BBC News – Bees’ foraging for flowers ‘hampered by diesel exhaust’

Honeybees’ ability to find flowers could be hampered by a chemical in diesel exhaust, say scientists.

Tests showed that exhaust degraded some floral scent chemicals the bees “home in on” when they are foraging.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, also revealed that a specific group of chemicals found in diesel exhaust, known as NOx, diminished the insects’ response to floral scents.

They say the results are evidence that air quality should be improved.

via BBC News – Bees' foraging for flowers 'hampered by diesel exhaust'.

Development pressures threaten farms in Australia’s Food Bowl

Development pressures threaten farms in Australia’s Food Bowl

According to a federal funded report, up to 20 percent of the Hunter Valley’s prime farming land could be lost.

Reasons cited for the bleak forecast include an increase in financial pressures, a generational gap which has resulted in young people leaving the land and searching for careers elsewhere, and an increase in property development in the area, the Newcastle Herald reports.

In spite of the challenges, Hunter labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon believes that agriculture is of “critical importance to the Hunter”, and that the region has a valuable opportunity to export quality food and beverage products to Asia as part of the ‘coming Asian dining boom.’

Food Shortage for Women, Kids due to Shut Down

The most immediate concern is the federal government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC), which provides provides food and counseling to low-income women and their young children, according to a review ordered by Haslam, a Republican.

WIC “can only sustain a shutdown to approximately October 10th,” the review says. “A prolonged shutdown could affect personnel a much of the federal funding Health [Department] receives covers administrative costs.”

The state agency charged with ensuring workplace safety would have to be funded with state dollars if the shutdown lasts for more than a week to 10 days. In the event of a prolonged shutdown “staffing would need to be adjusted,” the review says.

A “significant” impact in coming weeks could effect administration of SNAP (food stamp) programs for low income families. That would come into play in the event of a shutdown lasting 2 1/2 months.

Read more here.

No more citations for curbside veggies in Los Angeles

TED Blog

Planting a vegetable garden beside a road is no longer a fineable action in Los Angeles.

In a major victory for TED speaker Ron Finley, otherwise known as the renegade gardener of South Central, the Los Angeles City Council voted 15-0 on Tuesday to allow the planting of vegetable gardens in unused strips of city land by roads. The council is opting to waive the enforcement of a city law that requires sidewalks and curbs to be “free of obstruction” in the case of vegetable gardens designed for community use. The city will stop enforcing this law immediately.

[ted_talkteaser id=1685]On the TED2013 stage, Finley described getting a citation for planting a vegetable garden on his curb.

“I live in a food desert, South Central Los Angeles, home of the drive-thru and the drive-by,” he said. “So what I did, I planted a food forest in front of my house…

View original post 233 more words

Certified Naturally Grown: An alternative label to organic

 

August 21st, 2013Mary EschAP

SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. (AP) — Justine and Brian Denison say they adhere to all the growing practices required for organic certification, yet if they label their beans and tomatoes “organic” at the farmer’s market, they could face federal charges and $20,000 or more in fines.

Because the Denisons chose not to seek organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Denison Farm, which has been under organic management for more than 20 years, is banned from using that term. So they and hundreds of other small direct-marketing farms across the country have adopted an alternative label: Certified Naturally Grown.

Started by a group of organic farmers in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley as a backlash against federal takeover of the organic program in 2002, Certified Naturally Grown has expanded over the past decade to include more than 700 farms in 47 states, executive director Alice Varon said.

“Certified Naturally Grown is tailored for direct-market farmers producing food without any synthetic chemicals specifically for their local communities,” Varon said. “It’s a particular niche of the agricultural world. It’s not in direct competition with the national organic program.”

Many small farmers previously certified organic by an independent organization have declined to participate in the federal program. They voice a variety of objections: extensive record-keeping requirements; fees that can amount to 6 percent of a small farm’s gross sales; and philosophical objections to joining a monolithic government-run program that also certifies huge operations that ship produce across the country.

“We have noticed over time that more and more farmers — often, younger farmers — who appear to be following organic practices don’t bother to get certified,” said Jack Kittredge, co-owner of a certified organic farm in Barre, Mass., and editor of “The Natural Farmer,” journal of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. “My major concern is that sometimes, unless you’re certified you’re not even aware of some of the problems,” such as calling livestock organic even though the animals eat feed containing genetically modified crops.

Atina Diffley, an organic farming consultant and author in Farmington, Minn., said alternative labels create confusion for customers. She said there are only about 13,000 USDA certified organic farms out of 2.2 million farms, and more organic farms are needed to bolster the movement’s impact on national farm policy. “When farms have an alternative certification, they’re not counted,” she said.

Sam Jones, spokesman for USDA’s organic certification program, said the agency doesn’t comment on guidelines other than its own and doesn’t take a position on whether alternative labels cause confusion. But he noted that growers are required by law to get federal certification if they want to sell their product as organic. Jones said USDA has a new program called “Sound and Sensible,” aimed at reducing paperwork and other burdensome aspects of certification.

Ryan Voilland, co-owner of the certified organic Red Fire Farm in Granby, Mass., said the certification fees and paperwork aren’t a big burden. He grows 100 acres of produce and has gross sales of about $2 million, and pays $2,000 a year for certification, of which $750 is returned in a federal rebate program. The premium price for organic produce far outweighs the fee, he said.

But farmers who opt for labels like Certified Naturally Grown and The Farmer’s Pledge, sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, say there’s room for all the labels; some farms even boast several alternative labels in addition to USDA organic.

“The Farmer’s Pledge is a better program for direct-sales farmers like me, who find the national organic program too burdensome,” said Mark Dunau, who farms five acres in the Delaware County town of Hancock.

About 130 farmers in New York and Connecticut have signed The Farmers Pledge, a commitment to a broad set of farming principles that address labor issues, organic production practices, community values and marketing.

Farmers who participate in Certified Naturally Grown rely on peer inspection by other farmers to ensure they follow organic practices, such as avoiding synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and using cover crops and rotation for healthy soil. While critics say peer review rather than USDA-certified inspectors could lead to cutting corners, Varon said that’s unlikely.

“It’s a different mindset that people bring to Certified Naturally Grown,” Varon said. “They believe in farming in harmony with nature as an expression of their values. It’s not something they do to get a premium in the marketplace.”

Denison agrees. She and her husband operated a conventional farm in Maine before they bought the 164-acre farm in Schaghticoke, 20 miles northeast of Albany, in 2005. They switched to organic farming because they and their two daughters had developed illnesses they believed were caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals.

“We were one sick family,” Denison said. “We were close to 50 when we bought this farm, but we were ready to change course and make a commitment to Certified Naturally Grown.”

Phonehenge West creator jailed: When folk art and building codes collide – CSMonitor.com

The builder of a fantastical fortress in the Mojave Desert has been sentenced to jail for failing to pay for the demolition of his lifes work. Why art isnt sacred in the eyes of code enforcers.

via Phonehenge West creator jailed: When folk art and building codes collide – CSMonitor.com.

Haiti: 1.8 Million People Impacted By Sandy, According to UN

Around 1.8 million Haitians have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, according to data collected by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The number comes after an earlier report saying 1.2 million Haitians faced food insecurity as a result of the storm, which killed 60 people in Haiti.

Up to 2 million people are at risk of malnutrition in Haiti, according to Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the OCHA.

The OCHA, which has expressed continued concern for the nearly 350,000 Haitians still living in tent camps for displaced persons from the 2010 earthquake, said that while most tent residents that had been evacuated before the storm returned home, around 1,500 people remain in 15 hurricane shelters in Haiti.

Late last week, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization said there was limited access to health services and restocking supplies due to impassable rivers and damaged and obstructed roads.

The WHO also warned that poor sanitary conditions could increase the risk of cholera transmission, which has reportedly already seen a rise since Sandy.

via Haiti: 1.8 Million People Impacted By Sandy, According to UN.

What’s Really Happening In Blacked-Out Manhattan | Co.Exist

The lack of an official, coordinated door-to-door response here in downtown, close to some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country, is a bit chilling. Currently across the five boroughs almost half a million people are still without power. If you were going to target people most likely to need help when the power and water is out, it would be the elderly residents of high-rise towers like the ones that surround us. According to a 2011 NYU report, the East Village, Lower East Side, and Chinatown have a population of 169,000. Over 34% of the housing is low-income, 60% more than in the rest of Manhattan, comprising tens of thousands of people. And the lights are out for all of them.

via 1 | Whats Really Happening In Blacked-Out Manhattan | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

FEMA Taps Private Vendors to Meet Sandy Victim’s Needs

FEMA…began to solicit bids for vendors to provide bottled water for distribution to Hurricane Sandy victims on Friday, sending out a solicitation request for 2.3 million gallons of bottled water at the FedBizOpps.gov website. Bidding closed at 4:30 pm eastern.

via FEMA Taps Private Vendors to Meet Sandy Victim's Needs.