November 6, 2006
Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter!
As we head into the cooler, crisper months of autumn, and the summer harvests of garden fresh salads and luscious strawberries cease, many people turn to warmer, heartier meals to fuel our families and ourselves. Baked goods and meat stews, soups and roasts of all kinds find a place in the everyday and holiday feasts at this time of year. Indeed, it is a booming season for our local farmers who are raising livestock and poultry, and, thankfully, the demand for local organic meat, eggs, and dairy products continues to grow.
While we are celebrating both the season's abundance and the increasing availability of high quality meats and dairy products, we also want to draw your attention to a grave threat to the continued growth of small scale meat production. This month we write about the National Animal Identification System, a thorny and ill-conceived attempt to track the movements of all farm animals as a means of containing disease outbreaks. While we're all for safety in the food system, this particular program promises to give more political clout to factory farming while hamstringing family farmers with red tape - and in the end there is no real promise for increased consumer protections. It's an issue many of our LocalHarvest farmers feel passionately about, and since it is not getting much press elsewhere, we wanted our readers to be aware of it so you can take a stand if you choose.
From the LocalHarvest Catalog:
It's not too late to get a juicy, pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving! LocalHarvest has two options for your holiday bird - you can order one directly through our catalog and have it shipped to you or you can use our search engine to see if a local bird is available in your area for pick-up from a farm. Both are available here.
And it's also not too early to start thinking about looking for some of your Christmas presents in the LocalHarvest catalog! Check out our beautiful selection of hand-crafted wreaths, fruits, chocolates, and farm-made crafts.
Finally, we know that many of you are knitters, weavers, and crocheters. Our selection of yarns and roving has grown substantially this year, and we are excited about how many beautiful wool and alpaca products we have to offer. Find them here, and enjoy!
NAIS: at what cost will the government track farm animals?
Though interest in sustainable and organic farming and agricultural practices is at an all time high, many farmers and ranchers involved in small-scale animal husbandry and dairy production are facing a very real, very bureaucratic challenge in the form of a new US Department of Agriculture initiative, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS is a centralized, high-tech tracking system that would enable the tracing of any, and potentially all, farm animals in the country with an electronic tagging and registration system.
The stated goal of this program is to monitor and track potential disease outbreaks with the ability to identify all potentially contaminated livestock and premises within 48 hours of discovery. Yet the program is conceptually flawed and overly invasive. It will not track meat all the way from the barn to the table, so there will be no real consumer protection from diseased meat. Moreover, the program allows for no exceptions or exemptions - both factory raised animals and animals raised on small organic farms will need to be tagged. Animals warehoused on feedlots will be able to use a group / lot identification tag, while small scale farmers will have to undertake the labor of tagging every animal individually. While currently being implemented on a voluntary basis, the USDA is projecting that compliance with the new NAIS standards will be mandatory by 2008. (Read on...)
Final Note: Other 'Buy Local' Opportunities
Meanwhile, 'tis also the season when more and more groups are promoting the value of buying local foods. In addition to the two organizations we mentioned in last month's newsletter (foodroutes.org and 100milediet.org), LocalHarvest has also joined Global Exchange in their Buy Local Day campaign. Buy Local Day is Saturday, November 18. We encourage you to spend a few minutes that day acquainting yourself with new local food options through the LocalHarvest directory!
As always, thanks for your interest in and support of LocalHarvest.org! We're already working on next month's newsletter, which will feature an article on "organic" agriculture and small farms. See you next month, and until then, take good care and eat well!