The MOF&G Online
A Taste of Stone SoupStone Soup Institute is offering four two-week courses (July 4-17 and 18-31; August 1-14 and 15-28) and two month-long courses (July 1-31 and August 1-31) this summer. These will be run as if they were part of a regular academic year at the Institute. The focus for July will be putting in the winter's supply of hay and using draft horses. Students will also work in the vegetable gardens, rotate pastures, repair equipment and make wine from the fruits in season. The focus in August will be building. Participants will sheath a timber frame, install windows and doors, and learn basic wiring and plumbing skills. They will build a brick Finnish fireplace and will learn how to clean used bricks, mix mortar and lay brick. Also in August, participants will tend vegetable gardens, can vegetables and make wine. Class size is limited to four per session. Register for July sessions by June 28 and for August sessions by July 26. The two-week course fee is $240; month-long -- $450.
For more information, please visit www.stone-soup-institute.org; write to Stone Soup Institute, P.O. Box 383, Harpswell, Maine 04079; or phone Danielle Keller at (207) 833-5878.
Daily Milking Demonstrations at The Morris FarmThe cow's have calved and the milk is flowing at The Morris Farm. Everyone is invited to the farm's milking demonstrations at 4:30 p.m. daily. This is a great opportunity to see where milk comes from and how it gets to your kitchen. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions of the farmer about cows, milking, benefits of raw milk, etc... Milking demonstrations are free, although donations are always welcome.
The Morris Farm is a non-profit organization that promotes the values of sustainable agriculture and stewardship of the earth through education, demonstration and community involvement. It is located on Route 27 N., in Wiscasset. For more information, please call 882-4080 or visit www.morrisfarm.org
Guide to Solving Indoor Air Quality Problems in New HomesThe Maine Indoor Air Quality Council has adopted best practice recommendations for solving indoor air quality problems in new homes in Maine’s climate. The IAQ Checklist for New Residential Construction is available free to home builders, designers and property owners at www.miaqc.org or by calling 207-626-8115. It covers radon, carbon monoxide, lead, asbestos, mercury, tobacco products, chemicals and pesticides, pressed wood products and biological contaminants.
WWOOF-USAWorld-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF-USA) is part of a worldwide effort to link volunteers with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community that is conscious of ecological farming practices. The organization produces a quarterly directory of organic farmers in the United States who are willing to host volunteers on their land. WWOOF-USA provides these opportunities to anyone over 18 years of age who is interested in organic farming and gardening. Volunteers work for half days with no money paid, helping host farmers with free labor toward farm work and projects. In exchange, farmers simply provide volunteers with meals and accommodation. As volunteer accommodation varies, WWOOF encourages details of arrangements to be explicit before meeting. Currently more than 250 listings are in the WWOOF-USA directory. The directory contains descriptions of each farm and its land, crops being grown, personality of the farm family and/or community, and farm projects in which WWOOFers could participate. You can preview the WWOOF-USA directory and find out more at www.wwoofusa.org. WWOOFing exists worldwide, and you can be part of growing the organic movement by sharing with and hosting dedicated folks.
Small Farm Field Day at Unity on August 1The 2004 Small Farm Field Day will take place on Saturday, August 1, at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity. This all-day event features talks and workshops by local and regional experts focusing on practical aspects of small-scale agriculture and homesteading. This year’s theme will be tools, equipment and machinery, with topics including selection, use, and maintenance and repair of everything from hand tools to farm implements. Additional talks will cover such topics as poultry, swine, cover crops and green manures, pests and diseases, and seed saving. Call MOFGA for more information.
Draft Horse and Oxen Work Resource Being DevelopedDue to the many inquiries it has received for names of teamsters all over Maine, the Working Horse & Oxen Association (WHOA) is offering an opportunity for anyone who works with draft animals to become listed as a resource in a new data base. The application will include the location of the teamster. The nearest teamster who lists the skill or involvement required on his or her application will get a referral to the inquirer. Several categories exist, so skills from actual field work to participating in workshops and mentoring can be selected as preferred activities. After the referral, the teamster and person or organization connected through the WHOA link make arrangements themselves.
The WHOA is a network for those interested in working with draft animals, particularly to perform farm and woods tasks using traditional, low-impact practices and non-fossil-fueled equipment. It enables people to work and learn together, recapture skills and extend the knowledge of those skills and techniques to future generations.
The resource listing is free. To receive an application, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Molly Hamel, c/o WHOA, 252 Village Rd., Jackson ME 04921-3111.
Native Plant Education through the New England Wild Flower SocietyThe New England Wild Flower Society offers the most extensive native plant education program in the United States, with 250 courses, trips and events year round. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-877-7630 or visit www.newfs.org for listings.
USDA Funds for Organic Research, Education and Extension ProjectsIn an historic development, the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (USDA CSREES) has announced the availability of $4.7 million in fiscal year 2004 for the new Integrated Organic Program. The Request For Applications (RFA) for the Integrated Organic Program offers two program areas: the Organic Transitions Program, and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. Together, the two programs will fund integrated research, education and extension projects that address critical organic agriculture issues, priorities or problems. The deadline for applications for both program areas is June 10, 2004.
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) was first authorized by Congress in 1997 and received mandatory funds in the 2002 Farm Bill. This program provides a total of $15 million through 2008 to fund competitive grants. OREI will fund projects designed to help producers and processors grow and market certified organic food, feed and fiber products. Priority areas include the biological, physical and social sciences, including economics. Land-grant institutions, nonprofits, small businesses, state agricultural experiment stations and individuals are among those eligible to apply. For 2004, $2.9 million is available for OREI grants.
The Organic Transitions Program (ORG) was created in 1998. Over the last several years, ORG has provided approximately $2 million per year for a competitive grants program for research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic producers. This program is geared primarily toward land-grant universities and other institutions of higher education for projects that deliver applied production information to producers and students. Research must be conducted on certified organic land or on land in transition to organic certification. This program has $1.8 million available currently.
Applicants are expected to specify which objectives they intend to fulfill. One review panel is expected to review applications for both programs in July 2004, with awards made no later than September 30, 2004.
The full RFA and related materials are available online at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/fundview.cfm?fonum=1141.
Questions should be directed to Dr. Thomas Bewick; National Program Leader; Plant and Animal Systems Unit; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; USDA; STOP 2220; 1400 Independence Ave., SW; Washington, DC 20250-2220; Telephone: (202) 401-3356; Fax: (202) 401- 4888; E-mail: email@example.com.
Pesticide Info On-LineThe PAN Pesticides Database (www.pesticideinfo.org/Index.html) is your one-stop location for current toxicity and regulatory information for pesticides. This resource is a project of Pesticide Action Network North America.
Organic Trade Association Adopts Organic Fiber Processing Standards
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) adopted organic fiber processing standards in February. The standards cover all post-harvest processing, from storage of organic fiber (such as cotton or wool) at the gin or similar facility, to spinning, wet finishing and labeling.
OTA and industry members developed the standards after reviewing and modifying existing international standards governing organic fiber while also taking into account the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act and its regulations. The project was supported, in part, by a generous grant from the Martin-Fabert Foundation.
One of the most important differences between the OTA fiber processing standards and those from other countries and organizations is the inclusion of an extremely detailed Materials List stating which products can and cannot be used. OTA is not aware of any other fiber processing standard having such a list. The standards and the list should also interest the conventional textile sector as it looks for ways to reduce negative environmental effects of textile production.
The new processing standards, entitled "The Organic Trade Association's American Organic Standards -- Fiber: Post Harvest Handling, Processing, Record Keeping, & Labeling," are available to OTA members and non-members through a licensing agreement. See www.ota.com/ for licensing details or contact David Gagnon at OTA (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Headquarters: 60 Wells Street, P.O. Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302 USA (413) 774-7511 Fax: (413) 774-6432 e-mail: email@example.com web site: www.ota.com Legislative Office: 600 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22304 USA (202) 338-2900
International GE Labeling Treaty
An international biosafety treaty has been finalized in Malaysia, where 87 countries successfully negotiated a protocol that establishes labeling and documentation regulations regarding imports and exports of genetically modified organisms. Under the new system, any international shipment containing genetically engineered ingredients intended for food, feed or processing must be labeled as such. Despite consensus among attending nations, President Bush refused to sign the agreement.
Source: Organic Bytes #29, 3/9/2004, Organic Consumers Association,
Mendocino County Bans GE Crops
Mendocino County (Calif.) passed a ballot initiative making it the first county in the United States to ban genetically engineered crops and animals--despite over $620,000 spent by corporate agribusiness and the biotech industry in an attempt to convince citizens to vote against the referendum. (Grassroots supporters of the referendum had only $100,000 to work with, including $11,500 from the Organic Consumers Association.) Organic and non-GMO farmers in Mendocino say the new law will help protect their crops from potential contamination from neighboring GE fields.
Humboldt County (Calif.) claims it's next in line for passing a similar referendum, while farmers in the Midwest see the ban as evidence that they may be able to resist the release of Monsanto's new GE wheat. Similarly Prince Edward Island in Canada is considering becoming a "GMO Free Zone."
The biotech industry plans to challenge Mendocino's ban with state legislative or legal action. See the OCA Web site for continuing coverage.
Source: Organic Bytes #29, 3/9/2004, Organic Consumers Association,
Canadian Organic Farmers Ask Monsanto to End GE Wheat
On January 10, 2002, the certified organic farmers of Saskatchewan filed their class action lawsuit to stop genetically engineered wheat. On January 10, 2004, Agriculture Canada decided to halt further investment in Monsanto’s commercialization of genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready wheat.
The organic farmers of Saskatchewan have been on the front lines in the fight against GE wheat. They met with federal agriculture minister Hon. Bob Speller to express their objection to GE wheat when he chaired the Prime Minister’s Caucus Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farming and when he was a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture. The Canadian farmers hope that this decision is the first of a series that will ensure that Canadian farms and consumers will always be free from GE wheat.
Canadian farmers are now calling upon Monsanto to abandon its GE wheat project – to withdraw its application for regulatory approval, stop the test plots and destroy all existing Roundup Ready wheat seed.
"Nobody wants GE wheat except for Monsanto, so put this ill-conceived project out of its misery and abandon it now," says Arnold Taylor, chair of the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund committee. "If one cow can devastate the Canadian beef market, think about what would happen to our wheat markets if GE wheat or pollen were to escape from a test plot and seed be discovered in a shipment bound for Europe or Japan."
In addition, a recent study appears to link increased fusarium head blight to glyphosate (Roundup) use; therefore the commercialization of RR wheat would compound that problem, which is a serious health safety, agronomic and economic concern. (See the National Farmers Union December 11 news release at www.nfu.ca/section1.html and the study abstract at www.umanitoba.ca/afs/agronomists_conf/fernandez.html.)
Source: Media Release, January 10, 2004, from Arnold Taylor, Chair, OAPF Committee, (306) 252-2783 or (306) 241-6125; and Marc Loiselle, Research Director, OAPF Committee, (306) 258-2192 or (306) 227-5825; For details about the OAPF legal action see www.saskorganic.com
Editor's note: On May 10, 2004, Monsanto announced that it would halt development of Roundup-resistant GE wheat so that it could focus on developing biotech corn, cotton and oilseeds, citing poor business opportunities for GE wheat.
Test Plots of Biopharmed GE Crops Lack Oversight
The Hawaiian Department of Agriculture (DOA) regularly approves field tests of genetically engineered "biopharmaceutical" crops without sufficient information to assess the tests' risks to public health and the environment. That conclusion is based on documents produced by the DOA in a lawsuit seeking access to government records regarding open-air field tests of such crops, which produce industrial chemicals and drugs.
For example, all information on the identity of the biologically active substances that the crops are designed to produce and even locations of the tests apparently are removed before DOA receives requests and issues its approval.
In a motion heard by the state circuit court in February, plaintiff Center for Food Safety (CFS), a national nonprofit organization, represented by Earthjustice, sought to compel production of all documents in DOA's possession. In response, DOA said the blank documents were all it received from the individual field test permittees and the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) prior to giving its approval. "The documents produced show total abandonment of any oversight role by the state of these potentially harmful activities," said Isaac Moriwake, attorney for Earthjustice.
Hawai`i has had over 1,400 open-air field tests of genetically engineered crops -- more than any other state. These include numerous tests of "biopharmaceutical" crops designed to produce contraceptives, hormones, blood thinners and clotters, vaccines, and many other potent, biologically active substances. Because they are conducted in the open, the tests pose risks to conventional agriculture, public health, the food supply and the environment.
In its motion, CFS also asked the court to compel DOA to provide detailed, itemized justifications for any information it was seeking to withhold. DOA previously attempted to withhold a wide range of information under broad claims of "confidential business information," or "CBI." Information about field test locations and contact information were included in such "CBI" claims, citing alleged dangers of vandalism by "underground environmental terrorists."
At the hearing, the court agreed with CFS and rejected DOA's blanket responses. It ordered DOA to produce detailed justifications within 60 days.
The DOA has only one staff person assigned to oversee all field tests of GE crops in the state--and that official is in charge of all plant quarantine matters in the state, not just GE crops.
Moriwake noted that Hawai`i law already requires field test permittees to provide the state with all information contained in any permit applications for field tests, but that the documents produced by DOA show a lack of compliance with this mandate. Moriwake also referred to bills currently before the state legislature, including proposals to impose a moratorium on "biopharming" and to reveal the locations of field tests.
Source: Earthjustice press release, Feb. 17, 2004. Contact: Isaac Moriwake, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436; Peter Jenkins, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359.
"Air Curtain" Blocks Insect Pests From Airplanes
A system developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists uses a "curtain of air" to prevent disease-carrying insects from boarding airplanes. Researchers at the ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., developed a method for using high-velocity "air curtains" in passenger walkways to provide a barrier against these problem insects. Passenger walkways are the bridgelike structures that passengers enter to board the airplane from the gate.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) sponsored a pilot study of the curtain system with ARS scientists in Gainesville. Results show that air curtains can exclude 99 percent of flying insects (mosquitoes and flies), according to Robert K. Vander Meer, acting research leader of the ARS Mosquito and Fly Research Unit.
The estimated cost of the two vertically mounted air curtains is about $3,000. The system provides a safer alternative to insecticidal methods currently used.
Certain countries--including India, Australia, Jamaica, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago--require airlines to ensure that aircraft are insect-free before passengers get off the plane. The countries want to prevent mosquitoes, flies and other insects that may spread diseases, such as malaria and West Nile virus, from crossing their borders.
The curtain is made of air blown away from the passenger doors by fans on either side of the walkway, at an air speed of at least 1 meter per second. Insects cannot penetrate the barrier. Companies already manufacture similar air curtains for other purposes, such as blocking heat from entering rooms in commercial establishments.
Source: ARS News Service, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Jim Core, (301) 504-1619, firstname.lastname@example.org, March 9, 2004.
Organic Trade Association and National Wildlife Federation Partner to Promote Organic Practices
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) launched a joint effort in March to promote organic products and educate consumers about the benefits of organic production.
Most conventional farming methods release toxic and persistent materials into the environment each year. Soil and surface waters contaminated with these toxins pose a serious threat to wildlife, particularly to species already threatened or endangered. People are also at risk, as they can ingest small amounts of these toxic compounds every day from conventionally grown foods and contaminated drinking water.
"Most Americans care about the environment and want to keep it healthy for future generations, but don't have extra time to investigate how they can help," said Linda Murphy, NWF's Director of Cause Related Marketing. "Buying organic products is a simple choice that can have a big collective impact. Farmers, manufacturers and retailers will respond to consumers' buying decisions that result in increased demand for organically grown products."
"OTA is excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation, which has outstanding outreach to consumers and the general public concerning wildlife and habitat conservation," said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's Executive Director. "We envision that we can use our shared goals of wildlife and habitat conservation and efforts to promote organic growing practices to build upon each other's efforts."
DiMatteo and Murphy noted that the interests and missions of OTA and NWF are complementary and will offer opportunities for collaboration on many exciting projects.
Source: Organic Trade Association press release. For more information, contact OTA at 60 Wells Street, P.O. Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302; 413-774-7511; Fax: (413) 774-6432; email@example.com; www.ota.com.
Healthy Foods--Cheaper--in Vancouver Schools
According to The Ottawa Citizen (Jan. 13, 2004), students in 50 Vancouver Island schools will be able to select either healthy foods (fruit juice, granola bars...) or junk foods (chocolate bars, soft drinks...) from vending machines--and the healthy foods will be less expensive. Ryan Vending initiated the program in its more than 1900 vending machines on the island.
The Canadian soft drink industry has also said that it will stop selling carbonated beverages in elementary and middle schools in Canada by the beginning of next school year.
New Data on Maine Agriculture Available
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently released some preliminary Census of Agriculture statistics. Here are some comparisons between 1997 and 2002 data for Maine:
The number of farm operators living on the farm for two years or less more than doubled over the period; the number under 25 years of age increased by a factor of five, and the number under 35 doubled.
Farm numbers for each of the three largest size categories increased, but the number of medium-sized farms (beween 50 and 499 acres) decreased significantly, primarily because experienced farmers retired. Maine increased its number of farms with sales greater than a half-million dollars by 32 farms. Losses occurred in other categories, except those with sales under $2,500. Individual or family ownership continues to be the primary means of farm organization.
Maine's 7,213 farms reported 11,415 operators--4,266 (or 37 percent) of whom are women. This is the first Census of Agriculture to record the sex of farm operators. In this Census of Agriculture, the number of principal farm operators working only on the farm increased, while the number of principal farm operators working off the farm for some part of the year decreased. The number of principal operators working 200 days or more off the farm increased from 2,747 to 2,970 over the period. So, fewer Maine farmers are required to work off the farm, but those who do seem to be working off the farm for more days.
Maine's 7,213 farms share net farm income with 8,421 households and provide financial support for 22,338 individuals.
Maine’s farmers are predominantly Caucasian. This trend may change if Somali and other emerging ethnic populations turn to agriculture if start-up funds and other forms of support are available.
Census of Agriculture data are available at www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/cenpre02.txt.
Source: "Preliminary Statistics of Census of Agriculture Released," by Rod McCormick,
Agriculture Today, Maine Dept. of Ag., 2/19/04, at www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter/feature_3.htm.
Container Gardening Boom
According to the National Gardening Association, the number of container gardeners has more than doubled over the last five years, reaching an all-time high of 26 million participating households.
Flower-filled containers are perfect for the modern time- and space-strapped gardener. They add color to patios, decks and other areas where flower beds aren't possible. With new varieties introduced every year, the plant choices are endless, plus the expanding array of self-watering pots simplifies creating colorful, lush container gardens.
For container gardening information, visit www.nationalgardenmonth.org.
Source: National Gardening Association press release, Feb. 27, 2004; Rose Getch,
Saving Farmland Easier with Expanded Web Site
Landowners, agricultural professionals and citizens concerned about the loss of agricultural land now have easier access to assistance, thanks to an expanded Farmland Information Center (FIC) Web site at www.farmland.org. The FIC, a partnership between American Farmland Trust and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is available at www.farmlandinfo.org and by calling 800-370-4879.
Launched in 1994, the FIC maintains an growing collection of state laws, reports and other literature relating to farm and ranch land protection. It also offers an "answer service" to provide direct technical assistance via phone, email and fax. In addition, the FIC staff monitor and report on farmland protection activities around the country, and identify, acquire and develop new materials.
The improved Web site offers more resources, direct access to full text, and a more robust search feature. As the FIC continues to add to its collection, it is making both abstracts and full-text versions of the materials available through the Internet.
According to Jennifer Dempsey, assistant director of AFT's Technical Assistance Services, the new format simplifies finding materials people typically request, such as statistics about the loss of farmland and its consequences, sample ordinances and documents from successful initiatives around the country, and fact sheets and articles that convey basic information about farmland protection approaches and the consequences of the loss of farmland.
Jim Johnson, who is responsible for land use and water planning for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, turned to the FIC when he began exploring new administrative rules for the state's right-to-farm law. "Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I wanted to find out what other people have done that's been successful," he said.
American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the best land, plan for growth with agriculture in mind and keep the land healthy. AFT provides a variety of services to landowners, land trusts, public officials, planners and agricultural agencies, such as workshops on estate planning and farmland protection, Cost of Community Services studies, farmland protection program development and agricultural economic development. AFT's Technical Assistance Services division is located in Northampton, Mass. Phone: 413-586-9330. AFT's national office is located in Washington, D.C. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.
POPs Treaty Achieves 50th Ratification
Environmental health advocates worldwide celebrated the 50th ratification of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Treaty) this winter. This benchmark, reached at surprising speed for such a sweeping accord, brings the global agreement into international law.
"The ratification of this treaty is a true landmark for environmental health," says Monica Moore of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). "By targeting an entire class of chemicals for global phase out, it moves us a giant step forward in protecting people and the planet."
The POPs Treaty targets an initial 12 chemicals for elimination, all of which are members of a dangerous class of chemicals that does not respect national borders–persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs can travel great distances, are often toxic at very low levels, and last for many years in the environment and in our bodies. Nine of the initial 12 chemicals are pesticides; the others are products of industrial manufacturing processes. The treaty was signed on May 23, 2001, by more than 100 nations.
France was the 50th nation to ratify the Stockholm Convention. The treaty officially came into force on May 17, 2004, 90 days following the 50th ratification. The first meeting of the parties to the Convention will be held within a year of that date. Countries that ratify the treaty before this first meeting in early 2005 will be eligible to participate in crucial implementation discussions as well as the scientific review committee that considers the addition of new POPs chemicals to the elimination list.
The United States, which was one of the first countries to press for the treaty, has not yet ratified the accord. Implementing legislation has been stalled in Congress for nearly a year, with the major sticking point being the question of what to do when new POPs chemicals are targeted for global elimination under the treaty. One proposal under consideration by Congress gives U.S. EPA complete discretion in taking any action on a domestic ban when a new chemical is listed under the Stockholm Convention. This approach, being promoted by the Bush Administration, effectively de-links the United States from any international decisions taken on new chemicals and directly undermines the spirit of the Convention.
The question of how to target new chemicals is particularly important, because many POPs still used in the United States are likely to face elimination under the Stockholm Convention. Three of those on the short list of candidates are pesticides still in use in the United States: pentachlorophenol (PCP), lindane and endosulfan.
A powerful force behind the swift ratification of the POPs Treaty has been a global network of nongovernmental organizations, the International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN). "IPEN played a key role in building the international resolve to get rid of these dangerous chemicals," says PANNA's Kristin Schafer. "This unprecedented mobilization of NGOs from affected communities around the world made this a better treaty and led directly to its rapid ratification." PANNA was a founding member of IPEN in the mid-1990s.
Resources: PANUPS, June 8, 2001, "POPs Treaty Signed, NGOs Call for Early Ratification," www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20010608.dv.html; the status of Stockholm Convention signatures and ratification is at www.pops.int; the International Pops Elimination Network site is www.ipen.org. For additional information, see www.panna.org, www.chemicalbodyburden.org .
Farmworkers Sue U.S. EPA for Allowing Dangerous Pesticides
On January 13, 2004, farmworker groups filed a lawsuit in Seattle, Washington, charging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with ignoring important health data in 2001 when it re-approved use of two pesticides that are extremely hazardous to farmworkers. The two pesticides, azinphos-methyl (AZM) and phosmet, are highly toxic organophosphate pesticides, derived from nerve agents developed during World War II and among the most powerful neurotoxins routinely used in the United States. Acute exposure to organophosphates (OPs) can cause dizziness, vomiting, seizures, paralysis, loss of mental function and death.
AZM and phosmet are used extensively in orchard crops, such as apples, peaches and pears, and are registered for use on 32 food crops. Annually about 60 million pounds of OPs are applied to crops in the United States. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Agricultural Chemical Database reports 1.5 million pounds of AZM and phosmet were applied agriculturally in 2001. Although the two pesticides are used across the nation, Washington, Oregon and California growers are responsible for approximately half of all AZM and phosmet agricultural use in the United States.
In addition to occupational exposures to OPs, migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families often live where pesticides drift and settle, and are also exposed through "take-home" exposures on clothing, cars and skin. Tests of dust in farmworker homes in Washington reported in Environmental Health Perspectives found 85% contained AZM residue, and a study published in Environmental Research found four to five times more chemicals in the bodies of farmworker children and people living within one- quarter mile of agricultural fields in Washington state than in the general population.
The lawsuit charges U.S. EPA has continued to allow uses of these pesticides without considering the risks posed to workers, their children and communities. "It is outrageous that U.S. EPA authorized the use of these pesticides, putting thousands of workers at risk of serious illness every year," said Erik Nicholson of the United Farmworkers of America (UFW). "These two pesticides can poison so many farmworkers that EPA found the risks unacceptable, but the agency still allowed them to be used."
U.S. EPA, while acknowledging that agricultural pesticide poisonings are severely underreported, has estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 agricultural workers are sickened each year by pesticides. No national system exists to track pesticide poisoning incidents, and attorneys report that officials in California, Oregon and Washington have expressed concern about their state reporting systems.
A 2003 survey of farmworkers by the Washington Department of Health found that 75% of workers surveyed reported a job-related pesticide exposure. That survey also noted that workers often do not seek care for symptoms out of fear of employer reprisals, and a belief that doctors downplay symptoms due to state and employer pressures. The pesticide AZM is the fourth most frequent pesticide associated with poisoning complaints in the state of Washington. According to UFW, about 30,000 workers in Washington's apple industry are potentially at risk from exposure to AZM and phosmet, with thousands more working in pear and cherry crops also at risk.
The lawsuit argues that U.S. EPA analyzed the estimated economic value of using these two pesticides to farmers but failed to quantify the risks to people and the environment, discounted the use of safe and proven alternatives to these dangerous substances, and used industry-generated data without subjecting it to public comment, even though a federal law allows public input.
AZM and phosmet also pose risks to wildlife, can poison fish, beneficial insects, and contaminate water supplies. USGS data indicate AZM is one of the pesticides most frequently exceeding levels for aquatic safety in U.S. surface waters.
The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Seattle by attorneys with Earthjustice, Farmworker Justice Fund, California Rural Legal Assistance, and the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of Sea Mar Community Health Centers, UFW, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Beyond Pesticides, and Frente Indígena Oaxaqueña Binacional.
Sources: Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, January 26, 2004, www.panna.org; Earthjustice press release, January 13, 2004; Fact Sheet, "Protect Farmworkers from Pesticide Poisonings," www.earthjustice.org/news/display.html?ID=757; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January, 13, 2004; NASS Chemical Database, www.pestmanagement.info; "Pesticide Exposure of Children in an Agricultural Community: Evidence of Household Proximity to Farmland and Take Home Exposure Pathways," Chensheng Lu et al., Environmental Research, Nov 2002, Vol 84 #3, www.sciencedirect.com; "Evaluation of Take-Home Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure Among Agricultural Workers and Their Children," Cynthia Curl et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, 2002, 110 #12.
Horizon Organic Salutes Farmers
In February, Horizon Organic Holding Corporation announced the winners of its annual Exceptional Quality Awards. From Maine to California, over 200 organic dairy farms produce milk for Horizon Organic's certified organic foods. The Exceptional Quality Awards recognize the top 10 percent of Horizon Organic farmer partners in each state whose milk is the highest quality within Horizon Organic's network. To be considered for the award, producers must ship one full calendar year of organic milk, and the average test results for each shipment of that milk must be among the best in their respective states. In Maine, Henry Perkins of Bull Ridge Farm in Albion and Wayne Bragg of Bragg Homestead in Sidney received awards. Horizon Organic signed on more than 35 new farmers nationwide in 2003, and an additional 50 new Horizon Organic farmers are in the process of receiving organic certification and will begin contributing to Horizon Organic's supply early next year.
The organic industry is expected to reach 30 billion dollars in sales by 2007, and dairy accounts for over 26 percent of those sales.
Horizon Organic is soliciting new farmers who may be interested in transitioning to organic farming. For more information, please contact Cindy Masterman in the East at 888-648-8377, or Neal Forsthoefel in the Midwest and West at 800-237-2711, extension 159.
Mainers Buy Over 30 Million Kilowatt-Hours of Green Electricity in Connection's First Year
Clean, green electricity became a market force to be reckoned with in 2003. In the first year of the Maine Green Power Connection's existence, individuals and organizations in Maine purchased more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of "green" electricity from renewable sources. If these 30 million kilowatt-hours had all been generated by the standard offer mix of power sources (which includes plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas), more than 23 million pounds of global-warming carbon dioxide, 54 thousand pounds of acidic nitrogen oxide and 78,000 pounds of smog-forming sulfur dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere--an amount equal to that from driving 1000 cars for one year on Maine’s roads. For more information about the Maine Green Power Connection, visit www.MaineGreenPower.org .
Maine Consumers Seek Maine-Grown Beef
Maine residents seem to be taking the discovery of a BSE-infected cow in the United States seriously, but they haven't turned their backs on beef. Eric Jensen of Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport indicates that his office has received hundreds of inquiries from people looking for Maine-grown "all-natural" beef. "All natural" is a term Wolfe's Neck Farm uses for cattle raised without the use of steroids, hormones and antibiotics. "All Wolfe's Neck cattle are vegetarians," said Jensen. "None of our cattle are fed animal byproducts. We use organic methods to maintain the health and productivity of our soil--no synthetic fertilizers, no pesticides, no growth regulators or no feed additives. I think people just have confidence in the goodness of our products." Wolfe's Neck has expanded the sale of Maine-grown beef by contracting with other producers who agree to supply beef raised to meet existing standards. Currently Wolfe's Neck sales are constrained by production--they have contracts to sell all the meat they can produce.
Leon Emery of Emery's Meat Market in South China has had similar experiences. "Probably half the people that enter my store are looking to buy local food products," said Emery. "People today are asking questions about how cattle are raised and how meat is processed--we never used to get those kinds of questions." Emery is convinced that consumers are looking for something different--so much so that he has recently renovated his store to accommodate more Maine-grown products. "My customers are placing a greater value on what they perceive to be a quality production," said Emery. "The price per pound is no longer what determines what people buy." Emery notes that more local farms are raising and finishing more beef animals, more processing facilities are available, and Maine has a meat inspection program. "I see the development of the Maine Meat & Poultry Inspection Program as key first step," Emery said. "We need to spend the time and money to expand the program--I think we have the opportunity at this moment to expand agriculture."
Arthur Bisson of L.P. Bisson & Sons of Topsham agrees. "The Maine Meat & Poultry Inspection Program has really helped us expand our business," said Bisson. "We used to sell some of our cattle at auction, but the middle men end up making all of the money. With the Maine Meat & Poultry Inspection Program, we are able to keep more of the profits for ourselves."
For more information on the Maine Meat & Poultry Inspection Program, contact Ken Morris at (207) 287-4516 or Henrietta Beaufait, DVM, State Veterinarian, (207) 287-7512. To find out where you can buy locally grown meat and poultry products, visit www.getrealmaine.com/buy.
Source: Agriculture Today, Maine Dept. of Ag., 2/19/04.
The Maine Foods Network Expands Services
The Maine Foods Network (www.mainefoods.net) is expanding the services that it offers to Maine food producers, buyers and consumers. The "Local Foods Challenge" will allow Maine consumers to track their purchases of local foods, and "Our Food/Our Farms/Our Families" will enable Maine food producers to add sales, images and journal entries to their existing contact information.
"Local food is about knowing your farmer," coordinator Eric Rector said when announcing the expansion of services. "The Maine Foods Network wants to bring local food buyers and sellers together, not just for the sake of a sale, but in a way that they can learn about each other at the same time."
Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), who partnered with the Maine Foods Network to develop these new services, agreed. "All of our food should have a name, a face and a place. Local foods are better because the consumer benefits from their freshness, and our communities benefit from their production."
The economic impact of buying foods locally is significant. University of Maine agriculture professor Stuart Smith estimates that if every family in Maine spends $10 a week on local foods, more than 100 million dollars will be added to the Maine economy every year. And, most importantly, that money would be concentrated in rural communities that need it most. The new "Local Foods Challenge" service of the Maine Foods Network asks participants to commit to that goal and rewards them in many ways, including seeing their individual impact on their communities.
Since it was launched in June 2003, the Maine Foods Network has facilitated over $32,000 worth of local food purchases, directly from producer to consumer, by helping buyers find what they need locally. Now, in addition to being able to search the Network for sources of specific, locally grown food, buyers will be able to use a new service called "Our Food/Our Farms/Our Family" to find the immediate availability of specific food items and to discover much more about the producers who offer that food. Buyers will also be able to communicate directly with food producers by communicating what they want to purchase, now and in the future. This unique and powerful tool will bridge the large gap between the growing and eating seasons.
"First, Maine food producers will be able to generate an Internet-based, detailed and illustrated description of their operations without knowing anything about Web programming," Rector explained about the "Our Food/Our Farms/Our Family" service. "These descriptions will help buyers and sellers forge a closer and longer lasting relationship. Next, food producers will be able to tell all buyers exactly what they have for sale, and when; and buyers will be able to tell producers what they want to buy, and when. These offers will be listed by seller or buyer, in order of availability, and will be searchable by keyword. Once buyers and sellers begin to post their long-range plans in this way, farmers won't have to gamble on whether a market will exist for a future crop, and buyers of Maine food will be guaranteed a local access to exactly what they need."
The Maine Foods Network is a Web site (www.mainefoods.net) meant to help put more Maine food on more Maine tables more often. This network of The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (www.mofga.org); The Hancock County Locally Grown Foods Project; and Farm Fresh Connection, a program of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society, aims to help consumers find Maine food; to help Maine food producers find local markets for their world-class products; and to help Maine businesses offer the best local foods to their customers.
University of Maine Students Volunteer in Honduras
Think all college students spend their spring breaks sleeping in? Think again. On Feb. 27, 15 University of Maine students left for the Honduran highlands where they awoke at 6 o'clock every morning and headed to a 20-acre plot soon to be the home of Sustainable Harvest International's Demonstration Farm and Training Center. The students, all members of the UMaine student organization R.E.A.C.H. (respect, education, action, community and hope), partnered with the Maine-based nonprofit organization Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) to construct this educational center where families will be able to visit and learn about alternatives to destructive slash-and-burn farming methods that they can implement on their own land.
The students raised just over $2,000, which was used to purchase the necessary construction materials for the project. In addition to working hard to raise the funding, the volunteers were given the opportunity to work with the village of Terreritos to construct the foundation and walls of the center. Florence Reed, founder and president of SHI, applauds the work of the volunteers. "SHI facilitates long-term collaboration among trained local staff, farmers and communities to implement sustainable land-use practices that alleviate poverty by restoring ecological stability. This training center will provide classroom instruction combined with hands-on field experience working with new techniques and will allow people to see firsthand how well sustainable techniques work."
Diadem Strout, a second-year biology student, took part in the experience. "We made cement by hand and had to carry water up 100 meters of steep terrain in order to mix the cement. We also made mortar for the adobe bricks. We provided positive energy for the other workers and showed them that there are people who do care and want to work hard and promote sustainable agriculture."
Emma Pope-Welch, a second-year student majoring in parks and recreation and journalism, was touched by the closeness of the Honduran village that welcomed the volunteers. "It was one of the most amazing places I've ever visited, and I met some of the kindest and most genuine people. I experienced a greater sense of community and family than I could have ever asked for."
In the two weeks that the R.E.A.C.H. volunteers were in the community, they were able to build the cement foundation, level the floor, create the rebar supports, mix mortar for the adobe and start stacking the bricks for construction of the walls. The SHI staff in Honduras hopes that the center's main building will be complete before June, when a permaculture design course will be offered there.
Third-year biology student Scott Caparelli looks forward to returning to Honduras next spring. "Working with the community in Honduras was an experience of a lifetime. Seeing the work SHI has been doing with families first hand was very inspiring. It was incredible to talk with the local farmers and see the pride they took in showing us all they have accomplished with the help of SHI."
For more information, please contact Sustainable Harvest International, 81 Newbury Neck Rd., Surry, ME 04684; 207-664-0987 (phone); 207-664-0700 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org; www.sustainableharvest.org.
Is America's Diet Stunting Our Growth?
We all know that America's obsession for fast and cheap food is contributing to our collective breadth, but is it also stunting our height? An article in the April 5, 2004, issue of The New Yorker magazine that traces the recent conclusions of "anthropometric historians" --- those who measure height changes in populations over history --- suggests that it is.
In "The Height Gap," Burkhard Bilger notes that in Northern Europe over the past 1200 years, human stature has followed a U-shaped curve: from a high around 800 A.D. to a low sometime in the seventeenth century, and back up again.
With abundant game and land for agriculture and with settlement sparse enough to prevent epidemics, Americans soared ahead in heights in the 18th century. For most of the 19th century, Americans towered above the rest of the world -- about 4 inches above the Dutch. Currently, the Dutch and other Northern Europeans are, however, on average 3 inches taller than average Americans -- factoring out recent immigrants to America with traditionally poor diets. "By now, even the Japanese---one the shortest industrialized people on earth---have nearly caught up with us." American heights leveled out starting in 1955 -- the postwar era of substituting processed food for cooking from scratch -- and haven't increased since.
What's causing Americans' shrinking relative stature? Anthropometric historians believe that "height is a kind of biological shorthand for a society's well-being." While height variations within a population are largely genetic, "height variations between populations are mostly environmental." Researcher Richard Steckel of Ohio State found that Americans lose most height to Northern Europeans in infancy and adolescence, which implicates pre- and post-natal care and teenage eating habits. "In a recent British study, one group of schoolchildren was given hamburgers, French fries, and other familiar lunch foods; the other was fed nineteen-forties-style wartime rations such as boiled cabbage and corned beef. Within eight weeks, the children on the rations were both taller and slimmer than the ones on a regular diet."
Stone Soup Institute Teaches Traditional Skills
Stone Soup Institute in Harpswell, Maine, is a nonprofit, four-season school that integrates traditional and contemporary agrarian knowledge, skills and creativity. The school's goals combine historic preservation with vocational training. The Institute arose from the inspired ideas of Jim Cornish of Harpswell, Maine, and his friends Rolf Hamacher and Klaus Fesseler, both of Germany. When Fesseler spent a day with Cornish, Cornish’s tasks required that he use a cutting torch, weld and do woodworking to make repairs. In Germany, each of these skills represents its own trade, and Fesseler had never known anyone who could adeptly accomplish each.
This experience led to considerations of apprenticeship or a school. Serendipity stepped in when Cornish spoke with Sarah Stone, a farm girl and gifted administrator. Four days later, the school was on its way to formal organization. Four years later, the school has been conducting workshops in timber framing, woodlot management, seed selecting, spinning and knitting, and more, and is recruiting 12 students from Europe and the United States for its first 11-month program starting in January 2005. The school year will follow the four seasons of study (winter to late fall), each season divided into four areas of study: field/forest, barn, household and workshop. The core curriculum will consist of gardening and crops, silviculture, animal husbandry, fiber and textile, building, marketing and accounting. Communal chores (cleaning, cooking, etc.) will be done by the entire group. Stone Soup envisions a second-year program including blacksmithing, pottery and boat building--possibly in partnership with other schools teaching traditional skills.
A Taste of Stone Soup
Stone Soup Institute is offering four two-week courses (July 4-17 and 18-31; August 1-14 and 15-28) and two month-long courses (July 1-31 and August 1-31) this summer. These will be run as if they were part of a regular academic year at the Institute. The focus for July will be putting in the winter's supply of hay and using draft horses. Students will also work in the vegetable gardens, rotate pastures, repair equipment and make wine from the fruits in season. The focus in August will be building. Participants will sheath a timber frame, install windows and doors, and learn basic wiring and plumbing skills. They will build a brick Finnish fireplace and will learn how to clean used bricks, mix mortar and lay brick. Also in August, participants will tend vegetable gardens, can vegetables and make wine. Class size is limited to four per session. Register for July sessions by June 28 and for August sessions by July 26. The two-week course fee is $240; month-long -- $450.
For more information, please visit www.stone-soup-institute.org; write to Stone Soup Institute, P.O. Box 383, Harpswell, Maine 04079; or phone Danielle Keller at (207) 833-5878.
MOFGA Certification Services Staff Grows
Kathy Newkirk is MOFGA Certification Service's (MCS’s) new administrative assistant. She will be helping Mary Yurlina, MCS certification administrator, with data management and coordinating inspector assignments. Kathy is the owner/operator of WinterGreen Herbs & Vegetables in Winslow. She's been an organic grower for the past five years and served as a farm plan reviewer for MOFGA's certification program. Kathy holds degrees in soil science and agronomy and was a researcher at The Ecosystems Center at The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, before setting up farm in Maine. Welcome, Kathy!
Pollination is Most Important Function of Honey Bees
When most of us think of bees, we think of honey. But pollination is the most important function of bees. Crops valuing $15 to $20 billion depend on bee pollination, and honey bees account for 95% of that pollination. Some 50,000 to 60,000 honey bee hives come into Maine to pollinate wild blueberries in May. Without pollination, a Maine wild blueberry farmer may harvest 1000 pounds of berries per acre; with good supplemental pollination, the farmer can realize as many as 5,000 pounds per acre! Without commercial pollination, one-third of our produce diet would be gone. These facts were imparted at the Maine State Beekeepers Association’s (MSBA) annual meeting in April, where more than 100 beekeepers gathered.
The MSBA has seven chapters in Maine, which beekeepers and interested members of the public may join. It was founded in 1976 to educate and inform Maine beekeepers on the theory and practice of sound beekeeping, to represent the interests of beekeepers before the state legislature and in Maine’s agricultural community, and to provide information about bees and beekeeping to the public. Members receive the bi-monthly newsletter, The Bee Line. For more information, call 621-1981 or 725-2979 or email email@example.com.
Maine Board of Pesticides Control News
Bee Pests, Railroad Weeds and Indoor Pesticide Applications Addressed
At its March and April meetings, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) addressed pesticides for controlling mites in bees; a requested variance for applications of herbicides to railroad rights-of-way; standards for pesticide applications indoors; and more.
Board Responds to Federal Funding Cuts
Barbara Ginley, executive director of the Training and Development Corporation (TDC), presented a grant request for the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Program at the March 19 meeting of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC). The board historically has helped fund pesticide safety training for migrant workers in Maine. Most of these laborers work in blueberry fields, but an increasing number work on broccoli farms in Aroostook County. Until this year, TDC used AmeriCorps workers to provide the safety training (two seasonal and one year-round), but President Bush's funding cuts to the AmeriCorps program deleted this option.
The Maine Migrant Labor Program, which has collaborated with past TDC trainers and links migrant workers to medical care related to their occupational hazards, has agreed to pay for the board, supplies, travel costs and supervision of one bilingual pesticide safety trainer, but TDC requested a grant to pay for the trainer's salary and benefits for the season. While bilingual trainers are sometimes difficult to find, Ginley says they are much more effective because they can answer questions that migrant workers might have about the training videos and demonstrations. The board unanimously approved the grant.
Beekeeping Pesticides Approved
The board approved the Section 18 emergency registration renewals of two pesticides used in the beekeeping industry. Anthony Jadczak, the state apiarist, told the board about the importance of the beekeeping industry to Maine agriculture, noting that many Maine crops, including blueberries and cranberries, require bees for pollination and good production. However, beekeepers face many challenges in maintaining healthy hives. Some, such as bee death from exposure to agricultural chemicals, are mostly out of the beekeeper's control; others, such as parasite infestations in hives, are manageable if the beekeeper has access to the proper defenses.
Unfortunately, hive pests, like many other agricultural pests, have developed resistance to formerly successful treatments. Apiarists began using Fluvalinate to control Varroa mites in 1987, but in only 10 years many populations of mites resisted this treatment. Jadczak requested an emergency registration renewal of two treatments for Varroa mites, coumaphos (commercially produced as CheckMite+) and thymol (Api Life Var); he also requested that coumaphos be approved for use against small hive beetles, which have extended their range into the state. He recommended both treatments as part of a rotation scheme to prevent resistance to the harsher chemicals, noting that thymol and coumaphos are "not as effective as the 'hard stuff' -- when the hard stuff works." Thymol carries a "danger" label, while coumaphos carries a "warning" label; neither is approved for use in organic production.
Debate Continues on Railroad Right-of-Way Herbicides
The battle continued between board members and a committee of railroad representatives over the issue of a variance for herbicide applications along railroad rights-of-way. Plans for herbicide applications along highway and utility rights-of-way must include a 50-foot buffer zone on either side and mapping of sensitive areas, such as wetlands and homes. The railroad companies operating in Maine traditionally have received a variance from this rule that exempts them from mapping sensitive areas and permits a much narrower buffer zone of 10 feet.
In the fall of 2002, the board decided to investigate the environmental impact of this variance and organized a committee of industry representatives to establish and fund an effective monitoring system. This committee reached a general consensus that the monitoring was unnecessary and the requirement to fund it unjust, and since then the board and the railway committee have been at an impasse.
At the September 2003 meeting, the board had demanded that the committee formulate a final monitoring plan in time for review at the March 2004 meeting, but instead the committee reiterated its opposition to the monitoring requirement and demanded that the customary variance be granted. Robert Moosmann, director of the committee and senior landscape architect for the Maine Department of Transportation, noted that while most weed control along railroads is conducted mechanically, annual applications of herbicide are required to bring vegetation in the roadbed low enough to allow for safety inspections. Because traffic has increased along many Maine railroads, Moosmann claimed that the need for these safety inspections was greater than ever; increasing the buffer zone to 50 feet would extend the no-spray area over a third of the roadbed, potentially masking broken rails that could derail a train. (Inspectors find broken rails 20 or 30 times per year.) If such a train were carrying hazardous materials, this could result in a massive contamination incident.
An industry consultant from the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad Company, Wayne Duffett, described the spraying equipment used by herbicide applicators along railroads: a truck traveling at 15 mph, delivering a 30-gallon solution rate at 40 psi. He claimed that these techniques justified the narrower buffer zone for railways than roadsides, because drift was practically eliminated.
Henry Jennings, enforcement director on the BPC staff, concurred that the railroads' spraying technique delivered "the least amount of drift, except maybe using a Windex bottle." However, some of the herbicides used, such as hexazinone, tend to leach into groundwater.
When asked about alternatives to spraying, Duffett claimed there were none. Mowing accounts for most the railways' vegetation management budget but does not crop grass in the tracks short enough to permit inspection. He claimed that backpack spraying, besides increasing workers’ exposure to chemicals, would not significantly reduce spray drift. He said that he had tested the use of steam for killing weeds and that it had had excellent short-term results, but that it required 5000 gallons of water per mile of track and that the vegetation grew back quickly. However, this technique has been used successfully in Vermont.
RWC, Inc., the spray contracting firm that performs chemical vegetation control on all major rail lines in the state, submitted an alternative to the 10-foot buffer strip and monitoring plan proposed by the board. The company requested an exemption from the requirement to map sensitive areas within 500 feet of the spray zone, instead proposing to employ a spotter running ahead of the spray truck, to use drift control agents, to use only Roundup near public water supplies, to maintain a 10-foot buffer from all open water, and to restrict the spray swath to the minimum deemed necessary for the safe operation of the railways. The Maine Department of Transportation further offered to limit its herbicide use to "less hazardous" chemicals, such as glyphosate, imazapry and fossamine ammonium.
The board objected to these proposals because they contained no provisions for environmental monitoring; Moosmann said that the railways would fully cooperate with any monitoring operations conducted by the board and would provide space for investigators on their vehicles, but would not pay any monitoring costs, estimated at $12,000. He also knew of no immediate source of outside funding. Board chair Carol Eckert, M.D., expressed her displeasure that a year and a half of negotiations had not been rewarded by more progress.
The BPC's determination to withdraw the customary variance brought up some legal issues, and the representative from the St. Lawrence & Atlantic even hinted a threat of a lawsuit. Although the variance is technically requested by RWC, Inc., the railways claimed that hiring private firms to conduct the vegetation management required by the ICCTA is standard operating procedure. Therefore, for the board to interfere with the operations of RWC could be construed in court as interference with interstate commerce, which is unconstitutional. The board laid the battle to rest for another year and granted the customary variance.
© 2004 by the author. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gorham Critical Pesticide Control Area Application Suspended
An application for a critical pesticide control area to restrict pesticide use around a sensitive individual's residence has been suspended at the applicant's request. The board had previously responded to the application of Mary Ellen Valentine of Gorham by convening a consensus rulemaking process involving representative neighbors likely to be affected by the pesticide restrictions requested. An organizational meeting met with considerable hostility on the part of neighbors (see the Dec. 2003-Feb. 2004 issue of ***The MOF&G***, p. 11). At the March 19, 2004, BPC meeting, the board was advised that Valentine had asked that the process be suspended because she was uncomfortable knowing that the group would be discussing her medical condition at its next meeting. Board attorney Mark Randlett had invited Valentine's attorney to "explain how the Board could conduct a public proceeding to be based on protecting her health without discussing the reasons she was seeking the critical pesticide control area designation."
BPC Considers Standards for Indoor Pesticide Applications
After more than 17 years on and off the back burner of the BPC's agenda, the issue of indoor pesticide application standards is back. Although many states have established standards for pesticide applications indoors, including notification provisions for tenants, Maine has none. The board initially considered establishing standards in 1987, and in 1998 and 1999 convened a stakeholders’ group, chaired by current board chair Carol Eckert, M.D., which ultimately recommended some notification provisions for indoor applications in public buildings. Repeatedly, however, action on the regulations was stalled due to other priorities.
At its April 23, 2004, meeting, the board discussed a rough draft of a regulation prepared by the staff. The regulations contain three major components: (1) a requirement that commercial applicators use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques; (2) a notification requirement for certain types of pesticide applications in certain types of facilities; and (3) a consent provision for applications to tenants’ living quarters. By existing law, any pesticide application to a building open to the public must be performed by a licensed commercial applicator.
For the first time, the proposed regulations set some standards for commercial applications: Applying principles of IPM, the application "should be conducted in a manner to minimize exposure and human risk to the maximum extent practicable using current available technology." Applicators must identify "the pest specifically and evaluate the population and any associated damage before making applications." They must choose "low risk" products and must not apply pesticides when people are in the immediate area to be treated. "Applications must be planned to occur on nights, weekends, vacations or other unoccupied periods to allow maximum time for sprays to dry and vapors to dissipate."
The advisability of the IPM requirement brought little debate, although director of enforcement Henry Jennings noted that IPM techniques, which may often result in a decision not to spray, are not always popular with clients. Jennings noted that "one of the best commercial applicators in the state" had a contract with the Department of Corrections, but got "booted because they weren't spraying enough." (This writer pointed out to Jennings that the Department's decision seemed to violate the Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides, 22 MRSA sec. 1471-X, which requires state agencies involved in the regulation or use of pesticides to "promote the principles and the implementation of integrated pest management…to minimize reliance on pesticides.") Jennings also noted that appropriate guidance for indoor pesticide applications was often not found on EPA-approved container labels: "The EPA has very little science or focus on indoor pesticide applications. It's always been a weak point in the regulatory scheme…Most pesticides for indoor use don't have reentry requirements; they may say to "ventilate" but they don't say how or for how long."
Regarding notification, the draft rule applies to any "private, commercial or institutional structure used or occupied by persons on a regular, long-term basis as a residence or for occupations," including but not limited to "rented residential buildings, condominiums, licensed daycare facilities and commercial and institutional buildings." With certain exemptions, a commercial applicator or the client must provide at least 24 hours advance written notice of a pesticide application to "all residents, employees or other persons who routinely occupy the building on a regular basis." At licensed or registered daycares and preschools or nursery schools, notices "shall be provided directly to the parents or the legal guardians of the children attending these programs." Exempt from this requirement are owner-occupied single family residences, injections of non-volatile liquids into cracks and crevices, non-volatile baits, gels, pastes placed in areas inaccessible to residents, and applications performed when the building is vacant and persons will not be present until the re-entry interval specified on the label has elapsed.
Much discussion ensued about what types of daycare facilities the regulation should cover. As presently drafted, the notice provision would not apply to the 1800 certified family daycare homes, nor to daycare homes that were not certified by the Department of Human Services. The staff felt that enforcing the regulations for these homes would be impossible, given that they had recently initiated regulations for 1200 schools (the new Pesticides in Schools regulation) and that, as BPC staff director Bob Batteese noted, "we have only five inspectors to cover the state, four of whom are seasonal." On the other hand, board member Lee Humphreys noted that the infants and children in these homes are among the "most sensitive populations," and Jennings noted, "I suspect many of these are doing their own pesticide management, which for many of us is a frightening fact." The board directed the staff to review these regulations with DHS to attempt to coordinate with their licensing system and explore possibilities for education of daycare providers on pesticide issues.
Regarding consent, tenants would have some right to reject a pesticide treatment even for applications that are exempt from the notification provisions of the proposed rule: "Except in cases of public health emergencies, as determined by a public health official with jurisdiction, application to a tenant's living quarters is prohibited if they are opposed to such treatment until such time as alternative control measures have been tried and documented as to their failure to control a pest problem which poses health risks or threatens to infest other residences." The rule is silent as to how the tenant would know a pesticide treatment was being contemplated, and hence how a tenant would know to object, without required notification.
The board will continue to work on the draft rule at its June 4, 2004, meeting, and eventually will hold a public hearing on the rule.
Aquacide Company to Pay $4,500 Fine
The Minnesota manufacturer of an aquatic herbicide that advertised on the Internet and sold product to Maine residents without registering it and without advising them that a DEP license was required for application to Maine waters was back before the BPC on April 23, this time agreeing to pay the previously suspended portion of its original $6000 fine. (See the March-May 2003 issue of ***The MOF&G,*** p. 16.) On December 6, 2002, Aquacide had approved a consent decree including a $6000 penalty, with $4,500 suspended provided it complied with terms of the agreement: registering its product, obtaining the required dealer license, and adding a statement to its sales brochure notifying prospective purchasers that the application may require a permit. The company then registered its product but failed to obtain a dealer license. On August 28, 2003, BPC director Bob Batteese placed a telephone order for 10 pounds of Aquacide Pellets, which was duly delivered to his residence. In the course of the subsequent enforcement action, Aquacide agreed to pay the suspended $4,500, plus to submit a plan to no longer distribute aquatic herbicides in Maine. On April 23, the BPC unanimously approved the new consent agreement.
© 2004 by the author. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author through email@example.com.
Maine's Newest Mill Sees Its First Spring
by Marada Cook
© 2004 by the author. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author through firstname.lastname@example.org.
After five years of planning and preparation, Matt Williams has set his millstones a-turning. Last September he ground his first batch of homegrown wheat into wholesome flour for Borealis Breads in southern Maine.
"Matt was interested and savvy enough to know that wheat wouldn't be profitable as just another commodity," says Jim Amaral, owner of Borealis Breads. "His milling operation is a good example of how farmers can go directly to processors to sell their products."
Amaral is known for his marketing flair: A collection of 'Farmer Cards' (one featuring Williams) comes with his 'Aroostook Wheat' bread and can be traded like baseball cards.
"Jim has always kept the grower in front of the consumer," says Williams, "and I want to keep growing on that." In addition to his own work as an organic farmer, Williams works for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. A top priority is improving the agricultural infrastructure of Aroostook County. "Historically, all the wheat for the state used to be grown in here," says Williams, "so I asked myself, 'Why not again?'"
"Matt took it upon himself to do the research, build the new barn and find used milling equipment," Amaral notes. "We agreed to buy all our whole wheat flour from his mill."
Williams set up a 20" stone mill, a 1952 grain cleaner, a gravity table from the 1960s, and a disc separator. "It's taken a lot of trial and error," Williams admits, but he's finally put together a process that grinds a quality product. "We are continually sending our flour off for testing," he added, "and it measures up." In fact, Williams' whole wheat flour often has a higher protein percentage than many other flours.
When it comes to what he mills, Williams is focused exclusively on Maine grown grains. "I believe in the whole concept of local foods. It's the strength of Maine's agriculture. I'm interested in milling oats and spelt, creating a few specialty products and expanding my market."
Williams started his farm in Linneus 18 years ago and has been growing wheat for the past six. "The rule of thumb for whole wheat flour," Williams states, "is the fresher, the better." If a farmer can grind according to demand, he can create a superior product -- and customers can taste the difference.
You can contact Matt Williams at email@example.com; 207-532-6548 or, in Maine, 800-287-1469.
Comprehensive Review of Pesticide Research Confirms Dangers
On April 27, 2004, the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) strongly recommended that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible. An OCFP review of research on the effects of pesticides on human health shows consistent links to such serious illnesses as cancer, reproductive problems, neurological diseases and others. The study also shows that children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
The review found consistent evidence of health risks to patients exposed to pesticides. "Many of the health problems linked with pesticide use are serious and difficult to treat – so we are advocating reducing exposure to pesticides and prevention of harm as the best approach," said Dr. Margaret Sanborn of McMaster University, one of the review’s authors.
Many studies reviewed by the Ontario College show positive associations between solid tumors and pesticide exposure, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer, among others.
Previous studies have pointed to certain pesticides, such as 2,4-D and related pesticides, as possible precipitants of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), and the findings of the College’s review are clearly consistent with this. The review also clearly finds an association between pesticide exposure and leukemia, which, according to the College, warrants further investigation and political action.
The reviewers uncovered a remarkable consistency of findings of nervous system effects of pesticide exposures and found that occupational exposure to agricultural chemicals may be associated with adverse reproductive effects, including birth defects, fetal death and intrauterine growth retardation.
Children are constantly exposed to low levels of pesticides in their food and environment, yet few studies have considered the long-term effects of these exposures. Nevertheless, the College reviewed several studies that found associations between pesticide exposures and cancer in children. Key findings include:
An elevated risk of kidney cancer was associated with paternal pesticide exposure through agriculture, and four studies found associations with brain cancer.
Several studies implicate pesticides as a cause of hematologic tumors in children, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.
Some children have overall increased risk of acute leukemia if exposed to pesticides in utero or during childhood, especially for exposure to insecticides and herbicides used on lawns, fruit trees and gardens, and for indoor control of insects.
Given the wide range of commonly used home and garden products associated with health effects, the College suggests that patients avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever possible, at work and in homes, gardens and public green spaces. The College also advocates:
Researching and implementing alternative organic methods of lawn and garden care and indoor pest control.
Proper use of personal protection equipment, including respirators, for home and occupational exposures.
Education on safe handling, mixing, storage and application when pesticide use is considered necessary.
The College also advocates that family physicians:
Screen patients for pesticides exposure at a level that may cause significant health problems, and intervene if necessary.
Take patient pesticide exposure history when non-specific symptoms are present, such as fatigue, dizziness, low energy, rashes, weaknesses, sleep problems, anxiety or depression.
Focus on preventing rather than researching the causes of chronic or terminal disease.
Consider high-risk groups (e.g., children, pregnant women, seniors) in their practices.
Advocate reduction of pesticide risk/use to individual patients.
Advocate reduction of pesticide risk/use in the community, schools, hospitals and to governments.
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