In this Issue
In the Height of Summer
The growing season is in full swing and across the country the intricate web of biodiversity is busy supporting food production for us. Pollinators are visiting flowers, songbirds are consuming pest insects, and foxes, coyotes and bobcats are keeping rodents in check as they move through farms to wilder areas. Please join us and take a moment to appreciate and give gratitude to the amazing native species and ecosystems that keep our food system alive.
In this newsletter, we share a story hot off the press about the native ecosystem loophole in the National Organic Program. Rest assured that you will be hearing more on this topic in the coming weeks and months as we push to close that loophole and help organics better live up to its status as a climate and biodiversity friendly ecolabel.
Our next piece covers an inspiring vision of farming and community. Farmers in Allensworth, California are taking steps to revitalize their farm with nature, to provide an economic base for their community and to deepen their ties to a historic African American park and nearby natural areas.
We also share pieces about beneficial birds on the farm – one is a delightful audio story with surprising sounds of Barn Owl nestlings; another about how avian pest control is occurring worldwide; and a third about a recent WFA on-farm event.
Included is a blog post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition that outlines some of the work surrounding climate change and agriculture that WFA has been involved with at the federal level. We hope you take a quick minute to take action!
Enjoy the news from the wild!
U.S. 'loophole' can push organic farmers to destroy wildland
Our work to remove this loophole and protect Native Ecosystems from being converted into organic production overnight was recently featured:
WASHINGTON, July 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Helen Atthowe has been farming organically for decades, but when she and her husband bought a new spread in Oregon in 2016, they had to wait several years before they could formally again call themselves organic producers. The 211-acre (85-hectare) farm had long been cultivated using standard fertilizers, so before the U.S. government would certify Atthowe's fruits and vegetables through its National Organic Program (NOP), the land had to rest for three years. Atthowe is now finally applying for certification, but for some, that wait is too onerous - the farmer said she knows of grain producers who wanted to be certified organic more quickly, so they turned to untouched land nearby. "It (was) easier to destroy that native prairie to bring it into organic production," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone…
TAC Farm: Working in Harmony with Nature and Community
Written by WFA Volunteer Janet McGarry - Deep in the heart of California’s Central Valley, lying in the dry parched soils of the former Tulare Lake, there is a farm: with vegetables, grains, livestock, hedgerows and windbreaks thriving in an area that once was the largest lake west of the Mississippi.
The farmers of TAC Farm are helping to revitalize the town of Allensworth, the first town in California established by African Americans in 1908 and the site of the Colonel Allensworth Historic Park. They are improving the health of their agricultural land with the help of a grant from the CDFA’s Healthy Soil Program. By planting cover crops, native plant hedgerows and windbreaks, and applying compost, TAC Farm is creating healthy soil, sequestering carbon and providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife.
Owls, Swallows and Bluebirds: The Secret Allies of Farmers
NPR affiliate KQED’s broadcast features Dennis Tamura of Blue Heron Farms in Corralitos, California, and Humboldt State Professor Matt Johnson, both who participated in a WFA Virtual Farm Field Day on February 19, 2021.
Tamura’s bird boxes attract Western Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and Barn Owls which control pest insects like flea beetles and gophers on his organic vegetable and flower farm. Matt Johnson, who researches the use of Barn Owls to control rodents in Napa vineyards, is also interviewed in the radio broadcast. In the accompanying written story, Jo Ann Baumgartner discusses WFA’s Songbird Farm Trail, and gives a historical perspective on how the benefits of birds have been studied as early as the 1880’s within the Division of Economic Ornithology, which was a precursor to the USDA.
Orchards and Vineyards, Birds are Outperforming Pesticides
WFA’s work was also featured in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Living Bird magazine article which describes how farmers are using birds to control pests with American Kestrel boxes in Michigan cherry orchards, Barn Owl boxes in California vineyards, and reintroduction of an endangered falcon in New Zealand vineyards:
Jim Nugent grows cherries on his 40-acre orchard in Michigan’s Leelanau County, an idyllic peninsula of dunes and tree-covered hills jutting into vast blue Lake Michigan. The surrounding water moderates the worst of the frigid winters here, and the rolling topography drains cold air from the upland orchards. Cherries thrive in the sandy soil...
On June 10th, Jo Ann Baumgartner of Wild Farm Alliance led a presentation and discussion for a dozen farmers and others on how Western Bluebirds help with pest control in wine grapes and other crops. The event was held at Storrs Winery and Vineyard and owner, Steve Storrs, led a walking tour describing how they are continually improving their organic and sustainable practices, from supporting beneficial birds with nest boxes, to building a recharge basin. Thanks to Carla Rosin for organizing it.
NSAC Piece about Climate and Carbon Markets
In a recent blog, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reiterated its support for a holistic approach to land management through expansion of existing conservation programs and expressed concern about an increasing focus on carbon markets in agriculture. Because carbon markets have high transaction costs, typically large-scale, industrial producers benefit from them and small and medium farmers are left out. As a result, carbon markets may exacerbate problems of racial and economic inequity in agriculture.
Technical issues still exist regarding the accurate measurement of soil carbon which impacts the integrity of carbon markets. By focusing too narrowly on soil, carbon markets fail to properly compensate farmers for the multiple environmental benefits of integrated soil health and climate stewardship practices. Resources used to develop carbon markets could reduce investment in other public programs for conservation, research, rural development and renewable energy which have successful track records.
The Agriculture Resilience Act and the Climate Stewardship Act create a framework for achieving the goal of net zero agriculture through increased investment in existing programs. NCAS urges Congress to adopt this legislation and invest in producer-focused policies and programs that have already proven to incentivize farmers to be part of the solution for addressing climate change, air and water quality and biodiversity.
Take Action: A Chance for a Once-in-a-Generation Investment
We need your help to get Congress to take action on climate change and agriculture! This is an incredible opportunity for our government to make a significant investment in key tools for addressing the climate crisis on farms.
Please take three minutes today to call your members of Congress. We've got contact information and a sample script for you below.
Congress is currently working on legislation that offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fund climate-friendly agriculture conservation practices, climate and agriculture research, and resilient local supply chain infrastructure. Lawmakers in the House and Senate need to hear from us this week urging them to take bold, transformative action for the future of our food system. Will you make a call today?
- Call the Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 (If you have time, it’s best to reach out to both of your Senators and your Representative. Short on time? Start with your Senators!)
- Leave a message that goes something like this (feel free to make it your own!):
Hi, my name is ____ I am a constituent from ______. [Tell them if you’re a farmer!] I am calling about pending federal investments in infrastructure. This is a once in a generation opportunity to make sure farmers have the tools they need to address climate change. Please do your part for farmers in [your state] and make sure Congress includes at least $200 billion into climate, agriculture, and green infrastructure investments this year. This will ensure farmers can adopt climate-friendly practices, researchers can develop climate-resilient crops, and local and regional supply chains can support strong community resilience. Can I count on your office to champion this critical funding for farmers and for [your state]?”
No time to call? Click here to send a quick email to your lawmakers instead.
Thanks for all you do! Reply to this email to let us know how your call goes!