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News for April 21, 2010

Food activist Alice Waters takes to Web, mulls TV

BERKELEY, Calif. — Alice Waters is unlikely to become the next Food Network Iron Chef. But with sustainable eating hot fodder for celebrity chefs, the woman many credit with planting the seeds of the movement may make the jump to her own television program.

The California-based food activist says she's exploring new ways of spreading her message about the importance of fresh, local food and supporting the farmers who grow it, including a possible TV show, though talks for that still are in the early stages.

"I want so much for this message about food to reach people," Waters said in an interview.

Waters put her quest for new connections into action Wednesday, participating in an online video conference that saw her taking questions about cooking and food policy from her Berkeley kitchen. She earlier held a similar session with bloggers.


Raw milk bill tough decision for Wisconsin governor

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who is poised to sign a bill allowing the sale of raw milk in the state, is looking for a balance in the regulations between individual choice and safety before he makes his decision.

The Assembly is likely to pass the bill this week, which was approved by the Senate on Friday, before it goes to Doyle’s desk to be signed into law.

“He will consider all arguments put forth by farmers, consumers and health officials,” Fox 21 News said about Doyle’s predicted actions. “He says everyone knows people who grew up on farms drinking raw milk, and believe they’re healthier and stronger for it.  But … there’s also a system in which milk goes out to millions of people who have to be protected for health reasons.”


Australia: Raw milk debate

Unlike the European Union, the United Kingdom and most of the United States, Australia still bans the home-grown production of unpasteurised or raw milk cheese. At the same time, importers here are allowed to bring in hundreds of tonnes of popular raw milk cheeses from Europe and Australian producers aren’t happy.


Earth Day at 40: progress and pitfalls

Brian Hughes was a typical suburban kid in the 1980s who didn't give much thought to where his food came from or what chemicals were used to produce it.

Now he's a farmer at Shaw Farm CSA in Columbia, supplying area families with organic fruits and vegetables. He also teaches others how to grow their own pesticide-free produce.

"People have begun to learn what's important," he said, reflecting on the changes in Americans' lives since the first Earth Day in 1970. "Their values have changed."

Since the birth of the modern environmental movement 40 years ago, many once-distant goals have been widely achieved. Americans today drive hybrid cars, recycle and use energy-sipping light bulbs. Their air and water have gained federal protections. Environmentalism has moved into the mainstream, many observers say, with consumers, governments, industry and the nation's largest retailer, Walmart, on board.


Buying Green Feels Good. But Does It Do Any Good?

NEW YORK (AP) -- Does it matter if your makeup is 100 percent vegan?

The growing lexicon of eco-friendly product descriptions may have you wondering what they all mean. Even if you feel better about buying a product that sports an Earth logo, you may be fuzzy on what benefits it brings.

''There's a lot of green noise in the marketplace of labels. It really muddies it up for the labels that are actually meaningful,'' said Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumers Union's

Environmental marketing claims have become so pervasive that the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing its green marketing guide for businesses, a year earlier than planned.


Supreme Court to Hear Agribusiness vs Organic Growers in Biotech Alfalfa Case

WASHINGTON, DC, April 21, 2010 (ENS) - The first genetically engineered crop case ever heard by the U.S. Supreme Court will be argued on April 27 and it has already attracted a lot of interest from food companies, farmers unions, scientists and legal scholars.

The case, Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, pits the giant agribusiness company against family and organic farmers over the issue of whether to allow the planting of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa after the Bush-era U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to analyze the crop's impacts on farmers and the environment.

In January, the Supreme Court granted the petition of Monsanto and its seed partner company, Forage Genetics International for review of a 2007 federal district court order which halted planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa, genetically engineered to tolerate exposure to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.

After finding a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, the district court ordered and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a permanent nationwide injunction against any further planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa.


Going truly green might require detective work

Dawn Josephson is known among her friends as a "Birkenstock-lovin', Mother Earth-huggin', organic-buyin', fanatically green chick," she says.

"I buy green household cleaners, organic foods and natural materials religiously," says the 37-year-old professional writing coach and mother of two from Jacksonville. Among the eco-friendly products in her home: shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste and biodegradable pet waste bags.

"Even though these things typically cost a little more — OK, sometimes a lot more — I firmly believe any additional cost is worth it," she says.


USDA issues federal order regarding bovine tuberculosis

Order will suspend federal rule requiring cattle to be TB-tested prior to movement in some areas.

A Federal Order has been issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to suspend enforcement of a portion of the bovine tuberculosis (TB) regulations in the U.S.  As a result many states have reduced their TB testing requirements for cattle moving out of Minnesota’s Modified Accredited Advanced (MAA) Zone.  Producers should contact the receiving state to verify shipping requirements prior to exporting cattle.

Under the Federal Order, the USDA will have the authority to determine whether or not to downgrade a state’s TB status based on a scientific analysis of risk. Previously, if two or more infected cattle herds that were not epidemiologically connected were found in a TB-Free state, that state would automatically lose their free status and be downgraded to Modified Accredited Advanced.  Under the new Federal Order, the USDA would have the option to downgrade the state’s status depending on the risk of disease transmission as well as the efforts put forward by the state to eradicate the disease and conduct surveillance testing.


Some Light in the USDA Tunnel?

With its funding all but dried up, the USDA’s increasingly popular Rural Development loan program may be on the brink of resuscitation.

Two House members recently introduced bills that would make the program self-funding. One of the proposed measures, from Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski, would require lenders to pay an origination fee of up to 3.5 percent on the loan value. It would also allow the U.S. Agriculture Secretary to levy a 0.5 percent fee annually on an outstanding loan balance.


Shortage of licensed slaughterhouses hampers small farmers' efforts

In some respects, John Bermon's livelihood as a small-scale livestock farmer hangs on a thread.

The owner of Aberdeen Hill Farm produces pasture-raised pork, lamb and beef in Gorham, Ontario County. Before he can sell his meat at nearby farmers markets or deliver it to customers in the Rochester area during winter months, he drives his animals more than 80 miles to Troy, Pa., where they are slaughtered and processed in a small, family-owned facility that is inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Depending on the time of year, that trip can be a weekly occurrence.


the raw deal

Six years ago, I took my first sip of raw milk. It was, in short, unlike anything I’d ever tasted—clean, creamy, slightly sweet.  I’d never been much of a milk drinker but I was an instant convert.  In the years since, I’ve paid close attention to the conversations that emerge around the production and consumption of raw milk, and have listened to increasingly heated discussions of how (or even if ) it should or should not be sold legally. In the press and elsewhere, the raw milk debate is often simple back and forth between the lovers and the haters, couched in the language of mystery, fear and intrigue.  For someone who drinks raw milk for simple reasons—it’s tasty, it’s healthy, it tends to come from farmers I know—such stories have seemed frustratingly juvenile and shortsighted. Moreover, I began to notice that a key part of the conversation has been entirely missing from the debate: what does the production and sale of raw milk actually mean for local farmers? 


WisBusiness: Enthusiasm for local food boosts community-supported farms

The local food movement is providing a noticeable boost this spring to Wisconsin farmers who sell seasonal-vegetable subscriptions to families in the Milwaukee and Madison areas.

“We’re having a real growth spurt,” says John Hendrickson, a senior outreach specialist with UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Local food has just been exploding.”

In Milwaukee, more than a thousand people turned out at a March open house at the Urban Ecology Center. Fourteen farmers offered subscriptions in a program called community-supported agriculture (CSA).

“We saw a lot of people from the suburbs this year,” says coordinator Jamie Ferschinger. “The idea of fresh, local food, and getting it from someone you know, is starting to spread.”

Madison’s CSA program is far bigger. Consumer demand has so grown that the organizers moved the CSA open house from Olbrich Gardens to the much larger Monona Terrace Convention Center, where a record 42 farmers talked to about 1,700 interested consumers.


Is Organic Food Stuffed Full Of Marketing Hype?

Is paying extra money for organic food really worth it?

Some argue that the label "organic" confers real value -- marking healthier food produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and antibiotics. But others claim it's just marketing hype -- that organic food hasn't been proven healthier and that it comes with its own environmental trade-offs, like requiring more land.

A group of experts recently went head-to-head on the topic in an Oxford-style debate, the latest in the Intelligence Squared U.S. series. Three argued in favor of the motion "Organic Food Is Marketing Hype" and three argued against.

Before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 21 percent in favor of the motion and 45 percent against, with 34 percent undecided. After the debate, the percentage who agreed "Organic Food Is Marketing Hype" remained the same, while 69 percent of the audience opposed it. Ten percent remained undecided.


Diners in the basement: Restaurant feeds worms too

BOISE, Idaho — For eco-restaurateur Dave Krick, it's not just about where his food comes from, but also where it's going.

And in the case of his Red Feather Lounge and Bittercreek Ale House, some 100 pounds of it a day are feeding an extra 200,000 diners — Vermont red wiggler worms that live in the restaurants' basement, working around the clock to turn kitchen waste into nutrient-rich compost.

That's a lot of worms, but it's a singular distinction.

The Green Restaurant Association knows of no other restaurant in the continental U.S. doing onsite worm composting — known as vermiculture — and only one other in the country, The Kona Brewing Company, which has pubs in Hawaii.


Judge sides with activist in raw milk dispute

A judge is moving to the appellate level a case brought against a Wisconsin man by government officials demanding he provide names of friends who may buy or sell raw milk.

The threat against raw-milk activist Max Kane had been the possibility of being ruled in contempt of court for his refusal to provide the information to authorities, according to a report from an advocacy organization.

The dispute over the sale of raw milk by farmers directly to consumers has erupted in several locations in recent months in the United States and Canada. Proponents argue raw milk is healthier, and since it usually is a direct producer-to-consumer transaction the government has no interest in those deals.


Wisconsin governor undecided on fate of raw milk bill

MADISON (WPR) This week, the state Assembly is likely to consider a bill passed by the Senate allowing limited sale of raw milk.

If the bill makes it to his desk, Governor Jim Doyle says he will consider all arguments put forth by farmers, consumers and health officials.  He says everyone knows people who grew up on farms drinking raw milk, and believe they’re healthier and stronger for it.  But Doyle adds there’s also a system in which milk goes out to millions of people who have to be protected for health reasons. 


Finally, An article featuring the attributes/observations on appling raw milk to the soil.

Nebraska dairyman applies raw milk to pastures and watches the grass grow

An Illinois steel-company executive turned Nebraska dairyman has stumbled onto an amazingly low-cost way to grow high-quality grass – and probably even crops – on depleted soil.

Can raw milk make grass grow? More specifically, can one application of three gallons of raw milk on an acre of land produce a large amount of grass?

The answer to both questions is yes.

Call it the Nebraska Plan or call it the raw milk strategy or call it downright amazing, but the fact is Nebraska dairyman David Wetzel is producing high-quality grass by applying raw milk to his fields and a Nebraska Extension agent has confirmed the dairyman’s accomplishments.



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