Now in its third year, the AWA Good Husbandry Grants program is helping promote innovative, forward thinking farming techniques that ultimately enhance farm viability. Twenty-eight grants have been awarded to farms and slaughter plants across the nation to improve animal welfare and allow pasture-based farmers to increase productivity for their operations. The 2010-2011 Good Husbandry Grants range from $600 to $6000 and were open to current Animal Welfare Approved farmers and those who have applied to join the program, as well as slaughter plants working with or seeking to work with AWA farmers. The funding priorities included genetic improvement for pasture-based systems; outdoor access and mobile housing; welfare improvements in the slaughter process; non-lethal predator control and other innovative projects that improve the welfare of animals.
Apparently the 10th time's the charm. After nine previous attempts to get the Pigford vs. Glickman settlement funded by Congress, the 111th Senate has appropriated $1.15 billion to resolve the many longstanding lawsuits filed by black farmers systematically discriminated against by the USDA. "This is a huge, huge victory for myself and black farmers, many of whom have died waiting for justice," said John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association. "I have been working on this thing for 26 years. I've been hearing 'no' for so very long." The initial lawsuit was settled out of court in 1997. However Congress has since failed to appropriate the funds necessary to address farmers' claims. The legislation must now go back to the House for passage during the lame duck session in order to become law. Both President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack applauded this recent decision. Obama issued a statement Friday saying, "I urge the House to move forward with this legislation as they did earlier this year, and I look forward to signing it into law." For updates on the Pigford Settlement and upcoming legislation visit the National Black Farmers Association website.
Animal Welfare Approved has an annual tradition of thanking the family farmers who work so hard, year in and year out, to produce healthy, safe, humane and environmentally responsible food for our communities. Farming is not an easy job, and we want to encourage AWA friends and followers to take this opportunity to appreciate farmers you know for their contribution to this harvest holiday of Thanksgiving, and throughout the year. Please take this opportunity, by including a comment below, to share your appreciation for the farmers in your life. You may also comment via Facebook and Twitter (#ThankAWAfarmers). If you are a farmer, tell us about fellow farmer or mentor who has influenced your development or has helped you along the way. Thank you for sharing, and for supporting pasture-based farming this holiday season!
Program Director Andrew Gunther is pleased to announce that Animal Welfare Approved farmer Jeremiah Jones of GrassRoots Pork Company in Beulaville, North Carolina has been awarded the 2010 Glynwood Farmer Harvest Award. Glynwood, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable agriculture and farmland preservation, gives this award to highlight innovative work being done to increase access to fresh, locally produced food and to recognize leaders from across the country who are supporting regional agricultural systems. “AWA nominated Jeremiah because he fits the profile perfectly. Not only is Jeremiah a truly great farmer, but as president of the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association, he gives of his time and talent tirelessly to lead a group of pasture-raised pig producers in developing niche markets and in the creation of best-practice standards,” says Andrew Gunther. “Several years ago when I first started to work in the U.S., this group was the first I helped set up. I was privileged to work with Jeremiah and the group to launch their marketing cooperative, thus assuring the group’s viability and stability.” NCNHGA is currently seeking new producers to join the cooperative as there is a growing demand for pastured pork. All members of the NCNHGA must be certified AWA, a commitment the group and its customers firmly stand by.
Animal Welfare Approved was pleased to join more than 30 organizations supporting family farmers at this year’s Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America. The AWA Farm Aid team, Beth, Emily and Brigid, arrived in Milwaukee excited to participate in Farm Aid Eve, FARMpardy (AWA’s version of JEOpardy) and, of course, the 25th Anniversary Farm Aid concert. Dave Matthews: "The farmers on our good Earth are taking care of the land and taking care of our children." Neil Young: "Maybe you don't realize what's really going on with factory farms in this country, how they are displacing family farms at an alarming rate...Factory farms are the reason why we have food alerts. They are the reason why we have dying people and disease. Try to buy something from a family farm, something that's sustainably grown. You deserve the best. Your children deserve the best."
Alexandria, VA—Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) farmer Dan Gibson of Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent, New York, first heard the rumor on Sunday morning—the short ribs he had been accumulating and subsequently supplied to a mysterious buyer had been served at the reception following Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky on Saturday, July 31 in Rhinebeck. The rumors abounded that Grazin’ Angus Acres had been named on the menu. Unable to confirm this, AWA approached the caterer who had purchased the ribs. AWA spoke with Rob Cano at RCano Events to confirm that Grazin’ Angus Acres short ribs were the short ribs being written about by gossip columns and blogs. “I was first approached at the Union Square farmer’s market,” Gibson says of the New York City farmer's market where he sells his 100% AWA grassfed beef and prominently displays his “Proud to be Animal Welfare Approved” sign. “A customer I hadn’t worked with in the past said he was looking for humane, local, grassfed beef for a large event. He asked me if I could supply short ribs for 350 people. At first I said no, but I went back and crunched the numbers and said yes. There are so many events in New York—from charity galas to company dinners—that I really didn’t think anything about it.”
The manipulation of the Shirley Sherrod video for partisan gain was not just an egregious injustice to Shirley Sherrod, it was an egregious injustice to all of America’s black farmers, to elderly black farmers in particular, to Dr. John Boyd, Jr. and the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), and to the employees of the USDA and other governmental organizations who have worked to make amends for one of the most shameful periods in the history of American agriculture. Injustice is injustice wherever and whenever it occurs. Righting an injustice can be a long and thorny process, as Dr. Boyd, President of the NBFA, can attest. He has fought for years to get justice for black farmers who were victims of widespread, decades-long discrimination by the USDA. Finally triumphant, in 1999 and again in 2008, he won settlements from the government that will provide legions of now mostly elderly black farmers, victims of the blatant racism formerly displayed by the USDA, with the money they are rightfully owed. The Senate still won’t fund the 2008 settlement. The injustice continues. Animal Welfare Approved has long supported Dr. Boyd in his quest to see his fight brought to an end, especially since, as he often points out, the farmers for whom the settlement is intended are beginning to die. "I'm frustrated," Boyd said Thursday in an NPR interview. "I'm frustrated that I'm still begging for votes in the Senate for something that should have been done years ago.”
At a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday, July 14, 2010, a representative of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) finally caught up with the rest of the world—and his peers at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and admitted that the use of antibiotics in farm animal feed is contributing to the growing problem of deadly antibiotic resistance in America. Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) read from his previously submitted testimony that the USDA believes it is likely that U.S. use of antibiotics in animal agriculture does lead to some cases of resistance in humans and the animals. Why is this news? Because the USDA has been continually playing the Three Wise Monkeys game—it sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil—when it comes to deadly consequences to humans of the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals. In fact, Dr. Clifford looked as he’d been given a choice between testifying or having his eye poked out with a stick and he lost the toss. Others, though, readily stepped up to the plate. Despite the feeble nature of the recent FDA Guidance to Industry on farm animal antibiotics (read more about this in our blog), Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Principle Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, was clear in his testimony that the overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using antibiotics for production purposes in livestock farming (as growth promoters and to prevent rather than treat illness) is not in the interest of protecting and promoting public health. Dr. Sharfstein also turned away a challenge from Representative John Shimkus (R-IL 19) about the soundness of the science upon which his findings rest. Mr. Shimkus, obviously unhappy with Dr. Sharfstein’s testimony, badgered him to come up with up a U.S. peer-reviewed study (which Dr. Sharfstein did—a 2003 Institute of Medicine study) and then questioned the veracity of the findings. Dr. Sharfstein assured Mr. Shimkus that the Institute has a peer-review process in place and reminded him that “the Institute is considered our nation’s leading scientific expert...”
The North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA) is seeking natural hog growers to supply the growing demand for pastured pork. NCNHGA is a farmer-owned marketing cooperative aimed at successfully marketing hogs raised outdoors without the use of antibiotics, growth promotants or animal byproducts. Current markets include national grocery outlets, local restaurants, and other whole cut retailers. All members are required to be Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) before joining. Please contact Tim Holmes of AWA directly with certification questions (252-796-8079). An informational session will be held June 19, 2010 in eastern North Carolina for those interested in joining the cooperative. Contact NCNGHA President Jeremiah Jones at 910-290-2547 for meeting details or additional information about NCNHGA membership. Animal Welfare Approved is a free certification for family farms raising their animals outdoors on pasture or range. AWA provides marketing and technical support to farmers in the program. For more information visit www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org.
John Boyd, Jr., President of the National Black Farmers Association, is now more than ten years into his fight to see justice done for the farmers he represents. Boyd—who once had his loan application torn up in front of him by a USDA agent who later admitted he thought blacks “were lazy”—has been instrumental in compelling the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to own to up to decades of obvious discrimination against black farmers. This year, it appeared he was finally going to meet his goal. In February, the Department of Justice and the USDA announced a settlement with the black farmers, with the money to be allocated by Congress by March 31, 2010. It didn’t happen. Instead, according to a CNN profile, Boyd found himself going to the funeral of another elderly black farmer who never received the money due him. According to CNN, Boyd, speaking at the farmer’s memorial service, said, “It really hurts to be here and have to deliver a message at Mr. Bonner's going home services that Congress failed to act."
Talk about a waste of time on top of a waste of money. Three senators recently sent a letter to the USDA leadership to protest that a paltry $65 million from an agribusiness support fund of $307 billion (i.e., the 2008-2012 U.S. Farm Bill) went to groups trying to supply tax-paying customers the healthy, safe, nutritious food they demanded from local American farmers. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John McCain (R-AZ) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their “serious misgivings” regarding the new USDA initiative, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” (KYF2). They charged that the program’s measures were “completely detached from the realities of production agriculture” and accused it of prioritizing locovore markets “at the expense of rural communities with documented rural development needs.” Am I missing something here? According to the 2000 census, nearly 80% of the U.S. population (i.e., eaters) live in urban areas - wouldn’t it make sense to focus our resources there? Though farms may be located in rural areas, their markets are by and large where the people are - in cities. The major beneficiaries of government funding to date have not been farmers but big business and shareholders. Government payments that facilitate production below the market value help the company, not the producer.
On May 4 Animal Welfare Approved hosted an expert panel of writers, farmers and representatives of sustainable livestock production. Entitled, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm," the discussion centered on the need for truly sustainable livestock farming that takes into account animal welfare and the health of our environment - and ourselves. Panelists included investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the bestselling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.