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SO WHAT ROLE DOES INDUSTRIAL AG HAVE IN AMERICA’S FOOD SAFETY PROBLEMS?

Answer: colossal culpability.
The fact is, from both a public health AND national security standpoint, the United States would be MUCH MUCH better off if it were fed by local family farmers. By definition, small-scale production has small-scale impact should there be a problem which surfaces.
One might say Industrial Ag is the beneficiary of the consolidation-landslide created by our Federal Cheap Food Policy. HOWEVER, it would be much closer to the truth to say Industrial Ag AUTHORED the Cheap Food Policy.
The disastrous reality is that concentration of food production increases by gargantuan magnitudes risks to our nation’s food supply.
Author Michael Pollan has written that one facility in California processes a jaw-dropping 100 MILLION SERVINGS of leafy greens per week. So it follows, when Industrial Ag has a food safety problem, its risky scale of massive concentration GUARANTEES IT WILL BECOME AN ENORMOUS PROBLEM. Jim

“The CDC’s green light to eat romaine again may have marked the end of the lettuce crisis in consumers’ minds, but the situation is far from over. The agency and the FDA are still investigating why and how a dangerous strand of E. coli wound up contaminating lettuce in Yuma. No single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor has been blamed, and investigators are still unsure whether contamination happened during the growing, washing, chopping, or bagging process. So far, the agencies have only released one finding: That the same E. coli strain found in sickened people across the country was also in Arizona’s canal water, which is used to irrigate crops.”

https://newrepublic.com/article/149628/americas-enduring-failure-prevent-food-borne-illness

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ABOUT THAT LABOR CRUNCH ON AMERICAN FARMS.

The labor shortage faced by American farmers is not new but it is becoming acute.
The trend of steadily increased mechanization on farms is even older than the labor shortage. Many are predicting robotics will provide long term relief to large and corporate farms.
Will the Big Boys be the only farms able to afford robots when costs approach or exceed a million dollars?
Where will the growing labor shortage and high cost of robotics leave smaller family farms? Yes, between a rock and a hard place.
‘Mother Jones’ offers insight into the challenge by looking into California’s wine grape harvest. Jim

“It’s Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, but any barbecues died down hours ago, and the rural back roads of this southern Napa County neighborhood are a dark and silent maze. Around midnight, the lights of the Robert Sinskey Vineyards’ shop blink on. In the center of its gravel driveway, workers coax tractors to life and assemble large plastic bins that will soon brim with clusters of pale green pinot blanc grapes. Picked in the cool hours of the early morning, before their sugars can develop in the sunlight, the grapes will then be whisked off to the winery and prepared for fermentation.

“As 1 a.m. nears, a white van pulls up and a crew of about nine pickers, contracted by Rios Farming Co., clamber out to don neon-­colored vests and headlamps. They’ve traveled two hours from Stockton, California, to be here, and for the next 10 hours or so they will together pick 25 tons of fruit…

“Napa and Sonoma counties produce most of the state’s high-end grapes in their combined 1,000 wineries. Like the rest of the state’s agriculture, the industry has long relied on immigrant workers for its heaviest labor. As of 2016, according to a federal survey, 9 out of 10 California farmworkers were born abroad, mostly in Mexico, and half were here without citizenship or legal work permits. But employers often have no way of knowing the immigration status of workers…

“Couldn’t Rios just recruit American workers? Not likely, according to the economists I interviewed. Because of low wages and grueling conditions, vineyard jobs don’t attract people born in the United States. California growers boast their pay has gone up steadily for years—Napa has the highest average farmworker wages in the state. Yet economist Martin doubts farmers will ever pay enough to lure US-born workers into the fields. ‘I think there is some wage at which Americans would do some work, but suppose it’s $25 an hour,’ he says. Before we hit that amount, he explains, robots or cheaper imports will swoop in.”

California’s Vineyard Workers Already Faced Long Hours, Low Pay, and Harsh Conditions. Then Came Trump’s Immigration Crackdown.

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RARE PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAINS EXPOSING ‘IOWA FARM BUREAU’ AS POWERFUL INDUSTRIAL AG SHILL ROLLING-IN-CASH.

Recent Iowa Congressional candidate Austin Frewick is a brave man. He blows the whistle on the Iowa Farm Bureau in this interesting, concise and eye-opening piece. Upsetting the apple cart may be hazardous to one’s health when there are billions of blood dollars at stake.
Farm Bureau loves to fib and represent itself to gullible listeners – like members of Congress – as the ‘voice of American family farmers.’ NOTHING could be further from the truth. Their close working relationships with the likes of Monsanto clearly announce their real self-serving agenda.
Clearly, Iowa Farm Bureau’s “non-profit” status is a big whopper of gigantic proportions and sure needs fixing. Jim

“Although the Iowa Farm Bureau was created to advocate for Iowa’s farmers and rural communities, it now receives 84% of its revenue from its for-profit insurance arm, the FBL Financial Group, which controlled $10.1 billion in assets in 2017 alone. Its holdings include millions of dollars of investments in large agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto and Tyson. As a result, the Iowa Farm Bureau has an operating budget of $89 million, more than twice that of its national counterpart: the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Those revenue sources have given the Iowa Farm Bureau significant power both in Iowa and in the national agricultural space. In the 1970s, the Iowa Farm Bureau’s lobbying efforts, in conjunction with Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, led to significant changes to the New Deal agricultural policies that sought to manage supply and protect farmers from the big agribusiness companies. The Iowa Farm Bureau successfully fought to replace this system with one that forced farmers to get big or get out, and pushed them to plant crops fencerow to fencerow. Its mantra was simple: volume, volume and more volume…

“It’s time to recognize what many farmers already know: The Iowa Farm Bureau is a suburban insurance company pretending to be the voice of farmers.”

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/06/22/iowa-farm-bureau-insurance-company-voice-farmers/714274002/

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SLOW BUT STEADY INCORPORATION OF ORGANIC PRINCIPLES ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SOIL – LIKE COVER CROPPING – ARE NOW BENEFITING MAINSTREAM AG AND THE PLANET.

The system of soil-reverent farming, known as “Organic Farming” had its origins 125 years ago. Back then, organic farming started out as a protest movement firmly dedicated to the importance of maintaining soil health. Organic farming rejected the then burgeoning – and dubious – “modern farming” production practices which disassociated itself from the soil and instead relied on purchased inputs in a bag.
That organic farming has had an outsized impact on all of agriculture is becoming increasingly apparent as its priciples become adpted by mainstream Ag. That “soil health” is now a buzzword covered by the likes of ‘USA Today’ is a sign of the times. It is also proof that organic farming’s insistence that the soil must come first was the correct concept all along. Jim

“There it sits — in all its green glory — in the produce section of your local grocery store.

“Broccoli. One of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet.

“But 70 years ago, it contained twice the calcium, on average, and more than five times the amount of vitamin A. The same could be said for a lot of our fruits and vegetables.

“Why? How?

“The answers lie in the soil and how Americans farm it.

“Over the past two centuries, U.S. population growth and food production methods have stressed and degraded our dirt. Our farming soil is not as alive as it once was, and experts say that’s a problem.

“It’s a complex issue, and there are various factors at play, but studies through the years draw a direct line back to American farms…

“Mary Jo Forbord feels as if she’s doing her part to farm responsibly.

“She and her husband run an organic beef, fruit and vegetable farm on the slopes of a glacial moraine in Minnesota. They plant cover crops, don’t use any chemicals and have reconstructed 380 acres of prairie, replacing what farmers before had wiped out.

“But Forbord says the cards are stacked against farmers like her and America’s food system in general.

“She’s looking at the big picture.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2018/07/05/cover-crops-they-future-farming-united-states/759371002/?utm_source=New+Food+Economy+Subscribers&utm_campaign=68db81ed28-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_10_05_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_75a28a0eaf-68db81ed28-264716005

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LIFE ON A MAINE FARM, CIRCA 1942.

This photograph was published in ‘Life’ magazine and shows Grandmother preparing to make butter with a barrel churn, as Granddaughter plays with a cat. The upright galvanized water tank was plumbed into the wood cook stove and provided a ready supply of hot water for the extended family. Jim & Megan

mainefarm

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THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF USDA ACCELERATING.

This week ‘The Nation’ dug into the story of Industrial Ag breaking down the gates of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) and grabbing control.
Generally, it’s a good and accurate article. Francis and Emily, quoted in the article, are close and trusted allies performing Herculean work on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
However, one important point the reporter got wrong: Our group – Jim is one of fifteen members on the ‘Real Organic Program’ Standards Board which meets in Vermont later this month – is NOT abandoning the USDA Organic Label. Instead, after years in the making, we are constructing a ‘ADD-ON’ program to the NOP. Our ADD-ON program will identify honest Certified Organic family farmers whose authentic crop and livestock practices are in alignment with both organic eaters’ expectations and the spirit and the letter of the original Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) federal labeling law.
Our ADD-ON program will SUPPLEMENT the pre-requisite NOP Organic Certification. Our ADD-ON program will EXCLUDE the fake corporate factory farms which are flooding the market with bogus, illegitimate products illegally using the “organic” label.
With the help of the entire organic community, we will build a genuine alternative program and make it possible for you and your family to confidently access bona fide Certified Organic food now and into the future.
We will keep you updated. Jim & Megan http://preview.mailerlite.com/w7r7…/828523286106215603/d7v2/

“‘Big business is taking over the USDA organic program,’ Thicke said, addressing his colleagues in a speech marking his retirement. ‘Because the influence of money is corroding all levels of our government’…

“‘At this point, I can see only one way to bring the organic label back in line with the original vision of organic farmers and consumers,’ Thicke said. ‘We need an add-on organic label for organic farmers who are willing to meet the expectations of discerning consumers who are demanding real organic food’…

“Emily Oakley, an Obama NOSB appointee, owns a 20-acre organic vegetable farm in Oklahoma. She said large agricultural interests are working tirelessly to sway policy.

“‘Many smaller-scale farmers are busy with the work of farming and don’t have the means to hire lobbyists to represent their interests,’ Oakley said. ‘Larger agricultural businesses do. That creates a dynamic in which the voices that are before the NOSB tend not to be smaller-scale farmers, despite the fact that they comprise a majority of certified organic farms. The organic movement has become an organic industry.'”

https://www.thenation.com/article/is-the-usda-the-latest-site-of-corporate-takeover-in-the-trump-administration/

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MAIN STREET, PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE.

This winter scene is undated but I would hazard a guess it is from the very early 1900s (notice the electric power lines).
Note the long sled loaded with barrels of potatoes between the first and second power poles.
Thanks to our friend, Steve Sutter for sharing. Jim & Megan

piwinter

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NEW STUDY IMPLICATES GLYPHOSATE IN SHORTENED HUMAN PREGNANCIES.

Bottom line, since glyphosate gets into human bodies primarily through ingestion of conventional and GE food/beverage containing residues from Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ herbicide, women anticipating pregnancy should SWITCH NOW TO EATING ORGANIC FOOD.
Of course, persistent synthetic chemicals such as ‘Roundup’ are not needed and NOT ALLOWED in organic farming.
Following the clearly established pattern of attack and intimidation, we can now expect these courageous scientists to suffer the full wrath of malevolent Monsanto for daring to tell the truth as revealed by their research.
Yet another nail in Monsanto’s coffin. GLYPHOSATE MUST BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY. Jim

“The mean age of participants was 29 years, and the majority were Caucasian. Ninety three percent of the pregnant women had GLY levels above the limit of detection (0.1 ng/mL). Mean urinary GLY was 3.40 ng/mL (range 0.5–7.20 ng/mL). Higher GLY levels were found in women who lived in rural areas (p = 0.02), and in those who consumed > 24 oz. of caffeinated beverages per day (p = 0.004). None of the drinking water samples had detectable GLY levels. We observed no correlations with fetal growth indicators such as birth weight percentile and head circumference. However, higher GLY urine levels were significantly correlated with shortened gestational lengths (r = − 0.28, p = 0.02).
Conclusions

“This is the first study of GLY exposure in US pregnant women using urine specimens as a direct measure of exposure. We found that > 90% of pregnant women had detectable GLY levels and that these levels correlated significantly with shortened pregnancy lengths. Although our study cohort was small and regional and had limited racial/ethnic diversity, it provides direct evidence of maternal GLY exposure and a significant correlation with shortened pregnancy.”

https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-018-0367-0

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IS COLOSSAL THEFT FROM THE COMMONS IMMINENT IN SOUTH AMERICA?

It sure looks that way. If so, the plundering of the world’s second largest aquifer by a conniving-consortium of mega mega multinational corporations like Nestle’ and Coca Cola would be in DIRECT DEFIANCE of the Public Trust Doctrine – going back to Roman Times – which states government lacks authority to privatize (sell) critical assets within the Commons. http://www.bollier.org/…/mary-wood%E2%80%99s-crusade-reinvi…
Warning! Here’s a video (6:24) you’ll want to be sitting down when you watch Nestle’s elitist zombie-like CEO relating his self-serving God-complex view of the world which includes denial of the human right to water plus his dissing of organic. Jim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPY64EJcsG4

“A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.

“Named after the Guarani indigenous people, the Guarani Aquifer is the world’s second largest underground water reserve and is estimated to be capable of sustainably providing the world’s population with drinking water for up to 200 years. Environmental groups, social movements, and land defenders warn that the exploitation of the freshwater reserve could see the 460,000-square mile (1.2 million sq. km.) reservoir sacrificed for the short-term profits of agribusiness, energy, and food-and-drink giants.”

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CRUNCHING MOFGA’S NUMBERS OF CERTIFIED ORGANIC OPERATIONS AND OFFERING PERSPECTIVE.

As the chart below indicates, organic is growing in leaps and bounds in the State of Maine.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Assn (MOFGA) certifies as Organic about 540 operations, over 450 of those are farms. Certified Organic farms represents 5.5% of all Maine farms.
The largest Organic Certifier in the United States is CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and they certify 2300 farmers. Assuming for the moment all of CCOF’s certified farms are in California, Maine has 6x the number of Certified Organic farmers per capita as does California. If Maine’s population were to suddenly burgeon to that of California – Heaven Forbid! – and we maintained our proportion of organic farms, Maine would have 13,500 Certified Organic farms, or over 30 organic farmers per Maine Township. Jim

CHART1