10. FAO looks to organics for food security


By staff reporter 5/14/2007- 

Leading proponents of the benefits of organic agriculture put

their heads together last week to discuss how organic methods could help

preserve food security for the future.


The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization held a conference in Rome

last week on Organic Agriculture and Food Security, in partnership with

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).


The aim was to shed light on the contribution of organic agricultural 

methods in preserving food security, to identify their potential, and to

outline the conditions needed for their success.


It is estimated that the world's population will increase from six

billion to nine billion by 2050, calling for a massive increase in food



But Angela Caudle, executive director of IFOAM, said prior to the

meeting that food security is not just a matter of production figures.

such as war, climate change, disasters and inequality also have a large



In a paper published in advance of the conference, the FAO said, "the 

strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel 

independent and locally-available production assets; working with

natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of

to climatic stress".


It also called on governments to devote resources to organic

agriculture, and to integrate it within national agricultural
development and poverty

reduction strategies. It called for particular attention on vulnerable 



A spokesperson for the FAO was unavailable to give details of the

meeting's outcome prior to publication deadline, but it was expected
that that it 

would yield a "thorough assessment of the state of knowledge on organic 

agriculture and food security, including recommendations on areas for 

further research and policy development."


The report from the conference will be presented to the 33rd committee

on World Food Security. IFOAM expects this will result in FAO policy

chances that favour organic agriculture.


The issue of food security has had food policy experts assessing other 

models for the future of food supply on a global basis.


For instance in his 2004 book Food Wars: the global battle for minds,

mouths and markets, Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City

London, and colleague Michael Heasman laid out the agenda of two
alternatives to

the existing productionist model - one based on life sciences an the

on ecological integration.


Previously the FAO has devoted attention to key areas in the effort to 

ensure future food security.


For instance, another report, prepared in advance of the FAO Committee

on Agriculture meeting in April, said that a major shift in agricultural

methods and their environmental impact is urgently required to protect 

productivity and food security.


Agricultural practices are often responsible for environmental
degradation, such as non-sustainable food production, poor fuel use,
natural resource

depletion and habitat exploitation.


And at the opening of a UN climate change conference in Nairobi in


FAO Kenya representative Castro Paulino Camarada said climate change

will directly affect future food availability and make feeding the

rapidly growing population extremely difficult, said the FAO.


Camarada stressed that greater attention must be given to the impact of 

climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation

and adaptation measures.



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11. Bill Bobier and Lana Pollack: Small farmers deserve help

Published May 13, 2007
[ From Lansing State Journal ] 

Michigan's family farmers and forest landowners produce an extraordinary
bounty of food and fiber, as well as clean air, clean water and habitat
for wildlife. However, renewal of federal farm and food policies this
summer could do much more to meet the needs of our farmers, forest
landowners, consumers and communities.

The reasons for reform are well documented.

Many consumers lack affordable and healthy food choices, contributing to
soaring health care costs. Despite record farm sales, many of Michigan's
family farmers and forest landowners are struggling to stay profitable.

Our farm policies violate international trade agreements, inviting
retaliatory tariffs on everything from fruit to pharmaceuticals. Many of
Michigan's most pressing environmental challenges are left unmet because
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's funding shortage forces them to
reject six out of 10 Michigan's family farmers and forest landowners who
offer to help.

Renewal of federal farm and food programs creates a rare opportunity to
boost the profitability of many more family farmers, forest landowners
and communities, provide consumers with more food and energy choices,
and to reward family farmers and forest landowners when they take steps
to provide clean water, open spaces, or habitat for wildlife.

Only one out of three Michigan farmers grow the crops that are eligible
for farm subsidies that account for the lion's share of farm spending
under the current farm bill. By rewarding - rather than rejecting -
family farmers and forest landowners when they offer to share the cost
of good conservation practices that provide clean air and water, farm
policies can help many more Michigan producers and do much more for the
Great Lakes and Michigan's other precious natural resources.

The next farm bill should provide new resources to boost renewable
energy development on farms, and should focus those investments on
energy proposals that help meet our environmental challenges. By
expanding incentives good stewardship and clean renewable energy, the
next farm bill can help our farmers get ready to profit from a cap on
carbon emissions.

The next farm bill should do much more to boost the profitability of our
farmers in ways that provide more healthy food choices for out
consumers. For example, it should provide new resources to help our
farmers make the transition to organic and could link more farmers with
consumers through farmers markets, farm-to-school programs, and other
initiatives that bring fresh, local fruits and vegetables to our school

Lawmakers should assist in the protection of at least 10 million acres
of America's farmland from development because 80 percent of America's
fruits and vegetables are in the path of sprawl.

 Fortunately, most of Michigan's congressional delegation is
co-sponsoring at least one of two bipartisan bills introduced in
Congress to boost conservation, energy and healthy food initiatives:
"The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act" and "The EAT Healthy America
Act." The rest of the our delegation should support these bills, and
vote against any farm bill that does not meet the needs of our family
farmers, forest landowners, consumers and natural resources.



12.    The Economic Impact of B.S.E. on the U.S. Beef Industry: 


Date: May 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm PST


The Economic Impact of B.S.E. on the U.S. Beef Industry:

Product Value Losses, Regulatory Costs, and Consumer Reactions






For nearly 2 decades the U.S. beef industry has been impacted by bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Since the emergence of the disease in
the United Kingdom and the subsequent discovery of a possible link
between BSE and fatal new variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (vCJD) in
humans, various agencies of the United States government have
implemented measures to prevent BSE from entering the country, prevent
its spread if it were to be discovered here, and safeguard human health.
These measures included restrictions on imports of live animals, meat
products and feedstuffs, restrictions on feeding certain ruminant
derived tissues back to ruminant animals, a disease surveillance
program, and restrictions on blood donations from individuals who
previously resided in BSE affected countries.

As the disease spread outside Europe to

Japan and, in mid-2003, to Canada, USDA enhanced its surveillance
efforts and increased funding for BSE related research. Regulatory
efforts to counter the disease were further strengthened when, on
December 23, 2003, it was reported that a dairy cow in Washington state
had tested positive for BSE.


Regulatory Response to the December 23 Case.

To enhance protection of human health and reassure export markets about
the safety of U.S. beef, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of
USDA issued rules designating certain tissues (e.g., small intestine and
tonsils of all cattle; brains, eyes, spinal cord of cattle over 30
months of age) as specified risk materials (SRM) not allowed in human
food. FSIS also banned entry of material from downer cattle into the
human food chain.

To further reduce the risk of BSE spreading, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) proposed enhancing the existing ruminant feed ban
by removing the exemption for blood products and banning plate waste and
poultry litter. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
stepped up BSE surveillance efforts and announced that they would
conduct BSE tests on "as many cattle as possible" from the population of
high-risk cattle in a 12- to 18-month period beginning in June 2004.
This represented more than a tenfold increase in testing relative to
previous surveillance levels.


Costs Associated with BSE Regulations

The regulations introduced in 2004 led to changes in cattle procurement,
employment, employee training requirements, food safety plans, capital
investments, and marketing opportunities for the beef industry. To
assess the impact on industry, we interviewed seven firms to gather data
on costs associated with the new regulations. The seven firms
represented more than 60 percent of 2003 beef slaughter and were
sufficiently diverse to represent a reasonable cross section of the beef
packing industry.

On average, firms incurred additional labor costs of $0.45 per head of
daily capacity.

These costs arose primarily as a result of regulations requiring the
creation of positions to age animals using postmortem dentition, to deal
with non-ambulatory animals, and to segregate SRM material. One-time
costs of training existing employees to comply with new FSIS rules
varied from $13,800 to $100,000 across firms. Altering HACCP plans and
record keeping procedures resulted in relatively small cost increases -
a combination of nominal initial investments plus ongoing labor costs of
approximately $0.01 per head. Changes in capital investments varied
across firms. Some were able to achieve compliance without any new
investments, whereas others invested up to $84,000 in long-term assets.
All firms had investments in certain assets that they now consider
obsolete.  On average, the loss resulting from investments being made
obsolete was more than $700,000 per firm. The new regulations also
resulted in revenue losses due to products being banned from the food
supply. In particular, the condemnation of small intestines from all
cattle has been a hotly debated topic. We estimate that, on average,
firms that previously sold small intestines are foregoing an average of
$3.68 per head in potential revenue. That loss however, is contingent on
the availability of export markets for the product. For non-fed
Executive Summary 4 slaughter (animals over 30 months of age),
condemnation of bone-in cuts containing vertebral column and
restrictions on the use of advanced meat recovery (AMR) systems reduce
per-head revenues by approximately $8.50 and $9.36, respectively. These
decreases only apply to firms engaged in these respective activities.
Also prohibited from the food supply are non-ambulatory cattle. In 2004,
this regulation resulted in an estimated loss of  $64.6 million to the
beef packing sector. Considering all these areas of change, and ignoring
one-time expenses, we estimate the net economic cost to the beef
industry in 2004 from FSIS Interim Final Rules to be approximately $200

We also considered the potential impacts of additional BSE measures that
have been proposed, but not yet implemented. One such policy being
considered is a ban on SRM in animal feed. We estimate that if this
proposal is implemented, the associated costs would be $2.16 per head
for fed slaughter and $6.77 per head for non-fed slaughter. We estimate
that a complete ban on feeding of ruminant derived proteins would cost
$14.01 per fed animal and $12.35 per non-fed, in addition to adding
$4.50 per head to feed costs for a fed animal.


Market Response to the December 2003 Case Export Markets Within days of
the Washington state BSE announcement, 53 countries, including major
markets such as Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Canada, banned imports of
U.S. cattle and beef products. In 2003, U.S. beef exports were valued at
$3.95 billion and accounted for

9.6 percent of U.S. commercial beef production.  The import bans caused
U.S. beef exports to plummet, and although some important markets,
including Mexico and Canada did reopen during 2004, export quantities
for the year declined 82 percent below 2003's level.  The loss of export
markets increased the quantities available on the domestic market
thereby depressing domestic prices below levels they would have attained
if exports were possible. We developed a trade model to estimate the
impact of export losses on the beef industry. The model incorporated
assumptions about the elasticity of domestic demand for beef and offal
in order to estimate the price impact of additional supplies on the
domestic market. Because the resulting loss estimates depend on the
elasticity estimates, our report includes results of a sensitivity
analysis to provide a range of probable loss estimates.  Results suggest
that total U.S. beef industry losses arising from the loss of beef and
offal exports during 2004 ranged from $3.2 billion to $4.7 billion.


The United States has yet to regain access to the Japanese and South
Korean beef export markets, the second and third largest markets for
U.S. beef during 2003. If the United States regained access to these two
key markets, and exported the same percentage of U.S. production to
these two countries in 2004 as in 2003, wholesale revenue per head would
have increased between $45 and $66 per head for every head slaughtered
in the United States. If exports to Japan and South Korea were only
one-half the 2003 level, as a percentage of U.S. production, wholesale
revenue per head slaughtered would have increased $22 to $32.  Domestic
Market In the week following the December 2003 announcement, cattle
prices fell by about

16 percent. Consumer surveys at that time suggested that U.S. domestic
beef demand could fall by as much as 15 percent. However, prices
recovered in early 2004 as it became clear that U.S. consumer demand had
been impacted only minimally, if at all. In fact, market data on beef
disappearance and retail prices suggest that consumer demand for beef
actually strengthened in the first half of 2004. However, given that the
animal infected with BSE in Washington state originated in Canada and
could plausibly be viewed as an isolated case, the possibility remains
that an additional BSE discovery in an indigenous animal could have a
significant negative impact on demand.

To investigate the potential impact of

additional U.S. BSE discoveries we used a regionally targeted consumer
survey. The results suggest that most consumers (77 percent) did not
change consumption habits because of the first U.S. BSE case, but that
subsequent discoveries, particularly of multiple cases, could have a
significant impact on demand. However, we cannot infer from our results
that an additional isolated case of BSE


in the United States would have a significant impact on domestic beef

Testing Voluntary testing for BSE has been proposed as a means of
regaining access to lost export markets, but USDA has turned down a
request from a private firm to conduct such testing. The beef industry
is sharply divided on the issue. Proponents of voluntary testing tend to
view it in terms of a marketing decision with expected benefits
outweighing costs, at least in the short run. Opponents see testing as
unnecessary and costly, as setting a dangerous precedent in terms of
acquiescing to an unreasonable customer requirement, and as a procedure
with no scientific justification in terms of risk reduction to
consumers.  In our analysis we estimate costs and

potential benefits for a range of testing/ market-access scenarios.
Voluntary testing by a single, small firm would provide little or no
benefit to producers because the increase in the derived demand for
cattle generated from such a small-scale increase in exports would have
an insignificant impact on domestic cattle prices. The policy could,
however, result in significant profits for a firm engaged in testing, at
least in the short run, if testing opened up additional markets for a
firm's beef products. If additional market access is obtained through
BSE testing, more firms would be attracted to testing and domestic
cattle prices would increase. Our analysis suggests that if all
slaughter animals are tested, but there is no increase in access to
either the Japanese or South Korean markets, the result would be a net
loss of $17.50 (the estimated cost of testing) per head. Alternatively,
if full access to the Japanese and South Korean markets is regained
without implementing a broad based BSE testing program, the potential
revenue gain ranges from about $45 to $66 per head.




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