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News for April 15, 2010

Disturbing Reality of Dairy Land

Do you know where your milk really comes from?

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Know your Feds

Several initiatives coming out of the White House recently have healthy, local and sustainable food activists excited. Not least of these is the $65 million Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) initiative, which Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary of agriculture, came to Hawaii to promote last week.

The campaign is about redeveloping strong regional food systems funds set aside in the 2008 Farm Bill and other USDA programs. The point is economic development and greater access to healthy food. By connecting consumers with their local food producers, money stays in the local economy. Merrigan cites a study suggesting that if Hawaii replaced 10 percent of its imported foods with locally produced food, it would amount to some $313 million in the local economy.

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Some veggie burgers found to contain harmful substance, hexane, used to process soy

Think you're being healthy by choosing a veggie burger instead of red meat? Think again.

In an effort to make their products as low-fat as possible, many veggie burger manufacturers are turning to a potentially harmful chemical, according to an investigation by the non-profit Cornucopia Institute.

Most non-organic veggie burgers contain hexane, a neurotoxin that's also a petroleum by-product of gasoline refining. Hexane is listed as a hazardous air pollutant with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the report, which called hexane the "dirty little secret of the 'natural' soy foods industry."

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Small meat plants feel threatened by USDA's new regs that will force many out of business

EAGLE GROVE - Across the U.S. small meat processing plant owners are hoping for an 11th hour development that will prevent the U.S. Department of agriculture from implementing a new set of regulations that will force them out of business.

The new regulations, proposed by the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service will require an extensive battery of testing for meat processing products, intended for commercial retail, to validate each plant's effectiveness in assuring food safety.

On the surface, it sounds like a good thing. But for plant owners like Paul Bubeck, of Lewright Meats in Eagle Grove, and thousands more like him, the new layer of testing will be cost prohibitive.

Bubeck and wife, Barbara, took over operation of Lewright Meats in 1981. Barbara Bubeck's family started the plant in 1936. In 2009, Ethan Bubeck, the couple's son and his wife, Shanae, joined the company.

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Wis. committee approves raw milk bill

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin dairy farmers could legally sell raw, unpasteurized milk directly to consumers despite potential health risks under a bill an Assembly committee approved Tuesday.

The move clears the way for a vote in the full Assembly. An identical bill is ready for a vote before the full Senate as well, but time is running out. The legislative session ends in May and it's unclear whether the measure has support from Democratic leaders.

Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, said both leaders have to talk to their caucuses. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said he would have to review whatever comes to his desk, but the measure would have to strike a balance between raw milk producers and the mass market dairy industry.

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Wisconsin Senate approves limited raw milk sales

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin farmers could sell raw, unpasteurized milk for the next two years directly to consumers under a bill passed Thursday by the state Senate.

The Senate approved the bill on a bipartisan 25-8 vote over concerns that drinking unpasteurized milk could make people sick and put the state's dairy industry at risk. Supporters say it tastes better than pasteurized milk, has health benefits and that the state should not get in the way of private sales from willing raw milk sellers and buyers.

The vote comes amid a growing push nationally to legalize raw milk sales.

Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, said she doesn't think it makes sense to risk an outbreak of disease by legalizing raw milk sales.

"We don't appreciate public health until we don't have it," said Robson, a retired nurse. "We don't appreciate public health until there's outbreaks of diseases."

But supporters framed it as a freedom of choice issue. If consumers want to buy the milk, they argued, they should be allowed to drink it.

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