Monday, July 29, 2013

Farm Aid Music Monday, Featuring Bob Dylan

CarolineIt's another Music Monday, folks! As we gear up for Farm Aid 2013, let's go back to Farm Aid's roots and remember just how this all began...

Many of you are aware that Farm Aid is the longest running benefit concert series in America, raising over $43 million to support family farmers and grow the Good Food Movement across the United States, but do you know what inspired the idea for the first Farm Aid concert? For those who aren't as well-versed in Farm Aid history, here's the short of it: Farm Aid started as an idea at the Live Aid Concert in 1985 when Bob Dylan said on stage, "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?" Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp agreed that family farmers needed some support...and the rest is history!

Bob Dylan, Tom Petty & Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 1985
Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty at Farm Aid in 1985

Over the past 28 years, many legendary performers have graced the Farm Aid stage to support our mission of keeping family farmers on the land and thriving. Bob Dylan himself joined Willie, Neil and John on stage at Farm Aid 1985 in Champaign, Illinois, and again via satellite in 1986 at the show Austin, Texas.

Check out the videos of Bob Dylan's 1986 performance below — featuring "Seeing the Real You At Last," "Across the Borderline," and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" — and head over to our YouTube page for more videos from 1986 and other past Farm Aid shows!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Genevieve's Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveRamakrishna Mallampati, a PhD student from the National University of Singapore,  is making use of discarded fruit peels after discovering they have the ability to remove pollutants from water.  With tomatoes being one of the most commonly consumed foods, and millions of apples being used to make apple juice everyday, Mallampati knew there had to be some way to make use of all the excess waste this provides. He took the skins, seeds, and fibers from leftover tomatoes and apples, and put them in a tea-like bag before immersing them in water. Once submerged, the peels acted like carbon filters due to their high absorbency, attracting pollutants that stick to their surface. Of course, this method and will not leave water 100 percent pollutant-free, but it is enough to turn potentially harmful water into a safer, and useful resource. Mallampati hopes that this discovery will be beneficial to farmers who don't have access to water treatment plants, by providing them with cleaner, drinkable water.

Hey, guess what! Strawberries, raspberries, and cherries aren't the only thing causing that pretty pink hue you see upon peeling the lid of your yogurt, but bugs are too! The popular yogurt maker, Dannon, has been exposed for using carmine in its "Fruit on the Bottom," Strawberry Oikos Greek, and Activia yogurt products. Carmine is a color additive made from crushed cochineal beetles, and although stated in the ingredient list, has caused quite the stir among yogurt enthusiasts and health officials. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging Dannon to remove the bug juice in favor of real fruit juice, arguing that its presence could be potentially disastrous for unaware vegetarians, those who keep kosher, and people with food allergies. A similar situation occurred last year when Starbucks was exposed for using carmine in its fruit smoothies, leading them to quickly remove the additive. As for now, it is unknown whether Dannon will do the same, so I would think twice and read the label before tossing that yogurt in your shopping cart if you have concerns.  

Already one of the fracking capitals of America, Colorado is considering the addition of three more drilling wells to a residential area just outside of Greeley, an area that is already undergoing significant fracking. The proposal was raised by Synergy, an oil-and-gas company responsible for fracking a large portion of northeast Colorado, and is currently being reviewed by a seven-member planning commission. The addition of more wells near Greeley has raised concerns among its residents, as well as residents of cities across the nation that, "don't want to become like Greeley." Such significant amounts of fracking in one area causes citizens to worry about the potentially negative affects it could have on their health. After all, one hundred new wells were just installed in areas around Greely after an approved proposal in May, making Greely look like "a shrinking 'donut hole' surrounded by drilling." However, at this rate, it seems that Synergy is likely to get what they want.

It looks like Utah has a lawsuit on their hands, as animal rights activists, journalists, and a woman who was charged under the law, sued the state for its Agricultural Operation Interference law. Passed about a year ago, this ag-gag law criminalizes visual or sound recordings from inside an agricultural operation without permission from the owner. Opponents have accused the law of being unconstitutional by violating freedom of speech and equal protection. Animal rights activists argue that it prevents the necessary exposure to the public of what goes on in some slaughterhouses and factory farms. On the other hand, those in favor of the law argue that it's not about the protection of animals, but rather the protection of property rights. Results of the case are to be determined.

The FDA has drafted a proposal suggesting that farmers keep all their chickens away from any potential contact with other wildlife, in an effort to reduce the risk of salmonella infection. The rules of organic farming require egg-laying hens to have access to the outdoors as often as possible, leaving organic farmers and proponents of free-roaming chickens unsure of how to go about this. In response, the FDA suggested they install fences, traps, and nets to keep wildlife out of range from the chickens. As expected, farmers are unhappy with the additional expenses these new rules would bring about, as well as the additional stress it would inflict on their chickens, making them more likely to get sick.  Critics, such as The Cornucopia Insitute, accused the new rules of being "a plot by the FDA and the USDA to 'eliminate true organic production.'" However, in the end, the proposal is merely a recommendation, and will not be strictly enforced.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveQuite literally, a "fresh" take on the average food truck has hit the streets of Boston with the creation of Fresh Truck, a "farmers market on wheels." Unlike the traditional vendors that draw people in with the convenience of fast fried chicken, falafel balls, and sugary treats, Fresh Truck aims to offer fresh fruits and vegetables to Boston neighborhoods that don’t necessarily have a grocery store nearby. Daniel Clarke and Josh Trautwein, two recent graduates of Northeastern University (woohoo!), hatched the idea of Fresh Truck last year, and finally launched it last Thursday. Now, the two founders work full-time in an effort to offer the people of Boston affordable and healthier food, while still attending to the allure of a fast and convenient food truck meal.

The Amish culture, one that revolves around plainness, simplicity, and reluctance to accept modern technology, has certainly stayed true to its roots in steering away from what we call "mainstream," by milking camels. Yes, you heard correctly, apparently you can milk a camel. Miller's Organic Farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, operates an organic camel dairy, along with about six other camel dairies in the country. About 100 loyal customers in the US and Canada regularly buy camels milk from Miller's, along with other camel dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, and even soap. The process involves a herd of six camels that are milked twice a day. It can be extremely difficult and limiting, as this often temperamental animal will only allow milk to be extracted from its utters for a mere 90 seconds at most. Nevertheless, the Amish have found success in this unconventional dairy product that has yet to hit the shelves of grocery stores. If you're curious, camel's milk is said to have a taste similar to skim milk, just a bit sweeter.

Eight months ago, the hearts of millions of nostalgic Americans were crushed when Hostess declared bankruptcy, officially ending the production of Twinkies. But as of Monday, these hearts can be lifted and fulfilled again because Twinkies are back! In the midst of an anti-processed food movement, the legendary crème-filled, spongy cakes have found their way back onto the shelves of our grocery stores—now with a 45-day shelf life! There are some concerns that under new the management of Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co, the beloved Twinkie might not taste the same, or heaven-forbid, the actual size of each cake might be smaller. Concerned over the artificial ingredients or not, Twinkies are here to make a comeback (success to be determined...).

Lately, it seems that something hazardous to our health is found in the food and drinks we consume everyday, from cancer-causing carcinogens in soda, to now potentially dangerous levels of arsenic in apple juice. A recent study by Consumer Reports found dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, the carcinogenic form that is not a result of nature, in 10 percent of the apple juice tested. Alarmed parents began to think twice about the childhood staple that's landing in sippy cups across the nation. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule last Friday, setting a maximum of 10 ppb (parts-per-billion) for levels of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the same level administered for arsenic found in drinking water.

The presence of genetically modified wheat found in an eastern Oregon farm remains the most puzzling mystery in the farming world right now. Two months ago, an Oregon farmer cleared his field with use of the weedkiller Roundup. As planned, his crops died with the exception of a patch of wheat that continued to grow and thrive. Immediately, this raised the question of possible GMOs in the wheat. Carol Mallory-Smith, a skeptical weed scientist at Oregon State University, sent samples of the wheat to be tested for GMOs, and they came back positive. Unapproved by the government and thus illegal, the GMO wheat left the USDA wondering how it got into this particular farmer's field, where else could it be found, and what this could mean for wheat exports. Thousands of wheat samples from farms across the country have been tested before going on the market, all of which have come back negative for the modified gene. Investigators have had no luck in tracing back the origins of how this GMO wheat appeared in an Oregon farm in the first place, and the incident remains unsolved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Farmer Resource Network Resource Spotlight

JessieAs you might know, Farm Aid's Farmer Resource Network connects farmers to our resource partners and hundreds of organizations providing services, tools and opportunities for family farm profitability and sustainability, as well as immediate support. The Network's Resource Spotlight blog has posted a variety of resources centered on unique learning opportunities for farmers. From webinars on urban agriculture to grazing classes for livestock producers, the Resource Spotlight blog highlights top resources available across the country.  Some of the features from the past month include:

  • College Student Farms — Looking to combine academics with hands-on learning?  This 4-part series goes across the country highlighting the many opportunities for university students to gain skills in farming while providing food to CSAs, university dining halls, farmers markets, and more!
  • Web-based Tools — From crop planning to nitrogen management, these are just a few of the new and nimble web tools available to farmers.
  • Veteran Farming Programs — Check out how these programs create opportunities for military servicemen and women to use their great sense of service to find meaningful careers in farming and agriculture.
  • Farm Incubator Programs — From the Northwest to the Southeast, incubator farm programs are training the next generation of farmers.  Interested in learning more about how you can take the next steps towards a career in farming?  Check out these projects!

In addition to the above list, the Resource Spotlight blog highlights a variety of grant, conservation, and federal program opportunities available to farmers. Interested in learning more?  Subscribe today to receive our updates by email!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Music Monday Celebrates Jamey Johnson's Birthday

CarolineHappy Birthday, Jamey Johnson! Jamey has been a real friend to Farm Aid, and has shown his unwavering support for family farmers by performing on the Farm Aid stage for the last five years.

Jamey Johnson with Lukas Nelson and Willie Nelson, courtesy of Willie's Facebook page

Jamey understands the importance of keeping family farmers on the land, having grown up producing vegetables on his family's land in Alabama. Jamey has said that "Farm Aid is not just important to me, it's important to anybody who eats... I think it's going on as long as it takes to get the right results, and the right results is farmers who can actually make enough money off of their crops to continue doing it."

For today's Music Monday, we're happy to bring you Jamey's set at Farm Aid 2012 in Hershey, PA. Enjoy the tunes! Here's to you, Jamey!

Find more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Farmer Voices Needed!

HildeWe know there are many important conversations happening today—about health, the environment, the economy, energy and more—that are missing a critical stakeholder: the family farmer. We also know that it's no small feat to leave the farm to be a part of these conversations (or to even know what's going on, when and where!).

At Farm Aid we are committed to connecting farmers to leadership training events, conferences, farmer fly-ins, strategy meetings or other opportunities that allow farmers to engage citizens, advocates or policymakers in addressing the critical needs of family farmers and strengthening opportunities for family farm agriculture and the Good Food Movement. We have many challenges ahead of us as a nation; we can't face any of them head-on without the ingenuity, innovation and expertise of America's family farmers at the table.

In May, Farm Aid partnered with Organic Farming Research Foundation to support the travel of Rachel Weiner to attend the Organic Trade Association (OTA) Hill Days in Washington, D.C. Rachel and her partner manage two small farms in Eugene, Oregon, growing apples and other tree fruits, berries and vegetables.

Here's what she had to say about the experience:

At the OTA Hill Days, I was a tiny droplet in the larger sea of the Organic Industry. This industry is primarily made up of food processors, retailers and certifiers. As a farmer, I was in the minority. As a small, first-generation farmer I was almost alone.

While in D.C., Rachel was able to connect with the staff of several of her legislators, most of whom were interested in her story and perspective:

These policy makers operate in a world very separate from my own here in Oregon. This visit was a good reminder of the need for voices like mine to be heard by those who wield the power of legislation. I hope to continue to add my voice to the work currently being done in Oregon by organizations like Friends of Family Farmers.

Thank you, Rachel, for lending your voice, and demonstrating just how important it is to do so. If you are a farmer interested in getting more involved in advocacy, please let us know. With more than 500 partners in our Farmer Resource Network (including Friends of Family Farmers and OFRF!), we have many resources at our fingertips and ideas for how to become a key part of the conversation.

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveFarmers markets in neighboring towns of Boston and throughout Massachusetts appear to be sprouting up everywhere these summer days. Rising from 139 to 248 markets in the past five years, competition has inevitably increased for farmers and consumers. As a result, Massachusetts farmers markets have been forced to go beyond the standard tables full of lettuce and berries in order to boost sales, and solicit new vendors. Experimenting with more exotic offerings, Salem has found success in selling pet treats, and even wine from their three local wineries. In Newburyport, customers are in awe as vendors make guacamole right in front of them, in addition to the unusual offering of whoopie pies. Markets in Ashland are taking a different approach, by bringing in food trucks that offer lobster rolls and various sandwiches. Although competing, these markets throughout the Bay State are collectively joining in an effort to get creative, and encourage customers to try foods that they are unlikely to reach for in their local grocery stores.

From Sacramento, California comes an inspiring story of a food bank that has changed, and saved lives by simply offering healthier foods. Unlike the traditional, carb-heavy food bank system that delivers highly processed white bread, sugary treats, and canned goods, the Sacramento Food Bank has been working together with local organic farms to offer clients fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. Five years ago, CEO Blake Young was determined to improve the health of his clients after realizing his organization was putting their health at severe risk. He was displeased with a food bank system that was making citizens vulnerable to heart disease and diabetes, among many other health complications, and noticeably gaining weight with each visit. Since making the switch to fresh fruits and vegetables, the number of families served in the area has doubled, and clients have noted their health, energy, and overall well-being has immensely improved. Now, Young's next step is to have 100 percent of the Sacramento Food Bank's products come from local farms for local customers, which would make it one of the first farm-to-fork food banks in the US.

In 2010, HBO's Academy Award nominated documentary Gasland exposed us to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, the process of drilling natural gas and oil, now commonly known as "fracking." This week, director Josh Fox takes us by helicopter across the Gulf of Mexico in Gasland II, to prove how fracked wells dangerously expose our water, air, and climate to methane when they inevitably leak. In an interview with Mother Jones, Fox discusses his latest film, as well as his reaction to President Obama's recent speech on climate change. He is pleased to see the president emphasize the importance of climate change, however, opposes his approach to the matter, and his support of large-scale "fracking." He argues that this will only escalate the rate at which the climate warms due to the chemicals released. Fox believes that it is up to the people to make more educated decisions on how they can change the climate they live in. To learn more about the hazards of "fracking," or how you can help by making smart climate and energy choices, tune in to this controversial sequel, which premiered July 8 on HBO.

A couple weeks ago the Senate passed their version of the long-overdue Farm Bill, but the House unexpectedly shot down their version. After an ongoing Republican debate over splitting farm programs and nutrition programs in the Farm Bill, the House GOP decided to drop food stamps from the bill on Wednesday. According to leaders of the GOP, dividing the bill into two will allow for an increased likelihood of the legislation becoming law. And that's what happened for the farm portion of the bill – it passed the House late yesterday. The new bill was not allowed to incorporate any amendments, but changes include merging or cutting farm subsidy programs, financially supporting fruit and vegetable farmers, and allowing insurance programs for livestock farmers. The stripping of the food stamps portion of the bill left anti-hunger groups, the Senate, and most Democrats outraged, believing it to be a not-so-subtle attempt to make harsh cuts the food stamp program, while also neglecting the importance of nutrition in all Americans. This will mark the first time food stamps haven't been included in the farm bill in exactly 40 years, causing quite the controversy, and leading to doubts on the future of our agricultural policy.

For an analysis of what it means, check out this update from our partner National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The protein-packed, fiber-loaded, and amino acid-enriched quinoa seems to be everywhere as the latest star in the health food craze. Although, what you may not have known is that this whole grain seed and hottest new "superfood," has been a staple for natives of Bolivia and Peru for several millenniums, long before its popularity in the US. Due to the boom, the increased export of quinoa has provided enormous economic benefit to these central South American countries. It has fundamentally saved farmers by pulling them out of poverty, and into a thriving business. On the other hand, although the quinoa market claims to be a part of the fair-trade movement, the boom of quinoa sales may actually be depriving farmers of their equal share, as industries gain power and control. To aid in this matter, Edouard Rollet, president of the prominent fair-trade organization called Alter Eco, encourages Bolivian farmers to maintain a voice in the markets, governmental action, and ultimately, respect for farmers. My advice: continue to indulge in the latest health craze guilt-free, as long as you do your homework to find out how it is produced.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Introducing Farm Aid's New Co-op, Genevieve!

GenevieveFood. Music. Writing. These three things are essentially me in a nutshell. As a third year journalism major at Northeastern University, I inevitably began my search for my first co-op in the writing field. What I did not expect was to come across an organization such a Farm Aid, a place where I could not only pursue my career in writing, but also incorporate my two other passions for food and music. I knew immediately that I just had to become involved with this organization in some way, whether I received the position or not. Now, here I am as Farm Aid’s newest co-op intern, and could not be more thrilled!

My passion for writing developed during my early high school years, when I started writing small articles here and there for the school newspaper. Throughout the years I became increasingly more involved, until I was eventually editor. I loved everything about working for the paper. I developed this passion for creative writing that led me to yearn for a career in journalism.

Music I would consider to be another love of my life, but not just any music, folk music. I have no shame in admitting that I am completely obsessed with Bob Dylan. I grew up listening to him, but not because of my parents’ older generational influence like you would think. I remember the day I stumbled upon Dylan’s song “I Want You,” which I still consider my favorite song today. From there, the obsession began. I collected every CD, from live versions to random bootlegs, and various Dylan memorabilia whenever I came across it. It wasn’t until I began researching Farm Aid’s history that I realized Bob Dylan suggested that some of the money from the 1985 Live Aid concert go to farmers in need, sparking Willie Nelson’s creation of Farm Aid and the benefit concert. After that, I knew it was meant to be. I am so excited to be working with the team to carry on this tradition in Farm Aid’s upcoming concert this September.

On the other hand, my interest in food and nutrition is relatively new. It wasn’t until my first year in college that I really began to pay attention to what I was consuming. After putting on the dreadful freshmen 15, I one day decided to start exercising more and be careful with my diet. This led me to start researching food and nutrition, and I’ll be the first to admit, I became a little obsessive. Now, I cannot believe how I lived my life so blissfully unaware of the chemicals, and quite frankly just junk that I was putting into my body for so many years. After changing to an almost strictly organic diet, I feel so much better about my health, and my overall self. It is very important to me that everyone have access to fresh and good food, and that is why I believe so strongly in Farm Aid’s mission to keep farmers on their land, and their role in the good food movement.

That being said, I am eager to start my journey with Farm Aid, a place where I can explore my current passions, develop new ones, and learn from this entire experience. Just by researching all that Farm Aid has done to help family farmers, the organization has already made an impact on me. I can only imagine the impact it will have on me six months from now, and I can’t wait to contribute to the cause.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My Departure from Farm Aid (sort of)

ToniAs I began my co-op search, my advisor didn't give me much choice in the matter. Though I had never heard of Farm Aid at the time, she drilled it into my mind that it was where I belonged as a farm girl and music junkie at heart. It took but one glance at Farm Aid's website before I knew she was right, but I didn't anticipate what the experience would come to mean to me.

I've always held a deep and unwavering appreciation for the beauty behind farming. I grew up like any other farm kid: running around the cows in the fields, playing hide-and-go-seek in the hay mills surrounded by my family, trouncing through creeks encouraged to harness my imagination in the muddy woods, riding the tractor to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree to chop from our land, and climbing to the top of the hill consumed by golden fields to watch the sun setting over the sea of red barns and green crops below.

Growing up and moving to Boston to pursue my dream of becoming a music journalist, I was trapped in that childhood innocence. I became so far removed from the rural community that I never took a step back to see the challenges that family farmers face everyday. At least, that is, until I was swept up into the whirlwind that is Farm Aid.

I came in on my first day thinking more about the glamorous board of directors I work under, the scooters sprinkled around the office and the occasional dog or two I'd get to play with. I thought I would focus mostly on my writing and indifferently take on the other projects my coworkers gave to me. Six months later, I've tasted the Kool Aid, and I could not possibly have fathomed how much I would discover about Farm Aid, farming and even myself.

The staff at Farm Aid is like no other, led by the most fearlessly frazzled executive director who both motivates and pushes every single person in the office to do anything we can to further our cause. It is her selflessness and drive that changed this experience for me from a job to something I am excited about every morning I come to work. Each person in the office was warm and welcoming, but I was mostly struck by the fierce work ethic and true resolve to transform the world of agriculture. Soon this opened my eyes to the facts: farming encompasses and impacts everyone, farmers and eaters alike.

The first thing I learned when I came to the office was how to retrieve messages from the phones—basic enough task, right? There was one message on the phone from our farmer hotline, and I don't think I'll ever shake the voice from my head. The call was from Loretta Tonoian, an 83-year-old Alaskan hog farmer just 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle. She said the temperature was 40-below for two weeks and, with little concern for her own well being, her hogs were nearly about to run out of feed and die. The complete panic and need to feed her animals hit me with intense intimidation, but I seemed to be the only one.

Our farmer advocate, Joel, swiftly took action and before long Loretta was delivered 20 bags of ground barley and 10 bales of straw by Yukon John, a longtime Farm Aid concert attendee and supporter. Well, needless to say that same day my intimidation melted to inspiration as I realized for the first time that this organization is so much more than just a concert. This is a cause worth fighting for, and I get this chance to be a part of that fight.

As I continued my work here, my desire to help only grew. Through various projects I watched countless interviews from Willie, Neil, John and Dave only to be struck by the selfless determination they have for Farm Aid's mission. It's nearly ingrained into their DNA, a vision that comes naturally as an opportunity, not a burden. It's that vision that we all chase everyday in the office, enticing us all through pressing deadlines and hectic schedules.

And so I continued my work, no longer inhabited with indifference, but instead with a fury to learn, to work and to help. Whether it was converting concert footage to upload to our YouTube page or interviewing Farmer Heroes making tremendous and innovative strides in the field, I knew everyday I wanted to commit myself to adding any piece to the puzzle I could, any little tidbit that might make a difference to someone out there.

As co-ops are only six months long, my full-time days here are over and the next co-op student has taken over my role. I hear my friends discussing their excitement at the prospect of ending our full time work life, and I can't help but not understand. I've cherished every day here, and cannot be more excited to move into a part-time role here (while I go back to classes) in the coming months, leading up to the concert, which happens to be near where I grew up!

When I came here, I thought I would work through the months building a portfolio, finish my classes and begin my career as a music journalist working for some magazine or website. Now, I can honestly say I have no idea what I want to do. Maybe I'll revert back to my high school dream of moving to Argentina to teach sustainable farming practices. Maybe I'll join an environmental news source like Grist. Maybe I will find myself somewhere in the music industry after all. My future is a mystery, but the only thing I know for certain is I find myself gearing up to transition into the next part of both my job and my life with newfound inspiration to change the world in my own little way. Thank you Farm Aid.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Farm Aid Music Monday Honors Independence Day

CarolineFrom all of us at Farm Aid, we hope you had a terrific 4th of July holiday! To continue the Independence Day celebration, we're bringing you a playlist of all-American tunes from Farm Aid 2001: A Concert for America in Noblesville, Illinois for today's Music Monday.

Check out the videos below to keep the spirit alive:

Find more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Antibiotics on your plate

HildeRecently, Farm Aid has been actively engaging in national efforts to bring together new and diverse stakeholders in the fight against factory farms. An issue that keeps coming up as a major enabler of factory farm production is the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics as feed additives. Not only are antibiotics misused to enable extreme crowding and other stresses on animals, their misuse has major implications for antibiotic resistant infections and human health. In 2011, the FDA determined that 80 percent of antibacterial drugs disseminated in the U.S. in 2010 were sold for use on livestock.

Last week Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced important legislation (co-sponsored with bipartisan support by Senator Boxer, Senator Cantwell, Senator Collins and Senator Reed) to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock production. If enacted, the bill would restrict the use of antibiotics critical to human health in livestock production unless they are used to treat clinically diagnosable diseases. It would also require drug companies and producers to demonstrate that they are using drugs to treat sick animals, not just using the important drugs to enable factory farm practices like overcrowding and promoting faster, bigger growth. Similar legislation was introduced in the House earlier this year by Representative Louise Slaughter, with 47 co-sponsors.

These bills aren’t just about protecting human and animal health – they support family farmers, worker rights, rural communities and the welfare of our environment too. Let your senators and reps know that you’re behind them! They need your support and the pressure of The People to push these important measures through Congress.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Toni’s Farm and Food Roundup

ToniSometimes it seems news in the world of agriculture is a never ending cycle depressing stories—a GMO war, drought, flooding, a nonexistent Farm Bill—but one farmer decided to shake this, and the story of his fluffy cows went viral. These adorably pruned cows from Iowa made their way onto the Reddit site in May, before more photos of fluffy show cattle began circulating the web and the trending topic #fluffycow was born. While some people are just taking these fluffed fellows as the Boo of cattle, Matt Lautner, owner of the original fluffy cow that hit the Internet, is taking this as an opportunity. He’s trying to educate the public about the cattle industry through Reddit question and answer sessions as well as a new Fluffy Cows R Us Facebook page, talking on cattle issues ranging from feed to management to the beef end product.

An unapproved genetically modified strain of wheat was recently found in a field in Oregon, and though the US Department of Agriculture has said it appears the incident was isolated, some countries abroad, particularly in Asia, are hesitant to import wheat from the US West Coast. The strain of wheat was originally developed by Monsanto in the late 1990s but was never commercially approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm,” the USDA has said in a statement. Nonetheless, countries in Asia are concerned about the presence of unapproved genetically engineered wheat, causing US exports to fall. Japan and South Korea are firmly rooted against importing US wheat at this time, while China and Manila are accepting imports once more with extreme caution. The US is still currently the world’s biggest supplier of US wheat.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which prides itself on its commitment to natural foods from family farms, recently became the first fast food establishment to label its ingredients containing genetically modified products. To the dismay of many, the labels are buried in the company’s website and many of Chipotle's ingredients contain GMOs. But that, truly, is the reality of our food system. GMOs have permeated the foods we eat, and most of us don't realize it. The move makes Chipotle the first major food company to label its products, though both Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods announced plans to label all ingredients for genetically altered substances in the near future.

The USDA recently approved the first label for GMO-free meat and liquid egg products created by the third-party Non-GMO Project organization. In order for a processor to use the label on a product, the animal cannot be fed any genetically modified feed products. In many cases, this means the livestock or poultry is fed organic feed. Under the USDA, the Non-GMO Project must approve all GMO-free labels on meat before it can be distributed. In the past, companies such as Mindful Meats tried to receive USDA approval on labels containing non-GMO claims, but were denied due to a lack of industry standards.

The US House of Representatives voted against its version of the Farm Bill, just days after farm legislation passed the US Senate. The nearly $1 trillion bill would have spanned over 5 years and slashed approximately $2 billion in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps) benefits. Most liberals opposed the bill for the food stamp program cuts, while some on the conservative side voted against it arguing it needed to cut these programs even more. The bill only failed by 34 votes. This means the House will need to rewrite a new version of the bill, but if no bill is passed then the US government will be forced to revert back to laws written 64 years ago, the last time permanent farm legislation was set in place. If this were to become a reality, crop production would be required to steeply decline and consumer prices would rise dramatically.

In the midst of high meat prices following one of the nation’s worst droughts ever, a stomach virus infecting piglets is sweeping across the US and could affect pork prices in the future. The virus is deadly in most instances and is currently impacting 13 states, even more alarming as it shares over 99 percent of genes with a virus that killed over 1 million piglets in China. The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) cannot inflict humans or other animals, but the outcome of eating pork that was infected with PEDV is still unknown. The number of piglets that have died from the virus is also still being determined, and authorities do not know how the disease came to the US. Though the first case was discovered in May, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory speculates that the virus may have originated as early as April. As farmers gear up for fair season, they are urged to take extra caution so as not to spread the virus more.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring John Fogerty

CarolineOne of my earlier live music memories is sitting alongside my dad and brother in a packed arena listening to John Fogerty play the tunes we grew up hearing on our well-worn stereo. That show left a lasting impression on me, as today I'm still jamming to John's hits in my own car!

This Music Monday, I'm happy to bring you a playlist of John Fogerty's performance from Farm Aid 1997 in Tinley Park, Illinois. Check out these videos and more from 1997 and beyond on Farm Aid's YouTube channel!