What's New in Michigan Organic AG? 

Sept 25-Oct 7, 2007


1.    Proposed Farm Bill falls short on food security


2.    Business as usual?
2F2007%2F10%2F2%2F10836%2F8609>   Why should we forget the farm bill?




4.    Europe Turning to grail sorghum


5.    Incompatible Standards May Keep African Organics Out of Europe


6.    Jane Goodall Says Biofuel Crops Hurt Rain Forests


7.    Concern about wheat supplies lifts prices


8.    Harvest time


Notice of Position Openings

9.    Position for project coordinator for Michigan Youth Farm Stand

10.           Policy Internship with the Michael Fields Agricultural

Position: Director of Communications at The Rodale Institute 



11.           Lacto Fermentation II: Vegetables, October 27, 2007,
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

12.           Growers Conference 2007, October 29, 2007  Firehouse
Restaurant, Sioux City, IA

13.           New American Farm Photo Contest, Deadline is October 31,

14.           Organic Tree Fruit Projects Field Day, Friday, November 2,


15.           Propagation and Cultivation of Medicinal Herbs, November
3, 2007, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute


16.           Intensive Mini-school Series for Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) January 19, 2008, Kettunen Center, Tustin, Michigan,
February 23, 2008, Kalamazoo Public Library



1. Proposed Farm Bill falls short on food security

From of the Detroit Free Press.

September 20, 2007


With the Washington political focus on Iraq, other priorities will get
little public attention, including the efforts of a wide variety of
groups to encourage major reforms in the Farm Bill.

Farm Bill? It's really a food bill, because it strongly influences most
aspects of our food system.


Past farm bills -- and the current version as passed by the House of
Representatives -- represent an unsustainable approach to food and
agriculture that imposes huge costs on the health of people and the
health of our rural and natural environments. Increasing rates of child
obesity and hunger, and the loss of family farms and cropland, are the
most visible signs of this.

As a longtime analyst of local food systems and an advocate for
strengthening them, it is clear to me that major changes are needed in
the Senate and final versions of the bill.

Reform of obsolete funding priorities is crucial if we are to ensure our
long-term food security.

Farm bill spending to support nonfood commodities has far exceeded all
other programs, even though two-thirds of farmers receive no crop
subsidies. The top 1% of those who do received 17% of the total crop
subsidies for 2003-2005. Nutrition programs -- mainly the Food Stamp
program -- are not funded at levels needed to meet either inflation or
the increasing numbers that need help. Conservation programs to protect
erodible land are threatened by non-farm bill subsidies for ethanol and
biodiesel that encourage farmers to plant corn and soy on more of their
conservation and regular cropland to produce fuels, something that has
already raised food prices.

Finally, a number of existing small and innovative programs aimed at
rebuilding more sustainable and secure foundations for our food systems
are threatened by the House bill.

These include the USDA's Community Food Projects Competitive Grants
Program. First authorized by Congress in 1996, the CFP program has
provided grants to cities, towns and rural counties to develop
grassroots solutions to local and regional food, nutrition and
agriculture problems.

In Michigan, CFP grants have helped boost local food production and
marketing in Clare, Kent, Ottawa and Van Buren Counties; helped Lansing
area farmers' markets link growers with low-income neighborhoods; helped
low-income communities in west Michigan plan local food and nutrition
improvements; and in the Detroit area, supported two groups to promote
local gardening, community farms and locally based retail outlets in
neglected neighborhoods.

The CFP has funded similar innovative programs in all 50 states. And
this with only $5 million in annual mandatory funding.

While the House did recommend $30 million for the CFP in its bill, this
was as discretionary funding, which makes it unlikely the CFP will be
funded at all, since it is also unlikely, given the Iraq war, that there
will be any surplus funds available.

If these budget priorities are not changed, it will mean the end of this
innovative program and many others that help local communities and
regions enhance their food security.

I urge you to join me in contacting Michigan U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and
Debbie Stabenow about the Farm Bill, especially Stabenow, who is on the
Senate Agriculture Committee. Let them know how important it is to
invest more in conservation, hunger mitigation, healthy foods, and
particularly innovative programs like Community Food Projects.

KENNETH A. DAHLBERG is professor emeritus of political science and
environmental studies at Western Michigan University. Write to him in
care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI
48226 or at [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> .



2. Business as usual?

Why we shouldn't forget the Farm Bill

Posted by Aimee Witteman at 1:55 PM on 02 Oct 2007

Once again, a prime example of our misguided farm policies hits like a
ton of factory-farm manure sludge -- or in this case, a massive sack of
federally insured, genetically modified corn.  

Last Wednesday, Monsanto announced
ex.php%3Fs%3D43%26item%3D537>  that the Federal Crop Insurance
Corporation (FCIC) approved a pilot program that will give farmers a 20
percent discount on insurance premiums if they plant a majority of their
corn acres with seeds featuring Monsanto's trademarked YieldGard Plus
with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple stack technology. This
is the first time the FCIC Board has approved a crop insurance discount
for specific crop traits, but not likely the last. 

For the moment, let's set aside the potentially sordid nature of this
public/private arrangement. What is particularly ironic and imbalanced
is that organic producers pay an extra 5 percent surcharge when they
sign up for crop insurance because of the perceived additional risks
associated with organic production.

That's right. Organic producers are actually penalized for using
production practices that have been shown
field_trials%2F1103%2Fdroughtresearch.shtml>  to lessen risks. 

Simply put, this is bad policy that should be reformed when the Senate
takes up the farm bill this month. 

It's tempting to want to forget
ood%2F2007%2F08%2F02%2Ffarmbill%2F>  about the behemoth that is federal
farm policy and concentrate on local solutions to the food system
crisis. There is no question that making change on a local, human scale
is critical, not to mention more accessible and arguably more
gratifying. We should not view advocacy as an either/or proposition,
however. If we do not address federal policy, the scaffolding that
shapes our decisions as producers and consumers, our efforts to make
sweeping changes in the food system will likely amount to no more than a
few heirloom tomatoes in a sea of GM corn.

Scott Marlow, Director of Farm Sustainability for RAFI-USA
iKiv4qsVdcH%2Bw%3D%3D&> , explains
how our current crop insurance policies affect producer behavior --
behavior on which a large-scale food revolution hinges. 

In May, Marlow testified
lowtestimony.pdf>  before Congress about the impact crop insurance has
on the ability of farmers to adjust to shifts in our agricultural
economy. Currently, crop insurance for organic producers not only
carries a 5 percent surcharge, it does not cover the added value of
specialty marketed crops. Instead, the crop insurance payments are
calculated based on the conventional price. 

In other words, if you are an insured organic producer like the ones
devastated by August floods
F13971129%2Fdetail.html>  in southwestern Wisconsin this summer, you
will likely receive assistance based only on the conventional price for
the crops you have lost. 

Because the added value of specialty marketed crops is uninsured, it is
frequently not included in either collateral valuation or anticipated
income. As Marlow remarked in his testimony, "while lenders do not
recognize the higher value of specialty crops, they do recognize the
higher expense of producing them." 

Marlow says that the lack of risk management for value-added products
and the reduction in access to credit and other disaster programs that
accompanies it, creates a financial disincentive for farmers to make the
transition to organic production, and increases the risk and
vulnerability of those that do. 

And there's the farm bill rub.

Unfair, punitive crop insurance policies may not raise the eyebrows or
pitchforks of smaller organic producers who are less likely to take out
operating loans or are sheltered from risk by a growing a huge variety
of crops. For mid-sized "agriculture of the middle
iKiv4qsVdcH%2Bw%3D%3D&> "
family farmers, however, it can be the deciding factor in choosing
whether to transition relatively large amounts of land out of
monoculture commodities and into diversified, specialized crops and

The upside of Congress' slow progress in reauthorizing the current farm
bill is that we still have a chance to steer this ship around. The farm
bill is an opportunity to reform current inequities and support the
kinds of farming that results in healthier people and landscapes.
.htm%2520>  members of the Senate Agriculture Committee today. 




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