Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Secretary of Agriculture, NoNAIS

Because this is important and well written.....

January 27, 2009
Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack

We have a new Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Let’s welcome him in and let him know what issues we want to see him address. You can write him at AgSec@usda.gov. Keep it polite. Here is my letter:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
Welcome to your new office as our leader of the USDA. I hope that you will take seriously that 86% of the farmers in America are small and very small farmers (USDA statistics), 96% of us don’t need or get subsidies and 95% of us don’t want NAIS (Independent Surveys). What we do need is:
1) A level playing field rather than the current one biased toward Big Ag. Subsidies predominantly go to the big players giving them an unreasonable advantage in the market which lets them under price their products and hide the true costs of production. This makes it harder for the small farmer to compete and burdens American tax payers with the bill. Eliminate the subsidies and the big producers will have to price their products honestly to reflect their true costs. This will let us all compete on a level playing field and allow small producers to get a fair price for their products too.
2) Real Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that forces imports to be labeled as such. We don’t need Premises ID for COOL - simply label all imported foods, even if they are mixed origin or processed, as Made in Canada, Made in China, Made in Argentina, etc. Simple, honest labeling for whole cuts to hot dogs and more. We have it on T-shirts, auto parts and plumbing supplies - why can’t we have honest labeling on meat, peas & corn or honey? If it is from another country, during any part of it’s cycle, then it should say so. Any import should be properly labeled to let the consumer know where it was imported from. The burden should fall on the importers, not American producers.
3) Delete the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Yes, simply delete it. It’s the key in the upper right of your keyboard. NAIS needs to be killed at both the federal and the state levels - all the databases must be purged. Burn the backups. Why? They are filled with erroneous and involuntary premise registrations, the system is deceptive and unconstitutional and lastly NAIS gives a false sense of security to consumers while burdening taxpayers and small farmers. NAIS does nothing real or productive. Our customers know where our pork came from, our farm - They can drive by and see our pigs grazing in our fields. I don’t need NAIS. My customers don’t need NAIS. NAIS will not help the vast majority of farmers and it will increase the costs of production on millions of small farms. This will raise food prices and drive small farmers out of business. That means more consolidation into the hands of fewer big players which will result in less food security for our nation. Big Ag, on the other hand, will gain a marketing advantage from NAIS at close to no cost for them since they can use the Group ID numbering and won’t have to tag animal to gain source verification paid for by tax payers. This is an unfair competitive advantage for Big Ag who’s already getting USDA subsidies. As to health, NAIS does nothing to control or eradicate disease as the USDA has admitted, see the FOIA response: http://NoNAIS.org/2008/10/31/depopulation-foia-response/ NAIS does nothing for BSE which is caused by feeding cows to cows which is outlawed in the USA. NAIS does nothing for E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella which are all introduced after the farm at the processing plants. NAIS does nothing for foot and mouth disease - we don’t have it in this country so no need to waste $100,000,000 chasing ghosts that don’t exist. NAIS is not cost effective. It’s a boondoggle for the benefit of Big Ag and the tag makers. If Big Ag wants source verification for marketing or foreign sales, their apparent real rational for NAIS, then let them create and fund a private, voluntary system for themselves. My customers and I already have source verification - I know where my pigs are.
4) Support small meat processing plants while also better inspecting the big processors. Everything to scale. The small local processors don’t have the same problems we see in the huge processors so don’t over burden them with unreasonable regulations, testing and requirements. Instead, support the development of more very small processors. Every year we lose more very small processors, the only ones that will work with small farmers, due to the high costs imposed by over-regulation while we simultaneously suffer recall after recall out of the big processors due to too little oversight. Small farmers, which make up the vast majority of farms, need small and very small slaughterhouses, butchers and smokehouses. Without them we can’t get our meat to market so we might as well not raise the animals. Without livestock we don’t have high quality manures for organic and naturally grown vegetables - even the vegetarians and vegans will suffer if we lose the very small meat processors. The very small processors face different issues and need different approaches than the mega processors. In recent years the USDA has made great strides with the small and very small plant outreach program. Continue and expand this so that small farms can get their products to the American consumers.
5) Conservation and sustainability to involve current and future generations at all levels of society. When people think of these issues they typically think that we need to save our soils, water, breeding stock genetics and such for our future generations. This is true, but it goes a lot further. We need to save farming itself. Without farming there is no food. Factories merely transform raw food into processed foods. We need man diversified farms to maintain our heritage of farming, the core of knowledge. Farmers must be protected from the predatory legal practices of GMO companies - we are not responsible for where the wind blows GMO pollen and seed, the GMO companies are. Agriculture must be an attractive career & life style for our next generation. America has gone from a land of a great many farmers to less than 2% being involved in agriculture and much of that concentrated into the hands of few. Onerous zoning and regulations are outlawing livestock ownership and even gardening. We need more people interested in very small, even micro agriculture. We need victory gardens in every backyard, on every balcony to conserve the land and the knowledge, our connection to the earth and maintain our national food security.
I welcome your new leadership to this important office. I hope you’ve gotten your feet under you and are settled in so lets get running on fixing the USDA to better represent the needs of all farmers and American consumers, not just the biggest players. Remember, the vast majority, 86%, of us are small farmers and we don’t need subsidies - we need a level playing field, less invasive government, local small scale infrastructure and the ability to pass on our farming heritage to the future.
Thank you,
Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gardenning Tool

I just created a helpful tool for garden planning. If you would like to use it, please save a copy for yourself and edit your own copy.

It works like this... say you have 2100 pea seeds and you want to know how long and wide your planting row needs to be, just type in the cell that says "quantity of seed" and it will tell you your row length. It will also tell you the average yield you can expect. Say the yield is not enough and you want more (or less), then type in the cell that says "harvest desired" and you will come up with the # of seeds you need.
If you are starting transplants the formula is a little more complicated, but those cells are highlighted in blue for you.
If you are going to change or add a vegetable be sure you pick a row that will have the same planting as you are going to do (ie. direct seeding). You could also reply here and I will add your vegetable to the table if that is easier.