Category Archives: policy

Lousy GMO news for organic

Less research means more yield.

According to new governmental regulations, companies developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will now be responsible themselves for conducting the research that APHIS will use to do their environmental impact study on the companies products. That will produce a cheaper, faster road to the marketplace for GMO seed, a growing headache for neighboring organic farmers. And it will tighten their already substantial control over all the research done, and scientific information published, on their products.

Concerns? What concerns?

Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, is quoted in Popular Science as saying, “It’s like asking BP to write an assessment of an offshore drilling operation.”

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Food and politics blog

image: presidential food service

I recently discovered the Obama Foodorama blog. I’ll add it to my blog roll. Michelle Obama’s initiatives to change the food system at the White House and USDA generated some excitement early on among sustainable and organic food types. Unfortunately, the latest budget deal eliminated some SARE programs like ATTRA, one of the greatest, most useful government-funded programs ever.

One step forward. Two steps back.

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Regular organic news available from the NOP

uncle sam gardens

Uncle Sam says, "garden organically, and here are the rules."

You have to wonder sometimes. What were people thinking when they asked the USDA to take over organic. Government involvement doesn’t usually mean efficiency or proficiency, but it is what it is. At least the National Organic Program is fairly straight-forward with the information, now offering a regular email newsletter with the latest updates on various rules and initiatives related to the constantly changing world of organic.

You can sign up for it HERE.

Once you do, you’ll start receiving these really archaic and confusing emails that contain the link to the NOP Organic Insider newsletter page.

You’re welcome.



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A ui webinar on legal issues in local foods

URBANA – University of Illinois county Extension offices will host the upcoming webinar, “Managing Legal Risks in the Direct Farm Business,” on Tuesday, Jan. 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. with a follow-up webinar on Thursday, Mar. 3, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.   A. Bryan Endres, associate professor of agricultural law at the University of Illinois, and attorney Nicholas R. Johnson have developed the webinar to  clarify some of the unique legal issues pertaining to direct farm businesses and  to guide direct farm business owners through the maze of laws.

The webinars will be held at 20 locations throughout Illinois. Visit for a complete list of locations and to register.

“In today’s food marketplace, more health-conscious consumers are seeking out local sources of food, and they are increasingly turning to direct farm businesses such as farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and U-pick operations to fill their needs,” Endres said.

“The farmers who run these businesses stand to benefit greatly from the increased demand, but in order to manage a successful direct farm businesses, owners need to navigate a labyrinth of laws and regulations.  These laws are implemented and enforced by more than a dozen local, state, and federal government authorities that each have their own (sometimes overlapping) requirements.  Just figuring out who to contact about a particular law or regulation can sometimes be a daunting task.  This webinar will help guide farmers through it.”

The webinar will look at general business topics such as taxation, labor and employment, business planning and setup, rules and regulations that apply to specific direct farm business products (such as dairy, eggs, grains, honey, livestock and poultry, fruits and vegetables, and organic produce), and other legal issues that may arise in the context of establishing and operating a direct farm business.

The follow-up webinar on Mar. 3 will address questions on issues that came up in the first webinar and provide an opportunity for participants to ask additional questions.

For complete information about locations and to register, visit the website or contact Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant at or 217-968-5583.

The webinars are sponsored by the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (CFAR), North Central Risk Management Center, and University of Illinois Extension.

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Filed under local food, policy, small farms

Change going nowhere

Seemingly out of nowhere, new food safety legislation is passed by the Senate, a bill that could have important implications for local and organic food producers. According to the NYT yesterday

Among the Senate bill’s last major sticking points was how it would affect small farmers and food producers. Some advocates for small farms and organic food producers said the legislation would destroy their industry under a mountain of paperwork. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, pushed for a recent addition to the bill that exempts producers with less than $500,000 in annual sales who sell most of their food locally.

Now, less than 24 hours later, an error in the way the House Bill was written has caused a glitch that could jeopardize the whole thing. Read HERE about the idiosyncratic rules that could put this effort back to square one.

By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.

My expectation for helpful government intervention remains staunchly low.

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