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News for February 18, 2010

Black Farmers, USDA Agree to $1.25 Billion Settlement

A group of black farmers reached a $1.25 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a longstanding civil-rights case that had cast a pall over the agency for decades.

In a conference call Thursday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the settlement would close a "sordid chapter in USDA history."

"This is a very historic, emotional day for black farmers," said John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association who once traveled 200 miles in a mule-drawn wagon from Baskerville, Va., to Washington to raise awareness about black farmers. "But the [Obama] administration is going to have to help me finish the job."


KENYA: Bag a farm

NAIROBI, 18 February 2010 (IRIN) - Faced with high food prices, low income and barely a patch of arable land, hundreds of residents of Nairobi’s densely populated slums have adopted a novel form of intensive agriculture: a farm in a sack. 

Ex-convict John King’ori is hoping the project, run by Italian NGO COOPI, will help him go straight after eight years behind bars for a violent robbery. 

King’ori chairs the Juja Road Self-Help Group, whose 76 members, also mostly former prisoners, are among the 1,000 households in Mathare and Huruma hoping their sacks will provide a sustainable source of vegetables such as kale, spinach, capsicum and onions. 


A new use for urban high-rises: farming

In order for sustainability to be viable in the urban environment, we must take into account how we bring food into our cities. Until recently the green building movement has not put a priority on the impact our food systems have on the viability of our urban areas.

That’s all changing, and a renaissance in urban agriculture is upon us. In an effort to bridge the gap between ecological buildings and food production, a new concept called vertical farming has the potential to revolutionize the way our cities function.


Towards a more sustainable livestock sector - FAO report analyzes the rapidly changing global livestock production

18 February 2010, Rome - Urgent investments, major agricultural research efforts and robust governance are required to ensure that the world's livestock sector responds to a growing demand for animal products and at the same time contributes to poverty reduction, food security, environmental sustainability and human health, FAO said today in a new edition of its flagship publication the State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA).

The report stresses that livestock is essential to the livelihoods of around one billion poor people. Livestock provides income, high-quality food, fuel, draught power, building material and fertilizer, thus contributing to food security and nutrition. For many small-scale farmers, livestock also provides an important safety net in times of need.


Two-year Anniversary of Historic Meat Recall is Marked by New Meat Recall of 5 Million lbs

“How much longer will we continue to test our luck with weak enforcement of federal food safety regulations?” asked Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and then Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in February 2008.

Evidently, at least two more years because in that time there’s been no movement to address the fundamental cause of contamination in the U.S. meat supply: feedlot production.

And I’m worried for our children’s health and lives.


New Rule Crushes Organic Mega-Dairies and Is Good News for Small Farms

Proponents of small farms and organic watchdog groups found themselves in unfamiliar waters recently: cheering the USDA for tightening the definitions of organic meat and dairy. On February 12th the agency passed what some are calling the most sweeping rewrite of federal organic standards since their inception in 2002.

The ruling, called Access to Pasture, closes several loopholes that mega-dairies have been using to exploit the organic market with milk from farms that hardly resemble the farms that inspired the now $24.6 billion organic industry.


Improving Raw Milk Policy

A proposal in Wisconsin would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk, with a few conditions:

Under the bill, farmers with a grade ‘A’ dairy farm permit would be allowed to buy a permit to sell raw milk.  They would have to meet certain sanitary conditions for bottling milk and have a sign to let consumers know raw milk doesn’t provide the same protection of pasteurized milk.

The proposed change in law would give farmers greater freedom to sell their milk. And consumers would be able to make their own decisions about whether to purchase unpasteurized dairy products. Everybody would win.


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