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News for March 15, 2010

Raw Milk Supporters Make Presence Felt at Raw Milk Hearing in Wisconsin

It was electric. It was riveting. It was hot and long and jammed with people wanting their voice to be heard. The technical college in Eau Claire was inundated with supporters of the bill in committee: SB424/AB628 or in laymen's terms: the Raw Milk Bill.

Andy, Elly, Ethan and I boarded a bus in Appleton at 5:30am along with 11 other Foxwood Farm members and about 30 folks associated with Grassway Farm in New Holstein. We were in high spirits but really didn't know what to expect. As we drove, we popped in Food, Inc as a sort of inspiration for food choice.

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Vinehout, Danou follow ups on raw milk

Following up on last week’s all day hearing in Eau Claire, on their legislation to allow on-farm sales of raw (unpasteurized) milk. Senator Kathleen Vinehout:   

“Sushi is legal and that’s raw fish,” said a woman from West Bend. “Steak tartar is legal and that’s raw meat. Raw oysters and undercooked eggs are legal. Why do I have to break the law to buy raw milk?”Other citizens testified they know raw milk can harbor pathogens. They understand the product is dangerous if not properly stored and served. “Alcohol and cigarettes are dangerous but legal. Why can’t I buy raw milk, which is not nearly deadly?”

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Fund Represents Two Iowa Cow Share Owners
January 25, 2010
by D. Gary Cox, Esq.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed yesterday a complaint in declaratory judgment on behalf of two cow share owners who own cows boarded by an Iowa Amish farmer who is a member of the Fund.  Although the Amish farmer chose not to participate in the lawsuit, the two shareholders allege in their complaint that (1) they are entitled to own a cow, (2) they are entitled to consume the raw milk and other raw dairy products produced by their cows, and (3) they are entitled to enter into a boarding contract and a services contract with the Amish farmer to have the Amish farmer tend to, manage and take care of their cows, and also to convert some of their raw milk into other dairy products.  “This case represents the first instance where the Fund has brought an action on behalf of individuals who are not members of the Fund” said Fund President Pete Kennedy.  “This case demonstrates that the Fund is acting in the capacity of a public interest law firm to protect the fundamental rights of the public at large against the abuses of government.”

The complaint seeks declarations that Plaintiffs can own a cow, can consume the products produced by their cows, and can enter into contracts with a farmer.  “Iowa has a strong State constitution” said the Fund’s General Counsel Gary Cox “and we anticipate that this case will be one of first impression in the United States that will deal with these fundamental principles of liberty that are protected by the several Constitutions of several States.”

The case is captioned “Charles Freitag, et al. v. Bill Northey” and was filed in the District Court of Linn County.  The Defendant is the Secretary of Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and is being sued in his official capacity as Secretary.  The Fund expects the case will be litigated over the course of the next several months and that a final resolution will not be reached until sometime early next year.

APHIS SEEKS COMMENT ON RESPONSE TO PETITIONS TO DEREGULATE LIGHT BROWN APPLE MOTH

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today published its draft response to two petitions requesting that the agency reclassify the light brown apple moth (LBAM) as a nonactionable pest.  Based on a thorough evaluation of the petitions, including an independent review of the agency’s evaluation by the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC), APHIS will continue to regulate LBAM as a quarantine pest.

In February 2009, APHIS developed a draft response to the petitions and subsequently commissioned the NRC for an objective technical evaluation of the agency’s response.  On
Sept. 14, 2009, the NRC released its report and recommendations, which concluded that APHIS met the necessary scientific standards within its broad regulatory authority to classify LBAM as an exotic pest that has the potential to spread further within the United States and cause economic damage to agriculture and natural resources.  In addition, the NRC also offered a variety of recommendations to APHIS, including the further development of the economic and scientific evidence to support its position.

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FDA orders widespread food recall

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of a common flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

The product, called hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP, is potentially in thousands of food products, including soups, sauces, chilis, stews, hot dogs, gravies, seasoned snack foods, dips and dressings. HVP is manufactured by a Las Vegas company.

No illnesses have been reported, said Dr. Ian Williams, acting chief of outbreak response and prevention branch for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Bees in the City? New York May Let the Hives Come Out of Hiding

Kathleen Boyer suspects the mailman.

She said she could not think of anyone else in her neighborhood who would have complained about the two beehives she kept under a pine tree in her front yard in Flatbush, Brooklyn, leading the city’s health department to fine her $2,000 last fall.

“I was kind of surprised,” said Mrs. Boyer, an art director with a media company. “People see us in our bee suit and they’d bring their kids to watch us and ask us questions.”

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Farm land or food land?

TWIN FALLS - Janie Burns can remember when Idaho's agricultural landscape looked much different than it does today.

"In nineteen fifty we grew a lot of food we ate ourselves," the Nampa-based organic producer said. She remembers her grade school principal driving around the countryside to gather food from local producers that was taken to local canneries to be used later in the school's lunch program.

Half of Idaho's farms used to have poultry, now just 6 percent do. Nineteen flour mills were based throughout the state, now just one is left in Blackfoot. Idaho producers used to grow two bunches of carrots per Idaho resident, today that has fallen to one carrot per individual. True, Idaho's population has tripled since 1950, but a shift away from diversified cropping systems to relying on a handful of major crops means that much of the food Idahoans eat is actually grown somewhere else.

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Power in Community: How a Local Food Movement Changed a City

Asheville, NC prides itself on a thriving farm-to-table scene and flourishing network of family farms. While the city owes that reputation to many active organizations and individuals, one local non-profit laid the groundwork for city’s food future.

The Rise of ASAP

In 1995, Charlie Jackson started what would become the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). At the time, tobacco was falling out of favor as the tobacco and cigarette industry came under fire. Tobacco was the foundation for many family farms in Western North Carolina, and Charlie feared the worst if tobacco disappeared from community agriculture.

Charlie and his wife, Emily, worked with several community members to form ASAP. The organization’s goal was to assist family farms as they transitioned from tobacco to food crops. Through education and marketing, ASAP developed and advocated strategies that helped family farms prosper, preserved farmland and provided access to healthy, locally grown food.

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Researchers introducing sustainable agriculture practices to improve food security

Blacksburg, Va.-- Two Virginia Tech professors are leading research teams that will work with scientists and small-scale farmers in South America and the Caribbean to increase food production, improve soil quality, and reduce risks associated with climate change. The projects are part of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), a $15 million, five-year program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and managed by the university's Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Central to both projects and five others managed by the SANREM CRSP through 2014 are conservation agriculture techniques such as controlling soil erosion and increasing soil organic matter with cover crops, minimizing soil disturbance from tillage, and rotating crops to improve soil health and discourage agricultural pests.

Jeffrey Alwang, professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, is directing a project titled "Pathways to conservation agriculture production systems in the Andes." With sites in Bolivia and Ecuador, the project will use research in soil sciences, cropping systems, plant pathology, and economic and social sciences to design, evaluate, and disseminate conservation agricultural technologies aimed at improving food security in the region.

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Volunteers + Small Farm = Crop Mob

What's a young urbanite with an interest in sustainable food, an itch for some honest outdoor work and a free Saturday to do? There aren't enough urban community gardens to go around, and the majority of idealistic young downtown-dwellers don't exactly own a farm outside the city limits.

The answer is now apparent: Join a crop mob. Crop mob? It sounds like some kind of agricultural protest group, and in a way, it kind of is. Though it's also just a group of volunteers who want to spend a few hours mucking around with shovels and hoes. But the whole point is to help local, small farms get a leg up, which in its own small way is a protest against the dehumanizing influence mega-corporations are having over our food systems.

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Elusiveness turns otherwise unremarkable products into cult favorites

QUINCY — Hundreds of people conduct an informal survey of which McDonald’s restaurants carry Shamrock Shakes, posting their reports on a Web page. Food bloggers count the days until the annual appearance of Kosher Coke – made with real sugar, not corn syrup – on grocery shelves in the Northeast. Curious customers back up traffic on Route 1 to greet the state’s first Sonic Drive-In in Peabody, after seeing the company’s commercials on ESPN for years.

Scarcity creates demand, turning otherwise unremarkable consumer products into cult favorites. Their elusiveness is one of their primary attractions.

“If you’re afraid you can’t get it in a couple of days, you want to get it now,” said Andy Aylesworth, a marketing professor at Bentley University. “I would bet that it’s really effective. Some people are running out to buy these things and more and more companies are doing it.”

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STC goes organic

WESLACO — A new project taken on by the South Texas College Mid-Valley campus’ biology club hopes to cultivate an interest in organic farming for students and the community.

The club is developing an organic farm to receive hands-on learning and promote environmentally friendly living, said its sponsor, biology professor Debbie Villalon.

“We have a big dream here,” Villalon said.

Students have been tending an organic garden at the Weslaco campus for years, donating produce to area food banks.

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No-fail gardening

This is the year for vegetable gardens, as interest continues to grow in raising our own healthy, fresh food. Vegetable gardening is up 19 percent and seed sales are up 30 percent to 50 percent, according to a Garden Media Group 2010 garden trends report.

But unlike previous generations, many of us don’t have hands-on gardening experience from working with our parents on the family plot.

And even if we did, there are new ways to garden now that would cause our grandparents to shudder, like growing plants without using chemicals and raising vegetables in the front yard.

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McGuinty defends appeal of raw milk verdict, as farmer calls it a persecution

TORONTO — Premier Dalton McGuinty says the province is right to appeal a verdict in favour of raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt because of ongoing public health concerns.

McGuinty says there's an "overwhelming consensus" among medical experts that raw milk presents real health risks and that means it's worth asking a higher court to take a look at the case.

Schmidt and his supporters say the appeal is a persecution of a small group of individuals seeking the right to make choices without government interference.

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CDC uses supermarket shopper-card data to zero in on source of salmonella outbreak

CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — As they scrambled recently to trace the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds around the country, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention successfully used a new tool for the first time — the shopper cards that millions of Americans swipe every time they buy groceries.

With permission from the patients, investigators followed the trail of grocery purchases to a Rhode Island company that makes salami, then zeroed in on the pepper used to season the meat.

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Historic food recall emerges as food safety reform nears passage

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the midst of handling what may become the biggest food recall in its history.

Last week it announced that salmonella was found in a flavoring used in thousands of products, from soups and sauces to hot dogs and snack foods. The flavoring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, was produced by Basic Food Flavors Inc., based in Nevada. There have been no reports of illness or death due to the flavoring.

More than 100 products have been recalled, and the list is growing.(See link for complete list of recalled products.) 

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