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News for June 25, 2010

Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains

A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains. Interviews and site visits with farms and businesses, supplemented with secondary data, describe how food moves from farms to consumers in 15 food supply chains. Key comparisons between supply chains include the degree of product differentiation, diversification of marketing outlets, and information conveyed to consumers about product origin. The cases highlight differences in prices and the distribution of revenues among supply chain participants, local retention of wages and proprietor income, transportation fuel use, and social capital creation.

READ MORE (USDA) ]

Marin's Organic Farms Wilt Under Labor Laws

As a teenager, Dave Retsky was just about the last kid an organic farmer would want to hire. The son of a Hollywood doctor, Retsky admits he was a tad lazy and knew next to nothing about organic farming before he began his first internship. Now he owns County Line Harvest, one of the top organic farms in Petaluma, in Sonoma County.

"Where else was I going to learn the trade but as an apprentice?" said Retsky.

READ MORE (The Bay Citizen) ]

Whole Foods Cracks Down On Organic Claims

Most eco-foodies already know that food labeled organic must be made with at least 95% certified organic ingredients. Go to the beauty section of your store, however, and eco-beauty seekers will see the word organic proudly emblazoned on a whole bunch of products--even those that only contain a couple token organic ingredients.

Why the disparity? While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict rules about organic claims on food, no such standard exists for beauty and personal care products. That's why even shampoos and lotions that contain questionable chemicals like parabens can use the word organic in their packaging without getting into trouble. The practice is extremely confusing for shoppers seeking healthy, eco-friendly products. This is why environmental group Organic Consumers Association has been campaigning for tougher personal care product standards for years.

READ MORE (Forbes) ]

Organic Food Has a 'Health Halo,' Too

A few recent studies have focused on one of our favorite topics: the "health halo" hovering around certain foods that leads people to underestimate how much they're eating.

The latest research, a study by University of Michigan researchers to be published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, is on organic foods. The study found that participants who looked at the nutrition facts label (which includes the calorie count) for Oreos "made with organic flour and sugar" were more likely to rate the cookies as lower-than-average in calories than were people looking at the label of conventional Oreos. "Presumably, participants inferred that, if organic cookies contain 160 calories, then the calorie content of conventional cookies - whatever the precise amount - is likely to be higher," the authors write.

READ MORE (Wall Street Journal) ]

USDA, US trade rep announce Russian poultry deal

U.S. poultry exports are expected to resume to Russia once conditions of an agreement announced on June 24 are met, according to an announcement from the USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative. The announcement came on the heels of a White House meeting on the same day between President Obama and Russia's President Dmitri Medvedev where the poultry ban was discussed in the context of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Russia's most recent ban of U.S. poultry imports came five months ago, and it was based on Russia's newfound opposition to the use of chlorinated rinses in the United States, a practice that meets international standards for food safety.

READ MORE (Feedstuffs) ]

Regional Roadmap to Meeting Biofuels Goals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is developing a comprehensive regional strategy to help recharge the rural American economy. The strategy targets barriers to the development of a successful biofuels market that will achieve, or surpass, the current U.S. Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS2), as set out in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). The RFS2, implementation provisions of which are detailed in the Environmental Protection Agency's RFS2 Final Rule (March 26, 2010 Federal Register), becomes effective on July 1, 2010. The RFS2 will create new market opportunities for American agriculture to help fulfill its mandate: the American economy will be using 36 billion gallons (bg) of renewable transportation fuel per year in its transportation fuel supply by 2022.

USDA is uniquely positioned, given its detailed knowledge of the agriculture sector, to understand and support the goals of RFS2 at an agricultural regional level. When President Obama established a Biofuels Interagency Working Group (BIWG) it was intended to coordinate the federal government's efforts on the nation's first comprehensive biofuel market development program. The BIWG is using existing authorities and new policies to support the development of next-generation biofuels, increase flexible fuel vehicle use, and assist in retail marketing efforts. The Working Group is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The BIWG brings together and engages in inter-agency policy discussions on the growing biofuels industry.

READ MORE (USDA) ]

Minn. farmer wants to sell raw milk again off-farm

A southern Minnesota dairy farmer has asked a judge to lift a state embargo on the sale of raw milk food products from his farm.

Michael Hartmann argued in court Thursday that his Gibbon area farm is not the source of a recent E. coli outbreak.

READ MORE (Star Tribune) ]

Is Interstate Shipping Raw Milk Products Illegal?

In the minds of attorneys for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it's illegal to ship raw milk products for human consumption across state lines. In fact, FDA prohibits such milk in interstate commerce.

But last week, attorneys for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund challenged the federal ban as unconstitutional and outside FDA's statutory authority. FCLDF filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and FDS.

READ MORE (American Agriculturalist) ]

Raw dairy processing classes scheduled

Rural Vermont's popular series of home dairy processing classes are coming to the Central Vermont area in July and August. Rural Vermont partners with Green Acres Milking Shorthorns in South Randolph on July 1st and Hawk's Hill Farm in Barnard on July 10 and Aug. 21 to teach how to make all kinds of delicious dairy goodies using raw milk from these local dairy farms.

Karen Bixler, a retired cheesemaker, will lead the Green Acres class on July 1 and teach participants how to use milk from the farm's Milking Shorthorn herd to make Yogurt, Mozzarella, and Queso Blanco.

READ MORE (Times Argus) ]

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