Thursday, July 31, 2014

MISSOURI VOTERS: Vote NO on Amendment 1

AliciaMissouri readers, you have an important vote ahead of you next week!

The so-called "Right to Farm" is a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that will appear on the 2014 primary election ballot next Tuesday, August 5th. It's caused a lot of buzz among farmers and ranchers.

What will your ballot say? Well, it's very simple:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

Sounds pretty harmless on the surface. But lift up the veil and it tells another story: Big agribusiness getting to write all the rules. That's why we urge you to vote NO on Amendment 1!

Corporate "Right to Farm" bills are making their way into several state legislatures, and Missouri is the latest on the frontline. As Missouri farmer Darvin Bentlage so eloquently reflects:

I am a livestock and grain farmer and have been my entire life and do remember when the right to farm meant something. I remember our right to farm when we didn't have to sign a growers contract to buy seed, telling us what we could and couldn't do with what we grew on our farm. I remember when family farmers could load their own feeder pigs in their truck and go to the local auction and sell their livestock at an open and competitive market. So who's taken this right to farm away from us? The same corporate factory farm supporters, corporations and organizations that pushed this constitutional amendment through the Missouri legislature.

Farmers like Darvin are concerned that the proposed amendment is not only unnecessary, but will ultimately hurt family farmers.

Here's why:

  • The corporations backing this amendment—including Monsanto, Cargill and Smithfield—want to protect huge corporate factory farms from any accountability or regulation.
  • This amendment provides no additional protections to independent family farmers. Instead, it could allow foreign corporations to own Missouri farmland without limits from the people or the legislature.
  • This amendment will trigger lawsuits from corporate agribusinesses to challenge local control and community protections against irresponsible factory farm practices. And it would deny due process and the right of farmers and landowners to defend their property rights against corporate agribusiness.
  • Missouri farmers already have the right to farm. This is an unnecessary takeover of the state constitution that would forever guarantee the rights of corporations to write their own rules and bypass democracy and local control.

Here's what you can do:

1) Sign the petition opposing the "Right to Farm" constitutional amendment HERE!

2) Vote on Tuesday, August 5th—And VOTE NO on Amendment 1.

3) Forward this to your friends and family in Missouri!

Don't let the future of Missouri farming be determined by corporate lawyers, bureaucrats and judges. Keep Missouri safe for family farmers, good food and rural communities.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Amanda's Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaAs the extreme drought in California continues, both water reserves and farmers’ pockets are running low. In a regular season, water costs about $60 an acre-foot, but as demand increases and supply shrinks, some say it could cost as much as $3,000 an acre-foot through water trading. Most water is bought and delivered under contracts with aqueducts, but in recent years, more farmers have been turning to water trading to fulfill their needs. This allows those with water to auction it off to the highest bidder, and prices soar quickly amid competition. The increased expense has already caused farmers who can’t pay the price to let their crops die, while those with excess water can turn a high profit.

While the EPA continues to declare the use of neonicotinoids safe, federal wildlife experts are skeptical. Refuges in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Idaho have become the first places in the United States to ban these pesticides for their harmful effects on pollinators. Experts worry that a loss of bees and butterflies could have drastic, long-term consequences for wildlife reserves. European bans on neonicotinoids have brought many of the reduced pollinator populations back, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to mimic these results by phasing out the pesticides by 2016.

Controversial “ag-gag” laws have made it illegal to trespass and covertly film farms in seven states, but what if you never set foot on the premises? That’s what D.C.-based journalist Will Potter had in mind when he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 for drones and other equipment to expose animal welfare and pollution problems at factory farms. By hovering over farms to film rather than going undercover on their soil, he believes he’s found a way to legally monitor farming practices. Some champion Potter’s efforts, believing that everyone has a right to see where their food comes from, but many in the agriculture community call it trespassing, claiming that activists don’t understand everything about farms and shouldn’t be able to edit and publish footage from them that can be used to influence public opinion. As long as the laws are still unclear about drones and other distanced monitoring activities, Potter plans to gather as much footage as possible and publish his findings in a documentary or e-book.

As support for GMO labeling grows and bills are moving toward state legislatures, some food companies are quietly making shifts in their products to include non-GMO ingredients. Beloved ice cream giant Ben and Jerry’s has long been vocal about their stance against GMOs and has publicly promised to make all of their ice creams GMO-free, even at the expense of sending some of their most popular ice creams to the flavor graveyard. Others have been much quieter in their approaches. General Mills recently made plain Cheerios completely GMO-free, but the only publicity the company put out was a blog post on General Mills’s website. Meanwhile, Target has made 80 of its brand items without GMOs, but avoided nearly all publicity around the change. It seems as though these companies are testing the waters as the debate about labeling GMO products moves to the national level. Most of these food companies still make many of their products with GMO ingredients and are against mandatory labeling.

Meanwhile, the editors of the Des Moines Register say it’s time to label GMOs.

Usually when an animal finds itself on the endangered species list, it won’t be making its way to your dinner table. But in the case of the Red Wattle hog, the opposite is true. In 1999, there were fewer than 50 Red Wattles in the United States, but thanks to the slow food movement and these pigs’ juicy, rich taste, there are now more than 6,000 Red Wattles thriving on farms across the country. Farmers like Travis Hood, owner of Hood’s Heritage Hogs, are taking a chance and encouraging biodiversity in their communities by raising rare livestock like the Red Wattle. So far, the gamble is going well for Hood – he supplies his family with fresh, delicious pork and sells the rest for $13 per pound or more at the farmers market.

You might not think that Wall Street and farmland go together, but some investors think they should. American Farmland Company, a real estate trust, has been buying up farmland across the country. While hedge funds have been linked with farms for about a decade, this is the first time investors and bankers have combined crops and land as an asset that other investors can purchase. So far, American Farmland has purchased 11,000 acres on 16 farms for $131 million. As farmland value has continuously risen in recent years, an increasing number of investors have taken interest. Some worry that investors might be shortsighted, focusing less on the sustainability of the land and pushing profitable crops that use lots of water or exhaust the soil. Currently, investors own 1 percent of global farmland, but this trend could increase that number in coming years.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Farm Aid 2014 is coming to Raleigh, NC! Get your pre-sale tickets today!


Yesterday we announced that Farm Aid is bringing our annual concert to Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday, September 13! Farm Aid 2014 will rock Walnut Creek Amphitheatre and shine a spotlight on the family farmers whose hard work and ingenuity are essential for all of us.

Farm Aid 2014 will feature Willie Nelson & Family, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack White and many more artists. Get the full lineup here.

Farm Aid 2014 will be a full day of amazing music, HOMEGROWN food, hands-on activities in Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village and of course, family farmers. Don't miss it!

Ticket Presale Starts Today!

Our ticket presale gives you access to the best seats in the house — a full week before the tickets go on sale to the public. The pre-sale starts today, Friday, July 25 at noon EDT — click here for all the information you need!

Public Ticket Sale

Tickets for Farm Aid 2014 will go on sale Friday, August 1, at 10 a.m. EDT. Tickets will be available at, Ticketmaster outlets, Walnut Creek Amphitheatre's Box Office, or by phone at 800-745-3000. Ticket prices range from $49 to $175.

Get Connected

For the latest concert updates and information all summer long, like us on Facebook and follow @FarmAid on Twitter.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amanda's Farm and Food Roundup

AmandaAs California enters its third year of drought, the state is experiencing what experts call “extreme” drought. Groundwater reserves have been helpful in keeping agriculture alive, but as the land continues to dry out, water is becoming increasingly difficult to retrieve. So far, farmers have pumped enough groundwater to immerse the state of Rhode Island 17 feet underwater. Estimations have put losses around $1.5 billion, and predictions show that 2015 could be another dry year for California.

Farming has always been an occupation and way of life for many, but it could soon become a right, spelled out in the Missouri Constitution. Currently, the measure exists in state law, but on August 5 voters will decide whether or not it finds a permanent place in the state constitution. Promising to protect the rights of “generally accepted” practices and the “ever-changing use of technology,” the bill has many people perplexed by its vague wording and what its actual implications might be. Many supporters of the proposed law are corporate agricultural interests who want to build a defense against animal welfare activists and those against GMOs. Supporters of the bill hope that it will protect their practices and keep animal rights and environmental organizations from telling them how to farm their own land. As the bill gains national attention, other states have begun to consider or draft similar measures.

The Kansas City Star weighed in on the Right to Farm measure in an editorial, urging voters to "say 'no' to this unnecessary and potentially harmful proposal."

Today on the Civil Eats blog, John Ikerd gives us 10 reasons to oppose so-called Right to Farm amendments.

A recent poll of New York Times readers found that more than 90 percent favored labeling GMO foods. The work of state legislatures has begun to reflect these views as a surge of support for labeling GMO products moves through various levels of government. Connecticut, Vermont and Maine have already passed laws requiring GMO producers to label their foods as such. Now, 20 other states are considering the mandatory labeling of GMO foods. 35 bills across these states have already been introduced into state legislatures and the ballot initiatives are set in Colorado and Oregon for the midterm elections.

Still, a majority in Congress see GMOs as beneficial and remains against the mandatory labeling of GMO products.

Despite a decrease in the number of farmers across the country, a significant number of people are still taking up the profession – sometimes with little to no previous experience. The most recent Agriculture Census found that of America’s 2.1 million farmers, about 25 percent of them have been farming for less than 10 years. These new farmers are more likely to be women or minorities than their seasoned counterparts and have come to the world of agriculture for a variety of reasons. Some inherited family land, but many others were looking to feed themselves or for a fresh start after losing a job in the recession. About 63 percent of these newbies don’t consider agriculture their primary occupation, but still make a significant contribution to producing local foods.

Looking for an emoji to say organic, free range or locally grown? Thanks to the combined efforts of the Noun Project and the Grace Communications Foundation, you can say all of that and more with just a symbol. In the face of flashy advertisements and iconic images used by Big Food, designers and advocates sat down together to do some free marketing for the little guys. The result: a group of icons to represent non-modified, local or organic foods that will help small to medium sized farms market products in an easily identifiable way. These icons are now available to the public and free to download.

Construction of a natural gas pipeline from New York to Boston could soon begin, much to the dismay of property owners along the line. Kinder Morgan, the pipeline giant behind the plan, has estimated that the project will cost between $2 billion and $3 billion and lay 180 miles of pipe. Environmental restrictions and rising energy prices in New England put natural gas in high demand, but many farmers and other residents oppose the invasive installation process that will put a potentially dangerous pipeline in their own backyards and fields. Some experts claim that relying on backup stores of natural gas and improving efficiency could satisfy the energy needs of the area without a need for new pipelines. So far, only about half of the property owners on the pipeline’s route have agreed to allow their land to be surveyed for the project, but Kinder Morgan could turn to state regulators for permission if landowners block their access.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcoming a new farm to the neighborhood

GlendaOn Friday, July 11, the city of Boston inaugurated the first Boston farm authorized by Article 89, a new zoning provision to promote commercial urban agriculture. The empty lot will be farmed by the Urban Farming Institute of Boston, an enthusiastic group of young people eager to grow vegetables for the neighborhood. Their director Patricia Spence said that a goal was "to teach our youngest that potatoes do not come from McDonald's!" The farmland owner will be Dudley Neighbors, Inc. and its director is Harry Smith, former staff member at Farm Aid.

Farm Aid staff Cornelia Hoskin, Jennifer Wehunt and I joined the cheering Garrison-Trotter neighbors in celebration as Mayor Marty Walsh picked up a shovel and broke ground. The mayor noted that, "Working on a farm, you get an understanding of how important healthy food is, of where healthy food comes from."

As a long-time resident in the neighborhood, I look forward to walking just a few blocks over to the Garrison-Trotter Farm to see my local farm take root and grow.

Activists and farmers

Farm Aid staff members Jennifer Wehunt and Cornelia Hoskin

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and John Barros, Chief of Economic Development

Friday, July 11, 2014

Amanda's Farm and Food Roundup

AmandaA growing number of Americans are making the switch to unpasteurized, or raw, milk, despite warnings from regulatory agencies. As more consumers seek raw milk for the its beneficial bacteria, many still worry about the possibility of contamination and the lack of national standards or guidelines. Now, the Raw Milk Institute is trying to change the negative view of unpasteurized milk, making it more accessible to the public. By setting high standards and monitoring every step of the process, the Raw Milk Institute aims to produce safe products with the benefits the pasteurized milk lacks. Still, regulatory agencies don’t plan on backing raw milk anytime soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that raw milk isn’t entirely safe under any circumstances. State by state, legal treatment of raw milk varies, but overall national regulatory agencies don’t feel comfortable putting the products on everyone’s grocery shelf.

Meanwhile, in Vermont, legislators have approved the sale of raw milk at farmers markets in the state.

Global warming may have met its match in the form of a tiny yet powerful aquatic fern that turns excess nitrogen in the air into valuable plant food. Azolla, commonly known as duckweed, has caught the eye of researchers at Duke University, who want to sequence the plant’s genome to better understand and harness its power. Citing evidence of the plant’s presence on earth nearly 49 million years ago when the amount of carbon in the atmosphere dropped by 80 percent and temperatures in the Arctic dropped to 8 degrees, researchers believe that Azolla could have the potential to combat rising temperatures. While some say this might be coincidental, researchers are pushing for further study of the plant with the belief that it could allow farmers to abandon the use of artificial fertilizers and reduce the negative impact on the environment.

In the fight to make GMO labeling mandatory, the opposition has adopted an unexpected tactic: producing non-GMO foods. Cargill, a privately owned manufacturer, has taken an avid stance against GMO labeling, yet recently started to produce non-GMO soybean oil, corn and beans. The company maintains its anti-labeling stance on the ground that the label could be misleading, leading consumers to believe that GMO foods are not “substantially equivalent” to other foods. However, they also see a strong market potential in offering non-GMO products. In the face of fierce competition and an increased demand for non-GMO foods, other companies may follow Cargill’s lead and benefit from selling both GMO and non-GMO products.

Starting this summer, a total of 19 farmers markets in Utah will accept food stamps. The initiative, supported by Utahns Against Hunger, aims to put healthier food on the table of low-income households by encouraging food stamp recipients to shop at their local farmers market. This program will also benefit the community by bringing more costumers to local family farmers – for each dollar spent in food stamps, $1.70 is generated back into the community.

Recent research from the Netherlands revealed controversial findings about neonicotinoids, a class of pesticide that makes up 40 percent of the global market. Neonicotinoids are used to coat seeds, affecting the entire plant as it grows rather than just selected sections. Unfortunately, this includes the plant’s pollen and nectar, killing helpful bees and dwindling the food supply of birds, Dutch researchers say. Pesticide manufactures are calling the study invalid, reminding researchers that correlation does not mean causation, yet scientists can find no other way to explain the decline in bird population. The pesticides can also remain present in the dirt after the affected plant has died, allowing new plants to absorb the poisons. Researchers believe that continued use of the pesticides could cause “a wide range of negative biological and environmental impacts.” European countries have already banned certain neonticotinoids due to their harmful effects on bees, but no similar protections exist in the United States.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Meet Amanda Hoover, Farm Aid's new co-op

AmandaGrowing up in Philadelphia before moving to attend college in Boston, I've always been a city dweller. While many of my classmates freshman year struggled to navigate subway maps and bus schedules as they made the move from the suburbs, I was more than accustomed to being surrounded by skyscrapers and sirens. But as much as I love the hustle of the big city, I've also always loved the outdoors and taken the time to appreciate what each setting has to offer. From my grandparents' house by the river in the woods to the sprawling countryside areas as close as half an hour from my house; I really think that I had a chance to experience everything Pennsylvania had to offer. When it came time to apply to college, I knew I wanted to live and experience somewhere new, and Boston seemed like the perfect fit.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. The proof can be found in the “books” I wrote as a preschooler — stories about animals written and illustrated in magic marker and stapled together unevenly. My family still has these neatly organized by title and loves to show them off when my friends are around. From early on, I decided that I wanted to use my skills for journalism and only changed my mind once at about the age of 12 when I got my first guitar and decided that I'd try to become a rock star. While that stint was short lived, I still enjoy playing music for my dog and myself in the privacy of my own home. When my senior year of high school came around, I started looking for colleges that placed an emphasis on journalism and would give me real world experience in my field. With those two things in mind, Northeastern was a stand out choice and I didn't hesitate to apply.

Looking for the perfect co-op wasn't so different from searching for the perfect college. After reviewing hundreds of job listings in my field and narrowing my search down to about ten, I sent out my resume and anxiously waited for some calls. Not knowing exactly where I would fit in best, I had applied to PR firms, newspapers and non-profits. In the end, the offer from Farm Aid seemed like the perfect chance to combine my love of writing and music and pick up some new skills.

Aside from trips to farmers' market with my parents and the time I spent as a cashier in an organic grocery store during high school, I don't know very much about food. Sure, I can rattle off the produce codes for any odd vegetable you could imagine, but I'd have no idea how it got to the store or how to cook it. As I'm gaining the responsibility of buying and cooking my own food, I'm beginning to understand how important the origin of what I eat is and what the implications of my choices are on myself and the producers of the food. I'm sure that working at Farm Aid will increase my elementary knowledge and I hope to not only leave my co-op here with career skills, but also with more information that can help me in the personal aspects of my life.

I'm looking forward to starting my first co-op and finally getting to use some of the things I've learned as a student in the real world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Summer Memories

KariSummer is a time filled with farm and food memories. The season's first taste of corn on the cob. The feel of soil on your hands, warm from the sun. Long days spent smelling the tall grass blowing in the breeze. Family farmers help make these memories possible and they grow the fresh summer food we enjoy.

Thanks to the support of people like you, Farm Aid has kept family farmers on the land. When you stand with Farm Aid, you honor the hard work of your community's family farmers, and celebrate their commitment to the land and their neighbors.

Will you give a gift today to keep family farmers strong and resilient?

Farmers across the country are dealing with extreme weather conditions that threaten their livelihoods. This spring, a Texas farmer told us it's too dry to even plant seeds. In the Midwest, the spring planting was far behind schedule because the fields were too wet to plant, and in the Northeast farmers' fields were torn out by floods. Farm Aid recently made an emergency grant to a farm family when their farm was destroyed by a powerful tornado.

Farm Aid works with farmers to create long-term solutions in the face of dire threats like climate change. We're helping them to make their farms and soil more resilient with good farming practices. We can't do this vital, forward-thinking work without you.

My family has a long history of farming in Nebraska. We saw our share of tornadoes and unpredictable weather, like we have again this June with the devastation in Pilger. I was always inspired by our community's ability to come together and rebuild. We found a way to come back even stronger by renewing our commitment to each other and to the land. When I first learned about Farm Aid, I was in awe that people like Willie, Neil, John and Dave saw us and valued us.

It meant a lot then, and even more now as I work in this community that we've created together. When you give to Farm Aid you join these dedicated artists to let family farmers know that we see how important they are for all of us.

Please make a gift to support Farm Aid. Your contribution will ensure America's family farmers will stay on the land growing good food for all of us. Enjoy your summer!