Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

I don't know if you are as creeped out about the idea that the milk and meat we buy could be from cloned animals but we don't have the right to know about it. That sounds an awful lot about our agricultural and consumer policies towards GM crops, AKA frankenfoods that contaminate the countryside for up to 15 years after they have been harvested.

Don't worry, be happy! Those things probably aren't any worse than Mad Cow Disease that can incubate silently for 30 years before it starts turning you into a drooling incontinent mass of confused flesh who will need 24 hour nursing care to get through the last painful, degrading weeks and months of your life.

Fear not! Our government has fully and completely embraced the risk and the probability of a future jam packed with jellied Jills and Joes who will be incapable of wiping our own noses or rolling out of our own feces. We so fearless that we are putting the hurt on Japan to play along. Or else.

We love the risk so much that we do not allow people to test their own cattle. You cannot legally test your own cattle for the diseas. There is an organic cattle ranch in Oklahoma that had to lay off 150 employees as a result of USDA interfearance because

Such plans have drawn fire from many in the beef industry who believe the tests would amount to an added cost burden. While some other small meat packers have endorsed Creekstone's efforts, major producers and processors believe Creekstone's plan would set a bad precedent and potentially leave consumers unsettled.


What you can do depends on who you are; Matt has the must read story that is sure to make your spine tingle, but don't fret about mad cows in pig feed.

You can always go organic, but what does that really mean?

ACTION ALERT

USDA's organic program sides with factory dairy farms

Ask Secretary Johanns to intervene

Note: this is not an issue that the Center for Rural Affairs works on
directly. However, it is an important issue and one that we think you
should be informed about. If this is not addressed it could set a very ugly
precedent not only for the organic community, but for all niche markets. WE
MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE!!

Way back in the year 2000, concerned consumers and farmers asked the
National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to address a new and troubling
trend-factory farms producing "organic" milk in confinement conditions.

The board responded in 2001 by adopting a guidance document that would have
helped farmers and certifiers understand what is expected of them and
closed loopholes being exploited by industrial-scale farms. The USDA sat
on this document, never posting it on their web site or enforcing its
provisions.

This spring The Cornucopia Institute filed legal complaints with the USDA
alleging that a growing number of factory farms were ignoring the organic
law that requires ruminants (dairy cows) to have "access to pasture." The
Center for Rural Affairs signed on to their complaints to prevent large
corporate type farms from capturing a market that most farmers and most
consumers would like to be retained by family farms. Finally, after years
of delay, the USDA asked the NOSB to revisit their recommendations. The
board responded by passing a rule change and new guidance document.

Again! The USDA has thrown a monkey wrench into enforcing organic
integrity. They rejected the language adopted unanimously by the NOSB, a
respected and diverse expert advisory panel (saying it was "ambiguous"),
and now have refused to allow the board to vote on new language at their
next meeting this November. Years of delays continue as the factory farms
expand.

Farmers and Consumers Have Lost Their Patience

No More USDA Foot Dragging!

No more delays can be tolerated! The USDA allotted two hours for more
public comments at November's meeting but has forbidden the NOSB from
taking a vote and adopting final rule change language. The bureaucrats and
the corporate farm operators know very well that this will be the last
meeting for NOSB Chairman Jim Riddle and a number of other experienced
board leaders, whose terms are ending. These folks have been the champions
of cracking down on factory-farm abuses in the dairy industry. Public
comments can be submitted prior to the meeting, reserving the two-hour time
slot for board action on this issue.

Please send a message to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns appealing for the
Secretary to step in and demand that the will of the people, as evidenced
by thousands of comments, letters, and petitions in support of pasture
enforcement, not be subordinated to corporate interests.

Letters and e-mails can be directed to: USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, 1400
Independence Ave SW, Whitten Building - Suite 200A, Washington, DC 20250,
agsec@usda.gov.

A sample letter has been included for your use. If you need additional
assistance, please contact Traci Bruckner at the Center for Rural Affairs
by emailing tracib@cfra.org or by calling (402) 687-2103, Ext. 1016.


SAMPLE LETTER

Secretary Mike Johanns
United States Department of Agriculture
Whitten Building - Suite 200A
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Johanns,

For over five years, thousands of farmers and consumers, through public
testimony, formal written comments, letters, e-mails, and petitions, have
communicated with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the
National Organic Program (NOP), articulating grave concern over the growing
trend of organic milk production from massive factory farms (3000-5000 milk
cows plus young stock).

At issue are a handful of large farms in the arid West that are producing
milk on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), allowing their
animals only token access to pasture.

Even though the organic regulations (§ 205.239) require producers to
"maintain livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and
natural behavior of animals, including…access to pasture for ruminants"
these corporate farm operators are gaming the system and putting
family-scale farmers at a serious competitive disadvantage.

NOP staff have come under criticism for rejecting a draft rule change that
was promulgated by the NOSB and unanimously adopted by that expert body.
Crafted only after careful consideration and significant public input, the
rule change would have tightened regulatory language requiring cows to
actually "graze"-rather than strictly just have access to pasture-and to
very specifically require lactating cows to be pastured, not just young
stock and dry cows, as has been the alleged practice on some
industrial-scale farms.

Instead of collaborating with NOSB members to promulgate language that
would allay the staff's concerns, while continuing to respect the spirit of
the original language, the NOP has scheduled one more in a series of public
comment sessions to garner additional input. After five years of earnest
participation in the rule making process, organic dairy producers and
consumers are unwilling to go to the expense of making one more trek to
Washington. All stakeholders have had ample opportunity to participate to
date.

If additional public comments focusing on specific staff questions are
justified, the Department could certainly accept written input prior to the
meeting and still allow for the NOSB to act at their forthcoming meeting.
Chairman Jim Riddle has publicly stated, "If scheduled, we will be prepared
to take final action on the rule change."

We appeal to you, Mr. Secretary, to personally intervene and assure that
pasture is back on the November NOSB meeting agenda so that final
regulatory language can be adopted. We need you to partner with the
organic community to protect the integrity of organic farming and food.
Respectfully yours,


SIGNATURE:

NAME (please print):
ADDRESS:

E-MAIL ADDRESS:
FARMER/CONSUMER/OTHER (please specify):


CDFA notice was reprinted in full.
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