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The Organic Issue and Where I Stand

Okay, so you really think buying organic is better for you and the animal right?? Or maybe you don’t care about the animal and you just want to eat “good clean food” so you buy organic.

Well here are my thoughts:

This is NOT about growth hormones, antibiotics or any of the rest of those killer additives that we should under NO CIRCUMSTANCES even consider adding to our food source.

It is NOT about lettuce or tomatoes or any veggies, etc., it is only about animals/birds and what we feed them.

First of all, here in Stonington I don’t know of anywhere I can buy organic grain in bulk, did you know that we pay about $4.00 just to buy grain in a bag. Great deal huh, we actually pay someone $4.00 PER BAG just to put the grain in a bag.

What this boils down to is Organic grain from one dealer I have purchased from is $21.00 per 50-pound bag, another is $19.00 per 50-pound bag. Non organic grain is $9.00 per 50-pound bag or $4.50 if I buy it in bulk.

Organic grain has a shelf-life which isn’t long, about 6 weeks I am told. I would assume that non organic grain would also have some kind of shelf life. We have our grain specially milled for us at CCC Feeds in Manchester CT, it is ground and mixed right there which means that it wasn’t milled in PA or FL, then bagged, then trucked or sent by rail to CT. It is fresher the way we do it, we have control over what is put in there and we weigh the difference between: control, diesel fuel, exhaust fumes, distance traveled, shelf life, support of CT Farmers, the bag guy, is it really organic etc.

If we could buy in bulk I would without question by it from Fertrell. Fertrell is THE best for the birds and at some point when we have made some money on this project, we may consider trying to get a dealership with this great company. They have grain for all our critters and also fertilizer etc for our pastures. We have ordered a test kit from them to see what they can do for us and our pastures.

They are great people to deal with and the only company I would consider doing grain business with outside of Ct.

What does ORGANIC mean to the bird or the animal…nuttenhoney, it also has nothing to do with how or where the animal/bird lives nor how it dies or is processed.

Our chickens are in chicken tractors, they are moved EVERYDAY, sometimes twice a day and 3 times a day before they are processed. The birds get 30% of their daily chow from clean fresh grass, plus some bugs, worms, fly larva etc. They can do chicken things and they are outside 24/7.

Secondly I do not quite understand if there is any type of inspection process, do they (the Certified Organic people) just take your word that you haven’t put any chemical fertilizer on your fields, or do they test? How do they prove you feed only organic feed? What’s to stop a factory farm from getting a load of organic feed, cutting off the labels and then just feeding something else and showing the labels when asked what they are feeding?

Does feeding organic grain surpass the drawbacks of the added diesel fuel to have it trucked, the costs of the bag guy, the exhaust fumes in the atmosphere versus a local mill. Basically I want to know what keeps the organic guy honest or is this just a trendy thing to do.

I also what someone to explain why it costs so much. Being a farmer now I do understand a lot more about costs of feed etc, but I don’t quite understand why organic has to be so damn expensive.

I do agree that our health is priceless… but really isn’t it partly about our health but a bigger part about “THE LABEL” and it’s “STATUS” with certain people. There are a lot of people out there who just CAN’T afford organic, aren’t they also entitled to cleaner more healthy food ?? Care about the animals life-style first, care about their food second, care about what people think third and it should all be a bigger benefit for all.

All this said we are members of NOFA, a great organization and without their help we couldn’t have become members and sign the Farmers Pledge. There are a lot of great hard-working organic farms and farmers out there who deserve the extra buck and the recognition, I am not questioning them, it is the overall process that I don’t understand yet. Perhaps since our Maine vacation is the only time I have to read, it is when I should get some more information and find out what I really don’t know, perhaps I will be singing a different tune after some education.

Finally when someone can prove to me that it REALLY is organic, it REALLY does make a difference to the health of the bird or animal and it REALLY is passed on to the overall health of the human, then we will certainly consider more strongly feeding 100% organic feed, but until then we will continue to feed the best, cleanest and most farm-supporting, specially mixed grain we can.

Here is just yet another reason why an organic label does not impress me. This is from the Consumers Union Guide to Environmental Labels:

HOME > PUBLICATIONS BY PRODUCT CATEGORY > ISSUES
Publications from Consumers Union and Consumer Reports by:
Food > Food Contaminants > Comments & Letters

USDA Drastically Cheapens Meaning of Organic

May 2004 April 29, 2004

USDA DRASTICALLY CHEAPENS MEANING OF ORGANIC LABEL
National Organic Standards Board Meeting, Chicago, IL, April 28-30, 2004

1. PROHIBITED PESTICIDES CAN EASILY BE USED IN ORGANIC PRODUCTION

Background: The laws and the regulations prohibit the use of ingredients contained on EPA Lists 2 and 3 (that include ingredients like toluene, xylene and formaldehyde). Since ingredients on pesticide formulations are not required to be identified or listed on the product (Confidential Business Info), there is no way for farmers or certifiers to easily find out what ingredients are in these formulations. As a result, in 2003, EPA had developed a voluntary program (PR 2003-1) that provides manufacturers the ability to apply to the EPA for a "For Organic Production" claim to be made on the pesticide formulation.

New Changes: The USDA significantly undermined this standard by applying a blind use approval protocol. That is, an organic farmer can use ANY pesticide formulation before determining whether it contains List 2 or 3 ingredients. The farmer and the certifier must use "due diligence" to find out what is in these formulations but if they cannot ascertain the specific ingredients, then AS LONG AS THEY DON'T KNOW, IT IS APPROVED FOR USE. This means that prohibited pesticides may now be used on organic food as long as the farmer and certifier don't know. USDA has put the burden of proof on farmers, certifiers and consumers who are not legally entitled to know the specific ingredients in formulations. Pesticide Use Statement: www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Compliance/PesticidesCompliance.pdf

2. USDA HAS BACKED AWAY FROM CERTIFYING FISH AS ORGANIC FOR NOW--BUT IT CAN STILL BE LABELED ORGANIC (TO NO STANDARD) AND BE FED TO LIVESTOCK

USDA has halted the use of the USDA seal on any fish until it develops standards. In the meantime, any organic label can be used on fish and USDA is proposing to feed nonorganic fishmeal to cows. Allowance of non-organic fish meal (that could contain contaminants such as mercury and PCBs) as well as synthetic preservatives can now be used-- without review by the National Organic Standards Board--as a protein supplement for livestock feed. Consumers don't expect that organic cows should be eating fishmeal, especially fishmeal that could be laden with mercury, PCBs and synthetic preservatives. Richard Matthews, USDA, in response to questions by the National Organic Standard Board, stated that fishmeal was natural and did not need to be reviewed--no matter what else might be included in the meal.

Scope Statement: www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/GuidanceStatements/ScopeGuidance041304.pdf

Livestock Feed Statement: www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/GuidanceStatements/FishmealGuidance041304.pdf

3. USDA IS ON SLIPPERY SLOPE THAT WILL ALLOW USE OF ANTIBIOTICS AND OTHER DRUGS (INCLUDING GROWTH HORMONES) ON THE ORGANIC FARM

Background: Until last week, only herd replacements for dairy cows were allowed to be previously treated with antibiotics. Only after 12 months on the farm, milk from these animals could be sold as organic.

New Changes: After this new guidance document, the USDA is expanding the use of antibiotics to individual animals AT ANY TIME DURING ORGANIC PRODUCTION while keeping the 12 month waiting period for organic milk production. During the public meeting yesterday, Richard Matthews, NOP Program Director, stated that treatment of illness not only included antibiotics but ANY TREATMENT WITH ANY DRUG--which may include the use of growth hormones--which have been used to treat disease on conventional livestock farms. This drastic opening of the regulations is in complete violation of the statute.

Antibiotic Statement: www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/GuidanceStatements/AntibioticGuidance041304.pdf

These moves constitute a serious blow to the meaning of the organic label on food for consumers. Barbara Robinson from the USDA was quoted in yesterday's meeting as saying that, "The public has no right to comment on these directives." NOP is a public program paid for by taxpayers who have a right to comment on any additions, interpretations or efforts to undermine the standards.