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View and download photos of habitat destruction.

Habitat destruction in occurring in the Salinas Valley do to the great pressure from shippers and buyers that are misguidedly marketing sterile farms as safe.

WFA works in this region, and we are seeing and hearing first hand reports of how this compliance with unreasonable food safety requirements is resulting in significant environmental degradation. Our mission of promoting agriculture that protects and restores wild nature strikes at the heart of this matter. Without changes to the direction of food safety programs, stewardship practices supported by USDA and others that protect the environment would be jeopardized nationwide.

Large images can be downloaded by clicking on thumbnails

Piled Trees in 2008
Piles of dead trees lie in rows along parts of the Salinas River, where farmers have been pressured by shippers and buyers to remove habitat. Trees, grasses and bushes can effectively filter dust- and water-borne pathogens and lower the risk of food contamination.
Eliminated Habitat in 2008
Farmers are reporting increasing pressure to remove everything (such as the trees shown above) that might attract wildlife to fields of leafy greens, and many other crops. Environmental regulations are ignored, as is the fact that non-crop vegetation is beneficial for food safety.

Salinas River Trees in 2005 (NAIP)
The red lines in the photos immediately above and to the right indicate the same area at two different points in time. The left photo was taken in 2005. The right photo was shot in 2008. Given that ninety to ninety-five percent of California’s riparian habitat was historically destroyed, the little that remains is all the more valuable. On average, seventy-five percent of wildlife species use riparian areas at some point in their lifecycle.

Trees Missing in 2008 (LH)
When the 2008 aerial photo above is examined closely, piles of wood like the top two images can be seen to have been pushed back along the edge of the existing vegetation. These trees formed a mature multi-layered diverse forest that supported insect-eating songbirds, rodent-eating hawks, and other wildlife. The total destruction was a mile long and 100' wilde.
Windbreak in 2005 (NAIP) Windbreak Missing in 2008 (LH) Lone Tree Left in 2008

Tree lines that served as windbreaks and habitat for beneficial insects and rodent-eating raptors in the past are rapidly being removed because of the unfounded fear that native birds are significant vectors of E. coli 0157. The left photo was taken in 2005 and the middle and right photos were taken in 2008.

Pond Present in 2005 (GE)
In the past, ponds not only served as storage sites for water that could be cheaply pumped from wells during off hours, but also provided habitat for frogs and birds.

Pond Missing in 2007 (GE)
Many ponds have been bulldozed and those that are left are often sterile, due to the practice of using copper sulfate to kill algae that clogs drip systems, but also conveniently kills frogs.


Fence on Salinas River Floodplain in 2008
This fence in the Salinas River floodplain interferes with the movement of wide-ranging wildlife between important water sources and nearby uplands. When fencing is used, it should surround the perimeter of the crop, not the border of the property.
Rodent Station in 2008
Depending on the requirements of the food safety auditor, farmers are made to deploy either poison bait or traps in pvc stations like this one shown here. Small wildlife have not been found to be vectors of E. coli 0157; rather there is a risk of their being inadvertently collected during harvesting and ultimately bagged (wholly or in parts) with processed leafy greens. This is a difficulty with harvest techniques, not a life and death concern for humans.

To get a quick overview, see WFA's Environmental Destruction in the Salinas Valley: 'Food Safety' Requirements to Remove Habitat Make Leafy Greens Less Safe, which explains why this is happening.

To learn the full extent of the problem and recommendations for improvement, go to: Food Safety Requires a Healthy Environment: Policy Recommendations for E.coli 0157.

Food Safety and Environmental Quality Impose Conflicting Demands on Central Coast Growers appeared in California Agriculture and outlines growers' response to new food safety guidelines.


Photo credits:
GE: Goggle Earth
LH: Lighthawk 2008 -Jitze Couperus/Lighthawk 2008
NAIP: National Agriculture Imagery Program 2005

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