USDA Clips Wings of Misleading Language on Organic Packaging
(Cornucopia, WI)(The Cornucopia Institute, August 15, 2014): The USDA, announced to industry stakeholders that it would rein-in misleading languageon organic packaging that all too often has been suspected of confusing consumers.
Specifically, the agency addressed companies marketing food products that have the word "organic" or "organics" in their brand-name.
"Unless a food product is certified organic it cannot display, overtly, the word 'organic' on the front panel of the product," said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog.
Some companies, such as Newman's Own Organics, have been selling products that do not qualify for the use of the word organic on the front panel and are getting away with misleading messaging to consumers because they have used the word organic in their trade name.
In 2010 Cornucopia filed a formal legal complaint against Newman's for selling such products as ginger cookies, using a lesser labeling category regulated by the USDA: Made with Organic Ingredients. The USDA dismissed this complaint without explanation.
What To Do With All of the Poo?
(Hudson, NY)(Modern Farmer Media, August 22, 2014); Algae blooms, salmonella and E. Coli, groundwater contamination, and bad smells are just a few of the problems animal manure can cause. In small doses, it's the stuff of life—the fertilizer plants need to grow. Mishandled, it's an environmental disaster in waiting. Each year, farm animals in the United States produce over 335 million tons of manure. That's roughly the weight of 1000 Empire State Buildings.
Everybody poops; animals just happen to do it more than the rest of us. A lactating dairy cow can produce 150 pounds of manure every day. Twenty broiler chickens will produce over four pounds a day. Whether a farmer has one cow or 1,000, manure problems are the likeliest route to trouble with the neighbors.
Though the exact laws and cut-offs vary by state, large farms are required to create and file Nutrient Management Plans. In essence, these plans detail the estimated amount of manure produced, how it will be stored and where it will end up. But if you're one hog under the cut off, there's no filing required. Unfortunately, many new farmers, hobbyists or animal lovers don't realize the trouble they're in until its too late. So how do you solve a problem like manure? From non-farmers — with a horse to the largest industrial hen houses — people are coming up with ingenious ways to take the damage out of dung and occasionally making some extra money while they're at it.
One solution is the "manure share". Think of it as the Craigslist of crap.
These mostly localized manure shares pair animal owners with gardeners, farmers and landscapers in need. Using mailing lists or sign-up sheets, most farmers looking to unload their manure give their location, fee (if any), whether they deliver, if the waste is raw or composted and the kind of animal the manure is from.
French applesauce makers ready production at Lancaster County facility
(Harrisburg, PA)(Central Penn Business Journal, August 12, 2014): Officials with French applesauce maker Charles & Alice Group are finalizing production lines for its sugar-free applesauce products at its East Hempfield Township facility in Lancaster County.
Thierry Goubault, chief executive officer of Charles & Alice, is visiting this week to oversee the project. The company announced plans in April to make a vacant food-processing plant at 2870 Yellow Goose Road its first American facility.
Goubault said the company has hired about 10 people so far and plans to start full production in the fall, which could mean up to 50 employees. The area was specifically selected for its fresh apples, major roads, location and available employees, he added. The 55,000-square-foot site is the right size for now and for future growth, he said.
"It's a perfect location in what I call the heart of Northeast America," he said. "At the end of the day, apart from the location, we were feeling very comfortable and welcome, which is always an important factor when you go into a foreign country."
The Charles & Alice deal resulted in a $1.57 million package of grants, tax credits and a low-interest loan from the state. All total, the company is investing about $10 million here, Goubault said.
Do GMO Crops Foster Monocultures?
(Reno, NV)(Science 2.0, August 6, 2014): Do GMO crops "foster monoculture?" This is a frequent criticism of modern agriculture. I have three with problems it:
"Monoculture" isn't the right term to use to describe the relevant issues - its really about a limited crop rotationHistory and economics are the drivers behind this phenomenon, not crop biotechnologyThe solutions - to the extent that they are needed - are not what most critics seem to imagine
The Corn Belt of the Midwestern US, is a multi-million acre farming region almost entirely dominated by just two crops - corn and soybeans. This phenomenon is often termed "monoculture," but monoculture is merely the practical approach of growing a single crop in a given field. The opposite of monoculture is "polyculture" and it is entirely impractical for even minimally mechanized farming.
The Corn Belt is more accurately described as an example of a "limited crop rotation." The typical pattern is an alternation between corn and soybeans in each field. There are also some fields where the growers plant continuous corn or continuous soybeans. There are many reasons that a more "diverse crop rotation" could be a good idea.
Mixing up crop types over time can help build soil quality because of different rooting patterns or residue characteristics. Some plant pests can be more easily managed if their life cycles are disrupted by cropping changes. All of this is well known, but for a variety of reasons that I'll discuss below, the less diverse rotation persists.
Is American farming different than European farming?
(Bismark, ND)(Minnesota Farm Guide, August 7, 2014): A Sept. 7, 2013, article in "The Economist" says American agriculture is different from the European variety because Americans treat food as commodities, whereas Europeans are more concerned where food comes from and if it is produced in ways they view as acceptable.
The Economist article says the emphasis on science in American education and the Extension Service prepare American farmers to rely on technology and to be dispassionate about their methods of food production.
Shortly after The Economist article appeared, Oklahoma State University agricultural economics professor Jayson Lusk wrote that European agriculture is not as productive as American agriculture because government regulation of agriculture is greater in Europe.
Lusk also took offense that The Economist article attacked an organization in which he participated as a youth – 4H, which The Economist said prepares future American farmers to use production methods the British publication took to task. Lusk says America's science, technology, independence and business gives U.S. producers the edge.
When I visited Germany and France in April-May while on a 12-day tour of their healthcare systems, I asked two dozen persons in these countries, "What is your main concern about food production?" The people I interviewed were farmers, food and clothing merchants, restaurateurs and consumers in southern Germany and central France.
The Manheim Young Farmers and Ruhl Insurance will be co sponsoring an informational meeting about the new USDA Farm Bill on Thursday August 28 from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center. See the attachment for more details. All are welcome and no RSVP is required. Click here to download the informational flier.