Thursday, May 14, 2009

100 Days Of Obama Agriculture Policy: Everything But The Kitchen Sink

The following is from the Obama Foodorama blog A Daily Diary of The Obama Foodscape, One Bipartisan Byte At A Time

There's a single word for President Obama and Ag policy in the first 100 days: Unprecedented.

It's now fairly obvious that the President is in firm possession of the deep understanding that food and Ag policy is connected to everything, that it's the critical starting point for every policy discussion. Whether it's green recovery, health care, the economy, the credit markets, homeland security, etc, Ag policy is entangled with and impacts every other area of policy the President is addressing. Obama has surrounded himself with cutting-edge thinkers who are savvy multi-taskers, who also manage to work food and Ag into their platforms, even when their jobs ostensibly have nothing to do with food and Ag policy. A few examples: Steven Chu, the Energy Secretary, has publicly worried that climate change is going to rapidly decimate California Ag and vineyards. Van Jones, the Green Collar advisor for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has big plans for greenroof food gardens in urban areas, and eventually even the White House (giving new meaning to "small" and "local" farming). Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who has a long resume in social justice, will be crucial for creating a just food economy, in which we do not rely on migrant or slave labor, and even the poorest among us have access to good, nutritious food. We have Kathleen Sebelius, the newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services, who still happens to be the governor of Kansas (pictured last night after being confirmed). Just days ago, Governor Sebelius, ethical foodist, made a crucial legislative veto regarding hormone labeling on milk, back in her home state. We have Rahm Emanuel, secret foodist, who's walking around the Hill debating farm subsidies (and carbon credits, for that matter); and his brother Zeke, health policy advisor for the President, who moonlights as a restaurant critic.

And of course there's Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Perhaps the busiest man in the administration next to the President himself, Secretary Vilsack has gone from admitting he didn't know how many people worked for him at USDA, waaaay back on day four of the Obama era, to making rapid changes in how the USDA runs, where the money goes, and what the agency's focus will be, in accordance with the President's directives. Secretary Vilsack seems to be super smart and creative, and while he'll you that he's not a farmer and doesn't have a farming background, his particular skill set is incredible if we think about the bigger future of agriculture. The USDA has suddenly become the new new energy department--and while this may seem like a disconnect from Ag policy, it's critical for the project of divorcing ourselves from fossil fuels, which is the only way we'll ever have true changes in the Ag economy, and move toward a more sustainable model...which of course leads to true changes in our environment, and the larger economy. Sec V has long experience with alternative energies, he's a big proponent of Corn Ethanol, a controversial biofuel; and he accompanied the President to Iowa on Earth Day, to promote wind energy. He's making huge changes in infrastructure and promoting the Green Recovery, he's dealing with food labeling and food safety, he traveled to the G8 in Italy to discuss hunger issues. And also like the President and First Lady, Secretary Vilsack has become crucial to children's health issues, because a huge part of USDA's budget goes toward nutrition programs. Sec V has also planted an organic garden---an unexpected turn of events, and he didn't stop there. The landscaping for the entire six-acre USDA complex on the National Mall will become organic. And everyone's getting in on the gardening thing: the President planted trees on April 21, with former President Bill Clinton and the First Lady, at the Kenilworth Aquatic Garden. And, lest we forget, Sec V also joined the First Lady when she was planting her own Kitchen Garden (in pic). He's donating USDA bees to the White House beehive. Sec V is sort of thrilling these days.

Great Blog
Obama Foodorama

Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto's Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head Would be a Terrible Idea
Organic Consumers Association, November 12, 2008

1. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:

2. The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership.

3. When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

4. Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government's possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.

5. Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack's history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack

The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto's jet.

6. Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.

The Colbert Report interview

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Michael Pollan On Vilsack, Agriculture — And Food

Daniel Wolf (Clodhopper) wrote:

As a lifelong American farmer, I listened with keen interest to Renee's interview with Michael Pollan. He talked about his disappointment with Obama's selection of former Iowa Gov. Vilsack as agriculture secretary. He views it as a loss of a golden opportunity to mold the process of producing bountiful, nourishing, and above all affordable food into a form he would be happy with. There was a taste of sour grapes to the interview, perhaps because Mr. Pollan missed his chance to be secretary of food. To appease him, perhaps he could receive a consolation prize. How about an all-expenses-paid trip to Zimbabwe to view first-hand the likely results of his proposed policies. Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:04:56 PM


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Here goes an article in the DenverPost, Grow section, Walking the talk on turning turf into tomatoes Two urban farm pioneers tell you how. The article starts out like a pitch for Heather Flores book "Food not Lawns" (Check previous post). "Book sales are speeding up," she said. "Maybe it's because of the ecological crisis or maybe it's because of the nationwide awakening to taking a wrong turn a few years ago." Fortunately the article stops talking about book sales, and focuses on Nash Kipp from Community roots. I am Glad, Kipp mentions the "mud" factor here, "Gardeners need to be thoughtful and consider the fact that most vegetable gardens aren't beautiful and bountiful all year long. One of the big issues is the aesthetics of a front-yard garden and how to keep the yard in good shape in winter, when it's likely to be muddy". Its a pleasure to see the the garden grow from in these pictures and the video. (Check out the video found in previous post)

The second article, Garden takes root in barren yard CRUG borrows land for crops is about a neighbors experience with Kipp and his gang of CRUGs (Community Roots Urban Gardeners)

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.

Community Roots is an innovative Neighborhood Supported Agriculture model in Boulder, Colorado, bringing local food production and distribution into urban settings. This 3 ½ year old urban farming project was created by farmer Kipp Nash, who has successfully converted 13 front and back yards, and church lawns into vegetable gardens for neighbors and CSA shareholders, with surplus for the Boulder Farmer’s Market and food for families in need - while creating increased community connections among neighbors at the same time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cosponsors of HR 875

Cosponsors [as of 2009-04-18]
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger [D-MD]

** Contact your representatives AND local newspaper:
** Another easy way to contact your representatives:

H.R. 875 Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

I have no doubt that this legislation was heavily influenced by lobbyists from huge food producers. This legislation is so broad based that technically someone with a little backyard garden could get fined and have their property siezed. It will affect anyone who produces food even if they do not sell but only consume it. It will literally put all independent farmers and food producers out of business due to the huge amounts of money it will take to conform to factory farming methods. If people choose to farm without industry standards such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers they will be subject to a vareity of harassment from this completely new agency that has never before existed. That's right, a whole new government agency is being created just to police food, for our own protection of course.

DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, READ THIS LEGISLATION FOR YOURSELF. The more people who read this legislation the more insight we are going to get and be able to share. Post your observations and insights below. Urge your members to read this legislation and to oppose the passage of this legislation.

Pay special attention to

  • Section 3 which is the definitions portion of the bill-read in it's entirety.
  • section 103, 206 and 207- read in it's entirety.

Red flags I found and I am sure there are more...........

  • Legally binds state agriculture depts to enforcing federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal dept.
  • Effectively criminalizes organic farming but doesn't actually use the word organic.
  • Affects anyone growing food even if they are not selling it but consuming it.
  • Affects anyone producing meat of any kind including the processing wild game for personal consumption.
  • Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal. There are no specifics which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.
  • Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation. It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation. Who do you think they are going to side with?
  • Section 206 defines what will be considered a food production facility and what will be enforced up all food production facilities. The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.
  • Section 207 requires that the state's agriculture dept act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements. This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment.

Text of H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

H.R. 875 Food Satey Modenization Act of 2009

H.R. 875:
111th Congress
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.

Summary | Full Text
Occurred: IntroducedFeb 4, 2009
Occurred: Referred to CommitteeView Committee Assignments
Not Yet Occurred: Reported by Committee...
Not Yet Occurred: Voted on in House...
Not Yet Occurred: Voted on in Senate...
Not Yet Occurred: Signed by President...
This bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee. [Last Updated: Apr 18, 2009 5:20PM]
Last Action:
Feb 4, 2009: Referred to House Agriculture
See the Related Legislation page for other bills related to this one and a list of subject terms that have been applied to this bill. Sometimes the text of one bill or resolution is incorporated into another, and in those cases the original bill or resolution, as it would appear here, would seem to be abandoned.

Seeds of Destruction

Travis Says:

My father and I were turned in to monsanto for saving seed eventhough we were not planting Roundup Ready Gmo Soybeans. We figure it was a neighbor who we had confrontations with over drainage rights to a farm. We were investigate by Pinkerington thugs who made my father sign a paper giving them access to all our buildings, farms, farm records, gov records etc.. They acted like they had concealed weapons, as if they were cops, and said, “You will sign these papers or Monsanto will sue you, you will lose and Monsanto takes pride in How Many farmers they have Bankrupted!! ” Then they laughed. Monsanto found that we were doing nothing wrong, but never sent us a specific letter saying they were sorry, But instead said, “We must make sure all farmers are playing on a level playing field and we would appreciate you business in the future.” We tried to get the names of the person or persons who falsley accused us of this misdeed so that we could sue them for defimation of character, but Monsanto refused and said that they don’t keep track of that. You cant imagine how much stress this caused us over a six month period eventhough we knew we were innocent. We were so scared that the next year we bought all Gmo seed, so that we weren’t risking losing everything. By the way we grain farmed 1800 acres. Monsanto has ruined farming and put the control in the hands of the corporations. This took place 4yrs ago. I thought I lived in a free country until this happened. Now I feel like it is Nazi Germany. I bet the person who turned us in got a free jacket or some seed. How pathetic. If you want to get your neighbors farmland or ruin his reputation, just turn him in to Monsanto. One, last thing, Monsanto has built spy facilities in every farm comunity took keep records about farmers purchases, but they disguise them as research facilities.


Stephen Colbert Takes a Crack at Monsanto and the Pesticide Lobby

"If we don't douse our crops with glyphosate, how will the runoff get into our fish?" Colbert asks, in response to news that pesticide industry representatives were horrified to learn that Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden was going to be organic.

Glenn Beck is a very annoying person, but this video is worth a watch. Debbie Stockton, representing the National Independent Consumers & Farmers Association, talks about the possible ramifications of HR 875.

We have descended into the garden and caught three hundred slugs. How I love the mixture of the beautiful and the squalid in gardening. It makes it so lifelike. ~Evelyn Underhill, Letters


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Tragedy of Fritz Haber Nobel Laureate Transformed World Food Production, War

-- A quick quiz: What's the most important invention of the last few centuries? Electricity? Cars? Computers? Consider a far more obscure innovation: the process for turning air into nitrogen fertilizer. German chemist Fritz Haber won a Nobel Prize for the discovery in 1918. Without it, the Earth wouldn't be able to support its current population.

audio icon Listen to Dan Charles' report: Part 1 | Part 2

Fritz Haber's first wife Clara Immerwahr, was the first women to attain a Ph.D in Chemistry, (1900, University of Breslau). Clara quit her job as a chemist (reportedly she was a good one) to be a good housewife to Fritz Haber. Her maiden name Immerwahr literally translates to "always true". She believed that science should be used for constructive purposes, not to make weapons of mass destruction. Fritz Haber tried to keep Clara in the dark about his work on poison gas. In December 1914, however, there was an explosion in the lab, and one of the workers, a Professor Sachur, was hurt. Clara rushed to Sachur, who was an old friend that in fact she had introduced to her husband. The man died. Clara made her objections to her husband's work plain, but Fritz continued his work on chemical weapons. Their marriage degenerated into warfare. The startling thing about Haber's work on chemical weapons is that he did it on his own initiative. In fact, he approached the German military at the end of 1914 to sell them on poison gas, but the military had no great respect for scientists, and poison gases seemed unsporting anyway. Haber nonetheless convinced them to watch a demonstration, conducted at a military testing ground outside Cologne. Clara was present, and her loathing of her husband's activities increased.

After the first application of the chemical weapons, the German papers were enthusiastic over the effectiveness of poison gas, and some even claimed that gas weapons were more humane than bullets and shells. Haber was promoted to captain. He threw a dinner party to celebrate. Clara Haber was not in a congratulatory mood. They had a furious argument that evening, with Clara accusing Fritz of perverting science. He called her a traitor to Germany. Her verbal protests could not sway her husband. That night, she took his army pistol and shot herself through the heart in the garden of their house. Fritz Haber left for the Eastern Front the next day, leaving his wife's funeral arrangements to others. Later Haber found himself another, less squeamish wife.

Malthusian catastrophe? Zyklon B?

LocalHarvest Newsletter, April 28, 2009

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

We are often asked to estimate the total number of CSAs nationwide, and until now we have always said that no one knows, because the federal government does not track this number. Usually, we've gone on to guess that our database includes perhaps 70-80% of the country’s CSAs. We are proud of the CSA portion of the LocalHarvest database. As of today, it includes 2,727 CSAs.

Recently the feds took a crack at a national number, through a question on the Agricultural Census. And we were astounded by the results. It turns out that 12,549 farmers told the government that they marketed their products through a CSA in 2007.

Yes, 12,549. is a great resource for anyone who interested in CSA. With two new pages on the LocalHarvest site: How to Visit a Farm, and How to Choose a CSA. Wither you raise a CSA or you want to learn more about CSA, there can't be a better resource. Coming soon, How to Shop at a Farmers Market.

Real food, Real farmers, Real Community

Grant Family Farms CSA (Wellington,CO) LocalHarvest Sponsor! 9 Reviews
We grow all your summer through fall favorites of vegetables, fruits and flowers as well as offering farm raised pastured eggs, chickens, turkeys, duck, goose, lamb and goat. We have conveinent weekly pickup locations throughout the front range from Southern Wyoming to Colorado Springs and all the areas in between. (more...)
Monroe Organic Farms (Kersey,CO) 2 Reviews
Members pick up their shares at one of 23 locations including 10 in the Denver Metro area, 4 locations in Boulder, 2 in Ft. Collins and 1 location in Bailey, Broomfield, Longmont, Louisville, Evergreen, Steamboat and at the farm near Greeley. See website for details at
Lora's Nourishing Produce (Denver,CO) 0 Reviews
Lora's Nourishing Produce is a direct produce delivery service to Metro Denver, Colorado. We have two options for receiving fresh produce. Check them out and see which one fits your needs!

Custom Produce Member: It is similar to a CSA in that you get your produce straight from harvest to your table but it is different in that you pick exactly what you want harvested for you and it is delivered to the drop off location. (more...)

Sense of Colorado (Denver,CO) LocalHarvest Sponsor! 0 Reviews
Our sustainably grown produce is grown, harvested and distributed from Denver area yards.
Ela Family Farms (Hotchkiss,CO) 0 Reviews
Ela Family Farms partners with organic vegetable growers to diversify the offerings of small farm CSAs. We also offer a fruit CSA pick-up at our City Park, South Pearl and Ft. Collins farmer's market locations. Each week during our fruit harvest, members recieve a bag or two of whatever fruit is coming off the trees at that time. (more...)
Eastern Plains Natural Food Co-op (Bennett,CO) 0 Reviews
Members pick up their oders at various times of the year, when the poultry products are available. Turkeys and geese are available in the fall, chickens in mid to late summer and eggs throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Heirloom Gardens (Denver,CO) 0 Reviews
We offer a 20-week season with organically grown (not certified) heirloom vegetables and herbs. Offerings include several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, squash, greens, corn, herbs, beans and peas, broccoli and cauliflower, etc. You can locate a list of what we're planting by visiting our website and clicking on the "What We Grow" link. (more...)
DeLaney Community Farm (Aurora,CO) 0 Reviews
Each shareholder receives a canvas DeLaney Community Farm produce bag. Each week, shareholders pick up fresh, seasonal produce. Unwanted produce can be donated to one of our Community Share groups.

Check out the girls from Cure Farms

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - "Brothers" TV Commercial

Two brothers discuss the facts about high fructose corn syrup. The younger brother informs the older brother that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made from corn, it's nutritionally the same as sugar, and it's just fine in moderation.

Well, Dude.. I mean, you know

"Two Bites"
HFCS and Your Children's Diet

Patents by Monsanto

Vandana Shiva talks about the patent of seeds by Monsanto. Dr. Shiva is the mother of environment as Mother Teresa is the mother of humanity. Nuff said, here is an article by David Kemker, Earthkeeper Hero Dr. Vandana Shiva

Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted let it bring forth seed next year - peasant prayer.

Seed monopolies lead to harvest of suicides by Vandana Shiva

Friday, May 1, 2009

Goodbye farmers markets, CSAs, and roadside stands

The "food safety" bills in Congress were written by Monsanto, Cargill, Tysons, ADM, etc. All are associated with the opposite of food safety. What is this all about then?

In the simplest terms, organic food and a rebirth of farming were winning. Not in absolute numbers but in a deep and growing shift by the public toward understanding the connection between their food and their health, between good food and true social pleasures, between their own involvement in food and the improvement in their lives in general, between local food and a burgeoning local economy.
Slow Food was right - limit your food to what comes from your region and from real farmers, and slow down to cook it and linger over it with friends and family, and the world begins to change for the better.

And as we face an unprecedented economic crisis, and it is hard to be sure what has value, one thing that always does is food. Which is why the corporations are after absolute control over it. But what obstacles to a complete lock on food do they face? All the people in this country who are "banking" on organic farming and urban gardens and most of all, everyone's deepening pleasure in and increasing involvement with everything about food.

Farmers markets. Local farmers. Real milk. Fresh eggs. Vegetable stands.

Those are things we not only all want, but things we are actively getting involved in, and things we very much need. And where they are truly good, they are growing.

The international financial corporations which have wreaked havoc around the world with astounding nonsensical "solutions" that are destructive of everyone but them, are brothers to the international agribusiness giants (Monsanto, Cargill, Tysons, ADM, etc.) which are just as aggressively after their own form of "taking." Just seeds, animals, water, land.

And freedom.

Linn Cohen-Cole

Who is Linn Cohen-Cole?

Make sure to read Linn Cohen-Coles"s
"The multiple ways Monsanto is putting normal seeds out of reach"