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Any Talk About Regenerative Agriculture Must Involve Policy: Clif Bar Exec

Author: Stephen Daniells | Published: March 27, 2018

“I wish we had as much energy around a regenerative, climate-smart Farm Bill as we did around the marketing of regenerative, because now is the time to craft a Farm Bill that could actually improve climate and the quality of our farming,” says Clif Bar’s director of agriculture.

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Regenerative Farming Advocates Hoping to Have a Say in the Farm Bill

Author: Ed Maixner | Published: March 21, 2018

A range of advocates for what’s called regenerative agriculture convened in a U.S. House of Representatives hearing room Monday to talk about ways the upcoming farm bill might change farm programs and how they might join together to change the way Congress supports farmers.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and the Citizens Regeneration Lobby (CRL) hosted the briefing for congressional staff largely to update them on a bevy of super-organic concepts in farming that have been emerging, tagged broadly as regenerative agriculture (RA), and how Congress might support such farming methods.

Speakers at the event, in general, called for upending the USDA funding cart of crop subsidies. They want a shift to support for what they see as better ways of farming and improving land and the environment, rather than bankrolling farmers’ yields and income for major commodities.

Blumenauer urges many of the same changes in farm programs as do the RA advocates and is promoting his own alternative farm bill, the Food and Farm Act. He says only one in four applications for USDA grants to help farmers with improving natural resources is approved, “and of the grants approved, many don’t actually enhance the environment but are used to pay for things farmers need to do anyway, such as hog (manure) lagoons or fencing.”

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Regeneration International: Taking the Organic Standard One Step Higher

Author: Simi Summer, Ph.D. | Published: April 2, 2018

In response to the decision of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to certify hydroponic crops and sanction “taking the soil out of organics” (Many individuals consider this to be the demise of the organic standard) scientists, consumers, farmers and those concerned about protecting the future of organics, are taking a visionary approach. They see the future of organics in regenerative agriculture.

In September 2017, the Rodale Institute presented a draft for organic standards called a new third party Regenerative Organic (RO) Certification. Once finalized, the RO certification will reflect a standard far beyond USDA organic. This will be achieved by establishing higher standards for soil health, land management, animal welfare and fair labor/fair trade practices for farmers and workers. The RO label will appear on certified regenerative products, next to the USDA Organic label, signifying a standard which exceeds those set currently by the NOSB and the USDA.

A growing number of consumers have come to understand that non-organic, genetically engineered, industrially produced and chemically-laden food products and production methods are health hazardous. Unfortunately, degenerative agriculture produces effects which are the opposite of carbon sequestering practices. Such degenerative practices damage the environment, contaminate the air, pollute the world’s water supply and destabilize climate. And increasing levels of greenhouse gas pollution comes from degenerative food, farming and land use practices.

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Community Food & Water and Farm Bill

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UK to Set Goal of Restoring Soil Health by 2030

Author: Sami Grover | Published: March 14, 2018

Incredibly, this appears to be the first time the government has really tried to tackle this crucial issue nationwide.

Michael Gove, the UK’s Secretary of State for the Environment hinted at this in his ‘Green Brexit’ speech, but Rebecca Pow, parliamentary private secretary to environment ministers, appears to have confirmed to The Guardian that the upcoming agricultural bill to be published later this year will include a specific segment on soil health, and is likely to set a nationwide goal of restoring degraded soils across the country by 2030.

The specifics of what that means are still being ironed out, but the bill is likely to include soil health targets for soil health for farmers, as well as incentives for soil-friendly practices like crop rotation, cover crops, and the planting of hedgerows, wind breaks and other natural guards against erosion.

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Stop Buying ‘Fake’ Beef

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: January 30, 2018

The average American is slated to eat about 800 burgers’ worth of beef in 2018, or about 222 pounds.1 Where you get this beef, how it’s raised and, ultimately, the way it is prepared make all the difference in how it affects your health and the environment. Source matters — greatly — and part of that includes knowing where your beef was raised. You’d probably assume that beef labeled “Product of the USA” was a product of the U.S., but this isn’t necessarily the case.

In a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, ranch groups R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) allege that millions of pounds of imported beef are being labeled as “Products of the USA.” They cite the Tariff Act of 1930, which requires imported beef to be labeled with its country-of-origin, including when it reaches the consumer, “unless the beef undergoes substantial transformation” in the U.S.2

However, the USDA has argued that imported beef can be treated as U.S. beef if it comes from a country with food safety standards that are equivalent to those in the U.S. As reported by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), “Consequently, the Secretary allows multinational meatpackers to label imported beef as ‘Products of the USA’ even if the imported beef receives only minor processing, such as unwrapping and rewrapping the package.”3

Why Is Imported Meat Allowed To Be Labeled as US Meat?

While it seems like labeling meat to let consumers know where it came from would be a straightforward requirement, it’s anything but. The original Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule, which was approved in 2002 and took effect in 2008, required the country of origin to be listed on meat labels. In 2013, the COOL rule was improved and meat packages were supposed to be required to label where the animal that provided your meat was born, raised and slaughtered.

At the time, industrial meat producers like Tyson, Cargill and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association were among those who spoke out against the rule, calling it unnecessarily costly and “shortsighted,” while fearing it would shrink demand for imported meat. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers seeking greater transparency in their food sources, the meat giants needn’t have worried because global dictators stepped in and essentially told consumers they don’t have the right to know.

In 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled U.S. law requiring COOL labels on meat was illegal, as it discriminated against Canadian and Mexican meat companies and gave an advantage to U.S. meat producers.4 WTO even ordered more than $1 billion in trade sanctions annually against the U.S. if the COOL labels were not weakened or removed altogether. As reported by the Huffington Post:5

“[The] World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the country-of-origin meat labels (COOL) that Americans rely on to make informed choices about their food provides a glaring example of how trade agreements can undermine U.S. public interest policies … Mexican and Canadian livestock producers and the U.S. meat processing industry fought fiercely against the policy’s initial enactment and then turn to deregulation-by-trade-agreement as Plan B.”

Americans Want to Know Where Their Meat Comes From

As it stands there is no USDA requirement that beef or pork be labeled to let consumers know what country it came from, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly want to know. A Consumers Union poll found that 93 percent of those who responded said they favored country-of-origin labeling.6 And why wouldn’t they? It’s one more way for you to know where your food comes from, providing once commonplace information that has disappeared in the industrial food arena.

By removing COOL, multinational companies are allowed to pass off imported meat as U.S.-raised, while U.S. farmers suffer. AGA noted, “Evidence submitted by the groups indicate that U.S. cattle producers received higher prices for their cattle when the origins of foreign beef was distinguished in the marketplace.” AGA president Will Harris continued:7

“The American Grassfed Family Farmer suffers financially, from this intentional anonymity, more than any other segment of the meat industry. Thank you R-Calf for bringing this injustice to light. Some American Consumers make the decision to pay a premium for beef that is produced in a humane and regenerative manner.

They do this, in part, to positively impact lands, animals and farm communities in the United States. Hiding the National Origin of products from these consumers is a travesty. It should not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against the USDA alleges that it’s actually illegal for the USDA to allow meat without country-of-origin labels because it violates the Meat Inspection Act. That act requires COOL on imported steaks and chops, according to Public Justice, which is representing the ranchers’ groups behind the lawsuit.

“And if you don’t believe our suit, believe the USDA itself,” Public Justice reported. “The department had COOL requirements in place for eight years, and it did so in order to be in compliance with the Meat Inspection Act. In other words, the USDA knows its current policies don’t follow the law; it is just captured by corporate interests. It’s time for that to change.”8

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Framework Agreement on Climate Change Reached at COP23 Climate Negotiations

Author: Michael Peñuelas | Published: December 2017

For the first time in the 25-year history of international climate negotiations, the 197 member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have reached an agreement on agriculture. The milestone came near the close of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) of the UNFCCC and formally establishes a process called the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

This process lays the groundwork for the two subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, one focused on technical advice and one on implementation measures, to review and consolidate experience and information on issues related to agriculture through workshops and technical expert meetings.

“Climate change is already affecting agriculture and food security,” said José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “Without urgent action to adapt agriculture and meet a growing global demand for food, there will be more hungry people in the world. [The Koronivia] decision is a major step to address this problem, and to enable the agricultural sectors to also engage in worldwide efforts to limit global warming.”

The framework requests reports in three years, at COP26 in 2020, from the two bodies, the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

Countries identified five initial focus areas for the work: methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience; improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland; improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems; improved livestock management systems; and socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.

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Greenspace: Better Soil, Better Farms — That’s the Aim of New Program

Author: Ryan Faircloth | Published: November 14, 2017

A collaboration between the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center aims to promote best practices for soil health.

The two organizations last week announced a joint program, dubbed the Minnesota Office for Soil Health. The program will help teach farmers, conservationists and others how to best manage soil health.

The program will be run by University of Minnesota and state staff, and stakeholders from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Post Bulletin spoke with University of Minnesota Water Resources Center Director Jeff Peterson about the new partnership.

How did the idea for a Minnesota Office of Soil Health come about?

It’s certainly been a topic that’s of interest to a growing number of people. Our interest in it from our center stems from a lot of it being things that are beneficial, just like a win-win, because things that are beneficial for soil health also are beneficial for water resources. It’s a win-win from the perspective of, at least in the long term, there’s growing evidence … that it’s helpful for farmers and their production. It builds conditions for them to be more resilient to drought, for example.

Can you tell me a little bit about what the mission of this office is going to be?

We’re bringing the university’s resources to … be able to bring science-based information, or new evolving understanding of soil health, out to state … and federal agencies and the local units of government, the community of conservation professionals that work with farmers and ultimately producers themselves so that people can enhance their understanding from a solid research base of how to build soil health.

So a lot of outreach then?

It’s mostly education and outreach, but also a research component that will be helping to largely coordinate a lot of the research that’s already been going on and connect it. I should mention that economic analysis is part of the research and outreach piece too, in addition to soil science.
 
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Path to the 2018 Farm Bill: A Comprehensive Approach to Food and Farm Policy

Published: November 1, 2017

NSAC Editor’s Note: On October 24, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released its 2018 Farm Bill policy platform, An Agenda for the 2018 Farm BillNSAC has been a leader in agricultural policy for over 30 years, and has been instrumental in helping to develop some of our nation’s most successful agricultural programs for conserving natural resources, advancing the next generation of farmers, supporting agricultural research, and creating farm to fork market connections. NSAC’s 120 member organizations put together these recommendations after months of working closely with each other and with grassroots stakeholdersAn Agenda for the 2018 Farm Bill provides a comprehensive vision for a more sustainable farm and food system based on the recommendations and experience of American family farmers and the organizations that represent them.

This is the first post in a multipart series on NSAC’s policy platform for the 2018 Farm Bill. The second post is on Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, the third on Conservation, fourth on Local/Regional Food Economies, fifth on Seed Breeding and Research, and the last post will be on Crop Insurance Modernization.

Over the last year, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held farm bill listening sessions, conducted surveys, and ran workshops across the country in an effort to gather feedback from farmers, ranchers, and food producing communities. The goal of these outreach efforts has been to better understand what programs and policies would best support a sustainable, equitable, and profitable agricultural system. Together with our 120 member organizations, NSAC used this stakeholder feedback to develop our 2018 Farm Bill recommendations and policy platform.

This initial post of our 2018 Farm Bill platform series is meant as an introduction to the platform and to NSAC’s overarching goals and priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill. In upcoming posts, we will introduce readers to the key takeaways and themes from our platform, including: Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers; Conservation; Regional Food Economies; Public Seed Breeding and Research; and Crop Insurance Reform.

Increasing Opportunity: Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Nearly 100 million acres of farmland (enough to support tens of thousands of new family farms and ranches) is set to change hands over the next five years – during the course of our next farm bill. To keep our agricultural economy strong, we need to facilitate the transfer of skills, knowledge, and land between current and future generations of family farmers. Like beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers face many, often deep-seated barriers to accessing assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2018 Farm Bill should support aspiring and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by:

  • Expanding access to credit, crop insurance, and affordable farmland
  • Increasing technical assistance and outreach services to underserved communities
  • Empowering farmers and ranchers with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy
  • Encouraging a heightened commitment to advanced conservation and stewardship
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First Steps Toward Building a Regeneration Movement in Your Local Community

The paradigm shift from degenerative food, farming and land-use practices toward regenerative practices—those that regenerate soil, biodiversity, health, local economies and climate stability—is arguably the most critical transformation occurring throughout the world today.

Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but also to reverse global warming. At the same time, these practices provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation and global conflict.

The promise of regeneration lies in its ability to increase plant photosynthesis on a large scale. Plant photosynthesis, which draws down CO2 from the atmosphere and releases oxygen, transfers carbon into the plant roots and soil. Fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices across billions of acres of land, as well as the shift to 100- percent renewable energy, has the potential to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate.

As this great drawdown and re-carbonization of the soil and biota occurs, civilization will reap a wide range of other benefits. These include increased soil fertility, increased soil moisture (rainfall retention), the return of regular rainfall and weather patterns, increased food production, nutrient-rich food, enhanced biodiversity, rural and urban economic development and millions of new “green” jobs.

The biggest obstacle we face in scaling regenerative agriculture is educating the public on a global scale. Only a small percentage of citizens, farmers, scientists and policymakers understand the benefits of regenerative food and farming. Some haven’t even heard the term. Therefore, our initial task is to educate folks on the message of regeneration. From there, we can organize core groups, coalitions, pilot projects and policy reforms in every town, city, state and nation.

The following action plan is designed to jumpstart an educational campaign on regenerative food, farming and land-use.

Step 1. Learn the basic principles of regenerative food, farming and land-use.

 Learn how to explain regenerative food, farming and land use as a solution to climate change, global food insecurity, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, public health and more. Be sure to avoid the “doom and gloom” climate change talk, and instead focus on the solution: regeneration.

Once you understand the principles of regenerative food, farming and land use, get excited! Your inspiration will inspire others to join the cause. Over time, you’ll improve your outreach and your ability to recruit others. A good place to start is to engage in conversations with people you already know, and who are concerned about the crises we currently face.

Avoid those closed off to the concept of regeneration. Focus instead on people who are open minded and interested in solutions. You’ll know you’re ready to spread the message of regeneration on a larger scale once you’ve inspired those closest to you, i.e. friends, family members, co-workers.

For more information on regeneration, visit https://regenerationinternational.org.

For the latest research on regenerative agriculture, visit https://regenerationinternational.org/annotated-bibliography/

For trending news on regenerative agriculture, visit https://regenerationinternational.org/news/

Step 2. Develop a core group of 4-5 regenerators. Then join or create your local “Regenerate” Facebook group

 Candidates for these groups include but aren’t limited to local food, climate, farm and political activists; environmentalists; local church members; students; teachers; gardeners; and artists.

Plan a potluck or study group to build your core group’s understanding of our most pressing issues and brainstorm ways to grow your mission. Ask your members to join a local “Regenerate” Facebook group. Or create one if there isn’t an existing group in your area. Click here to find your local “Regenerate” group: https://orgcns.org/2wF6Yn2

You may also register as an affiliate of Regeneration International here: https://regenerationinternational.org/join-us

Step 3. Get familiar with the Global 4/1000 Initiative on Soils and Food Security.

 The 4/1000 initiative is the only global local-to-national climate strategy to sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere as a means of reversing climate change.

Think of the 4/1000 initiative as sort of a Global Declaration of Interdependence, an acknowledgement and a pledge, from people all over the world, to commit to a plan to regenerate our planet.

Activists in dozens of countries worldwide are now using the 4/1000 initiative as an outreach tool for recruiting individuals and organizations to join the regeneration movement. Our hope is that these coalitions will lobby representatives at the city, county, state, national and international levels to pass resolutions supportive of the 4/1000 initiative.

Regeneration International’s goal is to get 50,000 community-based organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to sign on to the 4/1000 Initiative by 2020, ultimately inspiring a global grassroots movement.

Step 4. Develop a plan of action for reaching the masses.

 For the regeneration movement to take root, individuals and groups will need to understand the importance of connecting the dots between what they or their organizations are already working on, and the global campaign to regenerate the Earth’s natural systems, including climate, and soil and water cycles—and ultimately the health of the planet and all who inhabit it.

Target groups include: food, environmental, farm, climate, peace, immigration and faith-based groups, as well as students and others with an open mind and interest in regeneration.

How will you reach out to these groups? How will you identify people within the groups who are receptive to regeneration as an over-arching solution to multiple crises? Suggestions include attending their meetings, listening to their concerns, then finding an opening to introduce the concept of regeneration. Some groups like to have speakers/presentations at their meetings—can you get on the schedule? Or maybe invite a few people from multiple groups to a separate gathering, to discuss their work, and how it fits in with the regeneration movement?

Step 5. Contact Regeneration International to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings.

 Once your core group has educated other groups and individuals in your area, built a critical mass of organizations signed on to the 4/1000 initiative, and begun lobbying local representatives to pass 4/1000 resolutions, contact Regeneration International info@regenerationinternational.org to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings to spread the message of regeneration even more widely.

Regeneration International can also provide resources for promoting and scaling regenerative plot projects https://www.regenerationhub.co/en/ and best practices for your region.

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