Stand Up For Your Local Farmers

Support local food sources!

Support local food sources!

When the conventional food system showed its fragility during the COVID shut-downs, local producers kept feeding their communities with high-quality meat, eggs, dairy, and produce.  Artisanal small businesses provide fermented foods, kombucha, and many more foods vital for nourishing our communities.

Yet these local farmers and artisanal producers all too often face unnecessary difficulties created by government regulations, policies, and programs.

Now we have a rare opportunity to urge USDA to change!  The disruptions in the food system over the last year have led President Biden to direct the USDA to submit a report that assesses the supply chains for the production of agricultural commodities and food products.

As part of developing that report, USDA is accepting public comments on “Supply Chains for the Production of Agricultural Commodities and Food Products” until June 21.  The agency will also consider the public comments in its decision on how to spend stimulus funds, since it has been directed to increase durability and resilience within the U.S. food supply.

This is an important opportunity to talk about the significance of localized, decentralized food systems – and to give the agency specific action steps that would help move us to those systems!

In writing your comments, please try to include (1) examples of the challenges farmers and other food producers face in raising, processing, and marketing their products; and (2) specific action items that would help small-scale and diversified producers to build resilient, diversified systems.

Note that the USDA cannot change statutory law.  So issues such as the requirement that meat be processed in an inspected slaughterhouse are outside the scope of this comment period.  But the agency can change its own regulations, policies, and where it directs funding – so there is a lot that it can do to address problems with that meat inspection program, for example.

Topics to consider including in your comments:

  1. Meat processing: USDA should take steps to support the continuation and establishment of new small- and mid-sized operations.
    1. Share your own story about meat processing. Farmers: Were you able to provide meat during the meatpacker shutdowns last spring? Or have you been unable to because of a lack of processing? Consumers: What did you see during the pandemic? From whom did you get meat?
    1. As a small farmer or processor, what changes do you think are needed? Remember to focus on things that are in the regulations and policies, as well as direct relief funding for financial support, not statutory changes that are beyond the agency’s ability to change.
    1. Consider expressing support for these policy changes:
      1. Revise USDA’s policy governing multiple owners of animals that are processed in custom-exempt slaughterhouses. The USDA currently requires that the custom slaughterhouse record each owner and do the division of the meat, which makes it impractical for more than 4 people to co-own an animal. But the statute and regulations merely provide that the meat must be for the personal or household use of the owners. If USDA modified its policy, then “animal shares” could be far more flexible, allowing farmers and consumers to agree to use custom processors.  In effect, we could implement the Wyoming herd share law without the need for new state statutes if USDA makes a simple policy change.
      1. Reform the scale-prejudicial regulations and policies on small-scale slaughterhouses, including: (1) prioritize inspector availability for small-scale processors and provide training specific to small-scale processors; (2) revise the pathogen testing and process-control testing to ensure that small plants are tested proportionally to large plants; (3) reduce the difficulty and expense in developing HACCPs by providing model HACCPs, posting applicable peer-reviewed research, and identifying the control points for different types of products.
  • The agency needs to stop adopting regulations and policies that are scale-prejudicial.  For example, electronic animal ID is much more expensive for small-scale producers, yet the benefits flow to the large players and exporters.
    • Share your concerns about electronic ID, both its impact on you and on others in the industry. Do you run your animals in pasture conditions where they are more likely to lose tags, increasing the time and monetary expense? Does your local sale barn have infrastructure for running all electronic ID or would it be forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to install it? Would your veterinarian have to buy new equipment to deal with an electronic system?
  • Other areas of needed infrastructure, whether physical (such as commercial kitchens and storage) or logistical (support for food hubs, farmers markets, etc.): What do you see as needed to build resilient, vibrant local food systems? Again, this can involve changing regulations, policy and guidance documents, or providing funding through USDA programs.

You can submit your comment online at

https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/AMS-TM-21-0034-0076

DEADLINE: Monday, June 21

from:    https://www.westonaprice.org/support-local-food-sources/

USDA Censorship, Bee Populations, Corporate Lobbying

Is the USDA Just a Corporate Lobbyist Group?

Story at-a-glance

  • The USDA has come under increasing scrutiny following charges of harassment and censorship. Due to mounting complaints from scientists, the USDA inspector general is opening an investigation.
  • USDA whistleblower Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., claims he was retaliated against when he started talking about his research, which shows neonicotinoids cause decline in bee and Monarch butterfly populations.
  • Krysta Harden, former deputy secretary of the USDA, has been hired by chemical giant DuPont to head up its “public policy and government affairs strategies” department

By Dr. Mercola

Many, if not most, of our regulatory agencies have a long history of protecting industry interests over public and environmental health. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come under increasing scrutiny following mounting charges of harassment and censorship.

In the first week of November 2015, Jonathan Lundgren, who spent the last 11 years working as an entomologist at the USDA, filed a whistleblower complaint against the agency, claiming he’d suffered retaliation after speaking out about research showing that neonicotinoids had adverse effects on bees.1

In the U.S., nearly all corn, about 90 percent of canola, and approximately half of all soybeans are treated with neonicotinoids. As the use of these pesticides has gone up, bee and Monarch butterfly populations have plummeted.

After publicly discussing his findings, Lundgren claims that “USDA managers blocked publication of his research, barred him from talking to the media, and disrupted operations at the laboratory he oversaw.”

The Washington Post recently published an article that details Lundgren’s complaints and the retaliation waged against him.2

According to Agri-Pulse,3 the Agriculture Department’s inspector general, Phyllis Fong, has now received so many complaints about harassment and censorship, she’s opening a broad investigation to assess “whether there is a systemic problem in the department.”

Charges of Censorship Mount Against USDA

Food and Water Watch4 recently followed up on this issue, noting that “when independent, government scientists produce research that threatens corporate agribusinesses, the USDA — according to at least 10 government scientists — censors the results, waters down the findings and punishes the researchers.”

Jonathan Lundgren is one of these 10 scientists. The other 9 have all chosen to remain anonymous for fear of even more reprisals.

Lundgren’s research at the USDA shows that neonicotinoids are instrumental in the decline of bee and Monarch butterfly populations. But his work, and his criticism against factory farming, goes even deeper than that.

He has become convinced and has spoken out about the fact that toxic insecticides like neonics are not some sort of necessary evil. We don’t actually need these types of chemicals at all in agriculture.

As he notes in the video above, organic or regenerative farming actually produces higher yields and requires less land. This, I believe, even more so than his critique of neonics, poses a major threat to corporate agribusinesses.

It does not, however, detract from the USDA’s mission, which is why the agency’s mistreatment of scientists like Lundgren is so revealing.

Whistleblower Sets Up Nonprofit Science Lab and Sustainable Farm

Fortunately, Lundgren has become very outspoken about his whistleblower suit. So much so, the Shafeek Nader Trust presented him with a civic courage award last November, for taking an open stand against the USDA.

Moving forward, he’s also setting up two new businesses: Blue Dasher Farm, which he intends to be a model for large-scale sustainable farming using crop diversity and other regenerative methods, and Ecdysis, a nonprofit science lab for independent research.

According to Lundgren:5 “I don’t think science can be done, at least on this subject, in any of the conventional ways. I think we need truly independent scientists — not funded by government or industry.”

USDA Policy Encourages Suppression of Unpopular Science

This charge was made by Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who on March 26, 2015 filed a Petition For Rulemaking with the Secretary of Agriculture.6 (PEER is also the alliance representing Lundgren’s whistleblower case.) In it, he notes that:

“The stated purpose of USDA’s scientific integrity policy is to ensure ‘the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes and analyses.’

However, the Policy fails to clearly prohibit political suppression and interference. While the Policy defines political suppression and interference, it does not include these acts in its definition of misconduct.

The USDA, by its own admission, has yet to develop procedures for handling scientific integrity complaints. To compound the problem, an overly broad provision within the Policy actively encourages USDA to suppress scientific work for political reasons.

The provision states that scientists “should refrain from making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal government policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.”

USDA management routinely relies up this vague but expansively worded provision a pretext for suppressing technical work solely because the scientific conclusions expressed draw the ire of USDA corporate stakeholders.”

The Case of USDA Scientist Jeffery Pettis

The case of Jeffery Pettis adds even more weight to the notion that there’s a definitive agenda at work within the USDA to officially downplay any risks associated with neonicotinoids.

Pettis, who like Lundgren is an entymologist, headed up the USDA’s bee laboratory in Beltsville for 9 years. His career was suddenly derailed after he presented testimony about neonics before the House Agriculture Committee in the spring of 2014. As reported by The Washington Post:7

“Pettis had developed what he describes as a ‘significant’ line of research showing that neonics compromise bee immunity.

But in his opening remarks before Congress, he focused on the threat posed by the varroa mite, often put forward by chemical company representatives as the main culprit behind bee deaths.

Only under questioning by subcommittee Chairman Austin Scott (R-Ga.) did Pettis shift. Even if varroa were eliminated tomorrow, he told Scott, ‘we’d still have a problem.’ Neonics raise pesticide concerns for bees ‘to a new level,’ he said. About two months later, Pettis was demoted, losing all management responsibilities for the Beltsville lab ….

Pettis said, the USDA’s congressional liaison told him that the Agriculture Committee wanted him to restrict his testimony to the varroa mite. ‘In my naivete,’ he said, ‘I thought there were going to be other people addressing different parts of the pie. I felt used by the whole process, used by Congress.’

The hearing was ‘heavily weighted toward industry,’ he said, ‘and they tried to use me as a scientist, as a way of saying, ‘See, it’s the varroa mite,’ when that’s not how I see it.’…He said he walked up to Scott afterward, to make small talk, and the congressman ‘said something about how I hadn’t ‘followed the script.'”

Is USDA Shielding Corporations Like Monsanto?

While you would think that the USDA exists to protect you against the vagaries of industry, this is not the case. The chemical and agricultural industries spend millions of dollars to lobby for regulations that are favorable to them, and there’s a constantly revolving door between the agency and private corporations.

For example, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is widely regarded as a shill for Monsanto, and he’s always been a strong supporter of genetically engineered (GE) crops, regardless of the scientific evidence against it.

The undemocratic and highly unpopular 2005 seed pre-emption bill was also Vilsack’s brainchild. The law stripped local government’s right to regulated GE seed, including where GE can be grown. Overall, Vilsack’s record is one of aiding and abetting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and promoting both genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and animal cloning.

Roger Beachy is another example. Between 2009 and 2011, he was the head of National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the USDA’s main research arm, and he too is a proponent of GMOs, and has ties to Monsanto. As reported in a previous Grist article:8

“In his short stint at USDA, Beachy never hid his enthusiasm for ag biotechnology — or his disdain for organic ag. When I … asked him about funding for organic research, he came up with a novel slander against synthetics-free ag: ‘I’m concerned about the safety of organic food … I’m concerned about the issue of microbial contamination with organic.'”

To get an idea of just how broad and deep Monsanto’s reach is, take a look at the following chart. Over the years, this biotech giant has successfully infiltrated an ever increasing number of high-level federal regulatory positions in the U.S. government; many of which are positions meant to protect your food safety, including a number of top positions within the USDA.

Top USDA Official Goes to Work for DuPont

The most recent person to walk their way through the revolving door between government and industry is Krysta Harden, who spent over 6 years at the USDA — first as chief of staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack, and then deputy secretary. She’s  been hired by chemical giant DuPont to head up its “public policy and government affairs strategies” department. You would think this activity would be illegal and prohibited but it is actually encouraged.

The New York Times recently published an in-depth exposé9 on the legal battle fought against DuPont for the past 15 years over PFOA contamination and its toxic effects. The Intercept also published a three-part exposé10 titled “The Teflon Toxin: Dupont and the Chemistry of Deception” last year, detailing DuPont’s history of covering up the facts.

Earlier this month, they came out with a fourth part in the series,11 covering DuPont’s contamination of the Cape Fear River with “a new generation of replacement compounds” that likely have “the same chemical performance properties as the older generation of PFCs.”

DuPont is now working on a merger with Dow, and once the merger is completed, that chemical-seed company will be even larger than Monsanto. Considering DuPont’s history of covering up the toxic effects of their products, this gigantic entity is going to Monsanto in terms of being a serious threat, and the most perniciously evil company on the planet.

Federal Agencies Aid and Abet Corporate Stronghold

to read the remainder of he article, go here:    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/22/usda-corporate-lobbyist-group.aspx?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20160322Z1&et_cid=DM100981&et_rid=1410751387

USDA Introducing Non-GMO Label

Huge Victory: USDA Introduces Official Non-GMO Label

Government to launch first non-GMO label
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Mike Barrett
by Mike Barrett
Posted on May 14, 2015

For years the public has been asking the U.S. government to institute mandatory labeling for any products containing genetically modified ingredients. Now, in response to the sounds of public outcry and vital activism, the United States Department of Agriculture is being forced to do something. The agency has developed a new government certification which companies can use to show that the product is completely free of GMOs.

Though the food advancement is arguably just tip-toeing around mandatory GMO labeling, it is definitely a sign that our government agencies are being forced to listen to our collective voice, and that they are really recognizing that there needs to be something in place that can clearly differentiate GMO-riddled and non-GM foods.

Currently, companies have the option to use either the non-profit Non-GMO Project’s verified seal, developed in 2007, or the USDA’s certified organic label. The difference with the newly-created USDA certification and these seals, however, is that the new seal is government-certified (the Non-GMO Project seal isn’t), and the USDA Organic seal comes with many more strict food rules than just being GMO-free. In other words, not all GMO-free foods are 100% organic.

“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the department’s plan in a May 1 letter to employees, saying the certification was being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

…Vilsack said the USDA certification is being created through the department’s Agriculture Marketing Service, which works with interested companies to certify the accuracy of the claims they are making on food packages — think “humanely raised” or “no antibiotics ever.” Companies pay the Agricultural Marketing Service to verify a claim, and if approved, they can market the foods with the USDA process verified label.”

The new seal is voluntary, and companies would have to pay for it. The food products adopting the label would have a seal that says “USDA Process Verified” with a claim that it is free of GMOs.

“Recently, a leading global company asked AMS to help verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered so that the company could label the products as such,” Vilsack wrote in the letter. “AMS worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-GE claim.”

Vilsack said in the letter that the certification “will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”

The downside of the USDA label is that it goes hand-in-hand with bills that are designed to block mandatory GMO labeling efforts across the country. A bill that was introduced last year provided the USDA cert, but wouldn’t make it mandatory – AND the bill would override any states laws that the citizens fought so hard for. An example can be seen with Vermont’s recent passing of a mandatory GMO labeling bill that will go into effect next year.

However, with the complications of a national food system, I see this seal as a victory. As long as the seal is attainable and doesn’t cost caring companies an exuberant amount of money to implement, it will be enough to clearly show which companies care enough to go GMO-free and which companies choose to use GMO ingredients.

Thanks to your vital activism and voice, the government is finally seeing that something needs to be done about GMOs in our food, and that is good news.