April 2011

Potluck News 
A monthly digest of food and agriculture news compiled as
a service of the
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

1.) Impact of desertification in China on food prices in the U.S.
1.) Impact of desertification in China on food prices in the U.S
Earth Policy Institute, March 23, 2011
Can the United States Feed China?
by Lester R. Brown
For U.S. consumers, China’s worst nightmare could become ours. If China enters the U.S. grain market big time, as now seems inevitable, American consumers will find themselves competing with 1.4 billion Chinese consumers with fast-rising incomes for the U.S. grain harvest, driving up food prices. 

This would raise prices not only of the products made directly from grain, such as bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals, but also of meat, milk, and eggs, which require much larger quantities of grain to produce. If China were to import even one fifth of its grain, there would likely be pressure from U.S. consumers to restrict or to ban exports to China, as the United States did in the 1970s, when it banned soybean exports to Japan.
But in dealing with China, the United States now faces a very different situation. When the U.S. Treasury Department auctions off securities every month to finance the U.S. fiscal deficit, China has been a major buyer. It holds over $900 billion worth of U.S. Treasury securities. China is our banker. In another time, another age, the United States could restrict access to U.S. grain as it did in the 1970s, but with China today this may not be possible. Read more...

Lester R. Brown is president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of the newly published book World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.


2.) Three perspectives on corn ethanol and the price of food and gas
Ethanol Blamed for Record Food Prices: A more flexible policy could ease the impact of ethanol mandates on worldwide markets
By Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review, March 23, 2011
The increased production of ethanol has a large impact on corn prices, not only because it's a major source of demand, but also because the demand is fixed. In a free market, if the price of corn goes up, demand will go down, moderating corn prices. But the federal mandate requires the same amount of ethanol no matter how expensive corn is.

"In the short run, there's no doubt that we have more volatile prices for corn because of the renewable fuels standard," says Wallace Tyner, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. In the long term — in two to four years— if prices stay up, more farmers will plant corn, and supply will catch up to demand, he says. But the ethanol mandates will help keep corn prices higher than they have been in the past. Read more...

Understanding the 2011 Planting Outlook, Ethanol and Food Pricing
Renewable Fuels Association, March 31, 2011
Ethanol production through the first three months of the year has remained relatively steady at 900,000 barrels per day, or 13.78 billion gallons annualized. This lower-than-expected stocks level has sent speculators in the market scurrying, driving corn prices up by the 30-cent limit in early trading. This activity will likely lead to more bogus claims that U.S. ethanol production is somehow raising the price of food and starving people around the world. As is the case with land use concerns, the food price angst directed at ethanol is misplaced.

Growing global demand for proteins in conjunction with unpredictable weather patterns has put a bit of a strain on global grain markets. At the same time, surging oil and energy prices are making it more expensive to process and ship food all around the globe. Such a convergence of factors requires a holistic approach to understanding what moves food prices. As the data shows, U.S. ethanol production is nothing more than a bit player in the food price debate. Read more... 

Nashua rep scores victory in House
by Kevin Landrigan, Nashua Telegraph, March 20, 2011
Nashua Democratic state Rep. David Campbell had cause for celebration last week. Campbell single-handedly achieved a victory on the [New Hampshire] House floor to ban the sale of corn-based ethanol in the state (HB 374). The House Science Technology and Energy Committee had voted 11-4 in favor of killing the bill, but Campbell spoke forcefully for the change. "My pitch was this is how the state could send a message that the ethanol mandate raises prices on our gas and is a windfall profit for the corn growers and the big agri-farms in the Midwest,’’ said Representative Campbell. The House agreed on a roll call vote of 237-87. Campbell had some heavyweight Republican backing, since former House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, was a cosponsor of Campbell’s bill. Read more...
3.) Student paper provides overview of current federal agriculture policy
From the Field to the Farm Bill: Can Federal Policy Changes Help Grow Local Food Systems? (March 2011)
by Kristen Loria, Cornell University Class of 2011 
This student paper, by Kristen Loria, Cornell University Class of 2011, is a 10-page primer on federal farm policy including sections on the history of agriculture policy, the structure of American agriculture and the local food movement, and background on current federal policy-makers and NGOs, including their strategies and agenda. A useful document for anyone trying to get up to speed on the status quo, particularly the long list of citations and links to sources. Read more...

4.) Senator Dick Lugar's Free Sugar Act of 2011
Government interference costs billions in higher prices and lost jobs
By Sen. Dick Lugar, The Washington Times, March 29, 2011
The beneficiaries of this Depression-era relic are sugar beet farms in some Northern states and sugar cane farms in Gulf states and elsewhere. But the biggest winners are a handful of huge industrial operations that cover thousands of acres. In sugar land, as in communist countries, prices are set by the government, not the market. Agriculture Department central planners determine “marketing allotments” to assure domestic producers at least 85 percent of the market. They limit imports to keep prices inflated far above world levels. The planners set the split between cane and beet sugar and mandate a sales limit for each processor and mill.

If prices fall below the official level, a price-support system of “loans” to processors ensures that Big Sugar gets its federal share. The recipients get their loans in taxpayer dollars, but can repay them in (what else?) sugar. The U.S. historically is not self-sufficient in sugar and there’s usually plenty available on world markets. But American buyers can’t take advantage of lower-priced sugar thanks to strict import quotas, set individually for 40 different countries. Read more...

5.) Competing frameworks for rural development in the 2012 Farm Bill
Letter from House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture to the House Committee on Budget
March 15, 2011
...A majority of the Committee's agenda this year will fall into two categories, oversight of regulations that affect jobs and the economies of rural communities and preparation for writing the 2012 Farm Bill. The main component of the farm bill preparation will be an "audit" or inventory of all policies under the Agriculture Committee's jurisdiction, including those relating to nutrition, commodities, conservation, crop insurance, trade promotion, rural development, credit, research, forestry, and energy. This audit along with field hearings and hearings in Washington with affected groups will establish the framework with which the Committee will make decisions on which programs to prioritize and which programs need to be eliminated or consolidated. Read more...


The Farm Bill and (All) Rural America
The federal government must create a framework that acknowledges and builds upon the growing interdependence of urban, suburban and rural areas and constituencies.

By Chuck Fluharty, Daily Yonder, March 7, 2011
...In closing, I would like to reiterate three points.  First, while categorical grants remain important, they are insufficient for capturing the ultimate rural opportunities before us.  Dynamic regional economies are the key to rural America’s competitiveness in a global future, and USDA Rural Development programming must be reshaped to advantage regional collaborations, which currently do not align well with existing “rural” targeting dynamics. 

Secondly, we must seek creative new policy approaches which better advantage micropolitan regions and smaller urban places which align their regional strategies with those of noncore rural counties contiguous to them.  Opportunities abound here, including those in renewable energies, regional food systems, transportation, education, health, and entrepreneurship policy.  Finally, this Committee retains statutory responsibility for all of rural America, not just agriculture. Read more...


6.) Pending legislation in New York defines/protects pure honey
Nothing but pure honey in New York state
By Debra J. Groom, The Post-Standard, March 14, 2011
New York ranks 12th in the country in honey production. Value of honey production in 2009 in New York totaled $5.59 million, compared with $5.78 million in 2008. The proposed bills state any artificial or blended honey cannot use a picture or drawing of a bee, beehive or honeycomb on the label. Honey is defined as “the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or excretions of plant sucking insects on the living parts of plants." Read more...

Info on similar legislation in Nebraska


7.) Report claims agriculture contributes $8 billion to Delaware economy
Report argues Delaware agriculture's value
Industry's economic impact on state is close to $8 billion

By Aaron Nathans, The News Journal, March 24, 2011
With Gov. Jack Markell and University of Delaware President Patrick Harker in attendance, UD's College of Agriculture & Natural Resources released a report arguing the agriculture industry went far beyond the $1.1 billion in annual value of agricultural products sold by the state's farms. The annual economic impact is actually more like $8 billion, when factoring in money spent by workers and a broader definition of the industry, which includes food processing, forestry activities and agriculture-related services, the authors said. Read more... 


8.) Field trials confirm plant buffers can slow runoff of veterinary antibiotics
University of Missouri Cooperative Extension, March 22, 2011
Field tests by University of Missouri scientists have backed up laboratory research indicating that buffer strips of grass and other plants can reduce the amount of herbicide and veterinary antibiotics in surface runoff from farm plots. The findings come amid concerns about the potential of veterinary antibiotics in surface water leading to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The antibiotics can enter the environment through manure from confined animal feeding operations and from crop fields fertilized with manure.

“Vegetative buffer systems are recognized as one of the most effective approaches to mitigate surface water runoff from agroecosystems, and we think that such systems also have the utility for reducing veterinary antibiotic loss,” said Bob Lerch, USDA soil scientist and MU adjunct professor. Read more...


9.) Global food industry giants see sustainability as a pre-competitive issue
Businesses are increasingly seeing sustainability as a pre-competitive issue
Global companies must produce more with less and collaboration is key to achieving this

By Jason Clay, Senior VP of Market Transformation at World Wildlife Federation, March 9, 2011
We need to produce more with less, by focusing on three strategies: productivity, efficiency and elimination of waste – while reducing per capita material consumption. No company is big enough to guarantee its sustainability of materials. That is why working together is essential for survival.

To wrap our hands around the issue, instead of trying to bring together thousands of companies, or convincing billions of consumers to change their behaviour, we've identified 100 companies that control 25% of the trade of 15 of the most significant commodities on the planet. If these companies demand sustainable products, they'll pull 40-50% of production. That's a manageable number. Read more...


10.) Connecticut legislation may require genetically modified food to be labeled
The Surprisingly Complex Debate Over Whether Genetically Modified Foods Should Be Labeled
By Gregory B. Hladky, Hartford Advocate, March 29, 2011
Letting Connecticut consumers know if the food they're buying has been genetically modified seems like an innocent enough idea. After all, U.S. government experts say it's safe, the agri-industrial giants say it's safe, and so do the food manufacturing conglomerates. So why do you suppose everyone is expecting an all-out legislative Blitzkrieg to be waged against a little proposal in Connecticut's General Assembly to require labeling of genetically modified foods?

“Anytime you step on somebody's toes, you're going to stir up a hornet's nest,” explains state Rep. Richard Roy, the Milford Democrat who attached the labeling proposal to a bill that came out of the legislature's Environment Committee last week. Read more... 


11.) 23 members of the 112th Congress receive millions in crop subsidies
Cut Spending – But Not My Farm Subsidies!
By Don Carr, Environmental Working Group, March 29, 2011
We don’t have a firm count of how many farmers are serving in the current Congress, but we do know, based on a recent analysis of the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, that 23 of them, or their family members, signed up for taxpayer-funded farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2009. Among the members of the 112th Congress who collect payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans. Read more...


12.) Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter sues Monsanto
NOFA/Mass Sues Biotech Giant Monsanto
Suit Seeks Protection of Plaintiffs in Case of GMO Seed Contamination

Press release, March 29, 2011
On behalf of the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc. (NOFA/Mass) and others, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic and non-GMO agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it.

"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic and other farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's genetically modified seed should land on their property," said Dan Ravicher, lead attorney in the case and PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite perverse that a farmer contaminated by GM seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients." Read more...

13.) DVD series teaches how to butcher beef, pork and lamb
In four episodes, master butcher Cole Ward and chef Courtney Contos show how to butcher a side of beef (hind quarter and fore quarter), pork and lamb, including every step of the butchering process: breaking down a carcass into primal cuts, turning those primal cuts into gourmet or retail cuts, then transforming them into table-ready gourmet dishes. Read more...


14.) More than 44 million people in the U.S. now need nutrition assistance (food stamps)
From Foodlinks America, March 11, 2011, published via email by California Emergency Foodlink
Nationwide participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, rose again in December 2010 to a new record of 44,082,324 people.  The new total was 486,503 individuals above the November 2010 count and some 5.1 million more people than were served by the program a year earlier in December 2009.  More than 14 percent – or one in seven – Americans is currently receiving SNAP benefits.

Participation grew between December 2009 and December 2010 in all states except West Virginia.  In eight states, the over-the-year increase was 20 percent or higher.  They were:  UT, 33.5 percent; NV, 25.3 percent; ID, 23.7 percent; NJ, 22.8 percent; FL, 22.2 percent; MD, 22.0 percent; DE, 22.0 percent; and RI, 20.5 percent.

Barriers put children at risk:  A new study has concluded that, “Barriers to accessing SNAP put children’s nutrition, health, and growth at risk.”  Children’s Health Watch, a Boston, MA-based research organization, notes that, “young children in families that did not receive SNAP due to administrative and other difficulties were more likely to be::  child food insecure (sometimes called child hunger) and significantly underweight for their age (an indication of under nutrition).”  

Lack of information about eligibility, concerns about the application process, disrespectful treatment at the SNAP office, and worries about immigration status were all cited as hurdles that had to be overcome to access SNAP benefits.  For additional information, go to: http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/page/PublicationsTopic and look for “Too Many Hurdles” under the “Food” topic.



Wholesome Wave Job Posting
Bridgeport, CT

The controller is a full-time position responsible for the accounting and financial reporting of Wholesome Wave reporting to the Chief Operating Officer. This includes producing periodic financial reports, maintaining an accounting system, and implementing a comprehensive set of controls and budgets designed to mitigate risk, enhance the accuracy of the company's reported financial results and ensure that reported results comply with financial reporting standards. This position is to be filled immediately. Compensation commensurate with skills and experience. Please send a resume and brief cover letter to Juliette Storch at juliette@wholesomewave.org by April 22, 2010. www.wholesomewave.org

Partner wanted for new farm
East Meredith, NY 
We’re looking for a farmer / farm couple with expertise in any of vegetables, berries, fruit, mushrooms,  medicinal herbs and / or livestock to help re-create a farm, preferably using permaculture principles, on this 150-year-old former dairy farm. It’s 200 acres, about 50 acres pasture / meadow, most of the rest forest, in East Meredith, NY (Delaware County, near Delhi / Oneonta). This is a unique opportunity for the right people to establish an operation from scratch. To discuss possibilities, please call Carl Arnold at 718 788 5944 or 607 278 5820, or e-mail resume and letter to carlarnold@mac.com.

Sustainability Director
Sodexo Campus Services
The Hotchkiss School
Lakeville, CT

Sodexo Campus Services at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT is looking to hire a full time Sustainability Director.  If interested please contact Mary.Attenweiler@sodexo.com 

Farm Manager
Blenheim Hill Farm
Blenheim, NY

Blenheim Hill Farm is seeking a Farm Manager to take charge of the overall planning, implementation, organization, and management of its farming activities. The individual must be “hands-on” and proficient in critical tasks involved with setting up a new farm, clearing land, building infrastructure such as greenhouses, sheds and fences, as well as livestock and produce production. The individual needs to be skilled in strategic planning (both short-term and long-term), staffing, and financial management. Interested candidates are asked to submit their resume and cover letter to Mona Meng at mona@smorgas.com by April 15, 2011. 

Site Manager 
Wholesale Greenmarket
New York City 
GrowNYC’s Wholesale Greenmarket is searching for a flexible, highly organized, reliable person to serve as the on-site manager of NYC’s only farmer-direct wholesale market, a market of 12-20 growers.  An ideal candidate will have professional experience in market management, regional agriculture, food distribution, produce handling and receiving, farmer direct sales/marketing, food procurement/purchasing, and/or traffic control/flow. Work may be divided between on-site management, and office work and market-related outreach. Please send cover letter and resume to wholesale@greenmarket.grownyc.org. For more information, please go to : http://www.grownyc.org/files/wholesale/wholesale.site.manager.pdf

PHP/MySQL Developer
Small Farm Central
Pittsburgh, PA

Small Farm Central is looking for a Senior PHP/MySQL Developer to join a small but growing team. The senior developer will work on large new projects, maintain existing code, plan improvements, manage changes to server infrastructure, and in general make Small Farm Central work from a technical perspective. Small Farm Central provides website, ecommerce, and CSA management tools to 500+ farms across the U.S. and Canada. SFC is a farm company first and a technology company second; the service comes out of the small-scale farm movement and is committed to providing technology services that make farms more economically viable. Contact Simon Huntley, Lead Developer, 412-567-3864. More specific info here: http://smallfarmcentral.com/workwithus/seniorphpmysql

Urban Farm Summer VISTA Internships
Real Food Farm
Baltimore, MD

Real Food Farm, an innovative urban farm on 6-acres in Clifton Park, is seeking four full-time Summer VISTA Associates. All positions will occur June-August, and are compensated with a bi-weekly Americorps stipend as well as an educational award paid at the end of the term. Applicants must be 18 or over. Check out real-food-farm.org for more information.

Mobile Market Assistant: This summer we will be launching our mobile market, a converted delivery van that will be doing grocery delivery, mini stops around the community, and some evening markets. We are hiring an assistant to help with: operation, sales, publicity, and record keeping. The Mobile Market Assistant will also work on the farm one day per week. Applicants must be enthusiastic, friendly, and outgoing. Please e-mail a resume and cover letter to rffcommunity@civicworks.com with the position title in the subject line.

Fundraising Assistant: We are hiring an assistant to help with grant-writing, event-planning, a Kickstarter campaign, and other creative fundraising approaches as well as one day per week working on the farm. Applicants must be well-organized, self-motivated, strong writers, computer savvy, and very creative. Grant-writing and event-planning experience preferred but not required. Please e-mail a resume and cover letter to tbrown@civicworks.com with the position title in the subject line.

Design Assistant: We are hiring an assistant to offer general design services and ideas for products such as promotional materials, educational hand-outs, on-farm signage, website elements, fundraising materials, and more. The Design Assistant will also work on the farm one day per week. Applicants must be creative, self-motivated, innovative, and have graphic design experience and access to software. Please e-mail a resume, cover letter, and work samples to rffcommunity@civicworks.comwith the position title in the subject line.

Education Assistant: We are hiring an assistant to provide farm-based learning experiences to K-12 student groups.   Responsibilities include:  coordinating teachers, principals, and summer youth programs to promote opportunities to visit the farm; developing interactive, experiential, and age-appropriate educational activities; and working with farm staff to design and install interpretive, high-interest signs at key locations throughout the farm.  The Education Assistant will also work on the farm one day per week. Please email resume and cover letter to rffeducation@civicworks.com with the position title in the subject line.

Cooking Matters
Central/Western MA


Market Specialist
Cultivating Community
Portland, ME

Cultivating Community is seeking a full time Marketing Specialist to coordinate its Growing Access, Growing Communities project. The focus of the project is to create farm stands and farmers’ markets designed to welcome federal nutrition benefits including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Women and Infant Children (WIC), and Senior Farm Share benefits. The deadline for application is April 13th, 2011. Please send cover letter and resume to amy@cultivatingcommunity.org. www.cultivatingcommunity.org

Faculty in Food Entrepreneurism
Sterling College
Craftsbury Common, VT

Sterling College, invites applications for one part-time position to teach two sections of Food Entrepreneurism as part of Vermont’s Table: Farming, Cooking, and the Rural Experience. This course will highlight leading voices in the region’s vibrant rural agricultural economy. We welcome applications from inspired educators with strong applied skills in the field who wish to teach in this exciting new program. This is a 10-week position beginning on May 30th, 2011 and ending on August 12th, 2011. The seminar will meet once weekly for three hours over two 5-week sessions. Please send a cover letter, resume, and the contact information for three references by April 15, 2011 to Laura Lea Berry, Assistant to the Dean of Academics, Sterling College, P.O. Box 72,Craftsbury Common, VT 05827. Email: lberry@sterlingcollege.edu. Phone: (802) 586-7711 x107

SNAP Outreach Advocate
End Hunger Connecticut!
Hartford, CT

Full time, flexible 40 hours work week.  Salary commensurate with experience; benefits include medical, holidays, vacation, sick time. Position is open until filled. This is a grant funded position through September, 2011, with the possibility of the position open for longer term. To apply:  Send cover letter, resume and salary history to:  Search Committee, End Hunger Connecticut!, 102 Hungerford St., Hartford, CT  06106; e-mail: gcorso@endhungerct.org

Educational Programs Coordinator 
Cambridge, MA

The MOVE is seeking a dynamic, energetic person to coordinate our farm-volunteer trips this spring/summer/fall (from mid-April to mid-November).  The position is 20 hours a week, at the rate of $15/hour.  We are a young organization, working to scale up the availability and accessibility of farm-volunteering for folks all across Boston, as a way of engaging new urban audiences in an excitement for (and understanding of) social and environmental sustainability. If interested, please send a letter of interest and resume to Dave Madan (dave@getoutma.org) with the subject “EPC Application” describing why you are excited about this role and what you are able to offer to it. For more information on theMOVE, see our 2010 At a Glance (pdf) at www.tinyurl.com/theMOVEataglance. ;


                       Pre-Conference Sessions:
                               Monday, 11/10


Map of the Month: Farm Loss, 2007-2012

Each red dot on this Census of Agriculture map represents 20 farms that are no more, and each blue dot represents 20 new farms. In just five years, the US experienced a net loss of 90,000 farms. (Download as a PDF to magnify.)


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