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News for January 26, 2010

PRESIDENT OBAMA, SECRETARY VILSACK ANNOUNCE INTENT TO NOMINATE DR. ELISABETH HAGEN AS USDA UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOOD SAFETY

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2010— President Obama today announced his intent to nominate Dr. Elisabeth Hagen as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Under Secretary for Food Safety. Hagen will serve with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"There is no more fundamental function of government than protecting consumers from harm, which is why food safety is one of USDA's top priorities," said Vilsack. "We can and must do a better job of ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products regulated by USDA, and Dr. Hagen brings the background, skills, and vision to lead USDA's efforts to make sure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply."

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How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet

On a farm in coastal Maine, a barn is going up. Right now it's little more than a concrete slab and some wooden beams, but when it's finished, the barn will provide winter shelter for up to six cows and a few head of sheep. None of this would be remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the people building the barn are two of the most highly regarded organic-vegetable farmers in the country: Eliot Coleman wrote the bible of organic farming, The New Organic Grower, and Barbara Damrosch is the Washington Post's gardening columnist. At a time when a growing number of environmental activists are calling for an end to eating meat, this veggie-centric power couple is beginning to raise it. "Why?" asks Coleman, tromping through the mud on his way toward a greenhouse bursting with December turnips. "Because I care about the fate of the planet."

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Got Raw Milk?
An upcoming lecture assesses 'The Raw Milk Revolution'

THE right to drink raw milk is a highly charged topic about a basic liberty — the freedom to choose what we eat — that has bred mistrust, accusation and abuse of power. Depending on one’s perspective, raw milk will either kill you or cure you.

The FDA’s Head of Plant and Dairy Food Safety, John Sheean, once compared drinking raw milk to playing Russian roulette with your health.

”He’s been outspoken in opposing raw milk, branding it a public health menace,” journalist David Gumpert says. “He won’t entertain conversations with people like myself, and I’m not advocating it as a miracle drug. I just think people should have access.”

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Russia - USDA have shot themselves in the foot with arrogance

Russian chicken importers have begun seeking alternative suppliers, including Thailand, as talks with U.S. experts ground to a halt on Thursday without a commitment to reopen Washington's biggest export market.

Russia, which spent $800 million on U.S. poultry in 2008, has banned imports from its largest supplier on concerns related to the use of chlorine in treating the meat -- a practice routinely used in the United States to kill bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Both sides said progress was made during two days of talks in Moscow and that negotiations would continue soon to resolve a meat dispute that has also led Russia to ban pork from all but six U.S. processing plants for excessive antibiotic residues.

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Dean's Foods driving up milk prices?

Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and attorneys general from Wisconsin and Michigan Jan. 22 in filing an antitrust lawsuit against Dean's Foods Co. which Deans' April 2009 acquisition of Foremost Farms.  The lawsuit alleges "that Dean Foods Co. purchased a smaller dairy company in Wisconsin to quash competition and drive up milk prices," according to a Jan. 22 Associated Press story

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USDA Awarding $310 Million for Broadband Projects

The Agriculture Department is handing out nearly $310 million in stimulus money to bring high-speed Internet connections to 14 rural communities around the country.

The awards being announced Monday amount to the largest round of government funding for broadband since Congress included $7.2 billion for high-speed networks and adoption programs in last year's stimulus bill.

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Salami Recall: Pepper to Blame?

Salmonella Behind 1.24 Million-Pound Salami Recall; Company Suspects Pepper  
 
Jan. 25, 2010 - Salmonella in salami, possibly due to tainted black pepper, has led to the recall of 1.24 million pounds of salami products by Daniele International Inc.

The salami may be linked to the ongoing salmonella outbreak that since July 2009 has sickened at least 184 people in 38 states. A CDC investigation of 39 people who became ill found that 51% of the patients recently had eaten salami.

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Remembering La Gloria

This past November people from all over Mexico gathered in the Valley of Perote, where the village of La Gloria is located, for the fifth Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales [National Assembly of Environmentally Affected]. It is a large, periodical gathering of a network of communities and organisations struggling against environmental devastation in Mexico. The location for this most recent gathering was chosen in recognition of the importance of the local struggles against the large pig farms in the area, which had gained national and worldwide attention when the first human cases of pandemic H1N1 swine flu were traced back to La Gloria in April 2009.

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Farmer kills 51 cows then turns gun on himself

COPAKE — Thursday morning, Copake dairy farmer Dean Pierson went into his barn with a rifle and killed all 51 of his milk cows before turning the gun on himself, ending his own life.

According to the New York State Police out of Livingston, around 1 p.m. a milk man came to the barn to make his pick-up and found a note on the door that said not to come in and to call the police. “He was basically trying to save any family or friends from having to discover him,” said Capt. Scott Brown.

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