In this Issue
Heading into Summer
The weather is warmer, the sun is shining brighter, the days are getting longer and we have been hard at work virtually and out in the field. It has been delightful to visit farms in California’s Central Coast where we installed nest boxes. We are watching for signs of occupancy and capturing the birds in action.
Just last week, we were honored to witness a pair of Western Bluebirds feeding their newly hatched nestlings. Every 10 minutes or so, we saw them bring insects from the nearby fields and wild areas, feeding their young and providing pest insect control for the farm.
Other projects we have been working on include:
- Protecting Native Ecosystems. We are ramping up our national policy work to ensure the organic label protects Native Ecosystems.
- Building a New Guide to Support Beneficial Bird Habitat on Farms. We are creating a new guide for farmers and conservation planners that will help identify practices farmers can employ to support beneficial birds.
- Serrano Family Farm Profile. Serrano Family Farm is one of the farms we worked with through the Healthy Soils Program to plant hedgerows.
- All Things Avian Virtual Field Days. If you missed any of the three virtual field days, we have links to those presentation recordings.
- Songbird Farm Trail is in the News. Our Songbird Farm Trail was recently featured in the Mission Village Voice.
We also feature two articles about pesticides in this enewsletter. The first one highlights a new study that finds when certain pesticides are widely used in American agriculture, they pose a grave threat to organisms that are critical to healthy soil, biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration to fight climate change. The second features the book Toxic Legacy. It delivers compelling evidence about the dangers of the weed-killer, Glyphosate, based on countless published, peer-reviewed studies.
We wrap up with an event announcement from EcoFarm about the benefits of no-till operations and information about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which contains financial support for farmers who have been affected by the pandemic.
Enjoy the latest news from the wild side!
Protecting Native Ecosystems and the Integrity of the Organic Label
There's nothing like priming the pump, when you want to see policies move ahead. That's what we've done by creating the Draft Guidance for Protecting Native Ecosystems and its associated Toolkit, with the help of naturalist and geologist Tony Fleming. With these materials, we are encouraging the National Organic Program (NOP) to enact a recommendation made in 2018 by the National Organic Standards Board. This rule will eliminate the perverse incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic production immediately, instead of waiting three years to transition to conventionally managed land.
Protecting native ecosystems slows climate change, something the Biden Administration and organic consumers care deeply about, but NOP regulations will continue to contribute to the problem until this regulatory change occurs. When destroyed, native ecosystems release large amounts of carbon stored in their woody plants and in the soil.
The NOP is charged with making sure the organic market stays strong, but it is undermining consumer confidence in the organic label with its inaction. The NOSB recognized the perverseness of this situation and took action with a near unanimous vote. It is now time for the NOP to take action to protect the integrity of the seal, and help reverse the biodiversity crisis and reduce global warming.
Building a New Guide to Support Beneficial Bird Habitat on Farms
This spring we have been field testing a new guide that will better help farmers support birds and their pest control services. With it, conservation planners will also be better able to evaluate various site-specific opportunities on the farm for increasing bird habitat.
Many beneficial birds are in decline because of habitat loss and climate change is only predicted to make things worse. With this project, we are making it more likely that birds will find the habitat that suits their needs as their distributions shift in the future.We took our Beneficial Bird Habitat Assessment and Opportunities Guide on the road – the farm road so-to-speak – to fine tune it with help from Wendell Gilgert, formerly of Point Blue Conservation Science and now a WFA Board member, and Sam Earnshaw of Hedgerows Unlimited. This guide helps evaluate the food, water, cover and nesting value of habitat present and what native plants, conservation practices and farm management strategies can be employed on different types of California farms to support birds.
For more about beneficial birds in general, visit our Benefits of Birds on the Farm
Serrano Family Farms Profile
Written by WFA Volunteer Janet McGarry
Four generations of the Serrano family have farmed in Le Grand, California and clearly care deeply about their land. “Farmland is a commodity now to many people. To me, this is the legacy of my parents and grandparents. The farm is a member of the family,” says Dave Serrano.
After pursuing non-farming careers in Los Angeles, his children Christine and Michael returned home to help run the farm several years ago, right before their mother passed away. They are helping their father adopt sustainable practices on the farm including planting hedgerows with funds from CDFA’s Healthy Soil Program. “We’re really excited about making changes and going in another direction,” says Christine. They grow almonds, walnuts, apricots, figs, corn, wheat and alfalfa.
WFA All Things Avian Virtual Field Days
This spring WFA held three successful virtual field days. The events featured farmers discussing the conservation practices they implement to support beneficial birds and the benefits they receive. Everything from installing songbird nest boxes to establishing wildlife corridors.
If you missed the field days, you can watch the recorded presentations on our YouTube channel.
Our work to support beneficial birds on working lands is featured in this month’s issue of the Mission Village Voice, a print publication that focuses on San Juan Bautista and San Benito County.
The article, written by Karminder Brown of San Benito Agriculture Landtrust (SBALT), discusses the installation of songbird nest boxes and how these boxes are attracting beneficial birds that assist farmers with pest control services.
New Study: Agricultural Pesticides Cause Widespread Harm to Soil Health, Threaten Biodiversity
A new study published recently by the academic journal Frontiers in Environmental Science finds that pesticides widely used in American agriculture pose a grave threat to organisms that are critical to healthy soil, biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration to fight climate change. Yet, those harms are not considered by U.S. regulators.
The study, by researchers at the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth U.S. and the University of Maryland, is the largest, most comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil organisms ever conducted.
The researchers compiled data from nearly 400 studies, finding that pesticides harmed beneficial, soil-dwelling invertebrates including earthworms, ants, beetles and ground nesting bees in 71% of cases reviewed.
“It’s extremely concerning that 71% of cases show that pesticides significantly harm soil invertebrates,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity and co-author of the study. “Our results add to the evidence that pesticides are contributing to widespread declines of insects, like beneficial predaceous beetles and pollinating solitary bees. These troubling findings add to the urgency of reining in pesticide use to save biodiversity.”
New Book - Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate is Destroying Our Health and the Environment
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most commonly used weedkiller in the world. Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate-based herbicide are sprayed on farms—and food—every year.
Agrochemical companies claim that glyphosate is safe for humans, animals, and the environment. But emerging scientific research on glyphosate’s deadly disruption of the gut microbiome, its crippling effect on protein synthesis, and its impact on the body’s ability to use and transport sulfur—not to mention several landmark legal cases— tells a very different story.
In Toxic Legacy, senior research scientist Stephanie Seneff, PhD, delivers compelling evidence based on countless published, peer-reviewed studies—all in frank, illuminating, and always accessible language.
Throughout Toxic Legacy readers will discover:
- The uniquely toxic nature of glyphosate
- How glyphosate disrupts the microbiome, leading to gut dysbiosis, autoimmunity, neurodegeneration, and more
- Why we’re seeing a rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, infertility, depression, and anxiety
- Glyphosate’s role in soil degeneration, water contamination, and threats to wildlife and biodiversity
- Important nutritional guidance for conscientious consumers who want to avoid glyphosate-contaminated foods and improve their health
As Rachel Carson did with DDT in the 1960’s, Stephanie Seneff sounds the alarm on glyphosate, giving you guidance on simple, powerful changes you can make right now and essential information you need to protect your health, your family’s health, and the planet on which we all depend.
EcoFarm Event: Digging Into the Research of Small-Scale No-Till Farming Systems
Join with other farmers to learn about the latest research in small-scale, intensive, minimal-disturbance, ecological farming systems! Since 2017, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers has been working with Singing Frogs Farm, Hillview Farms, and others, to carry out on-farm research of the soil health impacts of their farming systems.
At the same time, the Bowles Laboratory at UC Berkeley has conducted a 3-year experiment looking at the effects of key practices of these farming systems. After several years of soil health data collection, these two groups are now ready to discuss their respective research findings, as well as their experiences working with rural and urban farmers who have implemented these farming systems. Join the speakers for a live Q&A following the presentation.
When: Tuesday, June 1, 2021, 12 - 1:30pm PT
Has your operation been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? USDA is implementing updates to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program for producers of agricultural commodities marketed in 2020 who faced market disruptions due to COVID-19.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced an expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on March 24, 2021. This is part of a larger effort to reach a greater share of farming operations and improve USDA pandemic assistance.