Posts Tagged ‘small farms’

The FDA Strikes Again!

Okay, it is Saturday night after a looonnnngggg week at Fedco Trees and an active day of wood-splitting, bee-feeding and maple-tree-tapping but I have to write about this one whether I’m exhausted or not.   The Food and Drug Administration has decided that it hasn’t pissed off enough farmers lately with the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).  An act designed by Monsanto to put small farmers out of business.   Now it is going to make the lives of small livestock owners and brewers more difficult by not allowing an age-old form of recycling.   This is what the Portland Press Herald had to say about the practice:”Maine’s craft brewers and farmers have had a standing agreement for years: After the brewers take malt sugars and flavors from various grains, farmers get the leftovers as cheap, protein-rich feed for their livestock. The breweries offload a waste product without paying to process it or putting it in a landfill.”   Sounds like something that makes a lot of sense, right?   Well the FDA is not getting much of a reputation for common sense these days.

As the mother of a talented amateur brewer who aspires to own a micro-brewery some day and as the owner of a small flock of laying hens, who are damn expensive to feed these days, this pisses me off on two levels.  I wish there were a brewery close enough by to provide me with this nutritious and delicious waste product.  And I hope that this sensible form of reuse will be available to my son if and when he opens up his own brewery (his Maple Syrup Porter alone will support the place, it is that good).  But not if the FDA has its way.  “The agency plans to require brewers to treat the byproduct as animal feed, meaning it would have to be dried and packaged before being fed to animals, or dumped in landfills.”    More expense, more regulation, more $$$ for someone, obviously.   But not  for the small struggling farmer or the people who make the stuff that proves that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Way to go FDA.   Keep it up.   Keep adding more and more onerous regulations to the FSMA rules and you’ll find yourself with a full on farmers revolt on your hands.  And pissed off beer drinkers, too!

SWAT Team Raids Sustainable Farm

This from the Blog “Hang the Bankers” dated 22 Dec 2013:

“At around seven thirty last Friday morning, inhabitants of The Garden of Eden, a small Intentional Community based on Sustainability, were awakened by a SWAT raid conducted by the City of Arlington for suspicion of being a full fledged marijuana growth and trafficking operation. Ultimately only a single arrest was made based on unrelated outstanding traffic violations, a handful of citations were given for city code violations, and zero drug related violations were found.”

Read the whole post and watch the video.   This is scary shit.  Sorry to be Debbie Downer during the holidays.

Got Raw Milk?

Thanks to my friend Heather Retberg for bringing this to my attention.   Listen all the way to the end where he talks about how the government treats farmers with such disrespect.


I also like the bit where he says GMOs are a contamination, too, and should be labeled at least.

The FSMA is Coming, the FSMA is coming!!!!

The deadline for commenting on the Food Safety and Modernization act is fast approaching (November 15th) and a lot of people on the interwebs telling you why you should care.    One of the best, most cogent arguments is made by Brian Snyder on his blog Write to Farm.    Here is the link.   Brian is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the FoodRoutes Network, with my home and office in Centre County, PA. I am also current president of the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations, which represents the entire agricultural community in the state.

But the main reason for this post is to remind folks to send in their comments to the FDA about the proposed rule making.   Do it!


And Now Some Words of Wisdom and a Call to Action

I already (permanently) link to Civil Eats on this blog but just in case you never click that link you should click this one.   It is a piece written by my friend, mentor, partner in activism Bob St. Peter.   This Land is Our Land?   Here’s a quote:  “The American way of land has been this: conquest, enclosure, inheritance, foreclosure, and sale to the highest bidder. And that trend is likely only to get worse. For example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, at the bleeding edge of free-market thinking, has proposed that any corporation anywhere in the world be able to buy as much farm land in his state as it wants. At the moment, there are at least a few restrictions on the kinds of international investors allowed to dabble in Wisconsin farmland, with a 640-acre limit on purchases for firms designated foreign.”

Read all the way to the end.   Bob asks you to pull up a chair and enter the discussion about how we can keep land in the hands of those who will farm it.

At other places in the article it speaks about young people who do not come from a farming background who want to “get their hands dirty” and get back to the land as their parents and grandparents did, however briefly, in the 60′s.    Which brought to mind the newest edition of my own alumni magazine which was it’s “Thirty under 30″ issue.  In this publicity rag from a school known for its schools of medicine, engineering and business there were TWO alums on the list who were doing work in the area of local food.   One was labeled a “Local Food Champion” and the other was someone who works for Slow Food in NYC.   Not bad odds.  Maybe, just maybe, the issues we care so much about are becoming mainstream.   As long as the interest is sincere and not just a coopting of the “right” words then this is a good thing.

Lyme Disease or the FSMA. Which is Worse?

The future of Farmer’s Markets under the FSMA?

So much to talk about after being absent for a while recovering from Lyme Disease.   Yes, thank you global warming, there is an epidemic of Lyme in Maine this summer and I, careful as I am, got bit.  Two months of either extreme pain, terrible fatigue or feeling like my mind had turned to Swiss cheese.   I would not wish it on my worst enemy.   Fortunately I have an excellent primary care provider who treated me promptly and I am well on my way to recovery.

So, enough about me.   What is going on in the world of food politics?   Weeeeelllllllll, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) is what.    Last Monday, the 19th, those of us  farmer types who could trooped down to the armory in Augusta to confront the devil himself, Mr. Monsanto, Michael Taylor in his guise as a Deputy Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner.   Don’t let the seeming reasonableness of his blog post fool you.   this guy does not like, care about or plan to help in any way, small farmers.


Okay, get this, Mike came with a posse.   We counted as many as 20 FDA staffers in his entourage.   Your tax dollars at work.    Staffers who refused to even speak with some of our elected representatives.    Evidently Maine has these folks scared.   Word on the street is that they are opening a THIRD!!!!! FDA office here in our tiny (under 2 million population), rural state because the local food sovereignty movement is so strong here.


Yes, we actually did pass a few of the local food bills through the legislature last year and some of them even got signed into law.    And as much as Mike tries to reassure us that most of the FSMA’s regulations will not apply to our farms because we are so small, it is difficult to believe people whom we KNOW are in the hip pockets of BIG agribusiness.   The lobby that wants to suck all the air out of the room for small farmers so that we are all totally dependent on them for our food.    Dangerous, chemical, monoculture food.   Mr. Monsanto bowing to his corporate masters.

Anyhow down we travelled and spent, as I called it in my testimony, (if you look quick in the linked video you will see me testifying, AMEN sister!) a beautiful haymaking August morning inside telling the government to leave us alone, get out of our business, let Maine feed Maine!!!

Or as Nanny Kennedy put it so eloquently “You know what we’ve figured out here in Maine?   If you poison or kill your customers, it’s damn hard to stay in business.”

Even the amazing Mr. Timberlake is on our side now that he has discovered that it is going to hit the bottom line of his apple business.   I’ve been saying it a lot lately this movement is making for some strange bedfellows.

More, so much more, later.    So glad to have my energy and my brain back.  Cheers!


Local Food Council Talks with its Shovels

Prize Winning Corn at the Common Ground Fair

Prize Winning Corn at the Common Ground Fair

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Waldo County Local Food Council.   I went with trepidation, really afraid that it was going to be just one more meeting with no real action.


But this was a collection of women who are not interested in meeting for the sake of meeting and who really do want to address the issues that stand between local farmers and the people who want to eat their food.


As proof of this one of the women in the group spontaneously created a Facebook page today and she also linked to a TED talk by Ron Finley a garden activist from South Central Los Angeles.


You remember South Central.   I kind of half heartedly blogged about it quite awhile ago, clearly I was not as angry about this tragedy as I should have been. That’s the place where they padlocked and bulldozed the community garden because …..well no one is really sure why it was done except that a selfish land owner was not getting any money for it’s use so the use must be a bad idea.   But one of the many things Ron says may be the closest to the truth of why planting in public and other unused spaces is considered so subversive.   He says “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”   And you know how the government feels about us printing our own money.    Remember, remember, remember.   Kissinger said “he who controls the food, controls the people.”


But perhaps my favorite line from this TED talk is when Ron says “ if you want to meet with me don’t call me to come sit in some cushy chairs and talk.   Come to my garden with your shovel.”    I am very hopeful that the WCLFC will turn out to be a group that does it’s talking with its shovels.

Listeria and Food Safety in the News

100_2115Once again the CDC has to step in when the USDA and FDA fail to “protect” us from food borne illness.    A Listeria outbreak linked to Crave Brothers Les Freres cheese is in the news.    This irritates the hell out of me for many reasons.   I feel badly for the victims and I feel angry that, once again, the food consumers of America are being hoodwinked and bamboozled into believing that these government agencies truly can keep our food supply safe.


The argument we heard again and again at the Maine State Legislature this session; when we were testifying about local food ordinances, raw milk, on-farm poultry processing and other Local Food Rules bills; was this:  we have to have regulation because that is the ONLY way to keep people safe.


Yeah, just like the red, orange, yellow, green Homeland Security warnings kept us safe from the Boston and Newtown tragedies.    Come on folks.   Yes, regulation may, or may not, keep our food safer but there are other ways to accomplish the same goal.   Ways that are not mutually exclusive with regulations.   Go ahead and regulate the big guys.   Knowing that you may or may not succeed in keeping the food supply safe.   But let the little guys alone.   Again, if a farmer is selling her or his goods face-to-face with consumers the chance of the food being crappy or old or contaminated is very, very small.   Farmers who try to pull that will not have many customers so there will be fewer people poisoned.


Oh, and by the way, this is the wording on the ingredients page of the Crave Brothers website: “Cultured Pasteurized Whole Milk, Enzymes, Salt.”   Notice the word pasteurized.   This was not the dangerous RAW milk cheese that so many fear.   The cheese that caused one person to die and another to lose her baby was made from milk that was PASTEURIZED!   The ultimate in safety, right?   Or so we are led to believe.


Buyers beware.   That is the bottom line.   Be aware that the USDA and FDA have, as one of their main missions, keeping the consuming public comfortable with the safety of the general food supply.   They are concerned about food safety, yes, but they are also concerned with perpetuating the wobbly notion that, just because they are regulating and inspecting our food, it is ALWAYS safe.   Keeping the engine of the economy humming along with blissful ignorance.  Keeping the folks at Cargill, Monsanto and the other big agribusinesses happy contributors to political campaigns by regulating and inspecting in the most superficial and least onerous manner possible.


How safe do you feel now?

Control the Food

This is happening in Europe now but it is only a very short hope “across the pond” as they say.   Remember what the war criminal Henry Kissinger said:

Kissinger: “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”

Virtually all plants, vegetable seeds and gardeners to eventually be registered by government    

Most heirloom seeds to be criminalized

A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the “EU Plant Variety Agency.”
It’s called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.
“This law will immediately stop the professional development of vegetable varieties for home gardeners, organic growers, and small-scale market farmers,” said Ben Gabel, vegetable breeder and director of The Real Seed Catalogue. “Home gardeners have really different needs – for example they grow by hand, not machine, and can’t or don’t want to use such powerful chemical sprays. There’s no way to register the varieties suitable for home use as they don’t meet the strict criteria of the Plant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers.”

Learn more:

Good News, Good News, Good News, and then Bad News

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

Hurrah, several local food sovereignty bills have been voted out of the Agriculture committee of the Maine Legislature as “ought to pass.”  Here are some excerpts from the Bangor Daily News article about the work sessions:


“The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation voted that two key bills — LD 1282 and LD 1287 — ought to pass when they are taken up by the full Legislature.

The committee also voted “ought to pass” on several bills aimed at Maine’s poultry industry. LD 218 exempts farmers who grow and slaughter fewer than 1,000 birds annually from state inspection and licensure, as long as they sell the poultry from the farm or deliver to the consumer’s home. LD 259 would allow the owners of slaughterhouses to rent their facilities to other farmers. LD 836 establishes a legal mechanism for the operation of mobile poultry slaughtering facilities.”


Anti GMO rally at the State House.

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

The GMO bill is in work session today.  LD 718.  With the way the Ag committee has voted lately I am very hopeful that this bill will also get a favorable vote.

The bad news is a that the Supreme Court came out with its decision yesterday against the farmer being sued by Monsanto for planting seeds he bought, not from them but, from a local grain elevator.    Okay, okay it was not the best case to take all the way to the high court so we will have to try again.   The OSGATA/Pubpat suit is a good solid suit that we can hope will succeed when it finally makes it way to the top of the judicial pile.


“Although Monsanto and other agrochemical companies assert that they need the current patent system to invent better seeds, the counterargument is that splicing an already existing gene or other DNA into a plant and thereby transferring a new trait to that plant is not a novel invention. A soybean, for example, has more than 46,000 genes. Properties of these genes are the product of centuries of plant breeding and should not, many argue, become the product of a corporation. Instead, these genes should remain in the public domain.”

Here are some other links I’ve been compiling for a while:


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