Thursday, March 07, 2013

Toni's Farm and Food Roundup

ToniIt is illegal in most states to sell unpasteurized milk, but there is a movement in some states to change that. Yesterday the House Agricultural Committee in Montana looked at a bill, which would allow small farmers the opportunity to legally sell raw milk. As the bill stands a small operation is defined as a farmer with up to 15 cows and 30 goats or sheep. Jennifer Holmes, co-owner of Lifeline Farm and Dairy, is part of the movement to change the 1998 law requiring all milk be pasteurized prior to being sold. Holmes explained that while avoiding pasteurization would save money, it is also a matter of “food freedom” to pass the bill. If the bill were passed, it would allow small-scale farmers to more readily sell products such as goat cheese directly to the consumer rather than going through a large processor. Under the bill, farmers selling raw milk would need a permit and be required to undergo quarterly inspections. Further, farmers would only be allowed to sell raw milk to consumers that went on site to purchase it.

Iowa is also on the cusp of legalizing raw milk sales as a bill was introduced to the state’s committee that would allow milk to be purchased without pasteurization. The committee chairman, Jason Schultz, explained that there is a rising constituency in the state that wants to purchase raw milk, but the bill has struck controversy. Some in the state feel that the health risks behind unpasteurized milk are too high for it to be legally sold. Jim Dane, a farmer from Iowa, said if there is an outbreak of illnesses as a result of raw milk it would be detrimental to the state’s dairy industry as a whole. Still, interstate raw milk sales are illegal under Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

To wrap up all this raw milk coverage, this Ask Farm Aid column from 2008 has more information on the issues surrounding raw milk, its safety and legality.

We live in a world where anyone with a smart phone has endless possibilities at their fingertips, even farming. Need to find the closest restaurant in a strange city? There’s an app for that. Need a flashlight to guide you down that dark and dreary hallway? There’s an app for that. Can’t figure out which chicken is right for you? Now there’s an app for that too. Mother Earth News recently released the Pickin’ Chicken App just in time to kickoff the spring chick raising season. The app explores different chickens based on breeds, heritage, egg size, egg color and the weight of the chicken at harvest time complete with thumbnail photos.

Some small hog farmers in the Midwestern corn belt states have discovered the secret to staying afloat amid a market largely defined by concentrated animal feeding operations: specialty breeding. The practice of raising commodity pork is a new trend that allows small farmers to avoid the woes of the industrialized system. Travis Dunekacke of Nebraska raises heirloom pork, which he is able to sell directly to consumers in his area. Dunekacke said that most other producers are forced to export products to other countries through the major markets.

Two reports published in Science reveal a decline in wild pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and beetles, which are needed for 75 percent of worldwide food crops. Further, one report showed that domesticated honeybees cannot pollinate as well as the wild insects. One study that was conducted looked into the effects of climate change on these insects, using research from the 1800s and the 1970s as a reference point. The test found that in one region of Illinois, the number of different species of wild bees dropped from 109 to 54. The study also found that plant species have changed as well, affecting what type of plant the wild bees pollinate. As a result, individual bees are pollinating many different types of plants, which could have a negative impact on agricultural yields. Of more alarming concern is that domestic honeybees can’t produce pollen as well as wild insects. A separate study found that flowers that were pollinated by wild insects produced double the fruit compared with those pollinated by domestic honeybees.

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