Thursday, November 29, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaAfter weeks of improvement, drought conditions have worsened in nearly all U.S. states. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that 60.1 percent of the lower 48 states are still in some form of drought. The drought is expected to worsen and persist through the end of winter in the Great Plain states. Weather conditions in Illinois continue to improve. 32.3 percent of the state is in drought, down from 100 percent in July.

The European Milk Board organized a protest to demand fair milk prices and remuneration for farmers. Thousands of dairy farmers gathered outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium and dumped gallons of milk. According to the board, more than 157,000 dairy farmers in Europe have gone out of business since the 2009 dairy crisis.

On March 29, 2011, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. filed a complaint against Monsanto. Last year, the association represented 60 family farms, seed businesses and agricultural organizations in court. The lawsuit challenged Monsanto’s patents on its genetically modified seed. OSGATA also sought protections for farmers whose land and organic crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seed. The case was dismissed early this year, but OSGATA challenged the motion and was granted an appeal. The plea will be heard on January 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C. OSGATA now represents over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, U.S. farm income will drop 3 percent this year as a result of the drought. However, total farm income will be close to last year’s record largely because of insurance indemnities. Productions costs have increased by 8 percent. Farmers (who managed to sustain their corn and soybean crops) stand to make a reasonable profit because the prices for corn and soybean have increased. The drought now threatens the winter wheat crop, which is currently in it worst condition for late November.

Every year, the Army Corps of Engineers reduce the amount of water flow from the upper Missouri River into the Mississippi in an effort to maintain irrigation systems and meet other water needs of the region. The water flow reduction, coupled with the 2012 drought, has caused major restrictions on barge traffic. Many fertilizer companies use the Mississippi River to transport their product to Midwestern farmers. If water levels fall low enough, transport of $7 billion in agricultural products, chemicals, coal and petroleum could be delayed.

According to the state Department of Agricultural Resources, there are 39 winter farmers markets open for business in Massachusetts this year. Back in 2009 there were only six recorded markets. published a list of ongoing winter markets throughout the commonwealth. And check out Farm Aid’s own list of winter markets open all around the U.S.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

MattThis week's Music Monday brings us another set from Hershey, Pennsylvania and Farm Aid 2012. This time, we'll highlight Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, who played at their second Farm Aid concert this year. Watch the playlist of three HD videos below to see them perform, "The Lion The Beast The Beat," "Never Go Back," "Ragged Company," "Nothing But the Water," and "Medicine." Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael join the band on-stage for "Ragged Company," which is a collaboration they did on the newest album by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals called The Lion The Beast The Beat, released this past summer.

For a step back in the time machine, here's the Grace Potter & The Nocturnals performance from Farm Aid 2008, which was held on September 20 in Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Our YouTube channel now has over 700 Farm Aid videos! Do you have any favorites?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Farm Aid Gives Thanks & Our 20% Off Sale

MattWe're thankful that this year's concert was such a wonderful day of music, good food and family farmers. If you'd like to remember that special day in Hershey or share your appreciation of Farm Aid and family farmers with someone special this holiday season, now's the time because you'll save 20% in our store!

When you enter the coupon code HOLIDAY12 at checkout, you'll save 20% off your entire order of shirts, posters and DVDs. We've also added brand new items to our store, like handmade charm necklaces and recycled aluminum water bottles.

This time of year makes us think about all the things we're thankful for, including family farmers, good food, great music, your support, and a whole lot more. Please take a look at this video we made to give thanks!

If you're a Farm Aid Member, the HOLIDAY12 discount code combines with your 10% member discount, for a total of 30% off! (It's never too late to become a member, click here for more information.) And remember, every purchase at our online store helps Farm Aid keep family farmers on the land to provide good, farm-fresh food for all of us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking back on 2012, giving thanks

JoelMy favorite email of the year consisted of just three words: “We got rain.”

That was the full text of an email I received this fall from a Texas rancher who was following up after we had helped him out with a drought grant from the Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund.

But just as drought comes on slowly, a great, silent ghost slipping over the countryside over many months, its departure is hard to reckon as well. Toss climate change and global warming into the mix—hello, Sandy!—and odds are we haven’t seen the last of drought, or off-the-chart storms, for a good long while.

A glance at the national Drought Monitor Map for last week offers a stark reminder that though the historic drought of 2012 has eased a bit, much of the continental U.S. remains in conditions ranging from abnormally dry to extreme drought, with great swaths of farm and ranch land in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as smaller areas of Alabama, Georgia and Texas, remaining in exceptional drought conditions.

As the holidays approach and winter sets in, now is a good time to remind your farm and ranch friends and neighbors that thanks to donations to our Family Farm Disaster Fund, Farm Aid continues to provide drought relief to farm and ranch families hard hit by drought.

Our drought relief assistance targets especially those farms and ranches not adequately covered by or included in federal, state or other drought disaster programs.

Farm Aid Farmer Resource Network member organizations in several states have worked closely with us this year on drought relief, including the Sustainable Food Center in Texas, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, the Kansas Farmers Union, Family Farm Defenders in Wisconsin, Hoosier Organic Marketing & Education (HOME) in Indiana, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund across the South.

We are also helping the National Family Farm Coalition fly farmers into Washington, DC, to speak to lawmakers about the need not only to retain, but to improve federal disaster programs for all the nation’s farmers.

Just as Farm Aid gives thanks this week to the nation’s family farmers for sustaining us all, day in and day out, we also thank you for your continued commitment to keeping family farmers on the land. Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Jamey Johnson at Farm Aid 2012

MattJamey Johnson is a great friend to Farm Aid and family farmers. While he's played at the last five Farm Aid concerts, he's only been featured on one previous Music Monday post, so it's time to fix that by highlighting his performance at this year's show. Take a look at the playlist below to watch HD videos of his six-song set, including "High Cost of Living," "Give It Away," "Can't Cash My Checks," "11 Months and 29 Days," "I've Got Your Picture," and "Place Out on the Ocean."

Jamey released a new album last month called Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran, which features collaborations with some big country music names, including Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. Check out this video for more information on the album, including an interview with Willie on Hank Cochran's influence on his career.

Our YouTube channel now has over 700 Farm Aid videos! Do you have any favorites?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaCongress returned to Washington on Tuesday after a seven-week election break. Many food and farm groups are urging Congress to pass the 2012 farm bill before the year is up. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) advises supporters of family farmers to call their Congressional representatives and express their opinions on the farm bill by November 15. Programs up for review include: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program; the organic cost-share program; conservation programs and several more.

In the town of Hana, located in Maui, Hawaii, the Hana Fresh Farm is working to educate natives on the health benefits of homegrown food like avocado and papaya. For several years, the farm has been partnered with Hana Health, the local wellness center. Hawaiian natives are at high risk for a slew of health ailments that can usually be prevented by a healthy diet. Often, doctors at Hana Health will refer their patients to Hana Fresh Farm with prescriptions for good foods. The wellness center is now providing women and children with incentives to schedule regular health check ups. Among other things, children will be given gift certificates for fresh fruit smoothies from Hana Fresh Farm.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has outlined recent changes made to the congressional committees that handle agricultural issues. NSAC notes which committee members have retired or been defeated. The organization also makes predictions on the number of seats available in each committee.

Researchers find that a major reason people buy organic is because of the perceived environmental benefits. Still, questions remain about which method of farming is better, conventional or organic. Recent data shows that conventional farming produces more food on less land. However, a growing number of studies are finding that organic farming requires less energy. Nitrogen-based fertilizers, which account for 41 percent of the energy used on conventional farms, are less frequently applied in organic agriculture.

For more than half a century, chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have seeped into California’s aquifers, making its way into the groundwater. As a result, communities in the Central Valley are dealing with contaminated drinking water. Residents of small farmworker communities must pay double for water. Schools in the region have to make additional budget allowances to buy bottled water for students. Many of the small, impoverished neighborhoods facing water contamination lack the political influence to force a change. State and local officials recommend that the small communities band together to get more attention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off its ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.’ The CDC hopes to educate on public health, animal health and environmental health. The growing use of antibiotics in farm animals has been linked to the creation of drug resistant ‘super-bugs’. The FDA maintains the hope that the use of antibiotics will taper off in the next three years on a voluntary basis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Dust Bowl

JenThe Dust Bowl, a new film by Ken Burns, chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.

On November 15, you can join Ken Burns, Al Roker and Paula Zahn in a live (from WNET’s studio at Lincoln Center in New York City) YouTube event and national dialogue regarding the Dust Bowl’s legacy on both the environment and the culture of the United States. The conversation will being at 2:00 PM Eastern.

Panelists will discuss current drought conditions along with the importance of environmental awareness and the effects humans have on the natural world.

The Dust Bowl, a new film by Ken Burns and his long-time partner Dayton Duncan, will air on PBS on November 18th and 19th.

Here's a preview:

We Want a 2012 Farm Bill, and We Want It Done Right!

HildeCongress headed back to work this week for the lame duck session. Now that the elections and endless campaigning are over, let's make sure a 2012 Farm Bill tops the legislative agenda.

In case you missed out on recent Farm Bill happenings, here’s a quick update: As of September 30th, in an unprecedented show of inaction by Congress, our nation’s food and farm policy expired. This irresponsible move defunded critical programs for beginning farmers, rural and urban job creation, natural resource conservation and access to healthy food. Two important programs that have expired as a result include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program. These competitive grant programs are the only federal programs exclusively dedicated to training beginning and minority farmers and ranchers, fostering the next generation of agricultural producers that we need so much.

Furthermore, the worst drought of a generation continues to ravage our family farms. As of mid-October, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture designated drought-caused disasters in 2,100 counties—that’s two-thirds of all U.S. counties. As farmers continue to feel the brunt of this historic drought, they need the certainty of a 2012 Farm Bill, one that provides a strong, forward-thinking safety net for family farmers and our food supply.

So what can you do?

If you haven’t already, send a letter. Here’s one we’ve started, urging Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill equipped to meet today's challenges in agriculture, a bill that invests in family farmers, our natural resources and our food supply.

Or better yet, make a call (and ask a friend to join you!). Tomorrow, November 15, concerned citizens from across the country are joining together for a national day of action. We’ll be flooding the phone lines on Capitol Hill with a unified statement: We want a 2012 Farm Bill, and we want it done right!

Here’s the information you need to make a call:

Click here to find your Congressional representatives by state.

Dial their number and tell the person who answers that you’d like to share a personal message for your legislator such as:

Hello, my name is _____. I’m a constituent and a voter (and tell them if you’re a farmer!). I’m calling to ask ______ to help get the 2012 Farm Bill finished, and make sure it invests in programs to support beginning farmers, local and regional food systems development, conservation and the role of family farmers in creating rural community prosperity and economic development.

Thanks for doing you part to speak up for family farmers and good food for all of us!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young and Crazy Horse

MattToday's Music Monday celebrates the birthday of Farm Aid co-founder and board artist Neil Young! It's been an amazing year for his fans this year, as he's been very active. In addition to performing on tour with Crazy Horse (including September's Farm Aid concert), he's written an autiobiography called Waging Heavy Peace, was featured in Jonathan Demme's film Neil Young Journeys, and released two records: Americana, an album of folk standards; and Psychedelic Pill, a two-disc album that's the first collection of original music by Neil Young and Crazy Horse in almost a decade.

So, to celebrate all that, let's go back to a Neil Young and Crazy Horse performance from Farm Aid 1994 which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 18. Check out the seven songs in this playlist, including, "Country Home," "Change Your Mind," "Down by the River," "Farmer John," "Homegrown," "Piece of Crap," and "All Along the Watchtower."

Our YouTube channel has over 600 Farm Aid videos. Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaThe USDA is advising farmers and ranchers to keep a thorough record of losses caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) is available for producers who need help repairing farmland or removing debris left by the hurricane. Emergency loans are also available to eligible farmers or ranchers living in counties that are declared natural disaster areas. The USDA recommends that all producers visit their local FSA office for further assistance. The department also issued a statement reminding producers of expired disaster assistance programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Tree Assistance Program.

Entrapment in grain bins and silos remains a leading cause of death on farms. One reason for the persisting rate of silo deaths is the huge global demand for corn. After a study revealed that nearly 20 percent of all grain bin accidents involve workers under the age of 20, the Labor Department proposed new federal regulations. Experts on farm safety explained that farmers often lack the equipment or training to properly protect their workers.

Last year, severe heat in the Southeast greatly diminished peanut production. Now, farmers are expected to harvest about 66 percent more peanuts than they did in 2011. A newly developed peanut variety that is resistant to disease played a large part in this year’s successful peanut yield. Economists are predicting a decrease in the price of peanut butter. This would be beneficial to food banks that buy the product in bulk.

Under the Autauga Quality Cotton Association, a small group of cotton farmers filed a request for arbitration to resolve their grievances with commodities giant Cargill Inc. For 45 years, Cargill had been trading in the futures market on behalf of the Autauga Quality Cotton Association. According to Autauga, Cargill was required to put on hedges in the market for the farmers to protect them from unstable cotton prices. The farmers allege that Cargill put on the hedges initially, but later removed them without permission, leading the farmers to near financial ruin.

Most farmers in India rely on community meetings for agricultural and animal husbandry information. In 2006, OneWorld South Asia established the Lifelines Agriculture project to give advice and information to small farmers in a more efficient manner. Since then, farmers have reported an average of 20 to 30 percent increase in productivity and income. Lifelines is available in 1000 villages and answers approximately 350 calls a day.

In Esperance, Australia, a group of farmers initiated a study into the effects of agricultural chemicals on farming families. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, deaths from prostate cancer are 137% higher in farmers than the rest of the population. Deaths from lymphatic cancer are 80% higher. The study, which is being conducted by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA), will look for the presence of toxic chemicals in urine samples from farming families.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association issued a press release to launch the OEFFA Investment Fund. The purpose of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture in Ohio. OEFFA expects successful applications to be for business loans ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. However, the organization is willing to invest more (maximum: $250,000) or less (minimum: $2,500). OEFFA will start accepting applications on November 1, 2012 and funding decisions will be in January 2013. For more information visit OEFFA’s website or contact Carol Goland at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202 or

In North Charleston, South Carolina, Lowcountry Local First launched an incubator program for aspiring farmers. If approved, the farmer would be allowed to lease 1-2 acres of land on the Walnut Hill Plantation and share equipment with other members of the incubator program. Lowcountry Local First also operates the New and Beginning Farmer Program and the Growing New Farmers Apprentice Program. For more information, click here.

Friday, November 02, 2012

California's Proposition 37 and Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods

JenOn Election Day, voters in California will vote on Proposition 37, an initiative that, if passed, would require mandatory labeling of food containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Much has been written about the issue lately and people are not just paying attention in California, but across the country and the world.

Here are some of the facts about Genetic Engineering in your food:

  • GE crops are grown all over the country and most of the processed food you eat contains GE ingredients.
  • 88% of wheat, 90% of corn, 89% of sugar beets, and 90% of soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered.
  • More than 50 countries have labeling of GE food, including the EU, China, Japan and Russia.
  • 92% of Americans want labeling of GE foods.

The debate about the benefits and risks of GE crops has been going on since their introduction nearly 20 years ago. While one side assures us they are safe, the other side warns us of the dangers. Meanwhile, each and every day we unknowingly ingest them in the food we eat—in fact, we each eat on average 193 pounds of GE food each year. And our environment and our farmers are also feeling the impact. GE technology has given rise to superweeds that are resistant to the standard chemicals used to fight them, meaning stronger and more chemicals are used in the fields to keep weeds at bay.

Farmers who wish to grow non-GE seeds often cannot find them locally and have to go to great distances and costs to find non-GE seed. Organic farmers are constantly at risk of having their crops contaminated by GE pollen. While the debate continues, this is a statement we can all agree on: we have a right to know what’s in our food. That’s the premise of Proposition 37.

While 92% of Americans have said in polls that they want to know what’s in their food, the proposition has an uphill battle. Back in September, the polls showed that the measure had popular support in California. A month later, the level of support has dropped precipitously, and that likely has a lot to do with the fact that the opposition has spent more than $45 million dollars to sway opinion in their direction. The entity that has spent the most, at more than $8 million? Monsanto.

If you want transparency in the food system, if you think you deserve the right to know whether or not the food you eat has been genetically engineered, vote on Tuesday!

Click here for more information about Proposition 37.

If you’re outside California, you can still speak up for labeling GE foods by joining the 1.2 million people who’ve told the FDA to "Just Label It!"

Take a look at this video for one farmer's perspective on Proposition 37: