The American food system safety regulations have not experienced a major overhaul since the height of the Great Depression in 1938. On January 4, 2011 President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). On January 4, 2013 a new produce safety rule, ‘Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,’ was proposed and looks likely to go into effect. Some farmers are concerned that the new regulation will have an adverse effect, making sustainable practices harder to follow and cost more to implement than many small producers can afford. So what’s the truth behind this federally mandated food system shakeup?
The FSMA is a vehicle for not only reacting to public health issues, but also for preventing them from occurring in the first place. Instead of waiting for producers to execute a voluntary recall of a tainted crop, the government can now force such a recall.
Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is now accepting grant applications for its Fund-a-Farmer Project! The Fund-a-Farmer Project provides small grants to qualifying humane farmers who need assistance in improving the welfare of their farm animals. Grants of up to $1,500 will be awarded for projects that (1) help farms transition to pasture-based systems, (2) improve the marketing of their humane products, or (3) more generally enrich the conditions in which farm animals are raised. Working, independent family farmers that raise pigs, broiler chickens, laying hens, dairy cows and/or beef cattle are eligible to apply for any of the three types of grants.
“If you step back and look at the big picture, there is a major concern with federal agriculture policy that basically directs a lot of money to one type of farming.”
–Susan Prolman, Executive Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition strives to serve as a voice for the small, mid-sized, and mixed-use farmer. According to the coalition’s website, their mission is to foster an agricultural environment where “a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities.”
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News Release – WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the launch of a USDA energy website that will provide stakeholders fast and efficient access to USDA energy efficiency and renewable energy data. Today’s announcement builds on the Secretary’s commitment to develop a modern and efficient service organization as outlined in USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service announced last week.
“Improving and modernizing access to USDA energy data and resources is essential in today’s highly competitive rural business environment,” said Vilsack. “Farmers, ranchers and small businesses across the country will benefit from easier navigation and retrieval of energy and renewable energy investments data and funding opportunities.”
Colin Archipley, CEO of Archi’s Acres and the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program talks about sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship and the training program that he and his wife developed. Archi’s Acres is a small-scale organic farm in Southern …
An increase in droughts, floods and severe storms as well as land degradation, rising populations, increasing demand for biofuels and the changing dietary habits of the world population have all come together to tax and strain food and agricultural resources worldwide.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, an independent group of prominent scientists last week urged “immediate, coordinated action toward transforming the food system to meet current and future threats to food security and environmental sustainability.” They also released a summary report that includes “a set of concrete recommendations” on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change.”
Socially responsible investment is the idea that investments are social as well as financial. What role can that longstanding movement play in the development of sustainable agriculture?
“Within sustainable agriculture investments we have definitely focused on local enterprises where we understand the food system and can get to know the management,” said Eric Becker, chief investment officer for avowedly socially responsible investment firm Clean Yield, in an email message. “We also are looking at how the business can have an impact on the local or regional food system as a whole. We want to invest in businesses that are going to make a difference.”
The University of California’s Sustainable Agriculture and Education Program (SAREP) has launched a new initiative to promote research, education and outreach that aims to address the problems and challenges faced by farmworkers’ regarding living and working conditions.
Though they play a critical role in producing food for California, the US and international markets, nearly 25% of state farmworkers live in poverty, according to the US Dept. of Labor, SAREP notes. Ironically, these farmworkers and their families regularly face insecurity when it comes to their own ability to put sufficient, nutritious food on the table.
The 150 gardens that Los Angeles, CA-based urban farming startup, Farmscape, LLC has installed at residences, senior centers, schools and in communities since 2009 do more than provide yearlong bounty to customers – collectively, the small gardens represent a movement to bring food production back to the city.
“We were inspired by the number of people who were excited about growing food themselves but don’t have the time or knowledge to do so successfully,” said Rachel Bailin, Marketing Manager at Farmscape. “They were looking for someone who could guide them through the growing process, circumventing years of learning through trial-and-error frustration.”
With unprecedented drought resulting in strife, famine and sky high food prices in East Africa, prominent foundation investors have joined with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Impact Investing Network to create a first-of-its-kind private investment fund that will focus exclusively on developing small and medium-sized agricultural businesses in the region.
Global Impact Investing Network members, including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Gatsby Foundation, have teamed up with USAID and JP Morgan to create the $25 million African Agriculture Capital Fund (AACF).
That’s how Fort Lauderdale Vegetables LLC, a company that is focused on the development of a sustainable urban farming system that will create a network of secure healthy food sources and provide local jobs and vocational training in the sustainable agricultural industry, came into being in 2010.
The newly established Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC) has launched a national campaign to promote the growing of local, fresh food and the creation of green jobs. The organization, which counts educators, farmers, chefs, non-profit groups and others among its members, seeks to achieve its objectives by focusing on the development of eco-friendly recirculating farms.
For reference, the organization defines a recirculating farm as one that uses clean recycled water, rather than soil, as a basis to grow food. These farms can grow plants (hydroponics), fish (aquaculture), or both plants and fish together (aquaponics).