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News for June 29, 2010

Regulators eye second Minnesota farm in sale of raw milk

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is investigating a second farm in connection with the illegal sale of raw milk.

The Schlangen Family Farm near Freeport in Stearns County also appears to be improperly selling meat and frozen produce, according to a search warrant affidavit. The Agriculture Department last week searched the organic farm, seizing business records and embargoing the sale of some of its products.

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 Milk Bans are About Protecting Big Industry

In Massachusetts, a controversy over raw milk regulations has cast doubt on our seemingly basic right to unprocessed food. Government, public health and dairy industry officials want to restrict the sale and distribution of raw (unpasteurized) milk, citing grave safety concerns. But small dairy farmers, organic consumers' advocates and raw milk drinkers say the issue isn't safety-it's control of the dairy market.

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) proposed new regulations that would ban off-the-farm sale and distribution of raw milk. Prior to making the revamped regulations public, MDAR issued cease-and-desist orders to four milk-buying clubs that buy raw milk directly from small farmers and distribute it among members. MDAR Commissioner Scott Soares insists the clubs' activities are illegal and that the new rules are "intended to be a clarification over what has always been the case."

READ MORE (Organic Consumers Association) ]

Can raw milk be safe?

The vast majority of milk sold in the United States is pasteurized -- it's heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to kill bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli. Now, a small, but increasingly vocal, group of people advocate eschewing the pasteurization process, in favor of raw, unpasturized milk.

"It all seems very straightforward to me, of course," raw milk advocate and farmer Edgar Plees told PRI's Living on Earth, "you drink the milk that comes out of the cow is going to be better than having it processed, or refined. It comes out of the cow, it's chilled and that's it."

READ MORE (PRI) ]

State searches second Minn. farm in raw milk probe

State investigators searched a second Minnesota farm that may have illegally sold raw milk as health officials investigate an E. coli outbreak that sickened several people, officials confirmed Monday.

The state's investigation began after E. coli traced to unpasteurized milk products sickened at least eight people. The southern Minnesota farm blamed for the outbreak - the Hartmann Dairy Farm near Gibbon_ has been searched twice. The farm has disputed allegations that its unpasteurized milk caused the E. coli outbreak.

READ MORE (Star Tribune) ]

Milking Parlor: USDA & DOJ Work on Price Concerns

No new news to dairy producers across the country: the industry is being hit hard by historically low prices. In this edition of the Milking Parlor, we listen in to part of the news conference Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney held during a recent joint USDA-Department of Justice hearing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Vilsack pointed out that, in the last 10 years, the dairy industry has gone from 111,000 dairy farms to fewer than 65,000… and it's not because producers got more efficient. He wants to get to the bottom of what is devastating the dairy industry. Varney says they're looking at what role the markets, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, are playing in the price declines. But she's not prejudging at this point and wants the hearings to run their course and show what the problem really could be. Vilsack added that, despite some reports, they don't have a hidden agenda of reformulating the law regarding cooperatives… they just want to make sure producers are treated fairly, and rural America again becomes a great place where people want to live and work.

READ MORE (World Dairy Diary) ]

USDA to Help Farmers and Ranchers Expand Habitat for Migrating Birds

State Conservationist Carlos Suarez today announced that USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with farmers, ranchers, aquaculturists, non-industrial foresters, and other landowners to develop and enhance habitat for birds making their annual migration south towards the Gulf of Mexico. Under the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), NRCS will partner with producers to manage portions of their land to provide additional food and habitat for migrating birds. Suarez estimates $200,000 for the initiative in Florida.

"More than 50 million migratory birds traveling south in coming months will instinctively head toward the marshes and coastlands of the northern Gulf of Mexico; including Florida," said Suarez. "With some marshes and shorelines in Florida already degraded and the potential for larger-scale oil impacts in the coming months, it is essential that we provide inland and coastal food, water, and cover for migratory birds before they reach the oil-impacted areas."

READ MORE (Southeast Ag Net) ]

Problems With USDA Organic Food Program

There's a warning that government food labels may not always mean what they say. An audit performed by the U.S. Inspector General's office suggests "USDA organic" stickers may not always be a sign of the real thing.

Local organic farmers fill out mounds of paperwork and spend thousands of dollars every year to get their crops certified "USDA organic," but they're now learning that label may not be worth all of the weeding.

READ MORE (WSMV) ]

States ease food safety rules for homemade goods

At Wisconsin farmers markets, vendors no longer need licenses to sell pickles, jams and other canned foods, while small farmers in Maine can sell slaughtered chickens without worrying about inspections.

Federal and state laws require that most food sold to the public be made in licensed facilities open to government inspectors. But as more people become interested in buying local food, a few states have created exemptions for amateur chefs who sell homemade goods at farmers markets and on small farms.

READ MORE (AP) ]

Driving Under the Influence: Huge Taxpayer Investment in Ethanol Yields Paltry Payoff

Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. taxpayers spent a whopping $17 billion to subsidize corn ethanol blends in gasoline. What did they get in return? A reduction in overall oil consumption equal to an unimpressive 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fleet-wide fuel economy. Worse, ethanol's much ballyhooed contribution to reducing America's dependence on imported oil looks even smaller - the equivalent to a measly six tenths of a mile per gallon fleet-wide.

That's the conclusion of Driving Under the Influence: Corn-Ethanol and Energy Security, a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that exposes the truth about the wildly exaggerated claims being made about ethanol's contribution to America's security and energy independence.

READ MORE (Environmental Working Group) ]

Reusable grocery bags carry E. coli

They're good for the environment, but reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health, according to a new report.

Researchers randomly tested bags carried by shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and found bacteria levels significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death.

READ MORE (Futurity.org) ]

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