US EPA STRIKES AGAIN: UNSCIENTIFIC REGULATIONS COST CONSUMERS MONEY

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to review an EPA decision on carbofuran domestic tolerances. Farm groups were unhappy with this decision as the revocation of carbofuran has a lot of repercussions that we’re not sure the EPA has thought about.

In layman’s terms, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decided that carbofuran, a chemical used to control corn rootworm and other pests, was safe for U.S. consumers if applied to imported food, but the EPA determined it unsafe to use here in the U.S. Once again, the EPA has made an arbitrary ruling that has no basis in science.

Why am I still surprised?

This time, the EPA used a backdoor approach to ban the chemical from use. There was no comment period, no public notice and actually, farmers will still be able to use the chemical according to its label and be in complete accordance with the law. The only problem will come when the domestically grown food has any traces of carbofuran. Of course, traces of carbofuran on imported food are still perfectly safe.

Does this raise any red flags for anyone?

But all the underhanded, secretive unscientific banning of products aside, what are the repercussions of the decision that the EPA didn’t care to find out about?

  1. Farmers now have fewer options when it comes to controlling pests on their farms. Fewer options means less competition and less competition means higher prices for the few pest control options that are available and approved. Higher prices to produce a crop means higher food prices. I wonder if the EPA is ready for the consumer backlash?
  2. Because farmers have fewer options to control pests, pests will have a natural tendency to develop resistance to the fewer chemicals being used. Pests with resistance mean less food grown and less productivity means higher food prices. Anyone seeing a trend here?
  3. Farmers paying higher prices to plant a crop and realizing lower productivity will find it more and more difficult to maintain their farms and will contribute less to the economic activity in rural areas and the taxes funding our schools. Perhaps Americans would rather the EPA regulate practices and products that are actually scientifically proven to cause harm?
  4. The decision that imported food grown with carbofuran is ok but domestic food grown with carbofuran is not obviously makes imported food more competitive here in the U.S. Are consumers excited about paying farmers in other countries instead of paying farmers in our own? And right in the middle of an economic recession?

All in all, farmers are concerned about this sort of a dangerous precedent and disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t review the decision. Why should the EPA be allowed to propagate regulations that potentially cause so many problems without even the benefit of a public debate?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

CONSUMER CHOICE MEETS MEATLESS MONDAYS

Consumer choice is important, just look (really look) at all the choices your local supermarket has to offer. From organic to conventional, fat to low-fat and non-fat, whole milk to 2 percent and 1 percent and skim… the list goes on and on. Agriculturalists value our ability to meet your needs and we value your ability to make the choice that is right for you. As long as that choice is a knowledgeable choice.

Being a knowledgeable consumer is tough. With all those choices it becomes all the more difficult to make the best choice for you and your family and depending on how many people you talk to, with however many different opinions, it becomes even harder.

That is why it is important to talk to the right people who have the right knowledge to make you more knowledgeable. Makes sense, right? So that’s what I did.

I talked to people who have chosen not to eat meat on Mondays because they feel there are environmental and health benefits to limiting one’s consumption of meat. I talked to a dietitian about the importance of beef in the diet and I spoke with a beef producer-because producers do know their product.

What I learned about Meatless Mondays:

  1. Supporters say reduced meat consumption leads to reduced carbon footprints, reduced climate change and improved health.
  2. United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the meat industry is responsible for almost one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gases.
  3. Proponents of the campaign state the health benefits include: increased lifespan, improved diet, obesity avoidance and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
  4.  “I would like to encourage everyone to learn about the food that they eat,” Meatless Monday proponent Melissa Dion said. “Ignorance is not always bliss.” Dion said she saw lots of improvements in her health and lifestyle since beginning this eating lifestyle in 2008. “I feel really great and I have more energy.”

What I learned from a dietitian:

  1. “I think food fads, generally, are untested in terms of their long-term effects,” said Dietitian and Professor of Food Science M. Susan Brewer.
  2. Heart disease and cholesterol are dietary issues. Brewer said it’s not just meat, it’s all that fat and the French fries that create these problems.
  3. Animal products provide the only source of B12, Brewer said. While vegetables contain iron, especially dark leafy vegetables, it is not the most absorbable form and plant materials bind up the iron making it unavailable compared to iron from meat, Brewer said.
  4. Anemia, iron deficiency, is primarily a problem facing teenage girls and young women in their reproductive years. Brewer said is hard to get enough iron on a regular basis without removing meat from the diet once a week.
  5. Vegetables do not provide complete protein that supports growth and reproduction with the right amino acids in the right proportions, Brewer said. “That isn’t to say you can’t put them together from this category of vegetables and that category of vegetables and come up with a complete protein, with a complete amino acid profile,” Brewer said. “You can do that. But you do have to know what you are doing.”
  6. According to the American Dietetic Association, the correct portion is the size of a deck of playing cards. Portion size, choosing leaner cuts of meat and leaner preparation methods of meat and are important considerations in lieu of removing meat from the diet, Brewer said.

What I learned from a beef producer:

  1. Beef has 29 lean cuts. Trevor Toland, president of the Illinois Beef Association and producer of 41 years said you don’t have to consume large amounts of fat to enjoy beef.
  2. A 154-calorie, three-ounce serving of lean beef has 51 percent of the recommended daily value of protein, 38 percent of zinc, 37 percent of vitamin B12, 26 percent of selenium, and 14 percent of iron, Toland said. There is a lot of value in a simple three-ounce serving of lean beef, he said. 
  3. To equal the amount of zinc in a three-ounce serving of steak, a person would have to eat 13 three-ounce servings of salmon, Toland said. Likewise, one would have to eat seven skinless chicken breasts to equal the amount of B12.
  4. Practices like Meatless Mondays cost the family “considerably more” than a three-ounce serving of beef with nutritious side dishes, Toland said.
  5. “I just want people to know that cattleman really care about this country and the food we provide,” Toland said. “We want to protect our land because that is what makes it possible for us to make a living and market a safe, wholesome, nutritious product that we are really proud of.”

So there you have it, three perspectives on one important dietary issue. If these answers raised more questions the best part is that you can keep asking those questions and gaining more knowledge. If you feel like an informed consumer you can stop by your supermarket and pick up a few steaks for the grill tonight—or not, the choice is completely, 100 percent yours. And that is the beauty of consumer choice, at the end of the day you decide what is best for you.

Claire Benjamin
University of Illinois student &
author of the Rural Route Review

WANT TO BE HEALTHY? EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES, NO MATTER HOW THEY ARE GROWN

As a mom of a one year old who’s recently started to eat table food (and she now eats everything in sight!) I paid attention when the Dirty Dozen* list hit the entire popular media list. I just as quickly dismissed it as propaganda as soon as I read through the list, but that’s because I grew up on a farm and I know what conventional agriculture is all about.

Not everyone is that lucky.

Naturally, I was excited when the Alliance for Food and Farming released their new report and website last week. As opposed to the “science” the Environmental Working Group (EWG) utilized when creating their Dirty Dozen list, this is real science conducted by real experts – nutritionists, toxicologists, and risk assessors – and they say that organic produce is no healthier or safer than conventionally grown produce.

At safefruitsandveggies.com, they offer the time tested truth that if you want to be healthier, the key is to eat more fruits and veggies. It doesn’t matter if they are organic or conventional because each offers the exact same nutritional content. In fact, the report criticizes the Dirty Dozen for making it harder for the American public to consume the proper amount of fruits and veggies each day because consumers are scared and confused about what is safe to purchase.

The report also says that my one-year-old would have to consume hundreds of servings of conventional fruits and veggies in a single day in order to have any measurable effect from pesticides. And that’s only if I don’t wash the produce because the FDA says that rinsing fruits and veggies under cold or warm water removes any traces of pesticides that might remain.

My thoughts? Let’s stick with common sense. If you want to be healthy, eat a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Wash them before you eat them. Aren’t these the things that our mom’s and grandma’s taught us when we were growing up?

That’s certainly what I’m teaching my daughter.

*I did consider linking to the Dirty Dozen list so that you can see what it’s all about if you haven’t heard of it. Then, I read that the EWG says that buying organic as much as you can is not only better for you, but shows that you support decreased soil erosion, safer water supplies, and protecting wildlife. Since conventional farmers actually do some of these BETTER than organic and certainly are as conscious as organic farmers of all, I just couldn’t give them a link in my story. I hope you’ll understand.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

FARMVILLE OFFERS ORGANIC BLUEBERRIES

I’ll admit it – I’m a Farmville fan.

For any of you that think I’m talking about some small town in IL, let me clue you in.  Farmville is a game that people play on Facebook – over 80 million people in fact – and for the vast majority, it’s likely the only experience they get with farms, farming, or agriculture.

In the game, you are gifted with a small plot of land and a bit of money and with both, you grow, fertilize, and harvest crops as well as buy and receive animals and buildings to create on your virtual farm the little piece of paradise you always wished you had.

Well, this week, it appears that Farmville has released a new crop, Cascadian Farm® Organic Blueberries.

So before I open up this can of worms, I want to start the discussion by saying that I support the organic farming industry because I believe that more choices are never a bad thing.  The problem for me comes when people are disillusioned about their choices, when they don’t understand that those organic foods offer the same health benefits at a significantly higher price.

And when consumers don’t even understand what organic produce is in the first place.

Yes, I said it and I’ll say it again.  Consumers that swear by organic foods have no idea what organic foods really are.  I learned this when a colleague told the story of gardening with a friend who purposefully purchased organic plants for her garden and then doused them in MiracleGro and it was reinforced again today.  Because I’d be willing to bet money that the folks playing Farmville and planting these sweet little organic blueberries are going to fertilize them to get more “money” from the crop without ever realizing that fertilized crops are not organic.

The complete lack of information and the fact that consumers base their buying decisions on marketing hype really anger me.  And while I do understand that purchasing decisions based on marketing is the way of our world, a movement to pure organic is going to have much more drastic consequences than buying more Pepsi than Coke would have.

So Farmvillians, enjoy your farms and plant organic blueberries until your heart’s content.  In the meantime, I challenge Farmville to ensure that no fertilizers are used on the organic blueberries and that the yields on organic blueberries are much less than the conventional blueberries.  If this is the only connection back to the farm we’re going to get, we need to milk it for all its worth.

Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director