Friday, January 11, 2013

Toni's Farm & Food News Roundup

ToniFamily farmers across the nation have stormed Washington, D.C. to take on a fight against Monsanto, one of the biggest corporations for agricultural products in the nation. On Jan. 10 the US Court of Appeals held an Oral Argument where farmers spoke in protest of the decision that came from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto. The case was filed in 2011 in an attempt to protect farmers from Monsanto, but was dismissed last year for lack of standing. Monsanto has patented its genetically engineered seeds, so farmers with fields in the vicinity of these crops have had to cease growing some crops to avoid a lawsuit for patent infringement. Further, Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops threaten to contaminate organically certified farms.

Supporters of organic farming are concerned about the months to come after a Jan. 1 congressional decision to extend the farm bill that was enacted in 2008 until September of 2013. Though both the Senate and the House created propositions for a new farm bill last summer, time constraints from the fiscal cliff prevented a decision. Mandatory funding as part of the 2008 bill for 37 organic programs has been cut from the extension, leaving the organic community in dismay. Some of the programs that weren’t included in the extension include research, cost share for organic certification and data collection regarding organics.

Erik Jacobs left his city life as a freelance photographer to begin an apprenticeship at The Farm School. The apprenticeship program at the school in Athol takes on 15 students every year to teach them the ins and outs of all of the realms of the farming world including growing food for 175 people and raising various livestock. Waking up one day to realize his meaningful connection to the natural world in combination with a love of dirt and food, Jacobs realized farming was where his future lies. He had little knowledge of farming prior to entering the school, which he admitted was a decision to see if he could realistically make the transition into the physically demanding rural lifestyle. Though he raised six hens and grew vegetables in a garden with his wife, Jacobs admitted the couple’s “attachment to late-night sushi and walking to the movies.” His classmates are equally unequipped, having come from a broad spectrum of careers from a lawyer to Ivy League graduates spanning over a wide range of ages. Delving into a lifestyle of harvesting, working with timber and raising animals for consumption, Jacobs says farming is changing his views on the circle of life and death.

Dairy farmers are continuing to struggle to maintain dairy farms as the cost of production steadily rises. So while the price of milk is rising, a profit is far from sight. David Doak, a dairy farmer from Maine, explained that he is currently being paid $25 for every hundred pounds of milk even though it costs him approximately $30 to produce. Since the 2008 farm bill was extended, the floor price for milk per hundredweight is now $16.94; meaning if the price falls below that the federal government will pay farmers the difference. Had the bill not been passed, the set floor price would be approximately $39 per hundredweight. Though farmers would see an initial surge in income, the demand for milk would probably fall and leave dairy farmers without a market.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two new requirements in an attempt to increase food safety after numerous food recalls in recent years. The first requirement greatly involves farmers in improving the growth of food that is eaten raw through more regulated practices of sanitation for workers and equipment. After public comment, larger farms will have 26 months to implement the new guidelines. Smaller farms will be given an extended time frame. The second rule requires food sellers to prevent contamination of food and do a better job of correcting any mistakes that are made.

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