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Third-Party Grassfed Certification More Important Than Ever

On January 12, the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) announced it had withdrawn its grassfed standard used in livestock and meat marketing due to lack of a clear congressional mandate to maintain it. While these changes at the USDA are largely procedural, this development could result in a proliferation of “grassfed” claims that do not meet consumer expectations. In light of the USDA’s announcement, transparent third-party certifications that clearly define 100 percent grassfed production (like Certified Grassfed by AWA) become more important than ever for protecting the interests of “true” grassfed farmers and conscientious consumers alike.
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Third Annual North Coast Farmers Convergence

The Farmers Convergence isn't just another meeting. It's a Convergence of food producers from California's Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties, along with the agencies and organizations that serve the food and farming community. Food producers from across the region will come together for a facilitated day of networking, sharing skills and ideas, and celebrating the vital profession of farming and AWA will be there!
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Third Annual North Coast Farmers Convergence

The Farmers Convergence isn't just another meeting. It's a Convergence of food producers from California's Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties, along with the agencies and organizations that serve the food and farming community. Food producers from across the region will come together for a facilitated day of networking, sharing skills and ideas, and celebrating the vital profession of farming and AWA will be there!
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Big Ag’s Gifts for 2014

It's a tradition of mine to write a note of sincere gratitude to Big Ag for the many "gifts" they've bestowed upon us all over the past 12 months relating to food animal production. Gifts that we didn't really want, need, or—in some cases—didn't even know about. Here's my top 10 for 2014.
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AWA Announces New Labeling Resources for Farmers and Consumers

In response to farmer interest in labeling, Animal Welfare Approved has launched a new labeling section. The site is designed to help farmers and processors navigate the labeling process and serves as the portal for accessing Animal Welfare Approved's free labeling service for certified farms. Featuring labeling guidance, information on claims approval and a gallery of approved labels, the new site and service can save producers time and effort in creating an attractive, effective label for certified products. And as with AWA certification, there is no charge for this service for farmers in the program. Farms interested in certification should visit AWA’s Certification page for more information. Farmers and processors can use the information in AWA’s new online labeling resource to help distinguish their pastured products in the marketplace, and consumers and retailers will be able to use these resources to ensure they are sourcing sustainable products.The launch of AWA’s new labeling section coincides with the release of “Food Labeling for Dummies,” AWA’s new comprehensive guide for consumers.
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Panelists Offer Insights Into the Future of Farming

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.
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Food Labels: Don’t take your eye off the ball

Yet another article highlights the importance of consumer engagement in food labeling. According to LancasterOnline.com's Mary Beth Schweigert, lack of oversight in National Organic Program has created a "chasm between consumer expectations and actual industry practices." Ms. Schwigert notes the challenges that the NOP, now in its twelfth year, faces in terms of its dual mission to protect agriculture while simultaneously protecting the consumer. The NOP has drawn significant criticism on its lax pasture requirements - 80,000 public comments to be exact. However, even adequate standards are only as good as the enforcement behind them. Schwigert reports a startlingly low number of citations in the first seven years of the program - only $20,000 for three fraudulent operators in a $23 billion U.S. organic food industry. National Organic Coalition (an industry watchdog group) policy coordinator Liana Hoodes responded to this issue, explaining that strong national organic regulations are worthless without consistent oversight and enforcement. She added, "It will either clean up its act or get surpassed by many other labels."
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The Real Bottom Line

“People, planet, profit” is today’s measure of how well a company is doing. While corporate social responsibility might have once meant a nice contribution to charity at Christmas, those days are gone. A new study by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) shows consumers are taking “people, planet, profit,” also known as triple bottom line accounting, very seriously, and companies hoping to compete will have to take a good hard look at how they produce what they hope to sell. According to the NMI study, 50% of consumers avoid brands whose practices they don’t agree with—twice as many as in 2005. Consumers have been educating themselves about the things they buy and the food they eat for years and that knowledge is impacting buying decisions.
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