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July 2010

In this issue


United Fresh Produce

YOU can participate in the United Fresh Produce GAP Harmonization Initiative on Tuesday, 7/13 from the comfort of your office. Find out how!

  1. White House in a twist over funding farm to school
  2. Crain’s covers local food chain ideas
  3. National Research Council calls for more sustainable agriculture
  4. Compass Group takes "local" food-service initiative national
  5. Food Safety Report
  6. Michigan targets 600 candidates statewide with "Good Food Charter"
  7. Washington hears about Good Food at "Great Outdoors" session in L.A.
  8. USDA moves to increase livestock industry fairness
  9. Good Food Media Digest
  10. Add your profile to the NGFN Database
  11. NGFN Media Outlets


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White House in a twist over funding farm to school

Farm to SchoolSchools are on the front lines of the childhood obesity and diabetes crises. They are using their menu-development and purchasing power to pull fresh and healthy foods from local farms into their cafeterias.

So it is good news that the long-stalled Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which includes significant proposals for farm-to-school funding, last week received a hearing from the House Education and Labor Committee. Further action is needed immediately to avoid stalling the Act yet again until late in the year.

The challenging part of this important step, however, is the fact that lawmakers continue to propose paying for the Act's Farm to School provisions with significant cuts in programs that help farms adopt environmental conservation programs. The program in question, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), is key for helping farms deliver the healthy and environmentally sound, or "green," kind of food schools want.

Secretary VilsackThe National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has adopted a less-than-full disclosure position that could help the controversial conservation trade-off happen. Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed at the hearing that conservation cuts may be appropriate because Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) staff, the delivery arm of federal conservation programming, cannot keep up with demand for their services. The fact is that, despite a 400 percent increase in Farm Bill conservation spending, the Obama administration has yet to lift a Bush-era hiring freeze at NRCS.

NRCS logoNSAC goes on to suggest there are many ways in which Congress and the Obama Administration can have both farm to school funding and conservation on farms, which helps farms produce and deliver the healthy, green foods that schools are demanding.

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Crain’s covers local food chain ideas

Twenty-five big ideas to change New York. That's what Crain's New York Business looked for and recently published in a special anniversary edition.

Crain'sAmong those great ideas is one that would "bulk up the local food chain" by adding a wholesale farmers market to the aging Bronx-based Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, the largest food distribution center in the world.

National Good Food Network advisor Karen Karp of Karp Resources told Crain's that adding wholesale facilities -- coolers, bathrooms, offices -- for regional farmers would help those nearby food producers satisfy an estimated $1 billion in unmet demand for local foods.

New York City Farmers MarketNew York is planning to upgrade the Hunts Point facility, which opens the door for Karp's idea to become part of the plan. Other ideas that Crain's noted for bulking up the local food chain included support for the farm-to-school connection, protection of farms in the foodshed, and ethnic food carts in more places, providing entrepreneurs with low-cost start-up opportunity.

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National Research Council calls for more sustainable agriculture

Towards Sustainable Ag coverTwenty-one years after its groundbreaking Alternative Agriculture report, the august National Research Council has come out with an update that says much the same: The industry is too focused on yield and not counting many environmental, social, and economic costs of current production practices.

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report emphasizes the urgency, in a time of growing resource scarcity and instability, for private and public leaders to take the research and outreach steps needed to transition to a more sustainable food and agricultural system.

Rows of crops (small)The report also notes how markets are changing, offering new opportunity for sustainable agriculture, as consumers begin to incorporate concern for public health, the environment, and local economies into their purchasing decisions. The National Good Food Network is a reflection of this market movement, offering coast-to-coast assistance to people, businesses, and organizations on the ground as they develop the supply chains and market infrastructure needed for an alternative agriculture to deliver healthy, green, fair, affordable food.

See Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle coverage of the National Research Council's work.

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Compass Group takes "local" food-service initiative national

Compass logoThe Compass Group, a leading contract provider of dining services for hospitals, schools and the like, announced it will expand efforts this summer to source food from farms within 150 miles of its accounts.

The move comes after Compass' success with pilot efforts in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Washington D.C. Pilots revolved around building relationships between mid-scale farms and Compass' network of independent produce distributors, companies that Compass uses to source the food that its contract dining services use.

On its pilot work, Compass has partnered with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to make connections with that "agriculture-of-the-middle" -- families that attempt to rely on farming for their primary income.

JoAnne BerkenkampNational Good Food Network advisor Joanne Berkenkamp heads up IATP's Local Foods program. She says the progress at Compass is encouraging. “This initiative is about building mutually beneficial relationships between growers and buyers and fostering a different way of doing business with the farming community. We are pleased to partner with Compass Group in making that commitment a reality.”

CEFS logoIn addition to expanding agriculture-of-the-middle relationships nationally, Compass has set a 10 percent local goal for itself in its home base of North Carolina, where it will partner with the University of North Carolina's Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Compass will also pump up the publicity volume in September with a nationwide promotion of local foods at all of its contacted dining facilities.

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Michigan targets 600 candidates statewide with "Good Food Charter"

Jean Doss"This is a teachable moment," says Jean Doss, legislative consultant to a statewide effort to put a 10-year plan for healthy and local food in front of more than 600 candidates now up for election in Michigan.

The Michigan Good Food Charter is the result of a nearly yearlong effort to detail recommendations for actions that local and state government, as well as industry and other private sector players, can take to make healthy food from Michigan farms an everyday reality. Coordinators of the effort are now working with local and regional partners to launch a candidate education campaign. Statewide coordinators are the Michigan Food Policy Council, the Michigan Food Bank Council, and the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University.

Michigan Good Food CharterThe Charter "is meant to highlight opportunities to add onto what we already have and make it more robust” said Mike Hamm, who heads the Mott Group at MSU, in an interview with Lansing's Capitol Press. "To broaden the impact of Michigan agriculture, to think about Michigan agriculture in the context of the Michigan food system and the 10 million Michiganders who need to eat every day."

The Charter's goals revolve around achieving 20 percent of all food sold in Michigan coming from Michigan sources by 2020. It includes 25 agenda priorities for making that happen in a way that increases healthy food access, builds market infrastructure, addresses farmers' business and farmland needs, focuses on farm-to-school and other institutional purchases, and engages youth in making such a Good Food future happen.

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Food Safety Report

Steve WarshawerEach month, Steve Warshawer, food safety coordinator for the National Good Food Network, writes a regular column on the status of new and changing food safety regulations. A farmer and food distributor, Steve is focused on the challenge of developing food safety rules that work for food producers as well as food regulators.

NGFN food safety work continues this month: We are continuing work on Group GAP certification, as well as developing our relationships with the Global GAP organization. I have accepted a seat on the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection, a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) initiative. And though there has been almost no movement lately on Congressional legislation of food safety, we are still keeping tabs on it (as is the Obama administration!). Read much more detail about all of these items in my full monthly food safety report.

But I want to take the rest of this space to alert you to a fascinating and innovative "experiment" we would like you to participate in. As faithful readers of this column know, each second Tuesday of the month we host an NGFN food safety conference call. In lieu of our usual interactive conference call, taking advantage of the fact that on Tuesday 7/13, the GAP Harmonization Technical Working Group (TWG) will be meeting and continuing its work on the next draft of the Harmonized GAP standards, NGFN has arranged a webinar enabling you to join in the process.

You will be able to log onto the webinar and observe the work in process, and hear (depending on the audio quality that we are able to capture in the room) the discussion among the TWG members.

Webinar attendees will be able to send questions to the TWG from their keyboard, but will be muted for the duration of the webinar. Typed questions will be relayed into the discussion by NGFN Food Safety Coordinator Steve Warshawer, who will be in attendance and moderating the webinar.

To participate in this exciting opportunity, you need only to make sure that you register for the webinar. You will be given instructions on how to connect upon your registration. Join the United Fresh GAP Harmonization Technical Working Group during the day on Tuesday, July 13.

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Washington hears about Good Food at "Great Outdoors" session in L.A.

The White House's America's Great Outdoors Initiative is designed to "promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors."

So what does food have to do with that?

UEPI logoHigh-profile leaders in the Obama Administration heard about food's connection to communities and the outdoors July 8 when they held a listening session at Occidental College's Urban Environmental Policy Institute in Los Angeles. Lisa Jackson, director of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior chief; and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were among those who heard the Institute's pitch for "environmental and economic justice, health, livability, and sustainability to be part of America's Great Outdoors Initiative."

The Center is part of the National Good Food Network advisory team and has many on-the-ground projects, including leadership in the National Farm to School Network, management of California Farm to School, and other programs, such as Farm to WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).

Kids playing outdoorsThe listening session took place at Occidental College, where there is significant food work going on, and in Los Angeles, which has a growing food movement, said Institute director Robert Gottlieb. "Food issues, such as farm to school, school and community gardens, regional food hubs, and Food Corps, among other initiatives, figured prominently in the sessions."

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USDA moves to increase livestock industry fairness

ChickensAfter a series of hearings and other investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking comments on a new rule that updates enforcement of the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act. The issue is significant concentration in the livestock industry and the need to provide independent producers with more leverage to stand up to anticompetitive practices, such as harmful contract terms and pricing discrimination.

The 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to take this step, which relates to the "fair" part of the working Good Food definition as food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable.

"Concerns about a lack of fairness and commonsense treatment for livestock and poultry producers have gone unaddressed far too long," said USDA Secretary Vilsack. "This proposed rule will help ensure a level playing field for producers by providing additional protections against unfair practices and addressing new market conditions not covered by existing rules."

Farm Bill 2008The 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act is a landmark piece of legislation designed to protect farmers and consumers from the monopoly-like power of companies that had come to control the livestock industry. Meatpackers and stockyards are the bottleneck of the industry. If there is only a handful to choose from, then it is those companies, not free-market competition, which determines prices to producers and quality to consumers.

Monopoly power continues to grow in the modern meatpacking industry. As reported by researchers at the University of Missouri, for example, the nation's top four meatpackers control 85 percent of the market.

The last date for comments on the proposed rule is August 23.

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Good Food Media Digest


US Cracks Down on Farmers Who Hire Children

“The Obama administration has opened a broad campaign of enforcement against farmers who employ children and underpay workers, hiring hundreds of investigators and raising fines for labor and wage violators. A flurry of fines and mounting public pressure on blueberry farmers is only the opening salvo, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in an interview.” 1   

To Help the Little Guy, the Government Proposes New Rules for Big Meatpackers

“The Obama administration proposed new rules ... seeking to increase competition and rein in potentially unfair practices by large meatpackers and poultry processors. The move is aimed at helping small livestock and poultry farmers survive in an industry dominated by corporate giants.”

Planting fields

Right to Food: “Agroecology outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security,” says UN expert


Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned experts on agroecology, the UN expert urged the international community to re-think current agricultural policies and build on the potential of agroecology.



BP’s Atlantis: Oil Giant to Be Sued Over Safety of another Deepwater Rig

“Watchdog group Food & Water Watch formally gave notice Thursday of its intent to sue BP along with the federal government for violating a slew of safety laws governing its Atlantis oil and gas platform.”



High court lifts ban on biotech alfalfa

Alfalfa“The Supreme Court has lifted a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds, despite claims they might harm the environment. In a 7-1 vote Monday, the court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that prohibited Monsanto Co. from selling alfalfa seeds that are resistant to the popular weed killer Roundup.” 

Genetically Engineered Salmon Swim Towards FDA Approval

“If you thought genetically engineered crops were scary (and let's face it, they are), hold onto your dinner plates. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to approve the nation's first genetically engineered (GE) animal.”



RSF launches Food & Agriculture PRI fund

“RSF Social Finance is proud to announce the official launch of our Food & Agriculture Program-Related Investing (PRI) Fund. RSF’s PRI Fund aims to increase the flow of funding to social enterprises in local and sustainable food and agriculture by unlocking a new source of patient capital for this important sector.”



Walgreen Hopes to Be ‘Destination’ for Dinner

Walgreen Co. will be conducting a test of chilled foods at up to 12 stores this fall in a bid to become a bigger player in the growing fresh food sector.  Walgreen spokeswoman Tiffani Washington confirmed the test and said the fresh food initiative could help the drugstore chain be eventually seen as “destination for tonight’s meal.”

Chipotle Aligns Marketing Focus around "Food with Integrity"


ChipotleChipotle Mexican Grill, the national chain of burrito restaurants, has introduced new marketing programs including advertising, a revamped website, and new packaging aimed at better communicating its commitment to Food with Integrity.



Farmers find opportunity in immigrant vegetables

Maxixe, a Brazilian relative of the cucumber, is relatively unknown in the U.S., but it may one day be as common as cilantro as farmers and consumers embrace more so-called ethnic vegetables.

U.S. Approach to Farming Should Change to Meet New Challenges, Expanding Needs

“U.S. farmers are under pressure to produce more, pollute less, fulfill consumer preferences, and make a living -- all with increasingly scarce natural resources and the uncertain effects of climate change, says a new report from the National Research Council.  To help U.S. agriculture evolve to meet these demands, the report concludes, national agricultural policies and research programs should look beyond focusing only on low costs and high production and adopt a holistic perspective to farming that encompasses multiple end goals.”

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Add your profile to the NGFN Database

Are you part of a food and farm initiative that more people should know about? Are you skilled or knowledgeable in an area of this work and ready to be part of it? Do you have some research to share? Then create your profile on to make sure your work shows up in the National Good Food Network's database of experts, organizations, and information. The database is just starting. Help it grow into the comprehensive clearinghouse we could all use!

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NGFN Media Outlets

TwitterFind us on Twitter and YouTube. And if you haven't signed up for our mailing list, sign up to keep up on the latest activity in the Network! Note: if you already receive our NGFN e-mail, but would like to be on one of the Wallace Center's other mailing lists (e.g. the food safety updates) you should click on the "Change e-mail update settings" at the bottom of one of the e-mails from us.

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