How many more lives must be lost or irreversibly damaged before we finally accept the fact that industrialized farming is killing us? So far, the contamination from a new strain of Salmonella (Salmonella Heidelberg) has resulted in one death in California and at least 79 illnesses across 26 states. According to reports, it appears the outbreak “officially” began in March 2011, when a growing number of cases of Salmonella Heidelberg were noted. However, the FSIS didn’t issue a public warning until July 29, and even then this was a broad statement about potential links with ground turkey. Questions are already being asked about the significant time lag between the March detection of the spike in cases, the FSIS announcement in late July, and Cargill’s voluntary withdrawal in early August. But I have far graver concerns about this outbreak. While any outbreak of food poisoning is horrific, and the immediate focus must be to treat those affected and identify the source, few people seem to be discussing the larger public health issue: this particular strain of Salmonella is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Scientists around the world link this resistance to years of misuse of medicinally important antibiotics by the intensive farming industry. Virtually all intensively farmed animals in the U.S. receive low levels of antibiotics throughout their lives as growth promoters to help maximize production. While this lowers the price tag on industrial protein, the practice encourages bacteria to quickly become resistant to antibiotics – the same antibiotics we use to treat ourselves. In fact, some dangerous bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics. This means that when we get infected, there are fewer and fewer options for treatment. And we are fast running out of options altogether.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has recently released a thirty-nine page summary of the various USDA grant programs relating to local and regional food systems. The new Guide to USDA Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems is a comprehensive, digestible and highly relevant piece that outlines the major funding programs available to farmers, nonprofits, associations, individuals, schools and others working towards successful local and regional food systems. The handy “quick guide” chart on page 4 details each program’s eligibility requirements, grant amounts and any matching funds needed. Eligibility is further explained in each program description, including helpful hints about who the programs are really targeting. When applying for a grant it can be tempting to try to fit a square peg into a round hole in terms of eligibility – this guide is a great resource to make sure you are barking up the right tree. Other features include a resource section (regional and national), a how-to-guide for the application process (Appendix 1: Preparing to Apply to USDA Grant Programs using Grants.gov) and case studies of successful applications. Contact information for each program is listed along with sources for more information.
This is not the dry, legalese grants guide of a dusty bureaucrat – this is written with the genuine goal of improving our access to good, healthy food and assisting the people and organizations working towards that goal. This guide is a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in funding a food systems project. This is NSAC’s first edition and they have done a brilliant job – we look forward to more!