Many people are unaware that 80% of all antimicrobial drugs are administered to animals. Unfortunately, this fact shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; the Union of Concerned Scientists provided the same stat ten years ago in the 2001 report, Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Use in Livestock. Of course, industry has since ignored and/or rejected this figure every chance they’ve had. But despite the best efforts of Agribiz, as this week’s press release from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter reports, the FDA has officially confirmed the 80% figure; check it out. I should note that our friend Ralph Loglisci of the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future contacted the FDA back in December and was given the same numbers (he wrote an excellent post about this, which is absolutely worth reading). Nonetheless, it seems significant that the antibiotics stats have been released to and publicized by a congressperson. Very official, we think – and hopefully capable of capturing the nation’s attention.
As director of the Animal Welfare Approved program, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Arapaho Ranch, in north-central Wyoming. At 580,000 acres, it is the largest USDA certified organic ranch in the U.S. - and one of the most inspiring ranches that I have ever seen. Arapaho Ranch is actually part of its environment, working in harmony with nature, rather than trying to control it. My visit began at the front of the local high school in the town of Thermopolis, where I met with David Stoner, who manages the Arapaho Ranch on behalf of the Tribal Council of the Northern Arapaho Nation. David is one of those people who can say a huge amount with very few words, and as we drove out to the first pasture it quickly became clear that the Arapaho Tribe had struck gold by appointing him to manage their ranch.
The Raleigh News & Observer's restaurant critic Greg Cox came out with his annual recognition for local restaurants today. Topping the list as "Restaurant of the Year" is the new Bella Mia, the coal-fired pizzeria in Cary, NC. According to Cox, "Its blistery-crusted pies immediately raised the bar far above anything the area has ever seen." AWA is proud to announce that all of the beef used by Bella Mia is supplied by Rare Earth Farms of Zebulon, NC. Animal Welfare Approved farms also supplying Gold, Silver and "Best in Class" award winners include Border Springs Farm (lamb), Cane Creek Farm (pork), Captain John S. Pope Farm (lamb), Cohen Farm (eggs), Fowl Attitude Farm (eggs), and High Ground Farm (eggs).
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.”