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News for March 7, 2010

Commissioner Asks USDA to Consider Class I Floor for Milk Prices

ALBANY, NY (03/05/2010)(readMedia)-- New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker recently wrote to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack encouraging him to consider the benefits of establishing a national floor for the Class I prices. By doing so, Class I prices for fluid milk would ultimately be de-coupled from manufactured classes of milk, which are typically lower and drive down the price farmers receive for their product as a whole.

"I am writing to add our voice to those you heard in New England in saying our current system is outdated," the Commissioner said. "In fact, the current system devalues fresh, locally produced milk by directly connecting its price to the value of manufactured products, which primarily compete in a national and international market."

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The Skinny on Oscar-Nominated Documentaries 'Food Inc.' and 'The Cove'

It turns out that figuring out the most simple thing -- like what's on your dinner plate, and where it came from -- is actually a pretty subversive act.

That's what director Robert Kenner found out while spending six years putting together the amazing new documentary, Food Inc., which features prominent food writers Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation).

Warning: Food Inc. is not for the faint of heart. While its focus is not on the gory images of slaughterhouse floors and filthy feedlots, what it does show about the journey of our food from "farm" to plate is not pretty.

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Virginia Farms Find The Green In Organic

NBC 29 Virginia

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How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab

We turned off the main road to Awassa, talked our way past security guards and drove a mile across empty land before we found what will soon be Ethiopia's largest greenhouse. Nestling below an escarpment of the Rift Valley, the development is far from finished, but the plastic and steel structure already stretches over 20 hectares – the size of 20 football pitches.

The farm manager shows us millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1,000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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Some fret about push for smaller farm sizes

Washington, D.C. - Angela Jackson is not a typical Iowa farmer and certainly isn't the typical recipient of farm subsidies.

She grows vegetables for local supermarkets, not grain for biofuels or livestock feed.

But she's the kind of farmer the Obama administration wants more of, and that raises alarms among some colleagues in conventional agriculture. They worry they'll be harmed by the Agriculture Department's new focus on small farms and encouragement local production of fruits and vegetables.

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Raw Milk and SB 201

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Video: Chef talks food safety

Anderson Cooper
AC360° Anchor

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USDA veterinarian testifies agency endangers public health

In testimony before the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Dr. Dean Wyatt testified as to how the agency supports unhealthy practices at the national slaughterhouses and endangers the nation's meat food supply.

Dr. Wyatt, a public health supervisory veterinarian with the USDA's Food and Safety Inspection Services ("FSIS"; www.fsis.usda.gov/), testified to numerous instances where FSIS executives overruled his and other inspectors' citations of slaughterhouses' abuses endangering the safety of the nation's meat supply. For example, Dr. Wyatt recounted such abuses and acts of cruelty as:

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Action Needed to Better Enforce Humane Slaughter Act

The star witness at yesterday's Congressional hearing before the House Oversight Committee's Domestic Policy Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, was a tall, mild-mannered public health veterinarian who has been employed with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for more than 18 years. The son of a former federal meat inspector who died on the job, Dr. Dean Wyatt has in recent years worked at two slaughter plants -- Seaboard Farms, a hog slaughtering plant in Guymon, Okla., and Bushway Packing, a veal calf slaughter plant in Grand Isle, Vt. When Wyatt attempted to report humane handling violations and fulfill his federal duty, higher-ups at USDA, particularly under past administrations, largely ignored, downplayed, rewrote or undercut his enforcement actions. In fact, his superiors, often in district offices hundreds of miles away, told him to cut back on time spent on humane handling and threatened him with a series of retaliatory actions, including a forced choice to be transferred or terminated.

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Federal Judge Weighs Ban on Herbicide-Resistant Beets

U.S. sugar beet farmers are “on pins and needles” as a federal judge weighs whether to block planting of their crops engineered to be resistant to Monsanto Co.’s Roundup herbicide, lawyers for growers said today.

With the planting season beginning this month, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco heard arguments on a food safety group’s request for a temporary ban on planting genetically engineered sugar beet crops and selling modified sugar beet seeds. He said he would rule “expeditiously” and before ending the hearing told lawyers for Monsanto, farmers and industry groups “there are going to be permanent remedies in this case.”

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USDA Deputy Secretary touts fed support for small farmers

The federal government, known for handing out subsidies to the nation's largest farms, is breaking new ground to support small, local operations.

Agriculture Department Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, told an audience at Utah State University on Thursday that locally produced food is affordable and nutritious. And it keeps wealth in surrounding communities, she said, speaking while on a tour of northern Utah.

In the past, the USDA has had piecemeal schemes to help local farms, many of them small fruit-and-vegetable operations that typically haven't qualified for government subsidies.

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Raw review: Raw milk public hearing to be in Eau Claire

Raw milk advocates and opponents soon will have a chance to share their views about the sale of unpasteurized dairy products in Wisconsin.

A joint public hearing of the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education will be at 10 a.m. March 10 at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire.

During the hearing, the committees will take comments on impending raw milk legislation, which includes Senate Bill 434 and Assembly Bill 628.

The two bills would legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk and other milk products by farmers with Grade A permits, as long as they obtained a raw milk permit from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

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