Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

Organic Inspectors Chilled by Libel Case

1st published: http://thecalloftheland.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/organic-justice-an-update-for-the-common-good/

Click here for an update – November 25 ,2012

“Organic integrity relies on the ability of inspectors to register complaints without fear of reprisal. A ‘chilling effect’ from the threat of disclosure and retaliation could make it much less likely that individuals will report to the NOP suspected fraud, misconduct, or other actions that undermine organic integrity.”   — Margaret Scoles, International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA).

A $7.6 million lawsuit against Evrett Lunquist, an organic certification inspector, and International Certification Services (ICS), is sending a penetrating legal chill through the nation’s network of individuals tasked with ensuring that the organic label has a trusted meaning.

The case, the first known brought against an organic inspector by a farmer, calls into question the willingness of the USDA and its National Organic Program (NOP) to stand behind inspectors.

For the last 11 years, Lunquist, 42, has earned extra income working part time as an inspector of farms seeking USDA organic certification. He was acting on his own when, in 2008, he notified the NOP of suspicions about Paul Rosberg’s farm, near Wausau, Nebraska. Lunquist says he felt honor bound by the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Code of Ethics to report suspected fraud.

The NOP investigated independently, finding Rosberg’s operation indeed failed to qualify for organic certification. Lunquist’s complaint should have been kept confidential under NOP policy. But his identity was inadvertently released, leading directly to the lawsuit. “In my mind this is so simple,” Lunquist said. “I reported something I was concerned about. NOP looked at it and found everything to be true. My defense is to assert what is true and factual.”

Rosberg is representing himself, pro se, in the case. According to court records, the farmer has been involved in dozens of lawsuits in Nebraska the past 28 years. While pressing his suit against Lunquist, Rosberg and his wife have meantime been indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts of fraud for selling misbranded meat to Omaha Public Schools. They face fines and prison terms if convicted. That trial was set for November 26, but has been re-scheduled for federal court in Omaha on January 28, 2013 — just one day before the next scheduled hearing in the Rosberg-Lunquist libel case in Lancaster County Court (January 29).

The Lancaster County Court, however, granted Rosberg’s motion to amend his complaint against Lunquist, adding ICS and also “John and Jane Does 1-100″ as defendants, alleging that they conspired together to deny him certification. The next hearing date in the case is January 29, 2013.

As Lunquist’s case drags on, his legal bills continue to mount—to over $27,500, as of October 2012.

Since the NOP violated their own confidentiality policy by releasing his name, Lunquist, with the support of the IOIA, asked the NOP to make things right. The NOP declined to help with legal costs or to issue a public apology, and was slow to provide documents needed for his defense, thereby driving up legal expenses. However, the NOP ultimately provided a Declaration corroborating Lunquist’s complaint. The agency stated it is taking precautions to ensure this never happens again.

Lunquist said his motivation for filing a complaint was to preserve organic integrity. “If people run roughshod over it,” he said, “then organic will have no meaning. In my mind I was doing the right thing by submitting information. This turn of events is stupefying.”

For more information, or to make a donation, visitlunquistlegalfund.org  Of note: Evrett Lunquist, his wife Ruth Chantry, and Common Good Farm are featured in a new documentary film —Higher Ground — being produced by Open Harvest natural foods coop.

Evrett Lunquist at work in the field. With his wife, Ruth Chantry, and their children, Lunquist owns and operates Common Good Farm. They produce free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, pork, herbs, and vegetables. It is one of two Demeter-certified Biodynamic farms in Nebraska. Photo by Michael Thurber.

AUTHOR’S DISCLOSURE: I serve on the board of Open Harvest Co-op in Lincoln, Nebraska. Common Good Farm is among 110+ local vendors that do business with the co-op.  This story also appears inThe Cultivator, newsletter of The Cornucopia Institute.

1 vs. 99: Keystone XL seizes private US land for oil to China

Posted on October 20, 2011 by Rady

CANADIAN OIL FIRM SUES TO SEIZE US LAND FOR KEYSTONE XL OIL HEADED TO CHINA

By Rady Ananda

The NYTimesreports that TransCanada, a Canadian oil company, promises to confiscate private land from South Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico, and has already filed nearly 60 lawsuits against private US citizens who refuse to allow the Keystone XL pipeline on their property, even though the controversial project has yet to receive federal approval.

“Randy Thompson, a cattle buyer in Nebraska, was informedthat if he did not grant pipeline access to 80 of the 400 acres left to him by his mother along the Platte River, ‘Keystone will use eminent domain to acquire the easement.’”

In an email, Vince Wade comments:

“One of my frequent preaching topics is why NAFTA is bad for our economy and our nation and how it is a tool of the robber baron globalists who have destroyed the Middle Class of the industrialized world–which is why we have a global recession/depression.

“For those of you who worry about U.S. Sovereignty, let’s think about this: a Canadian company–that is, a foreign company, which is part of NAFTA, is threatening Americans who are refusing to surrender their property to build a pipeline to carry highly toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the refineries of Texas.

It will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, the prime source of water for about 11 states. In some places the aquifer water table is 5 feet below ground. The oil fat cats tell us with a straight face that there’s nothing to worry about. By the way, a branch of the Tar Sands pipeline project is responsible for the massive spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last year. It’s still a mess.

“Would you be surprised to learn that much of the Canadian tar sands oil to be pumped into the Keystone XL pipeline is owned by the People’s Republic Of China?

“Communist China has invested billions in the Canadian Tar Sands oil industry, and Keystone XL is intended to transport China’s oil. In other words, Keystone XL is intended to transport Canadian oil to Texas so Communist China can recoup its investment in Canadian natural resources. The Obama Administration doesn’t see a problem with this pipeline and it is leaning toward giving the pipeline the full go-ahead. Obama hopes approval will mean a campaign contribution windfall from the oil barons.

“Once again–a bi-partisan shafting of the American people. Hey-the 1% globalists of NAFTA want this, so our for-rent politicians in both parties stand ready to oblige.”

CHINA IS DEEPLY INVESTED IN THE ENBRIDGE GATEWAY PROJECT, AS WELL.

 

The Globe and Mail reports:

“Enbridge Inc. has quietly garnered support from a powerful group of foreign interests for its controversial Asian export pipeline, as Chinese investors in Canada’s oil sands become increasingly bold in their ambitions to bring Canadian crude across the Pacific.

“The company is in the midst of a multiyear effort to gain approval to build Northern Gateway, a $6.6-billion proposed project that would take crude from the oil sands to the British Columbia coast, where it could be loaded on ships and sent to Asia and California.

“To date, only one company, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), has been identified as a financial backer of Gateway, after Enbridge raised a total of $100-million in funding from 10 Canadian producers and Asian refiners that agreed to help backstop the cost of gaining regulatory approval.

“… [A]s Chinese companies pour billions into Canadian energy investments, it’s increasingly clear their interest extends to bringing barrels across the Pacific. Those firms have long argued that their interest in Canadian oil is aimed purely at profit, not simply fueling Chinese cars with Alberta crude.

“But their statements to Canadian regulators show that exporting barrels is a key motivator. Earlier this year, for example, five companies signed up for so-called firm service, or guaranteed access, to a portion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries oil from Edmonton to a port at Burnaby, B.C. Among them is PetroChina International (America) Inc., a subsidiary of Chinese energy giant China National Petroleum Corp.

“In testimony before the National Energy Board, Stephen Dove, senior crude oil trader with the firm, said: ‘at PetroChina International office, one of our main concerns, of course, is supply back to China.’”

In the last ten years alone, Enbridge spilled oil 700 times, as documented in this film short, Risking it All – Oil on our Coast, from BC filmmaker Twyla Roscovich andCallingFromTheCoast.com:

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Once again, we have the 1% dictating how private land owned by the 99% will be seized and contaminated for the enrichment of the 1%.

Related:

Who Are the Top 1%?
One Super Corporation Runs The Global Economy
STUDY: The network of global corporate control, Stefania Vitali1 James B. Glattfelder, and Stefano Battiston (2011)

 

Certain offices and departments within the USDA are out of control. For some reason, there have been several cases in the past year that are just above and beyond common sense. Fines and punishments are being set at insane levels.

This blog feed will list the details as I find them. For a larger list, search this blog for my article titled “What is Wrong with the U.S.”.

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Family faces $4 million in USDA fines for selling bunnies

(while losing money doing it!)

By Bob McCarty
Big Government

Almost nine months after a Missouri dairy was ordered to stop selling cheese made from raw milk, I share details of another hare-raising story from the Show-Me State: John Dollarhite and his wife Judy of tiny Nixa, Mo., have been told by the USDA that, by Monday, they must pay a fine exceeding $90,000. If they don’t pay that fine, they could face additional fines of almost $4 million. Why? Because they sold more than $500 worth of bunnies — $4,600 worth to be exact — in a single calendar year.

About six years ago, the Dollarhites wanted to teach their young teenage son responsibility and the value of the dollar. So they rescued a pair of rabbits — one male and one female — and those rabbits did what rabbits do; they reproduced. Before long, things were literally hopping on the three-acre homestead 30 miles south of Springfield, and Dollarvalue Rabbitry was launched as more of a hobby than a business.

“We’d sell ‘em for 10 or 15 dollars a piece,” John said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, comparing the venture to a kid running a lemonade stand. In addition, they set up a web site and posted a “Rabbits for Sale” sign in their front yard. Most customers, however, came via word of mouth.

In the early stages, some of the bunnies were raised and sold for their meat. Much further down the road, John said, they determined it more profitable to sell live bunnies at four weeks old than to feed bunnies for 12 weeks and then sell them as meat.

“We started becoming the go-to people” for rabbits in the Springfield area, John said. “If you wanted a rabbit, you’d go to Dollarvalue Rabbitry.” He added that the family even made the local television news just before Easter in 2008 for a report about the care and feeding of “Easter bunnies.”

Initially, the Dollarhites sold the large, white, pink-eyed variety of rabbits. Eventually, however, they switched to selling a couple of different varieties of miniature rabbits, the mating pairs of which were purchased from breeders across the state. Not only did their “show-quality” miniatures reproduce well, but they ate less and seemed to be more popular with theme park visitors and retail buyers.

During the summer of 2009, the Dollarhites bought the rabbitry from their son who had grown tired of managing it. They paid him what he asked for it, $200. Things kept growing, however, and the Dollarhite’s landed a pair of big accounts in 2009.

A well-known Branson theme park, Silver Dollar City, asked the Dollarhites to have them provide four-week-old bunnies per week to their petting zoo May through September. When the bunnies turned six weeks old, they were sold to park visitors. The Springfield location of a national pet store chain, Petland, purchased rabbits from the Dollarhites as well.

In the fall of 2009, the theme park deliveries ended for the year and the Dollarhites scaled back their operation. At about the same time, the folks at Petland asked the Dollarhites to raise guinea pigs that the store would purchase from them. No big deal.

By the year’s end, the Dollarhites had moved approximately 440 rabbits and grossed about $4,600 for a profit of approximately $200 — enough, John said, to provide the family “pocket money” to do things such as eat out at Red Lobster once in a while. That was better than the loss they experienced in 2008.

Then some unexpected matters began demanding their attention.

It’s an understatement to describe the Dollarhites as being “beyond surprised” when, in the fall of 2009, a female inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed up at the front door of the family home, wanting to do a “spot inspection” of their rabbitry. She said she had come across Dollarhite Rabbitry invoices while inspecting the petting zoo at Silver Dollar City.

“She did not tell us that we were in violation of any laws, rules, anything whatsoever,” John said, explaining that the inspector said she just wanted to see what type of operation they had. Having nothing to hide or any reason to fear they were doing anything wrong, the Dollarhites allowed the inspection to proceed.

John said he had to go to work at the family’s computer store, so Judy took the inspector to the back of their property where the rabbits were raised. There, the inspector began running the width of her finger across the cage and told the Dollarhites they would need to replace the cage, because it was a quarter-inch too small and, therefore, did not meet federal regulations.

Such a requirement came as a shock to the Dollarhites, because they had just invested in new cages to ensure the bunnies had a healthy amount of space to develop, John explained. Though raising dwarf breed varieties of rabbits which require less space, they had opted to purchase cages designed for “large breed rabbits” so the dwarfs would have plenty of room. All for naught.

Not only was the cage too small, according to the inspector, but she noted a small rust spot on a feeder and cited it as being out of compliance. When the Dollarhites told the inspector that rabbit urine causes the cages to rust and that they worked hard to keep the rabbits cages in top shape, she told them it didn’t matter. The rust spot would count as an infraction.

The inspector then asked how the cages were sanitized, John said, and Judy explained how she moved the bunnies to travel carriers and powerwashed the cages, using bleach when necessary. Afterward, she allowed the cages to dry in the sun before putting the bunnies back inside them.

The Dollarhites’ practice was much safer than that used by some breeders who used blow torches to burn hair and manure from the cages — a practice that can lead to rusting metal and produce toxic fumes from burning metal.

During the course of the spot inspection, John said, the inspector asked his wife if she and John would like to have their operation certified by USDA. Judy said she wasn’t sure and asked what certification would entail and if it would help them sell more rabbits. The inspector responded, telling her it would involve monthly inspections and was completely voluntary. The inspection ended with the inspector telling Judy that the Dollarhites rabbits looked healthy and well-cared for.

After the inspection, the Dollarhites didn’t hear from the USDA again until January 2010, John said, when he received a phone call from a Kansas City-based investigator from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“He called us and said, ‘I need to have a meeting with you and your wife,’” John recalled.

After explaining that he asked the investigator to come after the workday at the computer store had ended, John said he asked the investigator about the purpose of the meeting,

“He said, ‘Well, it’s because you’re selling rabbits and you’ve exceeded more than $500 dollars in a year,’” John said, “and I went, ‘Okay, what does that have to do with anything?’”

John said the investigator refused to discuss details over the phone and made it clear that rejecting his request for a meeting would be a costly error in judgment.

When Judy asked if they should have an attorney present, the investigator responded, saying, “Well, that might be a good thing.”

“At that point, we kind of set back, (wondering) what in the world is going on,” John said. Then he found an attorney who is also a farmer.

“I didn’t want a ‘city slicker,’” said John, a farmer himself until 1996 when he sold his farm to build a home in Nixa. “I wanted someone that had been around the agriculture and farm business.”

John found a guy and they met for the first time a couple of days later — at the same time both met the APHIS investigator in person at John’s home.

“The first thing (the investigator) said was ‘My name is so and so, I’ve been in the USDA for 30-plus years, and I’ve never lost a case,’” John recalled, continuing. “He said, ‘I’m not here to debate the law, interpret the law or discuss the law, I’m here just to do an investigation.’”

John said the investigator went on to explain that he would ask questions, write a report based on the answers and send that report to his superiors at the USDA regional office in Colorado Springs, Colo. The entire process was suppose to take about a month, and John was told to contact the regional office if he had not heard anything in six weeks.

“At this point in time, we were still not knowing anything about the law he was talking about,” John explained, adding that his rabbitry had never had any issues with any animal welfare agencies.

Eight weeks passed, and John decided to call Colorado Springs. Immediately, he was given the number to a USDA office in the nation’s capitol. He called the new number, and the lady he reached there was blunt, John said.

“She said, ‘Well, Mr. Dollarhite, I’ve got the report on my desk, and I’m just gonna tell you that, once I review it, it’s our intent to prosecute you to the maximum that we can’ and that ‘we will make an example out of you.”

When John once again tried to determine which law he and his wife had violated, he said the USDA lady replied, “We’ll forward you everything.”

“Ma’am, what law have we broken,” John said.

“Well, you sold more than $500 worth of rabbits in one calendar year,” she replied, according to John.

“Okay, what does that have to do with anything?” John countered.

The lady replied by saying there is a guideline which prohibits anyone from selling more than $500 worth of rabbits per year, John recalled, but she refused to cite any specific law and, instead, promised to send him the report containing details.

At that point, John said he called his attorney and was told not to worry about it, because he couldn’t find evidence of any law or regulation the Dollarhites had violated.

Soon after the meeting with the APHIS investigator and with the stress of the investigation hanging over their heads, John said he and his wife traded everything associated with the rabbit operation for other agricultural equipment.

At this point, some important facts about the manner in which the Dollarhites conducted their operation are worth reviewing:

The business was carefully conducted on the property of their Missouri home;

The business complied with all applicable state laws;

The bunnies were kept in large, clean and well-maintained cages; and

Not a single bunny was sold across state lines.

Recently, the Dollarhites received a “Certified Mail Return Receipt” letter (dated April 19, 2011) from the USDA informing them that they had broken the law and must pay USDA a fine of $90,643. Their crime? Violating violating 9 C.F.R. § 2.1 (a) (1): Selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in a calendar year.

At this point, Dollarvalue Rabbitry is expected to produced a $90,643 certified check to cover the fine issued by the Department of Agriculture. The USDA was, however, kind enough to provide in the letter the web address for a website — http://www.pay.gov — where they could go to pay their fine by credit card by May 23, 2011. Now, that’s convenient!

Based on an average price per rabbit sold being $10.45, the fine comes out to more than $206 per rabbit. In addition, the letter contains the following statement:

APHIS laws and regulations provide for administrative and criminal penalties to enforce these regulatory requirements, including civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the violations documented in our investigation.

If the threat contained in the letter is to be believed, the family could be fined as much as $10,000 per rabbit beyond the first 50 bunnies that netted the family its first $500. Do the math (390 rabbits x $10,000 each) and, if they don’t pay the initial fine, they could face additional fines totaling $3.9 million.

Needless to say, the Dollarhites stopped selling rabbits in January 2010 and are considering setting up a legal defense fund.

To see what the USDA has to say about the matter, read my follow-up post, USDA Stands Behind Hare-Raising Fine.

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Movies

Food Inc.

http://www.foodincmovie.com/

Seafood Since the Gulf Coast Oil SPILLS

Whole Foods Market Reports

http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/09/new-wild-caught-seafood-sustainability-ratings/?utm_source=Responsys&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=09_15_10_Specials

Processed Foods are Massive Rip-Offs

While trying to list every single food that’s a complete rip-off would result in a very thick book, I firmly believe it’s safe to say that virtually all processed snacks and the majority of processed, pre-packaged meals are a massive waste of money. These types of foods consist mainly of fillers and additives, and very few actual nutrients. So while Funyuns made it onto Yahoo Health’s list of rip-offs, I can’t think of a single chip or puffed snack that doesn’t belong on that list.

The same goes for virtually all breakfast cereals, whether they have cartoons on the box or not. Most cereals are frightfully high in sugar, and any nutrients they boast are in the form of suboptimal synthetic additives, or worse.

For example, iron fortified cereals can contain actual iron filings, which is a far cry from the bioavailable iron you get from iron-rich vegetables like spinach. If you haven’t seen this eye-opening demonstration of what’s really in that fortified breakfast cereal, take a look now—you’ll probably never buy another box of cereal again, and rightfully so.

Organic Rip-Offs

I do agree with the contention that some organic foods are rip-offs, when their conventional counterparts are already grown using low amounts of pesticides and the food in question must be peeled anyway, such as bananas.

The Environmental Working Group is a reliable source when trying to decide on what to buy organic. According to their latest 2010 pesticide review, the following 12 foods rank as the most pesticide-free produce, even when conventionally-grown, so you can save a few bucks by opting for the conventionally-grown version of these:

Onions Avocados Watermelon
Pineapple Mango Frozen sweet peas
Asparagus Kiwi Cabbage
Eggplant Cantaloupe

Frozen sweet corn was on the list above but I’ve removed it to avoid confusion. I do NOT recommend consuming non-organic corn and even organic corn should be consumed sparingly.

The foods you want to splurge on by buying organic are foods that have permeable or edible skins, and/or that are conventionally grown with higher amounts of pesticides. Based on the EWG’s report, the top 12 foods to buy organic include:

Grapes Potatoes Kale / Collard greens
Cherries Spinach Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines Blueberries Apples
Strawberries Peaches Celery

For the whole list of produce, ranked from best to worst in terms of pesticide load, please see the EWG’s listing.

Another major organic rip-off is organic milk. Because while organic milk must come from a cow that hasn’t been fed artificial growth hormones or pesticide-laden feed, they’re not necessarily pastured, or grass-fed cows. And worst of all organic milk (unless RAW) is still pasteurized, which destroys vital nutrients.

High-Value Foods

Unpasteurized (raw) grass-fed milk — Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows contains both beneficial fats, bacteria that boost your immune system, and a number of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Although raw milk availability is limited in the US, depending on where you live, you can locate the source closest to you at RealMilk.com.

Whey protein — Even if you don’t have access to raw milk, you can use a high-quality whey protein derived from the milk of grass-fed cows to receive much of the same health benefits. Whey protein contains beta-glucans and immunoglobulins, which protect your immune system and support your body’s natural detoxification processes.

Fermented foods — One of the most healthful fermented foods is kefir — an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food full of friendly microorganisms that balance your “inner ecosystem” and strengthen immunity. Besides kefir, other good fermented foods include natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, and olives.

Raw organic eggs from pastured chickens – Raw, free-range eggs are an inexpensive and amazing source of high-quality nutrients that many people are deficient in, especially high-quality protein and fat. To find free-range pasture farms, try your local health food store, or go to http://www.eatwild.com or http://www.localharvest.org.

Grass-fed beef or organ meats – Grass-fed beef is very high in vitamins A, B12 and E, omega-3 fats, beta carotene, zinc and the potent immune system enhancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid). But don’t confuse “organic” with grass-fed, since many organically raised cows are still fed organic corn, which you don’t want. However, most grass-fed cows are raised organically.

Coconut oil — Besides being excellent for your thyroid and your metabolism, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin – a compound also found in breast milk that strengthens a baby’s immunity.

Its medium chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (MCT’s) also impart a number of health benefits, including raising your body’s metabolism and fighting off pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Make sure you choose an organic coconut oil that is unrefined, unbleached, made without heat processing or chemicals, and does not contain GM ingredients.

Berries Blueberries and raspberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in fructose than many other fruits.

Broccoli – Broccoli contains the highest amount of isothiocyanates, a cancer-fighting compound, of all the crunchy vegetables. Studies have shown that just 10 spears a week (5 servings) can make a difference in your health.

Chlorella –This single-cell freshwater algae acts as an efficient detoxification agent by binding to toxins (most of which promote chronic inflammation), such as mercury, and carrying them out of your system. The chlorophyll in the chlorella helps you process more oxygen, cleanses your blood and promotes the growth and repair of your tissues. (For more information, please see my interview with expert, Ginny Banks.)

Tea – As for beverages, clean pure water is a must for optimal health, but if you want another beverage, a good choice with added health benefits is high quality herbal teas.

Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Tulsi is another tea loaded with antioxidants and other micronutrients that support immune function and heart health.

Krill Oil—Krill oil is the only dietary supplement that makes it to this list, and that’s only because the ideal food source for these essential omega-3 fats has been destroyed by widespread pollution. The dangers of eating fish simply outweigh the benefits due to the toxic mercury levels they now contain, with very few exceptions.

Antarctic krill oil is a pure marine oil loaded with powerful antioxidants and omega-3 oils, with NO heavy metal contamination.

I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful in making the most of your food budget in these economically challenging times.

Sources:
Yahoo Health March 4, 2011
Menshealth.com 2010