Vital Farms had the chance to attend the 6th annual FARFA conference this Monday in Bastrop, Texas. The day’s speakers focused on the policies and regulations affecting our farms and our food, and we wanted to share some of their insights with our readers. Below are some of the discussions we found most interesting throughout the day:
On Health: Peter McCarthy, Texas Health Freedom Coalition
“ Our very most important asset is our health, not our job, not our house, not our investments. Whoever controls your healthcare controls you,” – Peter McCarthy. He went on to say that Texas has the largest number of natural health practitioners in the U.S. (a fact I would definitely not have guessed). McCarthy even quoted Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (Rep.), who said, “We don’t have a healthcare system in this country, we have sickcare.” The main point of McCarthy’s talk was that we are all in charge of our own health and need to learn how to not depend on healthcare professionals as much as possible, by eating properly, exercising, sleeping and learning to cope with stress in a healthy way.
Farm Bill: Patty Lovera, Food and Water Watch
“We’re creating a culture of risk by fitting food into an industrial model and producing it in too few places; by treating all food the same,” said Lovera.
A Farm Bill primer via Patty Lovera:
- A new farm bill usually comes out every 5 years
- The bill includes the budgets for: food subsidies, conservation (how land can be used), energy, research, crop and trade, forestry, and the biggest piece of the pie, Nutrition programs (food stamps)
- The demand for nutrition programs and assistance in this country is so high because the economy is so bad right now and so many people are out of work.
- The current farm bill expires on September 31, 2012, but they may just pass a ‘continuing resolution’ which will just continue the current version of the farm bill and slap a few changes on it. As a result, some aspects of this current bill may be allowed to fall off or lose funding.
- The senate version of this new farm bill cuts food stamps A LOT less than the house version.
- The best ways to contact your legislators about issues you care about is, in this order: Face to face, letters, phone call (interns do answer and track these calls) and email.
GMOs: What is a GMO? It’s a genetically modified organism. Lately it also means transgenic, interspecies cross-breeding that has never been done before.(Example: crossing a tomato with a fish, to increase water retention and decrease seepage when cutting and transporting, and a genetically modified salmon, which would be the first genetically engineered animal. It is so far not approved by the FDA). So far, there are also no statewide or national requirements to label GMOs in food or animals.
Humans have been cross breeding plants for their best characteristics for years, but it’s never been done like this. Some of the biggest threats to small farmers, anti-GMO consumers and smaller food systems are large multinational corporations like Monsanto.
Monsanto: a pesticide company that has bought hundreds of smaller seed companies and is now the largest owner of seeds in the world. They create ‘Round-Up Ready’ genetically modified seeds that can handle large doses of pesticides without dying. The widespread use of this pesticide is leading to an increase in pesticide resistant super-weeds that won’t die. (You can begin to understand how humans might react to longterm exposure to this toxic pesticide)…
The main ingredient in Round-Up is glyphosate, which is designed to kill virtually everything except the GMO plant. It kills beneficial microorganisms in soil and accelerates plant disease in the same area. Glyphosate is also registered and patented as an antibiotic. FYI: It takes twice as much water to grow soybeans sprayed with glyphosate.
Prop 37 from California would require GMO food to be labeled as such. Vital Farms supports this legislation!
Words from Local Farmers and Advocates:
“Having a retailer like Whole Foods that is willing to sell and promote grass-fed cattle helps keep animals out of the feed lots,” said Don Davis, of the Grassfed Livestock Alliance.
“The biggest problem in Houston (Texas) is building awareness. There was one story in the Houston Chronicle on farmers eight years ago and it was on me! The other problem is, we don’t have enough producers,” said Brad Stufflebeam, of Home Sweet Farm.
“The downturn of our food system didn’t happen overnight, it’s been happening since WWII, so it’s not going to change overnight,” said Judith McGeary, of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.