The Safety of Farmers’ Markets

Bad Science Behind the Recent Attack

Download a pdf of this article here

 

On January 17, Professor Bellemare, an economist at the University of Minnesota, published an opinion piece in the NY Times claiming that his research showed a correlation between the number of farmers’ markets and the number of food-borne illnesses in a state.

 

Even taking Bellemare’s claim at face value, it simply doesn’t mean a lot. Correlation does not mean causation. There are numerous examples of meaningless correlations, such as a graph that was developed showing that the rise in autism correlates with the rise in consumption of organic foods – although no one would contend that there’s a logical connection between those two trends.

 

Moreover, the way Bellemare found this supposed correlation was deeply flawed. The only data used were the number of farmers’ markets in each state and the number of foodborne outbreaks and illnesses in each state.…

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Texas Water Fights – Round Two

In the last Texas legislative session, legislators proposed a California-style scheme of massive water transfers around the state.  FARFA played a key role in defeating the proposed bill, but the issue is far from dead.  Legislators who see nothing wrong in using the power of the government to take water and land away from rural areas to promote unrestrained urban growth — at the expense of the children and grandchildren of both rural and urban areas — are already looking ahead to the 2017 legislative session.

On February 2, 2016, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing about water marketing. Click here for FARFA’s post-hearing press release.

Out of the dozen invited witnesses, not a single one represented agricultural interests.

cracked land and green lawn-1

FARFA’s executive director, Judith McGeary, submitted written testimony and testified briefly during the public testimony portion of the hearing.

During the hearing, Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) repeatedly claimed that the current system wasn’t working because some areas and landowners would not agree to sell their water for export. …

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Texas Events – February 2016

February is a busy month for people who care about local food and small farms in Texas! Check out these interesting and educational events:

Plus, researchers at Sam Houston State University continue to look for farmers and ranchers to respond to a survey to help develop more resources for small-scale producers.

Want to help FARFA?  We need volunteers to help with our booth at both the Texas Organics conference and the Mother Earth News Fair. Please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org if you are interested in volunteering.

 

 

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Annual Conference

 

The Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s annual conference is coming up fast!

The 2016 conference will be loaded, as always, with organic farming, gardening, health, foodie, farm to chef, and sustainable ag discussion from engaging speakers.…

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Texas 2016 Primary Endorsements

It’s time for the Texas Primary Elections! Early voting begins on February 16 and runs through February 26. Election Day is on March 1, 2016

FARFA endorses the following candidates based on their positions on food and agricultural issues, as well as closely related issues such as water rights and use. FARFA’s endorsement does not constitute an endorsement of the candidates’ positions on other issues.

As you will see, FARFA is only endorsing two candidates in the primaries (one Democrat and one Republican). Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of good candidates! We decided to endorse in these two specific races because they are hotly contested and there is a candidate with a strong record on our issues. We want to also recognize some of the legislators who were local food champions last session.

Huey Fischer for State Representative for District 49 in AustinHuey-Fischer

FARFA endorses Huey Fischer in the Democratic Primary for House District 49, which was previously held by Representative Naishtat.…

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Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently held that the U.S. could be subject to up to $1 billion in trade penalties simply because our law requires that meat be labeled with the country where it came from. According to the WTO, Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a “trade barrier” and Americans have no right to know where their food comes from.

Within days, Congress bowed to the threat from the WTO and repealed Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork.

How many times does this have to happen before we learn a lesson? COOL, dolphin-safe tuna labels, and so much more have been attacked due to international trade agreements. Twenty of years of so-called free trade agreements have given us millions of lost jobs and an economy that benefits huge corporations at everyone else’s expense.

Now, the President is asking Congress to approve the latest – and worst – deal: the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

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Congressional spending bill good on GMOs, bad on COOL

(December 16, 2015) This week, the Republican and Democratic leadership agreed on an omnibus spending bill, which  must pass in order for the federal government to stay open for another year.

Buried in the thousands of pages are numerous provisions that go beyond the issue of funding the government and into the policies.

There is some good news:

1) The bill does NOT include the Monsanto rider that would prohibit states from labeling genetically engineered foods (a.k.a. the DARK act).

The fight isn’t over. Key Senators have pledged to work on legislation that would overturn state labeling laws when they return in January. The only way this would be acceptable is if the federal government legislation mirrors the state laws that have been passed in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine, requiring on-package labels that clearly state if a product contains genetically engineered ingredients. Illusory voluntary labeling or QR codes are not a substitute.…

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How TPP Threatens Our Food System

To download this fact sheet as a printable pdf, click here

 

The text of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), negotiated by 12 countries representing around 40 percent of the global economy, was released on November 12. There are thousands of pages of text, the majority of which has nothing to do with trade issues such as tariffs and quotas, but rather with setting the rules that will govern everything from food safety to patent and medicines to labor conditions and wages.

Genetically engineered crops and foods

The TPP threatens any serious limitation on genetically engineered foods. Although this portion of the text still isn’t available, the USDA’s website states: “The TPP … includes provisions on agricultural biotechnology that commit TPP countries to foster transparency in their decision-making processes, to work together on situations of low-level presence, and to promote timely authorization of products of modern biotechnology.”

Translating that into regular English: Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops, or even require GMO labeling.…

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TPP text released – 90 days to stop it!

 

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been released — and it’s as bad, if not worse, than expected.

When you think of “free trade,” you probably think about cargo ships, tariffs, and quotas. But only a small portion of the TPP addresses those issues. Instead, the majority of this long, complicated agreement sets the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S. – on issues such as agriculture, food, intellectual property and patents, banking, and more. The agreement gives international corporations the ability to trump properly enacted domestic laws by attacking them as supposed trade barriers.

Here are just some of the highlights:newTPP map cropped

  • The TPP gives importers the ability to challenge individual border inspection decisions, second-guessing U.S. inspectors about what food is safe and not safe to let into our country.
  • The TPP threatens any serious limitation on genetically engineered foods. Although this portion of the text still isn’t available, the USDA’s website states: “The TPP … includes provisions on agricultural biotechnology that commit TPP countries to foster transparency in their decision-making processes, to work together on situations of low-level presence, and to promote timely authorization of products of modern biotechnology.”  Translating that into regular English: Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops, or even require GMO labeling.

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FDA issues first major rule under Food Safety Modernization Act

On September 17, FDA formally published the first major final rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the Federal Register.

This final rule addresses the standards for “facilities” that sell food for human consumption. The rule has staggered deadlines for compliance, so that large businesses will have to come into compliance in November 2016, while small businesses will have an additional one to two years depending on their size.

(The Produce Safety Rule, the other major rule under FSMA, is supposed to be finalized by late October of this year.)

This first published final rule implements FSMA’s requirement that businesses that manufacture, process, pack, hold or store food implement “hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls” (HARPC), including a written food safety plan that identifies the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products and outlines steps the facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.…

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Fighting for Country of Origin Labeling

Last week, FARFA joined with over 140 other organizations in a joint letter urging Congress to reject repealing or weakening Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken.

The huge meatpackers are pushing Congress to either repeal COOL completely, or to turn it into a voluntary program, which would let the food companies and meatpackers decide whether or not to tell American consumers where their meat comes from.

The bottom line is that Congress needs to — at least — wait and see what happens when the World Trade Organization case is done.  Although the WTO has ruled that the U.S. COOL violates trade agreements, the big issue remains — what are the damages?  Last week, the U.S. government filed a brief with the WTO that totally debunks Canada and Mexico’s absurd claims — it said that Canada and Mexico’s claim for trade penalties was nonsense and that the reasonable damages would be about $91 million, a tiny fraction of the absurd $3 billion figure Canada and Mexico are using to bully the Congress.…

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