Thursday, February 4, 2016

Agriculture/Communication job opening in Southeast

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) seeks a motivated, enthusiastic sustainable agriculture specialist/outreach coordinator to serve our Gulf States and Southeast regions. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who has a combination of education and experience in agriculture, communications, marketing, and food policy. The specialist will provide technical assistance to farmers and growers, conduct NCAT outreach activities, and strengthen relationships with current partners and build new partnerships.

The position may be located in either the Jackson, Miss., office or the Fayetteville, Ark., office. It requires the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, agronomy, soils, sustainable agriculture or environmental studies plus four years experience. Project development and management experience is preferred, and superior communications skills are required.

If you want to join a productive and energetic team working to promote sustainable agriculture, then apply today. Visit the NCAT website for the full job description and to download an application package.

Questions? Contact NCAT’s Human Resource Specialist Jerrid Burk at jerridb@ncat.org

Since 1976, NCAT has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. Find out more at www.ncat.org or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.
       


Texas Farmers Tell Legislators to Stop Mining Our Water

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 4, 2016 — The Texas House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday on the issue of water marketing, which frequently involves transferring water from rural communities to urban centers.  "Not a single person from the agricultural industry was invited to testify, even though water is vital to the future of farms and local foods in Texas," observed Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA).

"Is having green golf courses worth being dependent on food from China and South America?" Ms. McGeary asked in written testimony submitted to the Committee.

One of the witnesses at the hearing referred to rural landowners' water rights as a "gold mine," and several of the legislators repeatedly expressed the view that money could properly compensate landowners for the loss of their water.

Colleen Waring, a landowner in Milam County, countered: "As I testified, maybe I'm sitting on a gold mine, but I don't want to mine it.  I want to be a good steward of the groundwater under my land – I'm willing to share what can be shared without detriment, but not plunder this precious resource that people, animals, and plants rely on for survival."

Many of the legislators and witnesses at the hearing promoted a market-based approach to valuing water without recognizing the problems with economic valuation of this essential resource.

As stated in FARFA's written testimony: "Based on market principles, it's reasonable for someone to pay $1.34 now to use, and often waste, water that will be worth $1 million to our great grandchildren.  This makes economic sense because $1.34 invested at a compound interest rate of 7% would be worth $1 million in 200 years from now. This is simply the way the economy values things: What is something in the future worth 'today' – not what it will be worth in the future.   Is this really a moral or ethical way to value our children and their children's children?"

"The legislators who are pushing expanded water marketing are taking a shortsighted and selfish approach.  They prefer to draw down our aquifers – mining water that has taken hundreds or thousands of years to collect – rather than taking the necessary conservation measures.  This is an egregious violation of our moral obligation to ensure that future generations have reasonable access to this basic necessity for life," contended Ms. McGeary.

Before the hearing, the League of Independent Voters and Representative John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) held a press conference to discuss a new report showing that current marketing projects threaten to lower the level of the Simsboro aquifer below the desired future conditions, drying up residents' wells. 

"I look forward to working with my constituents and concerned citizens from all over the state to develop legislation that would promote the long-term welfare and prosperity of our communities, including exploring opportunities for conservation technologies to reduce demand and lessen our reliance on groundwater," concluded Representative Cyrier.


About Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers.  FARFA promotes common sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Missouri organic conference Feb. 4-6 in Springfield


The Missouri Organic Association (MOA), a non-profit all volunteer organization, is gearing up for its 2016 Annual Conference to be held February 4 - 6 at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield, Mo. This educational event will be the seventh annual regional conference hosted by the Missouri Organic Association.

Beginning as a local state conference in 2010, this event has evolved into a mid-America regional conference with participants attending from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma. MOA invites other states to mark their calendars for the first weekend of February and join the excitement that is MOA Annual Conference 2016.

Keynote speakers for the MOA Annual Conference 2016 are Dr. Arden Andersen, presenting on “Healthy Soils, Healthy Bodies,” and Dr. John Ikerd addressing "Healthy Soils, Healthy Economies, Healthy Communities.” 

Sue Baird, MOA Executive Director, welcomes everyone to attend. “This conference is not just for farmers and producers who attend to learn the latest 21st century farming practices,” she said. “It is for anyone concerned about independent food sources, rising health issues in our children, supporting sustainable family farms, environmental issues and solution-based philosophies of biological and organic growing practices. Everyone will have something to gain from this conference.”

New for this year, MOA will host a special “Consumer Health Education Day” on Saturday, February 6, featuring medical and health experts who will discuss the link between the foods we eat and the health of our bodies. Also on Saturday, MOA will have a special networking event, "Meet the Wholesalers"  — connecting organic producers to regional and national food store buyers, marketing managers, chefs, food distributors and others that will help producers grow their businesses.

MOA Annual  Conference 2016 will have more than 54 educational sessions and hands-on workshops focused on organic and sustainable agriculture including: grain production, livestock production, vegetable production, high-tunnel small fruits and vegetable production, sustainable living skills, culinary and medicinal plants and a whole lot more.  Network and learn from 70+vendors.

Friday night's "Throw Down at the Hoedown Top Chef Challenge" features chefs from St. Louis, Springfield, Kansas City and Columbia all competing for the MOA Top Chef award. The cooking competition is followed by the MOA Hoedown, a good ole country celebration, with bluegrass music, a cake walk, pie auction and a photo booth to commemorate your attendance at MOA Annual Conference 2016.

Agendas: MOA Annual Conference 2016 agendas are available at www.moaconference.org.

Fees: An individual three-day conference registration fee that includes meals and events is only $175. Or, grab a friend and take advantage of our 'Double Deal" discount...the second registration fee is 50% off!  If you can't attend all three days, a single day registration fee is $75 and the "Double Deal" discount applies on single day registrations too. To register, go to www.moaconference.org.  

Accomodations: Hotel reservations are available at a special MOA Conference block price of $84 (+ tax) per night at The University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, Springfield.  Mention you are part of MOA Annual Conference to get this special rate.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

USDA Revokes Grass Fed Label Standard

Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Speaks Out Against Decision

Washington, DC, January 12, 2016 – Today in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) rescinds the labeling standard for grass fed meat that was developed over the course of four years and finalized, with the support of national farm and consumer organizations including NSAC, in 2006.

“Meat labeling just became even more confusing for farmers and consumers,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “USDA is revoking a label standard that had widespread farm and consumer support. Actions such as this take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.”

In the Federal Register notice, AMS states that having a strong, clear, consumer-friendly labeling standard “does not facilitate the marketing of agricultural products in a manner that is useful to stakeholders or consumers” because a different USDA agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), must approve meat labels and “there is no guarantee that an USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS.”

“The rationale that a strong USDA label standard for grass fed beef is not useful because it might not be recognized by a partner agency is outrageous,” said Hoefner. “It is both sad and true that these two USDA agencies often do not coordinate, and worse yet that in some cases FSIS has looked the other way, allowing particularly unscrupulous meat companies to abuse the USDA standard,” Hoefner said. “But the common sense solution is not to revoke the standard, but instead to tackle siloing and lack of interagency communication head-on.”

The Federal Register notice gives producers using the grass fed label 30 days to either convert the newly revoked USDA grass fed label claim into their own private grass-fed standard, or to develop a new grass fed standard of their own.

“Rather than bringing consistency and common sense to our food marketing system, USDA seems to be throwing in the towel,” said Hoefner. “This is terrible public policy that will create a multitude of non-uniform labels, which will open the door to more confusion and subterfuge in the marketplace. It is an affront to consumers, who have the right to know how their food is raised, and to the farmers whose innovation and hard work created the trusted grass fed label standard. NSAC and our member organizations believe this reversal is a detriment to a fair and transparent food system and we urge the USDA to come up with an alternative solution quickly.”


The grass fed label claim standard now being revoked was originally published in the Federal Register on May 12, 2006, the result of several years of meetings between farmers and farm and consumer organizations sponsored by AMS and facilitated by NSAC, as well as by a formal public notice and comment process. The standard stated among other things that grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the energy source for the lifetime of a ruminant species after weaning in order to qualify as grass fed. Prior to the setting of that standard, grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mississippi goat & sheep auction moving to new home


Y&R Livestock, which holds a goat and sheep sale on every third Saturday of the month in Ripley, Miss., will hold a grand opening for its new sale barn this Saturday, January 16. This long-running sale has been housed at the old cattle auction building just off Highway 15 north of downtown Ripley. The new location  is east of Ripley off Highway 4. The address, which can be found via GPS, is 8451 County Road 600, Ripley MS. The auction is operated by Wendell Yates and Mike Robbins. The sale begins at 1 p.m. Saturday but goats and sheep can be unloaded beginning Friday evening. The auction markets breeding stock as well as slaughter animals for buyers and sellers. For more information, contact Wendell at 662-720-6006 or Mike at 662-891-6554.