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Lakota Lead Native Americans, Ranchers and Farmers in Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline

Author: Jason Coppola

Amidst the cries of “protect our water, protect our land, protect our peoples,” Native Americans, ranchers and farmers are standing their ground along a highway in North Dakota. They are blocking the crews of Energy Transfer Partners — a Dallas-based company whose workers are protected by both police and armed, private security personnel — from accessing the site of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The roughly 1,200-mile-long pipeline would transfer about a half million barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of its construction worry that a leak or rupture would spell disaster for not only the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, but for all communities along the Missouri River that depend on it for drinking and agriculture.

At least 10 arrests have been made. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told the Bismarck Tribune that those arrested “were not staying within bounds set by law enforcement and getting in the way of surveyors working on the pipeline.” The arrests included a pediatrician and a grandmother who allegedly crossed the highway to check on a buffalo pasture.

As reported by Truthout in May of this year, Lakota youth, protesting the proposed construction of the pipeline, began a relay race from their Spirit Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota, to the office of the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Nebraska, to deliver a petition against the pipeline. The Corps later decided to grant the necessary permits and green light the pipeline’s construction.

KEEP READING ON TRUTHOUT

Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past

Author: Stephanie Storm

When Mark Anson came home with his hair on fire after a seminar on the seemingly soporific topic of soil health, his younger brother, Doug, was skeptical.

What had Mark lit up was cover crops: fields of noncash crops like hairy vetch and cereal rye that act on soil like a nourishing facial after the harvest.

Mark, 60, and his two brothers, together with assorted sons and sons-in-law, run Anson Farms, a big commercial soybean and corn operation in Indiana and Illinois. Concern about the soil quality of the family’s fields had nagged at him for some time. “Our corn was wilting when temperatures hit 103 degrees,” he said, and such heat isn’t so unusual in the summer. “I felt like I had a gorilla on my shoulder.” What he learned about the benefits of cover crops gave him hope.

But to Doug, planting some noncommercial crops seemed an antiquated practice, like using a horse-drawn plow. Cover crops had long been replaced by fertilizers. Still, he shared his brother’s concern about their soil. Its texture was different, not as loamy as it had once been, and a lot of it was running off into ditches and other waterways when it rained.

Keep Reading in The New York Times

National and International Regenerative Agriculture Advocacy Groups Announce Support for Vermont Regenerative Farm Certification Bill

For Immediate Release

February 10, 2016

Contact:

Aria McLauchlan, Kiss the Ground, aria@kisstheground.com

Katherine Paul, Regeneration International, 207-653-3090, katherine@regenerationinternational.org;

National and International Regenerative Agriculture Advocacy Groups Announce Support for Vermont Regenerative Farm Certification Bill

Vermont Bill Would Establish the Nation’s First Program for Certifying Regenerative Farms.

Los Angeles, California – (Wednesday, Feb 10)

Kiss the Ground and Regeneration International today announced support for Vermont’s Senate Bill 159, a bill that would introduce a state-level certification program under which farmers could have their land and farming methods certified by the state as regenerative.

The bill, introduced by Senator Brian Campion (of Bennington, Bennington County), was first written by Jesse McDougall, a farmer in Shaftsbury, Vt. McDougall employs regenerative farming practices, including planned rotational grazing, which eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and tilling, and regenerate the soil’s capacity to retain water and sequester carbon.

McDougall had considered pursuing a formal organic certification for his meat products, but decided he wanted to do more than tell customers what’s not in the food––the absence of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. McDougall sought instead a certification that would tell consumers what is in their food, how the food was raised, and how the land was improved by its production.

“The certification is intended to help legitimize this style of farming as an economically viable option for farmers,” said McDougall. “It is our hope that this certification program not only creates a high-value market for regeneratively-grown food, but also rewards regenerative farmers for their work with better marketing opportunities and bigger margins.”

“As a small, farmer-friendly state and agriculture pioneer, Vermont is perfectly positioned to lead the country with this type of legislation,” said Finian Makepeace, co-founder and policy director at California-based non-profit, Kiss The Ground. “We expect and hope to see many more states adopt similar legislation as part of the regenerative movement that is spreading across the United States and globally.”

Also known as “carbon farming”, regenerative agriculture practices put the emphasis on soil health using nature’s systems to regenerate the land. According to Andre Leu, president of IFOAM – Organics International, “rebuilding soil by sequestering carbon reduces CO2 from the atmosphere and creates land that is more drought resistant and grows healthier, food, plants and animals.”

“The trends are clear. Consumers increasingly want to know more about their food. What’s in it, how it was grown, whether it was locally produced or shipped a long distance, and how humanely animals were treated,” said Ronnie Cummins, member of the Regeneration International Steering Committee, and international director of the Organic Consumers Association. “And as public concern around global warming escalates, consumers are looking for food produced using practices that contribute to a climate solution, rather than to the problem.”

This is the first piece of legislation specific to regenerative agriculture in the United States, and one that serves both farmers and consumers. The certification is intended to result in a State of Vermont seal, visible to consumers at the grocery store and available to certified farmers to share, educate and promote their work.

The certification includes three standard, binary tests: if topsoil has increased; if carbon has been sequestered; or if soil organic matter has increased. A farm would need to meet only one of these criteria, over a three-year period and with each successive year, to be certified as regenerative.

Healthy soil via regenerative agriculture is gaining traction worldwide with “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate“, a visionary initiative introduced at last December’s COP21 and signed by 25 countries, to increase the organic carbon level of each country’s agricultural soils by 0.4% each year.

“Regenerative farming can rebuild the soil, sequester carbon, produce nutrient-dense food, and eliminate the need for toxic chemicals,” McDougall says. “If we want the next generation of farmers to do this work, it is our responsibility to provide them with the tools that make it possible. We wrote this bill to begin building those tools.”

The Vermont Senate Committee on agriculture will review Bill 159 in the coming weeks and determine whether it will be included in the next legislative session and continue on to the Senate floor.

***

Kiss The Ground is a California-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit championing regenerative living and the restoration of soil worldwide. Their work is generating awareness through media, education and policy, encouraging participation from individuals, farmers, communities and governments to build back healthy soil.

Regeneration International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.

Anna Swaraj

Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning wheel and Gandhi’s ghani (the indigenous cold press oil mill) are both symbols of swadeshi as economic freedom and economic democracy.

Gandhi inspired everyone in India to start spinning their own cloth in order to break free from the imperial control over the textile industry, which enslaved our farmers to grow cotton and indigo for the mills of Lancashire and Manchester, and dumped industrial clothing on India, destroying the livelihoods of our spinners and weavers. The spinning wheel and khadi became our symbols of freedom.

Gandhi promoted the ghani to create employment for the farmer and processor and to produce healthy, safe and nutritious edible oils for society. What the spinning wheel is to “kapda”, the economy of clothing and textiles, the “ghani” is to “roti”, the economy of food.

Fresh, local and artisanally processed food without chemical additives and industrial processing is recognised as the healthiest alternative. That is why until the 1990s, food processing was reserved for the small-scale and cottage industry sector. The World Trade Organisation rules changed our food and agriculture systems dramatically.

Today we are living in food imperialism. We have become a sick nation due to the rapid spread of industrially processed food and junk food, which are destroying our healthy food traditions.

Keep Reading on Asia Age

SIGN THE PETITION

From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food

This week (October 26, 2015), the paywalled site PoliticoPro reported that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wants “farmers and agricultural interests to come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods.”

We agree with Secretary Tom Vilsack that the word “sustainability” is meaningless to consumers and the public. It’s overused, misused and it has been shamelessly co-opted by corporations for the purpose of greenwashing.

But rather than come up with one definition for the word “sustainable” as it refers to food and food production methods, we suggest doing away with the word entirely. In its place, as a way of helping food consumers make conscious, informed decisions, we suggest dividing global food and farming into two categories: regenerative and degenerative.

In this new paradigm, consumers could choose food produced by degenerative, toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture-based industrial agriculture systems that destabilize the climate, and degrade soil, water, biodiversity, health and local economies. Or they could choose food produced using organic regenerative practices based on sound ecological principles that rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.

‘Sustainable’—Is that All We Want?

The dictionary defines “sustainable” as: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources; able to last or continue for a long time.

In other words, sustainability is about maintaining systems without degrading them. And it is about keeping things much the same without progressing.

Industrial agriculture today, with its factory farms, waste lagoons, antibiotics and growth hormones, GMOs, toxic pesticides and prolific use of synthetic fertilizers, doesn’t come close to “not using up or destroying natural resources.”  And even if it did, is that all we want, or need, to achieve?

Or do we want to grow our food in ways that restore climate stability and regenerate—soil, health, economies—rather than merely maintain the status quo?

Greenwashing and the Labeling Game

Corporations love to brand themselves, and label their products, as “sustainable.” The hope is that consumers will view “sustainable” products as superior to mere “conventional” products, or better yet, equate the word “sustainable” with “organic.”

But when a widely discredited and despised company like Monsanto co-opts the word “sustainable,” the word loses all meaning for consumers. On its website, Monsanto says:

Our vision for sustainable agriculture strives to meet the needs of a growing population, to protect and preserve this planet we all call home, and to help improve lives everywhere. In 2008 Monsanto made a commitment to sustainable agriculture – pledging to produce more, conserve more, and improve farmers’ lives by 2030.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready, chemical-intensive GMO crops now dominate agriculture, on a global scale, poisoning soil, water, air, farm workers and consumers. The words on their website fool no one—the agriculture they promote is anything but “sustainable.”

It is the same with the certified “sustainability” labels promoted by corporations such as Cargill, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé, Unilever and Cadbury. These labeling schemes, such as Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Agriculture Network, and UTZ can be congratulated for promoting the planting of trees on farms, for improving the farm environment and for requiring compliance with minimum labor standards. But they do nothing to curtail the use of soil-destroying, climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers and the thousands of toxic pesticides that are known to cause both environmental and health damage.

A “sustainability” label may mean the production methods behind a product inflicted somewhat less damage on the environment. But it doesn’t mean the product will cause less damage to human health. Numerous published scientific studies link exposure to the smallest amounts of these “approved” pesticides to cancers, birth defects, endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, developmental neurotoxicity, ADHD, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, reproductive problems, immune system damage, epigenetic mutations, kidney, liver and heart disease and numerous other non-communicable diseases that are currently in epidemic proportions.

Most of the farmers enrolled in these “sustainability programs” used to grow crops or graze animals traditionally, with little or no chemicals. The same is true for the many thousands of certified organic coffee and cacao farmers who have been hijacked by these schemes—schemes which allow them to charge a premium without meeting the more rigorous organic standards. How can the promoters of these “sustainability” labels claim that they are reducing chemical use when they have converted thousands of low-input traditional farmers to the use of chemicals that they never used before?

A global ‘Regeneration Revolution’ is under way.

In the 1970s, Robert Rodale, son of American organic pioneer J.I. Rodale coined the term ‘regenerative organic agriculture’ to distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond simply “sustainable.”

According to the Rodale Institute:

Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.

Regenerative organic agriculture “takes advantage of the natural tendencies of ecosystems to regenerate when disturbed. In that primary sense it is distinguished from other types of agriculture that either oppose or ignore the value of those natural tendencies.” Regenerative organic agriculture is marked by tendencies towards closed nutrient loops, greater diversity in the biological community, fewer annuals and more perennials, and greater reliance on internal rather than external resources. Regenerative organic agriculture is aligned with forms of agroecology practiced by farmers concerned with food sovereignty the world over.”

We opened this piece by stating that we agree with Vilsack—the word “sustainability,” in the context of food and food production, has led to consumer confusion.

But we don’t like where Vilsack is headed. He told PoliticoPro:

“In recent years, Consumers have raised concerns about conventional agricultural practices, which has led to the growth of organic, GMO-free foods and ‘natural’ products, often at the expense of the reputation of conventional products. I think it’s going to be incumbent on us to have a common understanding of what [sustainability] means to better serve the interests of agriculture as a whole and consumers.”

At the “expense of the reputation of conventional products”? Is Vilsack referring to the well-earned bad reputation of products (those containing GMOs and toxic pesticides, perhaps?) produced using degenerative, rather than regenerative, practices?

A “common understanding” of what sustainability is might better serve the interests of Monsanto and the agribusiness corporations—but it will do little to serve the interests of small farmers and consumers.

The number one driver behind rising sales of organic foods is consumer concern about health, especially pesticides, growth hormones and GMOs. But as scientists issue increasingly dire warnings about the climate, and people throughout the world connect the dots between industrial agriculture and global warming, there is a growing contingent of farmers and consumers who want to do more.

An increasing number of farmers want to grow food and raise animals using organic and regenerative farming and grazing practices that are not only better for human health, but that also cool the planet, feed the world, heal the soil, foster food sovereignty and strengthen communities.

And consumers want to purchase those products, knowing that their production generated healing, not harm.

It’s a Regeneration Revolution. And it goes well beyond “sustainability.”

André Leu is president of IFOAM Organics International, and on the steering committee of Regeneration International.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association, and on the steering committee of Regeneration International.