Michigan Organic Listserv

August 17, 2010

News Effecting Food

Senate Food Safety Legislation Information Alert
August 13, 2010

The Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) was reported out of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee in November of last year. The bill as reported out of committee would ramp up FDA regulation on farms that even minimally process their crops and sell them to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools and wholesalers.

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a copy of the "manager's amendment" to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510). These amendments have the support of HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) as well as the four lead sponsors of the underlying bill, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Chris Dodd (D-CT), and Richard Burr (R-NC) and will be adopted if and when the bill comes to the Senate floor in September when Congress returns from its summer recess. The full manager's package is available at (http://help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/WHI10337.pdf).

In releasing the new version of the bill, Senator Harkin said, "For far too long, the headlines have told the story of why this measure is so urgently needed: foodborne illness outbreaks, product recalls and Americans sickened over the food they eat. This 100-year-old plus food safety structure needed to be modernized."

Most sustainable agriculture and family farm groups think the Senate bill with the manager's amendment is a very significant improvement over the companion bill passed by the House of Representatives (HR 2749) last year. NSAC has been able to help make substantial improvements in the Senate bill through the HELP markup and in changes that will be adopted as part of the manager's amendment when the bill comes to the Senate floor. If the Tester amendment (see below) can be worked out and agreed to before Senate floor action, we will be able to support the Senate bill. However, we strongly oppose the companion House measure, and stand ready to defend the Senate bill in conference with the House should that prove necessary.

The Managers package includes the following important improvements to the bill as reported out of committee last year:

* The amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pertaining to farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle product from several farms. It will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations. Included within the purview of the amendment are exemptions or flexibilities with respect to requirements within S. 510 for expensive food safety preventative control plans and FDA on-farm inspections.

* The amendments sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation. The Bennet language pertains to both the preventative control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill. FDA is instructed to provide flexibility for small processors including on-farm processing, to minimize the burden of compliance with regulations, and to minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate foods. FDA will also be prohibited from requiring farms and other food facilities to hire consultants to write food safety plans or to identify, implement, certify or audit those plans. With respect to produce standards, FDA will also be given the discretion to develop rules for categories of foods or for mixtures of foods rather than necessarily needing to have a separate rule for each specific commodity or to regulate specific crops if the real food safety issue involved mixtures only.

* The amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers. The training projects will prioritize small and mid-scale farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and small food processors and wholesalers. The program will be administered by USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture. As is the case for all of the provisions in S. 510, funding for the bill and for this competitive grants program will happen through the annual agriculture appropriations bill process.

* The effort championed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against "animal encroachment" of farms is also in the manager's package. It will require FDA to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife and wildlife habitat on farms.

* An amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to amend the traceability and recordkeeping section of the bill that will exempt food that is direct marketed from farmers to consumers or to grocery stores and exempt food that has labeling that preserves the identity of the farm that produced the food. The amendment also prevents FDA from requiring any farm from needing to keep records beyond the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm, except in the case of farms that co-mingle product from multiple farms, in which case they must also keep records one step back as well as one step forward.

Not in the package but still under serious negotiation for inclusion in the bill when it reaches the floor of the Senate is an amendment by Senator John Tester (D-MT) to exempt food facilities with under a certain annual gross sales threshold from preventative control plan requirements and to exempt farmers who primarily direct market product to consumers, stores or restaurants from the bill's produce standards regulations. Our expectation is this amendment will be successfully negotiated over the coming weeks and will be accepted as part of the final bill once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

We also continue to note and emphasize the additional provisions NSAC helped secure when the bill was marked up in Committee last year. Those changes included:

* requiring FDA and USDA coordination (including with respect to organic farming);

* limiting recordkeeping for farmers to just the initial sale to the first purchaser of the crop; and

* language in the produce section directing FDA to create rules that are appropriate to the scale and diversity of the farm, that take into consideration conservation and environmental standards established by other federal agencies, that do not conflict with organic certification standards, and that prioritize high risk crops.

Still pending is an amendment from Senator Feinstein (D-CA) banning the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in all food and beverage containers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups have come out strongly against the measure. Negotiations are ongoing to work out compromise language, but it is unclear to us what the status is of those talks.

       News in Agriculture

Reaping a dream: Families rise from migrant pickers to farm owners by Stephen Tait, Times Herald

Loans are available to socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers, ranchers, or agricultural producers!

It is hard for Latinos to penetrate the market and buy farms. Because many Latino farmers are descendants of migrant farmers, they do not have the generational connections many other farmers have.

About 2.8% of Sanilac County Michigan residents are Hispanic, according to 2007 U.S. Census data. There are around 2,329 farm operations with only 12 being owned by Latinos. 

Michigan State University doctoral student, Robert Gardner-Sandoval is armed with a grant of hundreds of dollars from Croswell-based Eastern Michigan Bank, and is organizing meetings and creating a county-based advocacy group to inform Latino farmers of the federal money they can utilize.

Gardner-Sandoval's goal is to direct at least $1 million in grants and loans to Latino farmers throughout the state. He already has conducted one meeting in Sanilac County to attract the interest of farmers.

Gardner-Sandoval is targeting Latinos for several reasons: The history of migrant farming in Sanilac County; the difficulty for Latinos to own farms; and the lack of knowledge among Latinos and other farmers about the assistance available through federal grants. It also is helping him earn a doctorate degree.

Gardner-Sandoval has helped one aspiring farmer Lupe Vandercook. Vandercook now owns 40 acres of farmland. She was a migrant worker for years, and received a loan for $165,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow her to start her own farm.

The USDA provides loans for socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers, ranchers, or agricultural producers. The program provides money for a loan up to 45% of a farm's purchase price, with a 1.5% interest rate for 20 years. For more information on the loan check out the fact sheet online, (http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=fmlp&topic=sfl).   Further information and applications for the loan program is available at local FSA county offices. To find your local county FSA office go to (http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=mi&agency=fsa).

To read more about Vandercook’s success story and future funding opportunities visit: http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20100815/NEWS01/8150304/Reaping-a-dream


Judge's ruling uproots use of biotechnology beets by Michael Liedtke, AP Business Writer

A federal judge has revoked the government's approval of genetically altered sugar beets until regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White Friday means sugar beet growers won't be able to use the modified seeds after harvesting the biotechnology beets already planted on more than 1 million acres spanning 10 states from Michigan to Oregon. All the seed comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Additional planting won't be allowed until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submits an environmental impact statement. That sort of extensive examination can take two or three years.

White declined a request to issue an injunction that would have imposed a permanent ban on the biotech beets, which Monsanto Co. developed to resist its popular weed killer, Roundup. Farmers have embraced the technology as a way to lower their costs on labor, fuel and equipment.

The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club have been trying to uproot the biotech beets since filing a 2008 lawsuit.

Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety's executive director, hailed Friday's decision as a major victory in the fight against genetically engineered crops and chided the Agriculture Department for approving the genetically engineered seeds without a full environmental review.

"Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto," Kimbrell said in a statement.

Attempts to reach the Agriculture Department for comment Saturday were unsuccessful. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, referred requests for comment to the America Sugarbeet Growers Association, which pointed to a Saturday statement from the Sugar Industry Biotech Council.

In the statement, the sugar beet council said it intends to help the Agriculture Department come up with "interim measures" that would allow continued production of the genetically altered seeds while regulators conduct their environmental review.

If a temporary solution isn't found, the planting restrictions are likely to cause major headaches for sugar beet growers and food processors.

The genetically altered sugar beets provide about one-half of the U.S. sugar supply and some farmers have warned there aren't enough conventional seeds and herbicide to fill the void. The scientific seeds account for about 95 percent of the current sugar beet crop in the U.S.

"The value of sugar beet crops is critically important to rural communities and their economies," the Sugar Industry Biotech Council said Saturday.

White expressed little sympathy for any disruption his decision might cause. He noted in his 10-page ruling that regulators had time to prepare for the disruption because he had already overturned the deregulation of the genetically altered beets in a decision issued last September.

The Agriculture Department "has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently," White wrote.

Organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups contend genetically altered crops such as the sugar beets could share their genes with conventionally grown food, such as chard and table beets.

Those arguments helped persuade another federal judge in San Francisco to stop the planting of genetically altered alfalfa seeds in 2007 pending a full environmental review that still hasn't been completed.

Monsanto took that case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June overturned an injunction against the company's sale of the modified seeds.

Article can be found at: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wirestory?id=11403445&page=2

Seeing Gain in the Label “Organic” by Rachel Cromidas, the New York Times Online

Annual organic certification fees are a fair trade-off for increased sales!

As an organic farmer, Eric Rose said he would rather mow down a pest-ridden crop than spray chemicals on his 30-acre mushroom farm in Burlington, Wis.

But despite Mr. Rose’s commitment to following strict organic guidelines and accepting the financial risks, he has not sought official certification, a status necessary to label his produce organic, which would probably increase sales.

Many other independent growers who farm organically have resisted certification from the United States Department of Agriculture. Some, like Mr. Rose, consider the process too expensive and time-consuming; others object to deeper government involvement in food production.

But after years of low profits and a marketplace that increasingly relies on labels to establish food quality, more of these holdout farmers are seeking the cachet of U.S.D.A. certification to help recoup lost revenue.

This year, Mr. Rose joined their ranks. Though he has been organically farming his father’s 30-year-old mushroom and vegetable farm, River Valley Kitchens, without certification since 1997, he did not turn a profit until 2007.

Mr. Rose said he might be able to win the Whole Foods chain as a customer if he could market his portobello and crimini mushrooms as organic. Otherwise, he said, “there is no conversation with them, because that’s the market they’re servicing.”

It is illegal to label a food as organic if it has not undergone certification, which involves meeting federal standards precluding the use of most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, undergoing regular inspections to ensure compliance, and paying annual fees and sales royalties to the certification agencies governed by the Agriculture Department.

“When you’re dealing with a small family farm, these are people who go to market once or twice a week, and the last thing they need is a huge mound of paperwork,” said Dave Rand, a contractor who connects farmers with farmers’ markets in Chicago.

The prospect of red tape kept Steven Tiwald, owner of the Green Earth Institute in Naperville, from seeking certification for the more than 40 varieties of vegetables he harvests for his co-op.

But in 2006 Mr. Tiwald applied for certification, reasoning that the annual fees, which can reach more than $400, are a fair trade-off for increased sales.

“My farm will be making 20 percent more than it otherwise would,” he said.

Likewise, Mr. Rose said he was expanding his operation by nearly 40 percent this year in anticipation of more business.

He is confident, he said, he will be able to sell his produce for up to a dollar a pound more — on a par with competitors’ prices — once his crops are certified.

“The growing is easier than the marketing these days,” Mr. Rose said.

This article can be found on the New York Times web page under the business section:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/business/08cncorganic.html?_r=3&ref=organic_food

Opportunities for Farmers

The Michigan Film Office is looking for farming locations in the thumb and southeast regions of the state for a potential movie production.
Acclaimed director, Ramin Bahrani, is looking to immerse himself in the life and culture of Michigan farmers and the communities they reside in.  Mr. Bahrani is researching for his upcoming feature film and his unique style of research has him looking to establish personal relationships with different farmers.  He is not making a documentary project similar to FOOD, INC. and has no intention to film anything without permission of property owners. 

If you are interested, please contact Tony Garcia at the Michigan Film Office at (517) 373-0239/Direct; (800) 477-3456/Toll-free; or via email at [log in to unmask].

Ideally seeking (PICTURES can be found at www.michiganorganic.msu.edu under the farmer opportunities tab)

1. Large corn/soy farms  - 1,000 to 5,000 acres; Flat; Limited trees so that the horizon is not blocked or cut off.
2. Co-ops with elevators, and one which would have those large mountains of corn.
3. Dirt roads.
4. Small towns which are boarded up, maybe only a post office and a diner

Ramin Bahrani

Born and raised in North Carolina, writer/director Ramin Bahrani is a professor of directing at Columbia University's graduate film program. His films, MAN PUSH CART (2005), CHOP SHOP (2007), GOODBYE SOLO (2008) and PLASTIC BAG (2009) have premiered and screened at Venice, Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto Film Festivals. He has won numerous prizes including the "Someone to Watch" Independent Spirit Award, the FIPRESCI international critics prize for Best Film (GOODBYE SOLO, Venice), and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship. Bahrani has had retrospectives in numerous venues including the MoMA in NYC and La Rochelle in France. Leading American film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade.”

The 2010 North Central Region - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Youth & Youth Educator Grant Call for Proposals is now available!

This grant can help support those working with youth and gardening. This is a great chance to get the agriculture leaders of tomorrow engaged in expanding what they do, offering educational programs, or researching ways to improve current gardening programs.

These grants are a part of the Farmer Rancher Grant Program. Their purpose is to provide opportunities for youth in the North Central Region to learn more about Sustainable Agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, profitable, and socially responsible. A total of approximately $34,000 is available for this program.

There are two options:

1. YOUTH GRANTS. These grants are for on-farm research, demonstration, or education projects by youth ages 8-18. Research and demonstration projects are for hands-on efforts to explore Sustainable Agriculture issues and practices. Education projects can involve teaching others about Sustainable Agriculture or attending a Sustainable Agriculture conference, workshop, or camp. $400 maximum.

2. YOUTH EDUCATOR GRANTS. These are grants for educators to provide programming on sustainable agriculture for youth. $2,000 maximum.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal at: http://www.sare.org/NCRSARE/cfp.htm.

Proposals are due by 4:30 pm, Friday, January 14, 2011 at the NCR-SARE office in Jefferson City, MO.

Questions? Contact Joan Benjamin, Associate Regional Coordinator and Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator, at [log in to unmask] or 573-681-5545 or 800-529-1342. A hard copy or an emailed copy of the call for proposals is also available by contacting Joan Benjamin. There are slight revisions to our calls for proposals each year, which means it is crucial to use the most recent call for proposals.


Now is your chance to apply for the 2010 “Farmers Markets at the Capitol” on Thursday, September 16. 

MIFFS and MIFMA, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), will be hosting this special farmers market for the fourth year on the Capitol Building’s East Lawn in downtown Lansing to raise awareness about the many benefits of fresh, local food to our economy and communities.

The application is now available online at: http://www.mifma.org/vendor-application/. Please read the vendor application form and the event details and information policy before submitting your application. The deadline for accepting applications is Tuesday, August 31st. Be sure to send in all materials before that date. There will be room for roughly 50 farmers and vendors from across the state selling their Michigan-grown and processed goods.

This summer’s markets will also accept Bridge Cards and Project FRESH for the first time, ensuring that all Michigan residents have access to the fresh, local fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods that the markets have to offer.

This year, coordination of these special farmers markets is in transition from MDA to MIFFS and MIFMA. MDA will be partnering with us to make these markets possible again, but will not have funding from a Specialty Crop Block Grant to host the markets as in past years. In that light, there will be a vendor fee this year for those wishing to sell their goods at the market. MIFFS and MIFMA members receive a $20 discount on those vendor fees, making the entry fee $40 and $60 for non-members. Vendors requiring electricity will be responsible for an additional $15 fee. Nonprofit organizations working with the local food movement may also apply for a vendor space for $15.

These markets are an excellent venue for getting Michigan agriculture and local food out in the public eye, and especially in the eyes of legislators and media. The farmers and vendors at these farmers markets last year averaged nearly $700 in sales per vendor in July and $850 in September, ringing up more than $80,000 in total sales for the two markets held at the Capitol in 2009.

For more information, contact Maggie Smith, market coordinator, at 517-432-3381 or [log in to unmask] or visit www.mifma.org.

VENDORS WANTED!! Making it in Michigan MSU Product Center Conference

The Marketplace trade show and your opportunity to market and sell your Michigan products to retailers and food establishments in the state.  This year’s conference is going to have exciting opportunities to be seen and noticed by food industry personnel all looking for new Michigan products and services.  These companies include Meijer, Kroger, Spartan, L&L Food Stores and many others. 

With buyers, distributors, and brokers all looking for new products, this is your once a year opportunity to be seen, do business and secure that sale for the future.  The Marketplace trade show is also an ideal opportunity to meet food service providers, chefs, restaurant owners and event planners looking to find new and interesting products. 

With this great location and easy access, setting up to sell your wares will be a breeze and remember for two lucky vendors it could be the contract of a lifetime with our retail store competition. 

This day will also allow vendors to sell products to conference attendees (around 350 people) of the event and public from the Lansing Area.  Downtown Lansing has a large number of State of Michigan and business community employees that have been invited to come shop during lunch time and the afternoon. 

Vendors will be located in the main exhibition hall and require morning set up. Each booth consists of a 10’ x 10’ space with an 8’ high draping back, 3’ sides, and 8’ skirted table and chair.  Vending is only available to licensed businesses that have product for sale and are ready to start doing business or increasing sales for existing businesses in the state. 

At a cost of only $150.00 to register as a vendor and only 130 booths available for this two opportunity event, the booths will sell out fast!

Register as a vendor: $150.00  http://web2.canr.msu.edu/product/vendor.cfm

Registration as a participant: $60 per person   Registration includes continental breakfast and walking lunch during Trade Show.  http://web2.canr.msu.edu/product/registration.cfm

Opportunity for farm businesses to advertise free!

MarketMaker has introduced a new version that includes several updates.  Check it out at www.mimarketmaker.msu.edu.

This update results from several focus groups that were done around the country, including here in Michigan at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo last December.  The home page for each state is now customized.  The banner for each state has a photo that depicts agriculture in that state.  There are separate sections for businesses and consumers.  There are new areas for business spotlights and Taste of the States.

Businesses can also register to receive Market Place Alerts to be notified when products in which they are interested are added to the Buy/Sell Forum.  They can also sign up for Trade Alerts.  Producers and businesses can be notified of any opportunities and issues relative to their business.

Events for Michigan Organic Farmers and Enthusiasts

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association will be holding its
National Conference: Biodynamics and the Future of Agriculture: Growing the Food Revolution

When: September 30 - October 3, 2010

Where: Chestnut Ridge, NY

Why: Biodynamic farming and gardening looks upon the soil and the farm as living organisms. It regards maintenance and furtherance of soil life as a basic necessity if the soil is to be preserved for generations, and it regards the farm as being true to its essential nature if it can be conceived of as a kind of individual entity in itself — a self-contained individuality. It begins with the ideal concept of the necessary self-containedness of the farm and works with furthering the life of the soil as a primary means by which a farm can become a kind of individuality that progresses and evolves. (Source: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association)

There is a revolution in human values taking place in our midst; some have called it the food revolution. In the face of an increasingly toxic and manipulated food system, countless human beings are waking up and pioneering new approaches to food, farming, health, community and sustainability.

For the past 80 years, biodynamic practitioners have played a key role in seeding this revolution, from helping shape the early organic farming movement, to informing the work of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, to pioneering community supported agriculture (CSA), to demonstrating how to bring health and flavor back to foods like milk and wine.

For more information visit: http://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamic-conference-2010.

Special Events

View Schedule (http://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamic-conference-2010/events)

How: Pre-Conference Workshop: $45 BDA member; $55 non-member
Conference: $165 BDA member; $195 non-member
Meals: $96 all meals with breakfasts; $75 all meals except breakfasts
Biodynamic Food and Wine Tasting: $25 conference attendees, $50 non-conference attendees.

Register online at http://www.threefold.org/BDA_National_Conference_Registration.aspx. For registration questions, please email Lory Widmer at [log in to unmask].

If you would like to access a searchable archive of the all the previous Mich-Organic listserv postings copy this URL and paste in your browser address field http://list.msu.edu/archives/mich-organic.html