downplay the probability of Japan agreeing to fully reopen its market to U.S. beef during his visit to Tokyo this week.

"We believe we have a safe and quality product," Vilsack told reporters after speaking at a food security symposium hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, adding that he also acknowledged and respected concerns of Japanese consumers.

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Irish cook Darina Allen goes back to basics

Darina Allen has been called the "Julia Child of Ireland" and considers Alice Waters a mentor. But she has never considered herself a chef, but rather a cook and teacher.

After attending Dublin Hotel School, she landed in the kitchens at Ballymaloe House, a country inn and farm on 400 acres in County Cork, Ireland.

Twenty-five years ago she founded Ballymaloe Cookery School, set on its own 100-acre organic farm. Realizing students weren't making connections between food and farm, she created "Forgotten Skills" courses.

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Framingham farm enjoying the spoils of raw milk sales

FRAMINGHAM — It's creamy, it's new to the milk cooler at Eastleigh Farm, and depending on whom you ask, it's either healthier or more perilous than the stuff you pick up at the supermarket.

Bottled raw milk has been for sale at the Edmands Road dairy since last week, and it already has a fan base of people who don't mind seeing health risk warnings or signing a disclaimer before drinking.

"We've already had some repeat customers from last week, so that was very good. ... They loved it - couldn't be happier," said Joan Kinner, who bottles the milk and runs the store.

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FDA inspections of food plants, enforcement down, officials say

The number of federal inspections of food-manufacturing facilities, and enforcement actions triggered by those inspections, has decreased, a government auditor reported Tuesday. Officials blamed the situation on inadequate staffing and resources.

Between fiscal 2004 and 2008, the Food and Drug Administration inspected fewer than half of the 51,229 facilities that it regulates, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services said.

In addition, the number of regulatory actions prompted by inspections fell from 614 in fiscal 2004 to 283 in fiscal 2008, the report found.

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