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Food and Farming

Accountant Quits Day Job and Starts a Chicken Farm

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 59 min ago

Have you ever wanted to quit your day job and start a chicken farm? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, but you believe this is about as far-fetched a dream as becoming an astronaut at retirement age, think again,

Categories: Food and Farming

Lithuania Bans GM Crops as Biotech Industry Loses More Ground

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 59 min ago

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister,  Virginija Baltraitienė, announced last week that the Baltic country has demanded an EU opt-out regarding the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. Baltraitienė stated; “So far we are not ready. We have to choose whether to promote organic production, or allow GMOs. Our strategy is to increase the number of clean, high-quality products.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Is Full-Fat Dairy Good for Your Heart?

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 59 min ago

A new study confirms (again) that whole-fat dairy is not associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as has been asserted for more than 60 years. The evidence is overwhelming that consuming whole fats can be an important part of maintaining optimal health and actually fights heart disease and other diseases prevalent today rather than causing them.

Categories: Food and Farming

Let's Hear It for Wasps

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 59 min ago

Wasps may buzz, sting us and annoy us, but they’re far more useful than we realise. A new study in Ecological Entomology reveals both the overwhelmingly negative public perception of wasps and also their importance. Among the benefits is wasps’ pollination of flowers, helping Britain’s wildlife to blossom and supporting biodiversity.

Categories: Food and Farming

“A #MeToo-era marvel”: Slate Magazine features Fair Food Program in “What Hollywood Can Learn From Farmworkers”…

Coalition of Immokalee Workers - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 19:38
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images, Thinkstock. Journalist Bernice Yeung in Slate Magazine on the Fair Food Program: “…a #MeToo-era marvel that other industries are rapidly trying to adopt, a novel approach that not only creates real consequences for harassment but also prevents it from happening at all.”

On the one-year anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, Slate Magazine dedicated a feature-length article to the question: “Has [the #MeToo movement] actually led to any significant changes in workplace policies and culture”?  Drawing on the expertise of investigative journalist Bernice Yeung  (author of the recently released book, “In a Day’s Work”, Slate published “What Hollywood Can Learn From Farmworkers,” exploring the ways in which “many low-wage workers were taking novel approaches to ending workplace sexual harassment and violence long before #MeToo.”

The article is based on an excerpt from Yeung’s groundbreaking book, updated for Slate, that explains how two groups of workers — farmworkers with CIW and janitors with SEIU-USWW — have changed their own industries from the inside out, and why other industries should pay attention.  We have included just a few of the article’s highlights below, but it is absolutely worth a full read.  You can find the article in full here.

What Hollywood Can Learn From Farmworkers Long before #MeToo, tomato pickers in Florida were rethinking how to end sexual assault in their industry—and seeing results.

… Here’s how it works: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers persuades growers to sign on to the program, which means they must abide by a strict code of conduct that includes better pay and zero tolerance for sexual harassment. In exchange, these growers are given an opportunity to sell to retailers such as Whole Foods or Taco Bell, which have also promised to only buy tomatoes from Fair Food farms. The program, which began in Florida, has expanded to operations in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey, as well as pepper and strawberry crops in Florida. Dairy workers in Vermont have also launched the Milk With Dignity Program based on the Fair Food model.

Built-in accountability for meeting Fair Food standards helps drive its success. Workers, who are regularly provided on-the-clock training related to their rights, can surface complaints through various avenues, such as a confidential complaint line and education sessions. With workers functioning as the eyes and ears of the program, the model has addressed everything from wage problems to sexual assault in the fields.

Farms are also monitored through annual audits, which are an especially critical and effective part of the program. During these site visits—some of which are announced and some of which are not—a team of inspectors meets with upper management to discuss expectations and to make sure the farm is complying with the code of conduct. The team also looks for evidence that the farm has made gains on any lapses observed from previous audits. Most importantly, inspectors interview at least half of the front-line supervisors and workers to make sure that policies are being followed. Workers, then, become a critical part of the enforcement process.

Angel García, the human resources manager from Pacific Tomato, says that the Fair Food Program creates an infrastructure that helps growers get a feel for the concerns and complaints of their workers. “There are farmers with good hearts, but they are not in the fields, and they don’t know what is happening in their fields,” he says. “Through the audit system, we take the pulse of the operation. We are not a perfect operation, but we have a third-party entity, and if they find something, we will fix it.”

The audits are not just an empty exercise. If growers or the Fair Food Standards Council confirm an incident of sexual harassment, consequences are swift and serious. For example, if physical sexual harassment by a supervisor occurs, the farm is required to fire that supervisor. If it doesn’t, the farm will be suspended from the program and no longer able to sell to the dozen-plus participating buyers, including McDonald’s and Walmart.

“When you can’t make your sales because workers are abused, that is a real issue for the company, and it highly incentivizes compliance,” says Laura Safer Espinoza, the executive director of the Fair Food Standards Council.

In the program’s seven years, 35 supervisors have been disciplined for sexual harassment, and 10 have been fired. Since 2013, two incidents of sexual harassment have been identified. The program’s most recent annual report notes that during the 2016–17 growing season, more than 70 percent of participating farms reported no incidents of sexual harassment. “Cases of sexual harassment by supervisors with any type of physical contact have been virtually eliminated,” the report says.

It is within this larger context of workplace protections that the sexual harassment and domestic violence training at Pacific Tomato in the spring of 2016 had meaning, says Marley Moynahan of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who served as a trainer that day. “If you dropped this training into a farm outside of the Fair Food Program, the workers would connect with what is happening, but the reality is that they would never exercise their rights,” she says. Because of the Fair Food Program, there are real consequences to misbehavior, and workers know they have a safe space to talk about it…

Make sure to read and share the full article over at Slate Magazine’s website!

Why We Have to Break up Amazon

Organic Consumers Association - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 12:36

A antitrust enforcer announced on Wednesday that she is launching an inquiry into Amazon’s relationships with its third-party resellers, zeroing in on the data that Amazon collects from those resellers and whether that data is exploited with the ultimate goal of putting those resellers out of business—or at least out of business that Amazon wants exclusively for itself.

Categories: Food and Farming

Keystone Pipeline gets green light from State Department

Wine And Water Watch - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 09:33
When corporate interests and government are the same….. Keystone Pipeline gets green light from State Department The controversial pipeline lurches that much closer to construction. Casey Michel Twitter Sep 23, 2018, 2:17 pm With backing from the White House, it seemed only a matter of time before the State Department officially signed off on the revised route for the maligned Keystone XL pipeline.

On Friday, the State Department released a report on the proposed route, effectively agreeing with proponents that the environmental risks from the pipeline are minimal. As Reuters reported, the 340-page report concluded that the pipeline would likely have no effect on the groundwater along the route, even in the result of a spill. Citing “prompt cleanup response,” the report claimed that any “contaminated soils” would be handled before the oil reached groundwater.

The report resulted from a ruling from a federal judge in Montana last month, who ordered the State Department to conduct its own review of the route.

Long one of the most controversial of the planned pipelines in North America, the Keystone XL line — which would cost about $8 billion to construct, running nearly 1,200 miles — will probably begin construction in 2019. Former president Barack Obama blocked construction in 2015, citing environmental concerns.

Trump just approved the Keystone XL pipeline. Here’s what comes next.

But protesters likely won’t roll over in the face of the new report, and may well reprise the anti-pipeline protest tactics seen in 2016. That being the case, the federal government, Fortune reported, is “preparing an aggressive tactical response in anticipation” of protests, even including “mass-arrest procedures.”

And the legal fight against the pipeline hasn’t stopped: A pair of Native American communities — the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota — recently sued the Trump administration, claiming a breach of treaty. The tribes also cite concerns about spills — a concern the State Department report will do little to quell.

Categories: Food and Farming

Will Parrish: ‘Treating protest as terrorism’: US plans crackdown on Keystone XL activists

Wine And Water Watch - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 09:26


Northbay’s Will Parrish writes for the Guardian: ‘Treating protest as terrorism’: US plans crackdown on Keystone XL activists

Documents suggest an aggressive response to possible protests against the oil pipeline amid fears of another Standing Rock

Protests at Standing Rock during the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Angeline Cheek is preparing for disaster. The indigenous organizer from the Fort Peck reservation in Montana fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could break and spill, destroy her tribe’s water, and desecrate sacred Native American sites.

But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat.

The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as “extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”, according to recently released records.

Life on the Keystone XL route: where opponents fear the ‘black snake’ The documents suggested that police were organizing to launch an aggressive response to possible Keystone protests, echoing the actions against the Standing Rock movement in North Dakota. There, officers engaged in intense surveillance and faced widespread accusations of excessive force and brutality.

“We have to stay one step ahead at all times,” said Cheek, a Hunkpapa and Oglala Lakota activist and teacher. “History is repeating itself.”

The proposed TransCanada project would carry a daily load of 830,000 barrels of oil over 1,204 miles – from Alberta, Canada to Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, linking to the existing Keystone pipeline and Texas refineries. The path of the project, which was revived by Donald Trump last year, would cross dozens of rivers and streams and run near a number of Native American reservations, sparking legal challenges and a judge’s recent order for a full environmental review.

If the pipeline gets final approvals and construction advances in the coming months, some are anticipating massive demonstrations similar to the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline (Dapl). That conflict galvanized a global movement, but also led to FBI monitoring and the prolonged prosecution of hundreds of activists.

Documents obtained by the ACLU of Montana and reviewed by the Guardian have renewed concerns from civil rights advocates about the government’s treatment of indigenous activists known as water protectors.

Treating protest as terrorism is highly problematic

Mike German, former FBI agent

Notably, one record revealed that authorities hosted a recent “anti-terrorism” training session in Montana. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also organized a “field force operations” training to teach “mass-arrest procedures”, “riot-control formations” and other “crowd-control methods”.

A US justice department intelligence specialist told the Guardian the terrorism training was an annual presentation not specific to Keystone. But the ACLU noted that its records request was specifically about the pipeline protests, suggesting that authorities considered the session relevant to Keystone preparation.

The repeated mass arrests at Standing Rock led to a litany of charges, but hundreds were eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence. Police deployed water cannons, teargas grenades, bean bag rounds and a wide array of weapons in North Dakota.

“Many of our residents were in Standing Rock, and they saw the level of violence that could be visited on us,” said Remi Bald Eagle, the intergovernmental affairs coordinator of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, which is located along the Keystone route. “There’s a level of anxiety and fear because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Pinterest A depot used to store pipes for the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline in North Dakota. Photograph: Andrew Cullen/Reuters The Resistance Now: Sign up for weekly news updates about the movement

The ACLU of Montana, which filed a lawsuit this month against the government seeking Keystone records, earlier obtained a DHS report that said pipeline protesters were engaged in “criminal disruptions and violent incidents”. The report included two past cases of alleged “environmental rights extremists” committing violence.But the events in question – a 2012 bombing and a 2015 shootout with police – had no clear links to any environmental protests, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice.

“Treating protest as terrorism is highly problematic,” said German noting that the US government has long labeled activism as “terrorism”, once claiming that filing public records requests was an “extremist” tactic. “It’s an effective way of suppressing protest activity and creating an enormous burden for people who want to go out and express their concerns.”

The “terrorist” and “extremist” labels can be used to justify brutality and a militarized operation, said Andrea Carter, an attorney with the Water Protector Legal Collective, a group that has represented Standing Rock defendants.

They are instant experts on quashing the indigenous insurgency. It’s very, very concerning

Rachel Lederman, civil rights lawyer

“It’s a really egregious tactic,” she said, noting that the labels also lay the groundwork for prosecutors to turn low-level misdemeanor cases into federal felony trials. “A lot of it has to do with public relations.”

The Montana documents have also shone a light on the coordination between governments across state lines, raising questions about how extensively law enforcement was devoting resources to Keystone protests before they had materialized. An email from the Montana fish, wildlife and parks department from earlier this year said state officials had conducted “extensive conversations with North Dakota to learn what worked and what didn’t work” when responding to Dapl demonstrations.

Montana authorities have done further training sessions on harnessing social media and have begun monitoring posts of anti-pipeline activists, a sheriff said at one meeting, according to a local news report.

The records also highlighted the existing relationships between law enforcement and TransCanada. A county sheriff included a TransCanada executive on communications about one law enforcement training. In August 2017, the Montana Petroleum Association, a trade group, also hosted a panel on “environmental activism” in the state, featuring three law enforcement officers alongside TransCanada’s senior security adviser.

Rachel Lederman, a civil rights lawyer representing Standing Rock activists in a civil case, said it was alarming to see that law enforcement from North Dakota was giving advice about future pipeline protests: “They are instant experts on quashing the indigenous insurgency. It’s very, very concerning, because what happened at Standing Rock was just a wholesale violation of civil rights.”

John Barnes, a Montana justice department spokesman, defended the preparation efforts, saying in an email to the Guardian that authorities were committed to protecting “the first amendment rights of everyone while also protecting private property and public safety”. He added: “In North Dakota, bad actors associated with the Dakota Access pipeline protests maliciously targeted public officials and law-enforcement personnel online, and so it is important that people be prepared here.”

important that people be prepared here.”

Pinterest A protests against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters

Some activists said the law enforcement tactics would not deter them from Keystone opposition efforts – whether in court or on the ground.

“We’ve got a lot against us. We’re the underdog,” said Lance Four Star, the Fort Peck Assiniboine council chairman, who recounted a recent incident of harassment and heckling by a pro-pipeline, pro-Trump group while the tribe was doing a ceremony. “I may never see the results of my efforts in my lifetime, but hopefully our grandchildren will. What we’re protecting now is this water we inherited.”

Peck said she was also concerned about a potential increase in violence against indigenous women, stemming from the “man camps” where oil workers live. But the Montana wildlife department appeared to minimize this concern in one of the records, saying, “Although man-camps bring a certain degree of law enforcement challenges, the primary enforcement focus is protest activity.”

Organizers have discussed a “variety of strategies” to oppose construction, including “prayer camps” similar to Standing Rock, said Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Joye Braun, who organized against Dapl and has been involved in Keystone efforts.

“Clearly, they’re scared of the power of our movement,” she said, adding that she accepted the reality that she may be under surveillance when she travels the pipeline route to meet activists. “We haven’t gone anywhere, and we’re just building momentum.”

Native Americans know the risks are immense. But the “terrorism” label would not intimidate them, said Leoyla Cowboy, the wife of Little Feather, who was recently sentenced to three years in federal prison for “civil disorder” at Standing Rock.

“As indigenous people, it’s embedded in our DNA. It’s our obligation to stand up.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Wine Woes and Water Stress: How Non-Essential Industries Cope with a Changing Climate

Wine And Water Watch - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 09:12
“It is evident that as droughts become a more common phenomenon globally, the tension between vital needs and economic needs is increasing. While this spectrum by no means marks the only way to approach a water shortage, a clear trend is emerging that States are choosing between free economic choice to allocate water, and ensuring basic human needs are guaranteed.”

University of Denver Water Law Review Wine Woes and Water Stress: How Non-Essential Industries Cope with a Changing Climate Michael Larrick  ·  September 21, 2018

In discussions about water shortage, the topic of the human right to water seems to be a key topic of debate. Different countries approach the question of whether individuals should have a right to access safe water differently, and much has been written comparing approaches.  One aspect that is less well covered is how different countries approach water allocation for “non-essential” water uses in times of shortage.

The wines of South Africa’s Western Cape are world renowned. But the recent water crisis in this region has strained the industry, causing lower yields, increasing costs, and raising the question of priority for uses not considered essential to fulfilling a human right to water. Consecutive bad years threaten to bankrupt viticulturalists. Grape vines are perennials, taking years to mature, and death from stress or culling to save water can set grape growers back a decade or more. Combined with economic stress from lower yields, vineyards face tough choices in how to use meager water allocations.

South Africa is an extreme and timely case study, but drought is increasingly endemic to the wine industry globally. From the South Africa to Australia, France to California, water shortage is becoming a reality for grape growers. In such situations, wine is shaped by law as much as the rains. These struggles faced by wine suppliers highlight a conundrum that is gaining attention across States and industries. States take a variety of legal positions when rationing water during shortage. With increasing frequency, water sources are so stressed the basic needs of individuals are threatened. In such a situation, can and should law and policy restrict access for non-essential industries that don’t directly relate to individual needs? Wine offers a look at how this tension plays out. While enjoyable, it does not provide essential sustenance. A comparison how different wine growing regions regulate viticulturalists during severe drought offers an interesting look at the different ways of apportioning water when there’s just not enough to go around:  some let the market sort everything out, while others take a more active role in deciding who gets what.

The Western Cape, Water Crisis, and Wine

The Western Cape of South Africa is entering its third consecutive year of inadequate rainfall. Many reservoirs, both municipal and agricultural, have been exhausted to the point of collapse, without normal replenishment. Dam levels fell to an average 21.4 percent, while the bottom 15 percent is unusable due to siltation. This has led to extreme conservation measures. Cape Town limited individuals to fifty liters per person per day, rapidly approaching the statutory guaranteed minimum of twenty-five liters per day. While individuals have a constitutionally guaranteed right to water minimum, juridical persons like businesses share no such protection.

Legally, water in South Africa is a common resource entrusted to state administration. Private parties may acquire authorizations to use water from a local state authority, a Catchment Management Agency. But there are significant limitations. The State can set temporal limits, assert guaranteed rights necessity to supersede rights, or implement pricing structures changing incentivize particular uses as more wasteful or beneficial. First, these licenses have an expiration date, whereupon licensees must reapply to state administrators. Second, basic human needs and environmental concerns have priority over other uses like agriculture during shortage, curtailing non-essential rights. Finally, the government charges a scalable tariff for any uses above the fifty-liter individual minimum, and for specific types of uses. Using these methods, the government exercises great control over water allocation.

For example, the government can exercise legal priority and economic pricing during the current drought to incentivize municipal uses over grape growing. Agriculture’s ability to use non-potable sources and geographical/infrastructure challenges have spared many vineyards from pressure to yield to individual needs. Still, the average irrigation dam fill is also low—at 26 percent—and local rainfall is inadequate to make up for the shortage. Should they share water with more critical uses, the local Catchment Agency may set prices higher for vineyards to disincentivize their use. In extreme cases, the Catchment Agency may even invoke the higher priority of human and ecological rights to limit or refuse water to vineyards.

Another challenge to giving a human right to water is a decrease in economic labor, leading to unemployment and unrest. Seasonal unskilled labor makes up 75 percent of South Africa’s agricultural sector. A decrease in vineyard yields means a decrease in jobs, increasing unemployment. This can have a cascading and catastrophic effect. In a country facing social unrest, water stress is another factor increasing social tensions. So while facially it might be prudent to conserve water for individual use, there could potentially be secondary effects impacting a broader population.

The challenges this drought poses for viticulturalists create an interesting case study of South Africa’s water law at work. If the drought continues, grapes may increasingly struggle compared to more urgent social uses. The price may increase so drastically that operating at current sizes may not make sense, setting vineyards back decades if they are forced to fallow vines. Additionally, the government can and has invoked priority of human rights to shuttle water away from agricultural uses. The subjugated priority makes it legally difficult to justify against other consumers, like potable water or more essential foodstuffs. And resulting lost labor would hurt the economy and add to social unrest. Michael Fridjhon, a prominent South African wine judge, has no doubt 2018 will be a defining year for South Africa’s wine industry.


Murray-Darling Basin, Australia, and Regulated Water Markets

Australian vineyards have battled drought before—the Millennium Drought from 1997 to 2009 was the longest, deepest, and most severe on record. This coincided with a glut in the grape market. Reacting to rising demand in the early nineties, new vineyards matured just as the drought hit, flooding the market with competition. These two factors had devastating effects on individual vineyards. Both the government and industry had to change their relation to water conservation by adopting a market approach combined with government-regulated allocations. The Millennium Drought offers a retrospective of how industry and government adapted to water stress using a market-based approach.

In Australia, rights are vested in the federal government, and managed by individual states. Complicating this, the Murray Darling Basin, the primary location for agriculture, overlaps three states, each with its own water allocation plan. In 2004, in response to drought, Australia developed an entitlement and allocation system—as well as a water market—to encourage best beneficial use. Entitlements are individual rights, granted in perpetuity and severed from the land. State agencies issue a yearly allocation plan dividing those entitlements, so they operate more like “shares” in a river allocation than a defined absolute volume. In response to the drought and interstate complications, in 2007 the states banded together to create the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to cover planning for the whole basin. A government-monitored market allows trading of both entitlements and yearly allocations, which steadily expanded as the drought intensified.

At first, the drought caused high water prices for viticulturalists in the loosening market, coupled with lower individual yields. The maturation of vines planted a decade earlier resulted in rock bottom grape prices due to increased competition. The eventual result though was a boon for vineyard owners, who were able to supplement allocations that were lower than they expected and save their vines from irreparable harm and death. Creating statutory rights and a robust regulated market helped vineyards survive despite water shortage.


Bordeaux, France: Old Ways, New Challenges

A combination of drought and extreme weather events have stricken European grape harvests, leading to a 20-percent drop in harvest from 2013 to present. Last year marked the smallest vintage in over sixty years. Government and industry have taken steps to combat a changing climate, but change comes slowly to a region so steeped in tradition.

The French government administers water in the public trust through planning and management. Irrigating vineyards has historically been illegal, with rainfall providing the sole source of water. This policy was strongly tied to keeping a ‘pure’ approach to viticulture. But on the heels of their own drought in 2005, regulations against irrigation have eased. Drip irrigation was allowed for the first time, to protect France’s number one agricultural export. This also means viticulture is now tied into the local water supply.

Additionally, in 2016, France became the first European Union nation to adopt a human right to water. However, the exact scope of this right is unclear and untested. France has not faced choices like South Africa, between providing a human right to water and continuing economically important, but vitally unessential industries.

Water scarcity increasingly impacts France’s wine regions, but it has not yet reached a critical juncture like in South Africa or Australia. French laws and regulations are adapting to react to this new threat, albeit slowly and cautiously. Because these laws and regulations are so new, it is not yet clear how a human right to water and loosening irrigation regulations will impact wine industry. Future severe droughts will test the French system, and since the set-up mirrors South Africa, it may play out in the same way.


California and the Free Market of Prior Appropriation

Balancing limited water resources with its position as a national agricultural epicenter is a well-trod discussion for the American West. California faced significant drought from 2012 to 2017, where reservoir totals dropped to as low as 8 percent. Much like the previous regions, this resulted in extreme stress on perennials like grape vines.

Water law in the U.S. is highly state-specific, but all states west of the 100th meridian, where precipitation alone is insufficient to grow crops, generally follow some form of Prior Appropriation. In this system, users must divert water and apply it to a beneficial use. Unlike percentage allocations of total supply such as in Australia, maximum use in California is usually capped at a specific amount, and is subject to seniority rather than state allocation. Additionally, there is a “use it or lose it” approach—if a user doesn’t use their maximum allocation, they risk forfeiting it in the future. It has been argued this protecting of rights is in fact counter-productive, encouraging waste among users who fear forfeiting valuable rights in over-allocated streams. Trading full rights is allowed, but to transfer portions of a right puts the user at risk of forfeiting it permanently.

Prior Appropriation states do not recognize or give special treatment to a human right to water, relying instead on free markets to provide for needs. California is the lone U.S. state to recognize a human right to water, codifying it in 2012. This guarantees a right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes. However, the scope of this right focuses on connecting rural and disadvantaged people to municipal water supplies. It does not address an individual’s relative priority in the Prior Appropriation system. The most senior rights, regardless of how they intend to use the water as long as it is beneficial, get priority.

This more hands-off, free-market approach puts most of the onus to surviving the drought on vintners. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on a farmer’s position in the priority scheme. A senior right assures at least some flow, while a junior right is subject to fulfillment of those before it. At least there is relative reliance on this system for users, with no fear of expropriation for domestic use like in South Africa. While some state constitutions like Colorado in text provide for priority for domestic uses over agricultural and industry, courts have been hesitant to interpret this to upset the priority system. In Town of Sterling v. Pawnee Ditch, the Colorado Supreme court held constitutional language that domestic water uses were preferred above all others did not supersede constitutional protections against taking private property without just compensation.

During the California drought, farms adopted more efficient irrigation methods like drip irrigation, and used supplemental groundwater to weather the worst of it. Vines survived until the rains returned, but survive is very different from thrive. California vineyards are still in a precarious situation. While, for now the waters have returned easing the tension, but will the conservation lessons learned stick around or will fear of forfeiting rights return viticulturalists to the old ways?


Putting It All Together: What Trends Emerge Around Non-Essential Industries and Their Relative Priority

These four approaches to regulating water shortage fall on a spectrum. States with strong commitments to a human right to water like South Africa fall on one end. Here, states have decided that an individual human right to water eclipses rights that are not essential for vitality. The upside is there are protections for individuals so people do not face dehydration or death during water crises. The downside is uncertainty for those non-essential industries, and the fallout from diverting water away from these industries can have sever economic effects, rippling throughout a society.

On the other end of the spectrum is a free-market priority system like in California. First in time, first in right provides certainty for rights holders, who know where they stand in line. It also allows a certain freedom to buy or sell rights to fulfill specific needs. While individuals claim no right to water, municipalities often have large bargaining power to ensure individual needs are met. Still, a tendency towards maximizing individual rights usage to preserve them conflicts with conservation. And less regulated markets combined with hesitance to enforce priority for specific types of uses like domestic over agricultural means no guarantee water will be put to societally advantageous use.

Both France and Australian approaches fall in the middle. France’s relatively new regulatory changes and recognition of a human right to water put it more towards South Africa. But since this system has not faced a true test, a resolution to the tension between uses and needs remains unresolved. Australia’s market system leans more towards the California approach. But Australian markets are more regulated, and the government exercises more control by decreeing allocations in yearly basin plans.

It is evident that as droughts become a more common phenomenon globally, the tension between vital needs and economic needs is increasing. While this spectrum by no means marks the only way to approach a water shortage, a clear trend is emerging that States are choosing between free economic choice to allocate water, and ensuring basic human needs are guaranteed.

So which approach is right? Should there be a human right to water that supersedes non-essential industry rights, or should there be protections for freedom to own usufructuary rights? Approaches should be tailor-made to different cultures, geography, and legal traditions. After all, hydrological challenges are hyper-geographically specific, and the machinery of the law turns slowly. But evidence of increasing water stress globally makes this discussion far from theoretical. U.S. water lawyers would be wise to pay attention to how shortages play out in other countries in order to best advise their clients on which directions the tides may be turning.

Mike Larrick


Image: A concrete lined irrigation ditch runs between grape vines in South Africa’s Western Cape. Flickr user Jason Jones, Creative Commons.




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All Things Considered, Cape Town Copes with Water Crisis, NPR (Feb. 4, 2018, 5:08 PM),


All Things Considered, How a Historical Blunder Helped Create the Water Crisis In the West, NPR (June 25, 2015, 3:06 PM),


Alicia Garcia, Responding to Drought: Calls for Change and Recent Reforms in California, Denver U. Water L. Rev. (Jan. 24, 2017),


Madilynne Clark, Use it or lose It – a counterproductive aspect of Washington’s water law that hurts conservation efforts, Wash. Pol’y Cent. (Mar 23, 2017),


Timothy Wright, Putting Some over the Hill: The Disparate Impact of Drought in California, 32 J. Envt’l L. & Lit. 143 (2016).


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Categories: Food and Farming

EU Parliament Report Demands Reform of Approval Procedure for Toxic Pesticides in Europe

Organic Consumers Association - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 20:34

The European pesticide regulation and its implementation need to be improved, says a draft report from a committee of the European Parliament, published Thursday. The report calls for more transparency, stating that the public must have access to the full studies that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) relies upon to form its opinions.

Categories: Food and Farming

Reversing Climate Change Through Regenerative Agriculture

Organic Consumers Association - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 20:34

This year’s Acres U.S.A. Conference features numerous speakers, who can show how we can reverse the disruptive effects climate change by adopting best practice regenerative production systems. These systems will also make our farms and ranches more productive and resilient to the current erratic climate disruption that we are all facing.

Categories: Food and Farming

In bipartisan push, new Delaware law says ‘no drilling ever on our coastlines’

Wine And Water Watch - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 11:23
“Opposition to the Trump administration’s efforts to open the Atlantic Ocean up for drilling have been widespread. All East Coast state governors, with the exception of Maine’s Paul LePage, a Republican, have expressed dissent, with several seeking exemptions for their states.” In bipartisan push, new Delaware law says ‘no drilling ever on our coastlines’ Another East Coast state says no thanks. E.A. Crunden Twitter Sep 21, 2018, 1:10 pm Delaware has become the latest state to take a hard line against offshore fossil fuel efforts, with a bipartisan push to protect the coastal state’s waters from oil and gas development.

Two bills allowing Delaware to both withhold permits from oil and gas drillers offshore and pursue legal action against them were signed into law on Thursday by Gov. John Carney (D).

Both bills enforce Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act, which already prohibits new activities like drilling in the state’s waters. Senate Bill 200 allows the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to refuse the permits while Senate Bill 207 authorizes Delaware’s Department of Justice to sue over action in waters further away from the coast.

The legislation also hopes to protect against the fact that most oil and gas drilling occurs farther away from Delaware’s coast in federal waters — Delaware’s waters only extend three miles offshore. The Interior Department signaled in January that nearly all of the country’s federal waters will be open to offshore drilling between 2019 and 2024, including the Outer Continental Shelf off Delaware’s coast.

A handful of state Republicans voted against one or both of the Delaware bills, but opposition to offshore drilling runs deep in both parties.

“Our beaches belong to us and they’re not here for the taking,” said Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican who sponsored one bill. “Together we make that unequivocal by clearly stating no drilling today, no drilling tomorrow, no drilling ever on our coastlines.”

New Jersey votes to ban offshore oil and gas drilling

Carney signed the bills in Rehoboth Beach on the area’s boardwalk, not far from Cape Henlopen State Park. The governor noted Delaware’s bipartisan consensus on offshore drilling as he gave the legislation his signature.

“I also had this real feeling of Delaware coming over me as I thought about everybody who’s sitting here; Democrats and Republicans, town people, county people and state officials,” he said. “And we’re all standing up and we’re saying no.”

Opposition to the Trump administration’s efforts to open the Atlantic Ocean up for drilling have been widespread. All East Coast state governors, with the exception of Maine’s Paul LePage, a Republican, have expressed dissent, with several seeking exemptions for their states.

Drilling opponents have widely pointed to the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill, which released nearly 5 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That spill, the worst in U.S. history, impacts the Gulf Coast to this day and the region is still grappling with the disaster’s health and environmental ramifications.

Bipartisan effort emerges countering Trump on offshore drilling

A number of lawmakers have sought to protect their states through legislation in Congress, working across the aisle to do so. Reps. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC) introduced a joint rejection of offshore drilling in June. This was part of an effort to prevent the Interior Department from “issuing leases for the exploration, development or production of oil and gas” on the Outer Continental Shelf. Both Virginia and North Carolina are among the states that would be impacted by drilling off of the coast in that area.

Some states are also taking matters into their own hands without federal assistance. New Jersey passed the nation’s most aggressive legislation on offshore drilling in April, with only one lawmaker opposing the effort. On the West Coast, California followed suit earlier this month, prohibiting new leases for oil and gas projects off the state’s coast.

In lieu of offshore oil and gas drilling, several coastal states including New York and New Jersey are eyeing investment in offshore wind farms instead. While fisherman have raised concerns about such efforts, proponents argue offshore wind could be a vital energy source, in addition to potentially helping protect coastlines from hurricanes.
Categories: Food and Farming

A reminder of bad projects approved by Sonoma County Supervisors

Wine And Water Watch - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 11:01


Belden Barns Tasting Room Gets Approved

If you missed this the first time around, this is the project that Supervisor Gorin begged to be denied. The vote was 4-1 to approve with tears shed by the supervisor as this bad project vs good intentions was approved on a dangerous, winding, very narrow road. Only 5 residents of the road approved this. When big wine talks and the supervisors do their bidding….. “Conspicuously absent were images of city visitors drinking at a wine bar before driving on the winner of Sonoma County’s “rotten roads” competition on November, 2015.  His plans will add 15,000 drivers each year to the infamously treacherous road. Also absent were images of 200 people attending weddings, the trucks delivering off site produce to the farm, and the general public driving up and down the mountain to the retail store.  Time to vote. David Rabbit (Dist. 2) couldn’t see what the problem was. Shirley Zane (Dist. 3) noted that fixing the road would only make people drive faster, creating more danger. She commended the developer for putting up with this frustrating and lengthy process. Efren Carrillo (Dist. 5) discussed how adding signs might prevent deadly accidents. The neighbors could also be notified when large events were to occur, so we could choose not to drive on our road.  John Gore (Dist. 4) finished with a bit of disdain for being mentioned in the proceedings.” COURTESY NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING WHO:Nathan Belden has requested Final Design Review for a 3,380 square foot hospitality building on a 55.13 acre parcel. PRMD File No. DRH18-0006 WHAT: Request for Final Design Review for two hospitality buildings with a total floor area of 3,380 square feet and associated landscaping. The buildings are part of a previously approved Use Permit, Preliminary Design Review and Environmental Impact Report (PLP12-0016) for an agricultural processing and tasting facility on a 55 +/- acre parcel located at 5561 Sonoma Mountain Road, Santa Rosa .APN : 049-030-010. Supervisorial District  1. Zoning on the parcel is : LIA (Land Intensive Agriculture), B6 40 acres per dwelling unit/40 acre minimum parcel size, RC 50/50 (Riparian Co rridor 50 foot set back) and SR (Scenic Resource). All interested persons are invited to attend and provide comments. Design Review Commit tee will only be considering design and landscaping for this project as required by Conditions of Approval for PLP12-0016. WHERE & WHEN: The Sonoma County Design Review Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 2:15PM at: Permit Sonoma Hearing Room, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 . ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Detail s of the project are available at the Permit Sonoma at the address noted above. HOW TO GET INVOLVED: If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed project please contact Gary Helfrich at (707)565-2404 or via email at In addition, you may contact the project applicant Nathan Belden at (415) 577-8552 or via email at Please submit written materials prior to the meeting date so that it can be distributed and considered by the Design Review Committee. If you challenge the decision on the project in court you may be limited to raising only those issues you or someone else raised at the meeting described in this notice or other public meetings, or in written correspondence delivered to Permit Sonoma at or prior to the meeting. Belden Barns Tasting Room Gets Approved

Belden Barns Tasting Room Gets Approved 

By Dan Viele

Pandora’s box has opened in Sonoma County. One sees at a Supervisors hearing like this how development creeps into inappropriate places, how Sonoma County could become as environmentally and socially compromised as Napa County.  As well, public safety seems lost in the scrum.

All five Supervisors and 80 neighbors attended the Final Environmental Impact Report on expanding this local vineyard between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen at 5561 Sonoma Mountain Road.

The owner-developer gave an impassioned plea to finally pass the permits for his idyllic Family Farm. Pictures of children picking pumpkins in the freshly plowed furrows filled the screen.  “We had a large gathering a couple of weeks ago and no one even noticed”.

Conspicuously absent were images of city visitors drinking at a wine bar before driving on the winner of Sonoma County’s “rotten roads” competition on November, 2015.  His plans will add 15,000 drivers each year to the infamously treacherous road. Also absent were images of 200 people attending weddings, the trucks delivering off site produce to the farm, and the general public driving up and down the mountain to the retail store. 

The EIR report was, like other reports of its kind, a bit technical, a bit general, written by “experts” who don’t live on the mountain.  The EIR concluded the major points of neighborhood contention have all been mitigated to no significant impact.  Friends of Sonoma Mountain Road (FOSMR), a coalition of 140 neighbors opposing the project has a thorough Technical and Legal Rebuttal challenging this report at All of the projects stated intents can be met by moving the Tasting Room, Commercial Food Processing, and Events off site.  A win-win for the developer and the neighborhood.

FOSMR opposes: 

1. A Winery, processing 35% off site grapes with Public Wine Tasting Room

2. Cheese Manufacturing, processing 65-70% off-site Ingredients

3. Public Retail Sales and Event Center hosting weddings up to 200 people

The Bennett Valley Area Plan, which takes legal precedence over the Sonoma General Plan, doesn’t allow commercial enterprises to preserve the rural agricultural heritage of this area. There have never been Tasting Rooms, Retail Sales, or regular Events on the mountain. The “misunderstood” developer claims these extra uses are necessary to be financially viable. He is going to demolish the existing buildings on the property and start from scratch. The wine industry professional across the street asked why his financial condition is any of the public’s concern?  The funds necessary to insure safety and maintainability on the access road will not be his.

23 neighbors commented. Five approved of the project. 18 represented the FOSMR opposition. The coalition agrees a Sustainable Organic Family Farm is a wonderful vision. Again and again we heard how wonderful the developer and his farm are.  Neighbor by neighbor, we expressed our horror that anyone would consider dispensing alcohol to drivers using this road.

Our District 1 Supervisor Susan Gorin spent years driving the mountain and agrees with the opposition. A DPW representative reported “repairing” the 7.2 mile stretch of road alone will cost well over $3 million, with minor safety enhancements. Only a complete rebuild would significantly improve safety and maintainability at a cost eclipsing the 5 year county budget for all Sonoma road repair.

Why do alcohol dispensing, a retail store, an event center, and agricultural product processing substantially sourced off-site need to be added to this existing local farm?

This issue is not about family, community, or agriculture. It’s about money. The developer will make his profit at the expense of county taxpayers. If prohibited uses are permitted, we will bear the crushing financial burden of making the access road safe for the increased agricultural, event, and public traffic.  It also opens the floodgate of development. There are 14 more vineyards on Sonoma Mountain Road.

The developer repeatedly stated he wants to create “community” here. I reminded him we are the community on this mountain, I am his neighbor. Our existing community fears a deathtrap is going to be signed, sealed and delivered against our wishes and well-being.

Revisiting worn out ideas like suggesting alternate routes to visitors, or having on site personnel make sure inebriated people don’t drive, a county official admitted in a low voice there really is no way to practically regulate drunk drivers on site. We demanded the Tasting Room and commercial uses move off-site to a safer and appropriate location. 

Time to vote. David Rabbit (Dist. 2) couldn’t see what the problem was. Shirley Zane (Dist. 3) noted that fixing the road would only make people drive faster, creating more danger. She commended the developer for putting up with this frustrating and lengthy process. Efren Carrillo (Dist. 5) discussed how adding signs might prevent deadly accidents. The neighbors could also be notified when large events were to occur, so we could choose not to drive on our road.  John Gore (Dist. 4) finished with a bit of disdain for being mentioned in the proceedings.

Our supervisor, in tears, said she couldn’t approve this wonderful project sited in the wrong place. “It’s an accident waiting to happen”. The local Supervisor is supposed to have preferential influence, knowing in greater detail the neighborhood issues.

The vote: 4 to 1, project approved.  Susan will demand the county provide funds to fix this road if it insists this Tasting Room and Event Center be permitted.  Carrillo replied “… Good luck with that.”

There you have it.  Commercial food processing, alcohol, thousands of unfamiliar urban drivers, dangerous rural road, steel, and flesh.  A very difficult public interest issue to balance.

Wine Culture has lost it’s common sense. When did “Agriculture” become Bars, Retail Stores importing ingredients, and Event Centers? All this posing as a “Family Farm” bringing our divided community together?

Making Sonoma County Great Again?

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Categories: Food and Farming

Captivate Your Senses with Kava

Organic Consumers Association - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 10:31

The kava plant is a member of the pepper family. Large, green and heart-shaped leaves grow thickly on its green, red-and-black striped or spotted stems, and its roots, often used to make kava kava, resemble bunches of knotty, woody and hairy branches.

Categories: Food and Farming

Palm Oil Is Everywhere and Public-Health Experts Are Concerned

Organic Consumers Association - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 10:31

Dr. Anoop Misra drew back the flimsy curtain in his office, and the patient stepped down from the exam table, gently tugging the bottom of his shirt so as to obscure a considerable midsection. “I’m not here to give you sweet words,” said the soft-spoken endocrinologist, who, in addition to seeing patients six days a week at this upscale health center in New Delhi, chairs India’s National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation.

Categories: Food and Farming

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Demands the Office of the Inspector General and Congress Investigate Department of Justice for Fraud and Obstruction of Justice

Organic Consumers Association - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 10:31

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Chairman of Children’s Health Defense (CHD), and Rolf Hazlehurst, parent of a vaccine-injured child, petitioned the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees today to investigate actions taken by federal personnel during the “Vaccine Court” Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP).

Categories: Food and Farming

As Right-Wingers Push Trump to Fire Rosenstein, Here’s What to Do If He Does

Wine And Water Watch - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 09:51
Because our environment and lives depend on our defenders and the rule of law: As Right-Wingers Push Trump to Fire Rosenstein, Here’s What to Do If He Does

“Our response in the hours following a potential power grab will dictate what happens next—whether Congress will stand up to Trump or allow him to move our democracy toward authoritarianism.”

by Jake Johnson, staff writer 71 Comments

“If Trump fires Rod Rosenstein, join March for Truth, MoveOn, our coalition partners and over 400,000 people who have pledged to protest,” noted’s Jordan Uhl. (Photo:

As prominent right-wing provocateurs immediately took to social media on Friday to call on President Donald Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “today” after the New York Times reported that he suggested cabinet officials should invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, progressive advocacy groups detailed rapid response plans to ensure Americans are organized and prepared to take to the streets if the president acts on these demands.

“The Rod Rosenstein Rapid Response Plan: If actions are triggered BEFORE 2 p.m. local time —> events will begin at 5 p.m. local time. If actions are triggered AFTER 2 p.m. local time —> events will begin at noon local time the following day,” announced Jordan Uhl, a campaigner with

Uhl also directed concerned U.S. residents to the website to find local demonstrations.

While the Rosenstein story by the Times sent shockwaves on Friday afternoon, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler worried that reporting now “gives Trump his excuse to fire” the Deputy Attorney General.

But if he does so, at least 400,000 people have pledged to take to the streets in over 900 cities throughout the United States if Trump decides to fire Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“Donald Trump could be preparing to put himself above the law. We won’t allow it,” organizers of the nationwide demonstrations note on their website. “Trump will create a constitutional crisis if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.”

“Our response in the hours following a potential power grab will dictate what happens next—whether Congress will stand up to Trump or allow him to move our democracy toward authoritarianism,” the groups add.

Find an event near you:

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Categories: Food and Farming

Sacramento Is Making Urban Agriculture a Way of Life

Organic Consumers Association - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 10:23

As the food movement gains strength and farm-to-fork practices become increasingly popular, many cities across the United States are investing in urban agriculture, both to attract tourists and to improve community health. For example, in Detroit, which The Washington Post has dubbed a “food mecca,” advocates are using urban farms and community gardens to help ease food insecurity.

Categories: Food and Farming

More Than Ever, Our Clothes Are Made of Plastic. Just Washing Them Can Pollute the Oceans.

Organic Consumers Association - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 10:23

Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers — all of which are forms of plastic — are now about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide. Synthetic plastic fibers are cheap and extremely versatile, providing for stretch and breathability in athleisure, and warmth and sturdiness in winter clothes. 

Categories: Food and Farming

Sperm Counts Dropping: Phthalate Exposure Threatens Human Survival

Organic Consumers Association - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 10:23

Infertility has become increasingly pervasive in recent decades. In “Sperm Count Zero,” GQ Magazine discusses this troubling fact, noting the situation has become so dire that “within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely.”

Categories: Food and Farming