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Mark Keating's picture

House Farm Bill is Resoundingly Defeated

The journey towards a new Farm Bill took another detour last Thursday when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected by a vote of 234 to 195 the proposal which Republican leadership brought to the floor.

Multiple factors contributed to this outcome: Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the bill which included onerous changes to federal nutrition assistance programs and many Republicans who wanted to see more reform and savings from the commodity programs joined them. The House Agriculture Committee acknowledged when submitting this bill that they had a narrow pathway to passage and in the end, they could not attract enough support to get there.

Karen Adler's picture

More Buzz on Pollinators

In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we are following last week’s post with some great buzz on native bees, courtesy of our friends at The Xerces Society and the Wild Farm Alliance.

While we love European honey bees, and promote practices to ensure their survival and safety, they are, as the name says, not native to North America. Many crops are dependent on honey bees for pollination, but native bees are often better adapted to various climatic conditions than honey bees. Also, some native bees can be more efficient pollinators than honey bees for native American crops such as tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cranberries, and blueberries, as well as many old world orchard crops, such as apples and cherries.

Fast facts on native pollinators:

  • Native bees are more effective than honey bees at distributing pollen.
  • Native bees get to work earlier in the day and put in longer hours.
  • Many native bees are more active in colder and wetter weather: mason and bumble bees fly at lower temperatures than honey bees and work in the rain.
Karen Adler's picture

The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Seeds…

With more than two-thirds of all agricultural plants dependent on insect pollinators, primarily bees, to produce seed, effective pollinator management is important to organic seed producers, especially in light of increasing pressures from two key challenges.

Challenge #1: Genetic contamination of seed crops

Undesirable outcrossing can occur when wind or pollinators transport pollen from an outside source into a seed crop field. This can produce a number of different results for organic seed producers; if two organic varieties are crossed, the result may be a new, undesirable variety, even if organic. However, when the movement occurs between an organic seed crop and a genetically modified seed crop, the result might be a seed crop with the genetically modified trait.

Mark Keating's picture

Fall Bill Seeds Beginning to Sprout…

Driven by strong bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate on Monday night approved its version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27.  The bill renews Washington’s commitment to organic agriculture by reauthorizing three key programs – the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and Organic Data Initiative (ODI) – which were allowed to lapse under the current Farm Bill extension.  The funding for these programs is limited - $16 million annually for OREI, $11.5 annually for NOCCSP and $5 million for ODI over the bill’s five year lifespan – but these are essential investments in the future of organic agriculture.  Similarly, the Senate’s Farm Bill offers modest but meaningful support for a number of vital beginning farmer, conservation and direct marketing initiatives and reforms which stalled during the extension.  The good news overall is that the Senate stepped up to the plate and passed a Farm Bill which validates organic production as an important part of American agriculture’s future.

Karen Adler's picture

The Real Dirt on Organic Farming

This is part 3 of the 3-part series "From the Ground Up: What Does It Mean to be Certified Organic?"

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
--Wendell Berry

Mark Keating's picture

GE Wheat Found Growing Wild in Oregon

On May 29, USDA announced that a western white wheat variety genetically engineered to withstand applications of the herbicide glyphosate (RoundUp©) had been discovered growing wild in an Eastern Oregon field.  The ultimate source of the wheat is no mystery: USDA confirmed that it was the same variety which Monsanto had been authorized to field test in sixteen states, including Oregon, between 1998 and 2005.  What remains unknown is how the wheat, which was never approved for commercial release, migrated from those research fields onto a commercial farm.

Maureen Wilmot's picture

Will Congress have the foresight to pass a bill that supports organics?

“A good hockey player skates to where the puck is, a great hockey player skates to where the puck is going to be.”  - Wayne Gretzky

Last week, the San Jose Mercury newspaper published an article on new research from scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. The report identifies how the brain tracks fast-moving objects. How do those hockey players, baseball batters, and tennis players know where that ball or puck is going to be? How do humans predict the path of moving objects when it can take one-tenth of a second for the brain to process what the eye sees? 

Mark Keating's picture

Deadline for 2013 Conservation Stewardship Program Fast Approaching

Thinking of enrolling your farm or ranch in USDA’s dynamic Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which pays farmers to implement and upgrade a wide variety of conservation practices? CSP is a natural fit for organic farmers because it compensates them for many practices already required by certification including cover cropping, managed grazing, and providing habitat to conserve biodiversity.  If you think CSP could work for you, contact your local NRCS office very soon because the deadline for participating in 2013 will likely close before the end of May.  Submitting some simple paperwork before the deadline allows you more time to work with NRCS and develop your conservation plan.

Mark Keating's picture

Antibiotics on Apples?

Like many others invested in organic agriculture, the decision at last week’s National Organic Standards Board meeting to phase out an antibiotic used in certified apple and pear production may have left you wondering, why was it allowed to begin with? The straightforward answer is that, throughout its history, organic certification has allowed a very small number of materials, even pesticides, that we more often associate with conventional agriculture.

Maureen Wilmot's picture

Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation released a report addressing the need to reduce the use of fumigants in conventional strawberry production. This is old news for organic farmers. Fumigants are gaseous pesticides that are injected into soil before strawberries and other crops are planted, primarily to control fungal pathogens and nematodes. This practice is not allowed in organic production. OFRF has been funding research to determine alternative methods for controlling these pests for organic farmers for more than three years.

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