News From the Wild Side - June 2017

I just returned from a trip to D.C. for The Organic Center's Organic Confluence Summit. Over two days, leaders in the organic movement discussed the success and future of the organic label. I was honored to be part of the discussion.

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My presentation covered the role of biodiversity in organic agriculture and how the label has continually improved over the years to ensure organic growers are fostering and protecting biodiversity in their operations.

On the panel with me was UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary researcher Amber Sciligo discussing the science behind biodiversity on and around farms, and CCOF’s Jake Lewin talking about the business end of certifying biodiversity.

Stories that inspired me at the Summit:

  • Nebraska Farmer David Vetter manages an 18-year crop rotation using reduced field sizes (12 acres down from 40) surrounded by undisturbed field borders containing 180 native prairie species which ensure virtually no pest insect problems in his crops.
  • Julia Marasteanu described her Penn State research of organic hotspots—areas of concentrated organic farms—that lead to lower poverty rates and higher medium household incomes.
  • Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, an organic farmer herself, shared how important organic agriculture is becoming—13% of produce in America is grown organically, but that only 1/10th of 1% of USDA research funds organic programs, and why Congress needs to put $50 million (up from $20 million) toward USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to start to make up the difference, so that it will fund more research like Dr. Sciligo’s. 

Now that I am back at my desk, I am encouraged to move forward; to continue Wild Farm Alliance's work to ensure biodiversity protection is a top priority and not an afterthought. Thank you for continuing to stand with WFA. Your commitment to biodiversity is making a difference at the national level. As we grow the powerful network of biodiversity advocates together, I can't wait to see what we can accomplish.

For the wild, 

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Jo Ann Baumgartner            Shelly Connor
Executive Director               Assistant Director


Sodbusting_USDA_NRSC.jpegProtecting High Conservation Value Areas

Last month, Wild Farm Alliance attended the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Denver, CO. Together with our partners we generated more than 465 public comments (Thank You!) and submitted our own written comments with 22 endorsing advocates and organizations. 

What resulted in the April NOSB meeting was a clear consensus that this issue is critical, and all NOSB members and organic advocates want to tackle it. What still needs to be worked out is how to define High Conservation Value Areas and in what ways can conversion be discouraged.

We are advocating for a NOP rule change that does not aim to limit the growth of organic agriculture, but rather redirects the growth to transitioning the 99% of agriculture that is managed conventionally. Our work to update the organic rules puts all organic producers on the same playing field and ensures that the products bearing the organic label are upholding the intention behind the rules.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved with this campaign.



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Certifying for Biodiversity

This article by Jo Ann Baumgartner of Wild Farm Alliance, was originally featured in the ACA Guidewire, Volume 13 Issue 2, May 2017

Certifiers have the opportunity and responsibility to identify biodiversity conservation elements as they inspect and verify an organic operation. By conserving biological diversity, the operation not only complies with the rule, but also functions optimally. The biodiversity and natural resources questions and checkboxes in a certifier’s Organic System Plan (OSP) template help the farmer hone the farmscape to support healthy food production while nature sings its song.

The National Organic Program’s Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance 5020 has been out for more than a year now. It reflects on §205.200 and its related definition of natural resources, the definition of organic production that includes conserving biodiversity, and the Preamble to the rule that explains what is meant by conserve (see Box 1). This is language has been in place since the inception of the NOP. The guidance explains what is expected of operators, certifiers, and inspectors, and gives a myriad of examples of how this plays out on the farm. 

Read More


CropDuster_YellowSky.jpgDiverse Landscapes Along with Crop Types Influence Insecticide Amounts Used on Our Food

Feeding a growing world population has led to concerns over increased pesticide use, reduced biodiversity, and fewer eyes to the acre. Wild Farm Alliance shares these concerns.

New research conducted in Kern County California evaluated more than 100,000 agricultural field observations to address the issue of insecticide use as related to crop diversity, field size, and proportion of the crop in region.

Not surprisingly, they found in general that decreasing crop diversity leads to an increase in insecticide use. This is likely because less complex landscapes support larger populations of single insect pests and a smaller diversity of predators. They also found that overall, large fields sizes had a higher pesticide use, likely due to the continuous food supply for pests and lack of edge habitat for natural pest control.

However, the amount of pesticides used were strongly influenced by the crop type. For example, while crop diversity in the landscape reduced the high use of insecticides on grapes, almonds and pistachios, it did not on oranges, carrots and wine grapes. This is important because knowing what crops tend to have high pesticide use in different growing conditions can help target research to reduce these occurrences, or find sustainable alternatives.

Read More


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When you choose to eat organic, you expect that food is not only grown without harmful chemicals, but is also produced in a way that protects wildlife and critical habitat.

This is why Wild Farm Alliance is pushing for a rule change to keep our wildlands and critical habitat safe from conversion to organic production. 

We need your help!

Although organic agriculture is a system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, it offers no protections prior to certification.

The three-year waiting period for land to be free of prohibited substances unintentionally incentivizes producers to convert wildlands and critical habitat to production on one day, and become organically certified the next.

Make a donation to Wild Farm Alliance today to safeguard wildlands and maintain the integrity of the organic label.


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Order a Full Color Biodiversity Guide

WFA's Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer's and Certifier's Guide is now available for purchase. The 100-page full color guide costs $15.00 (includes shipping). Please allow 2-4 weeks for shipping. Click here to order.

About the Guide:  The Guide clarifies the National Organic Program’s (NOP) Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance (released January 2016). The Guide will also increase organic farmers’ and certifiers’ understanding of the myriad of benefits provided by biodiversity conservation.

Outcomes ranging from enhanced pollination and improved pest control, to cleaner water sources can help an organic operation perform optimally. WFA’s Guide gives farmers and certifiers practical and effective information to not only be in compliance but also to take advantage of the ecosystem benefits related to biodiversity.

Organic operations that use the USDA National Organic Program label are obligated to conserve biodiversity and maintain or improve the natural resources, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. The Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance was published to ensure uniform compliance of these regulations that have been in place since the NOP’s inception.

Order your copy here!


 

 

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