Full list: Agriculture in the News

Seven Days: Timber Harvesting With Horsepower

By Ken Picard
Full Article

Carl Russell wraps one end of a steel chain around a felled tree, then backs his 3,200-pound “power unit” — aka Ted and Petey, his team of harnessed draft horses — into position in front of the log. With nothing more than subtle nudges on the reins and terse voice commands of “Gee!” (right) or “Haw!” (left), he maneuvers the animals backward inch by inch, as deftly as if he were parking a golf cart.

“The really intriguing part of working with horses is getting to the point where you can communicate with them to this degree of responsiveness,” Russell explains, hitching the other end of the chain to the horse cart. “Because, really, what good is a power unit if you can’t control it?”

As Russell skids the log across a pasture and up a narrow dirt road, it’s readily apparent how horse logging differs from mechanized timber harvesting: no roar of diesel engines, belches of black smoke, deep muddy ruts or compacted vegetation created by skidders and bulldozers. Apart from the occasional whine of a chain saw, the clop of hooves and the jangle of chains, it’s as quiet as a walk in the woods.

In a very material sense, horse logging — or any work done with draft animals — is the original solar power. Locally grown hay, grasses and grain fuel Russell’s “engines.” So perhaps it’s no surprise that interest in the use of draft animals for logging and other agricultural activities has burgeoned along with Vermont’s explosion of solar-energy projects.

Russell and his wife, Lisa McCrory, own Earthwise Farm & Forest, a 158-acre organic farm on a wooded hillside in Bethel. The farm, including the 18th-century log cabin where they live with their three kids, has been in Russell’s family since his grandfather bought it in 1938. There, the family makes a living selling raw milk, eggs, vegetables, meat birds, pork and beef at its roadside farmstand. Three draft horses power nearly all the heavy lifting, tilling and logging on the land.

Russell, a University of Vermont-trained forester, has been horse logging for 29 years, both on his own property and on private woodlots, and then selling logs to local sawmills. He got his start in 1986, when he was just 26 and working as a log buyer for a large regional sawmill.

As Russell prepared to leave that job and go out on his own as a conventional forester, he traveled to Stockbridge to say goodbye to a client. Russell had been buying timber from the man for years and knew he consistently delivered exceptional saw logs, but he had never had occasion to visit his logging operation.

He remembers walking into the woods that day and being mesmerized when he saw how easily the old-timer logged using a single horse.

“It was like watching a dance,” Russell recalls. “Just fantastic surgical maneuvers, with this enormous horse moving pretty big timber.”

Russell knew immediately that, rather than invest in heavy machinery as he’d originally intended, he wanted to buy a draft horse. Six weeks later, the Stockbridge lumberjack sold Russell his first horse.

“He parked his horse trailer at the bottom of the hill, and I unloaded the horse and started walking up the hill,” Russell recalls. “I could hear his horse trailer banging down the road and just thought, What the hell am I doing?

Horse labor has a long history as the bedrock of farming and logging in Vermont, but by the time Russell got into it in the mid-’80s, that history was well in the past. The old farmers in the area eyed him skeptically, he recalls.

“They thought I was an idiot!” Russell admits with a laugh. “In some ways, it was almost insulting to them that I would be so serious and committed to this absurd, archaic way of working.”

Russell had to seek out the few elderly lumberjacks who still knew how to move timber by horse; more often, he found himself learning by trial and error. Though his first horse, Rob, had been described to him as “an old dud,” Russell soon realized that “he was just an amazing horse. He was my rock.”

Russell also discovered he had a knack for communicating with horses. Within a year, he bought his second, Peg, a 6- to 9-year-old mare. Russell worked her for 21 years before she had to be euthanized. Within a year of buying Peg, he stopped using his tractor. He eventually sold it and hasn’t used one for logging since.

Though some people have romantic notions about horse logging, Russell emphasizes that it’s arduous and dangerous work: “As nice as it is to work with horses when they work well, it’s hell when they don’t.” When the flies are too distracting or the temperature mounts too high, Russell has to move on to other work.

Because horse logging is time- and labor-intensive by nature, it costs landowners more than conventional logging would. Horse loggers typically practice a method called restorative forestry: They don’t clear-cut the entire woodlot, and they often leave standing the trees that would command the highest prices at the mill.

This method doesn’t reap landowners the highest possible cash return from their woodlots — at least, not initially. But, as Russell explains, once landowners recognize residual damage to the woods as a cost to them, they begin to see non-damaging practices as an investment in the land. Research has shown that, over time, forests logged with horses grow at a more vigorous pace and are more productive than conventionally logged stands.

That’s because horse logging allows Russell to get into spots where skidders and bulldozers can’t go and surgically remove the trees he wants, without compacting the soil or cutting wide swaths for roads and landings.

“If you want to get in here through the puckerbrush without mowing it all over,” he says, pointing to a thicket of sumac and buckthorn, “you can put one horse in here.”

The human scale of horse logging has another set of economic advantages for the logger. Logging with heavy machinery requires an upfront investment of tens of thousands of dollars, which often sends loggers deep into debt.

“For $10,000 I can have everything I want, including horses,” Russell says. In mechanized logging, “$10,000 isn’t going to buy much of a bulldozer or skidder.”

Russell emphasizes that he’s not bad-mouthing conventional methods, but he says that many loggers get “stuck in that economic grind.” Carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, they can’t turn down jobs and must “feed that beast.”

For Russell, feeding his beasts costs about $5 per day. “I can work with my horses for weeks without having to generate any income,” he adds. And, unlike skidders and loaders, Russell points out, horses actually appreciate in value over time.

“The more you utilize them to the best of their ability, the better they get and the more you can get done,” he explains. Asked for an example, Russell points to his animals, who’ve been standing for 15 minutes without moving more than a few inches in any direction. “That right there,” he says, “is a really good attribute.”

Russell and McCrory are well known throughout the region by those who work with draft animals. In 2007, they founded the Northeast Animal-Power Field Days, a three-day event held annually at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds that includes workshops, demonstrations and trade exhibitions.

That event, which Russell and McCrory oversaw until 2010, generated so much interest that it soon gave rise to the Draft Animal Power Network, an organization with about 600 members and a worldwide following. The network now holds its field days every other year and rotates them throughout the Northeast; the next one is scheduled for September 24 to 27 in Cummington, Mass.

Russell eventually passed the reins of the field days to other organizers so he could do more of what he enjoys most: be in the woods with his horses. He still reserves the time to teach and mentor younger horse loggers, in part because, when he was in forestry school, “Horses were part of the history lesson,” he says. “They weren’t part of the conventional lesson.”

Now he can instruct others at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, one of a handful of schools around the country with programs in low-impact forestry and draft-horse management. According to Rick Thomas, the draft-horse educator, farrier and lumberjack who runs the program, interest has grown dramatically in the last decade; nearly all the program’s classes are filled and have robust waiting lists.

There’s no way to say how many horse loggers still operate in Vermont or on the national scale. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food & Markets, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation don’t track such figures.

Russell admits that horse logging isn’t for everyone, especially those who lack the patience to work with often-unpredictable animals. But for those who have it, he says, the rewards are great. To illustrate, he quotes a Wendell Berry poem that reads in part, “I learned to flesh my will in power great enough to kill me should I let it turn.”

“Horses can be an extension of your body, if you can communicate with them,” Russell says. “They’re just a great big muscle to me.”

The Undercurrent: why are we being fed by a poison expert?

Full Video

The Undercurrent delves into the world of mass agriculture to ask how one company has such control over food supply. The name Monsanto was once synonymous with Agent Orange, but today it’s the dominance of the widespread herbicide Roundup which helps keep the company on top. But is the World Health Organisation’s claim that Roundup ‘probably’ causes cancer, cause for concern? And what about the company’s stance on patenting which sees farmers in developing countries unable to hold on to seed? Guardian Australia has joined forces with The Undercurrent – an online news show billing itself as an antidote to the five-second soundbite – for a four-part series over June and July.

WCAX: Vermont lawmakers support GMO labeling law

By Logan Crawford
Full article & Video
BURLINGTON, Vt. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted to block states from requiring labels on genetically modified food. Vermont was the first state in the nation to legalize labeling genetically engineered food and it has been a controversial issue ever since.

Vermont is a leader in requiring food makers to label what’s in their product. A law passed in 2014 mandating food containing genetically modified organisms in the state say so on the container.

“And now what the House is doing is going to keep that information away from consumers if it becomes law of this country,” said Vt. Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

In Washington Thursday, the House passed a bill called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, banning states from requiring GMO labels. Sorrell says the House is listening to big food manufacturers rather than consumers. Rep Peter Welch.

“This is not a question about whether science says GMO foods cause medical issues, that’s not the issue. The question is whether consumers when they purchase food have a right to know what’s in it,” said Welch, D-Vermont.

Those in favor of the GMO labeling law call this the DARK Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. Connecticut and Maine passed laws like Vermont’s and more states are looking to also. National food groups filed a lawsuit earlier this year with the state of Vermont over the issue. They claim the law violates free speech and could wrongly imply foods are unsafe.

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association are against letting states have their own labeling laws. The group of food merchants says Vermont’s law will be confusing to consumers and require manufacturers to print different labels for each state.

“We believe that Congress, the president or designated agencies within the administration should be the ones determining whether genetically engineering food should be labeled,” said Sigrist.

This anti-GMO label bill will now go to the Senate. It will become law only if the Senate and the president approve. Sorrell says he expects Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to fight for GMO labeling in the Senate.

Brattleboro Reformer: House passes bill to prevent mandatory GMO labeling

House passes bill that would prevent states from requiring labels to indicate presence of GMOs.
The Associated Press
Full Article

WASHINGTON >> Food companies would not have to disclose whether their products include genetically modified ingredients under legislation passed by the House Thursday.

The House bill is backed by the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling efforts in several states around the country. The legislation, which passed 275-150, would prevent states from requiring package labels to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

So far, Vermont is the only state set to require the labels. That law will take effect in July 2016 if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring the labeling, but those measures don’t take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.

The country’s largest food companies say genetically modified foods are safe and that labels would be misleading. They say a patchwork of laws around the country would be expensive for companies and confusing for consumers.

“The reality is, biotechnology has time and time again proved safe,” the bill’s sponsor, Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, said on the House floor. “We should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.”

Advocates for the labels say people have a right to know what is in their food and criticize the legislation for trying to take away states’ ability to require the labels.

“What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” asked Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat.

Genetically modified seeds are engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, like resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country’s corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. It also is made into popular processed food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.

The food industry says about 75 percent to 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

The Food and Drug Administration has said GMOs are safe, and the federal government does not support mandatory labels. Even so, the House bill would make it harder for the agency to require labeling nationally by laying out additional standards for such a policy.

At the same time, the legislation would step up FDA oversight by requiring that any new genetically engineered products be reviewed by the agency before they can be sold. That process is now voluntary for most modified foods.

The bill would also create a new certification process at the Agriculture Department for foods that are labeled free of GMOs. That would mean anyone wanting to use that label would eventually have to apply. Organic foods would be automatically certified, since they are already required to be free of engineered ingredients.

A December Associated Press-Gaff poll found that two-thirds of Americans support labeling of genetically modified ingredients on food packages.

Many of those who support the labels say they have no problem buying food containing GMOs, but they think there should be more accountability in the food industry. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Wednesday in a speech opposing the bill that he buys genetically modified foods but thinks it should be a choice.

There is no similar bill in the Senate, although Sen. John Heaven, R-N.D., has said he is working on legislation.

It’s unclear whether President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been supportive of genetically modified crops and has praised voluntary labeling solutions like special bar codes on packages to allow consumers to access information via smartphone. But the White House has so far been silent on the House bill.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said after the vote that people who want to know what’s in their food will eventually win the fight.

Americans “are demanding the right to know what’s in their food,” Shumlin said.



State of Vermont: Gov. Shumlin Statement on House Passage of Bill to Block Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law

Full Release

MONTPELIER – July 23, 2015 – Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today that would block Vermont from enforcing its mandatory GMO labeling law.

“Monsanto and their corporate food allies have millions of dollars to dedicate to this fight, and today’s vote shows that they are quite skilled in using those vast resources to buy votes in Congress. But here is what Monsanto will never be able to do: Win this fight. Millions of Americans are demanding the right to know what is in their food. And every time Monsanto fights tooth and nail to deny people that right, all they do is grow the ranks of ordinary Americans who are willing to stand up and fight. So this message is for Monsanto: Bring it on. You may have the money, but we have the people. And the people always win.

“I want to thank Congressman Peter Welch for fighting so hard against this bill. In Vermont we are lucky to have a congressional delegation that understands that giving people the right to know what is in their food is simply common sense.”

Media Matters: National TV News Silent On Congressional Plan To Prevent Labeling Of Genetically Modified Foods

In recent weeks, major broadcast networks and primetime cable news programs have completely ignored debate and passage of a House bill that would prevent states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumer rights advocates, environmental groups, and the vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.

UPDATE: Rep. Conyers Responds To “Lack Of News Coverage” Of Congress’ Anti-GMO Labeling Bill [Media Matters7/24/15]

Bill That Would Block States, FDA From Requiring GMO Labels Moving Through Congress

Anti-GMO Labeling Bill Passed By The House Would Nullify States’ Laws On Food Labels. On July 23, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring GMO labels on food products. The bill will now head to the Senate, as McClatchy reported:

A bill that would prevent state and local governments from requiring labels on genetically modified foods passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday after contentious debate, 275-150.

The bill now heads to the Senate. If enacted into law, it would nullify labeling laws that already have passed in three states but have yet to take effect, in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

At least 15 other states have introduced legislation to impose similar regulations on food made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But it’s been an uphill battle in many places, with strong opposition from the food industry helping to defeat anti-GMO proposals in California and Washington state, among others.

Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and his Democratic colleague, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, championed the bill that passed the House on Thursday.

Their Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would replace state and local laws with a voluntary GMO-free certification program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [McClatchy, 7/23/15]

Bill Would Also Allow Companies To Label Food Products “Natural” Even If They Contain Genetically Modified Ingredients. As Iowa Public Radio reported, the House-passed bill “expands the definition of ‘natural’ – already a nebulous term with few strict standards – to include some genetically modified ingredients.” The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that “would have banned the use of the term ‘natural’ on food that contains a genetically engineered plant,” as The Hill noted. [Iowa Public Radio, 7/23/15; The Hill, 7/23/15]

Environmental Working Group: Bill Would Even Obstruct Voluntary GMO Labeling. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated that the bill would not only prevent states from implementing mandatory GMO labeling, but would also complicate the process for any food manufacturers to voluntarily label GMO foods, possibly delaying voluntary labeling for years. EWG concluded that “the real intent” of the bill is to stop “both mandatory GMO labeling and voluntary non-GMO claims” (emphasis original):

[S]ection 102 of  Pompeo’s bill would make any non-GMO claim a violation of federal labeling law – unless the non-GMO claim was approved through a new certification program to be established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under Pompeo’s bill, it could take the USDA at least a year, and more likely years to set up such a certification program. After all, it took ten years to publish the rule implementing the National Organic Program.

In the meantime, food companies would have no way [to] inform consumers that their products didn’t contain GMO ingredients.


Taken together, it’s clear that the real intent of the new version of the DARK Act is to end all claims related to genetically modified ingredients – including both mandatory GMO labeling and voluntary non-GMO claims. [EWG, 6/22/15]

Major TV News Shows Completely Ignored Bill As It Moved Through House

Broadcast Programs, Primetime Cable Shows Ignored Advancement Of Anti-GMO Labeling Bill. Since it began to be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14, the major broadcast networks and primetime cable news shows have completely ignored the anti-GMO labeling bill.* [Congress.gov, accessed 7/24/15]

By Contrast, Local CBS Affiliate In Vermont Reported On Bill’s Passage. The House vote did receive coverage on CBS’ local affiliate in Burlington, Vermont. Vermont has passed the strongest mandatory GMO-labeling bill, which is set to take effect in July 2016 but is now at risk. On the July 24 edition of Channel 3 News Early Morning, anchor Eva McKend reported that the House bill “could reverse” Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and that Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell “says the House is listening to Big Food manufacturers rather than helping people.” [WCAX-TV, Channel 3 News Early Morning, 7/24/15]

GMO Labeling Has Widespread Support From Consumer Rights Advocates, Environmental Groups, And Vast Majority Of Americans

Consumer Reports’ Advocacy Arm: House Bill Is “Contrary To What Consumers Clearly Want And Need.” Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to oppose the bill, which it said “is contrary to what consumers clearly want and need.” Consumers Union added that the bill “interferes with the democratic process, and the long-recognized role of states to enact laws that respond to their citizens’ desires for consumer information that helps them make decisions in the marketplace.” [ConsumersUnion.org, 7/17/15]

Center For Food Safety Exec. Dir.: “Corporate Influence Has Won And The Voice Of The People Has Been Ignored.” The Center for Food Safety “expressed deep disappointment” in the bill’s passage, noting in a statement that “over 300 farmer, consumer and environmental groups opposed the bill.” Andrew Kimbrell, the group’s executive director, said the bill’s passage “is an attempt by Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies to crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans. Corporate influence has won and the voice of the people has been ignored.” [Center for Food Safety, 7/23/15]

NRDC Attorney: House Is “Trying To Keep Us In The Dark About What Is In Our Food.” Mae Wu, a health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), called the bill “concerning,” and said House members who support the bill are “trying to keep us in the dark about what is in our food.” [NRDC Switchboard, 7/22/15]

EWG: House Voted To “Deny Americans The Right To Know What’s In Their Food.” In a statement on the Environmental Working Group’s website, EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber said:

It’s outrageous that some House lawmakers voted to ignore the wishes of nine out of 10 Americans. … Today’s vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion. This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it’s no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the FDA from giving consumers basic information about their food. [EWG, 7/23/15]

Union of Concerned Scientists: GMO Foods Should Be Labeled So “Consumers Can Make Informed Decisions.” In a section of its website devoted to “Genetic Engineering in Agriculture,” the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that policy makers should “[s]upport food labeling laws that require foods containing [genetically engineered or GE] crops to be clearly identified as such, so that consumers can make informed decisions about supporting GE applications in agriculture.” UCS also said that although the risks from genetic engineering “are often exaggerated or misrepresented,” GE crops still “have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts”:

While the risks of genetic engineering are often exaggerated or misrepresented, GE crops do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts. For instance, they may spread undesirable traits to weeds and non-GE crops, produce new allergens and toxins, or harm animals that consume them.

At least one major environmental impact of genetic engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” which will lead to even more herbicide use.

How likely are other harmful GE impacts to occur? This is a difficult question to answer. Each crop-gene combination poses its own set of risks. While risk assessments are conducted as part of GE product approval, the data are generally supplied by the company seeking approval, and GE companies use their patent rights to exercise tight control over research on their products.

In short, there is a lot we don’t know about the long-term and epidemiological risks of GE–which is no reason for panic, but a good reason for caution, particularly in view of alternatives that are more effective and economical. [Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed 7/24/15]

Associated Press Poll: Strong Majority Of Americans Support GMO Labeling. On January 13, the Associated Press reported that a December AP-GfK poll found that “66 percent of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7 percent are opposed to the idea, and 24 percent are neutral.” The AP added that the portion of Americans who say it is very or extremely important to know whether a product contains GMOs is “higher than the share who say it’s important to know whether a food is organic, and about on par with the share saying they consider the amount of protein in a food an important factor.” [Associated Press, 1/13/15]
*According to a Nexis search of GMO or “genetically modified” for all news shows on PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, and the primetime news shows on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, from when the bill began to be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14 until the time of this publication. 

Orion Magazine: Buying the Farm

By Dean Kuipers
July/August 2015
Full Article

New players with deep pockets have appeared in farm country – investors looking to buy up prime farmland and turn a profit on the steady upward trend of land prices and farm incomes. There have always been family offices and private investors that owned farms, but the scale has changed: in the last decade, huge pension funds, university endowments, banks, sovereign wealth funds,  hedge funds, and new exchange-traded companies have sunk an estimated $25 billion into U.S. farmland.

Some activists already see a battle looming for our the control of our nation’s food production, pitting multigenerational farmers with a long-term vision of sustainability against the short-term needs of large, conventional investment funds.

Burlington Free Press: Neil Young rocks VT, talks GMOs

By Brent Hollenbeck
Full Article

ESSEX JUNCTION – Neil Young had barely said anything to the crowd a half hour into his sold-out concert Sunday night until he and his band got ready to play “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.”

Then he paid tribute to the state whose law requiring labeling for a controversial agricultural practice was a big part of the reason he came to Essex Junction.

“Strong Vermont — standing up while other states are lying down!” he yelled to loud cheers.

Young’s appearance — the rock legend’s first-ever headlining show in the state — was more than a concert. It was a chance for Young to spread the word about genetically modified organisms, which he worries might be harmful to the health of people who eat foods containing GMOs.

Vermont passed a law mandating labeling of foods containing GMOs, a law that food manufacturers are fighting in court. Young supports the law and references Vermont’s fight on his new album, “The Monsanto Years.”

A half-dozen booths highlighting agricultural and environmental organizations lined the midway lawn outside the Champlain Valley Exposition’s grandstand, where the concert was held. One booth was run by an organization called GMO Free USA.

Diana Reeves, executive director of GMO Free USA, said Young’s inclusion of her organization on his national tour brings the issue to music fans who might have otherwise not known about it.

“The reception has been very positive,” according to Reeves, who said people in farm-centered communities such as Lincoln, Nebraska have frequented the booth. “When people find out what’s been done to their food they’re horrified.”

Young and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin held a backstage press conference after sound check just before 6 p.m. Sunday. Young announced that he donated $100,000 to Vermont’s legal fight against the GMO-labeling lawsuit and asked the state’s “high rollers” who support the law to do the same.

“I’m just a rock-n-roller who believes people should know what they’re eating,” Young said. “There’s so much that we don’t know, and people deserve freedom of choice.”

Barbara Fitzpatrick and Scott Lynk, a couple from Vergennes, said they’ve been listening to Young’s music since the 1970s. They said they like the variety of his folk-meets-rock music and the quality of his lyrics.

“He always has something to say,” according to Lynk. He also likes that Young told presidential candidate Donald Trump to stop using Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” at campaign events and instead granted use of his song to the presidential candidate Young favors, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

They’re happy that Young is addressing concerns about GMOs. “We would come anyway but we like that he’s taking it on” Fitzpatrick said at a picnic table on the fairground’s midway. She was eating garlic chicken from The Skinny Pancake and the namesake food from Al’s French Frys before the concert.

“When we shop (for food) we know what we’re buying,” she said.

“We try to buy locally” and avoid mass-produced food, Lynk added.

He expected Young’s concert to reach people unfamiliar with concerns about GMOs. “He has a lot of fans,” Lynk said. More than 10,000 of those fans were expected at Sunday’s show.

“People listen to him,” Fitzpatrick said, “and pay attention.”

Natural Products Insider: House Committee Moves Congress Closer to Stifling Vermont’s GMO Labeling Bill

By Josh Long
Full Article

The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would thwart Vermont’s requirement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, moving one step closer to a federal solution in the escalating national debate over food labeling.

If enacted into law, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would preempt states from requiring GE labels and create a voluntary national labeling regime. The bill, first introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina), has changed through discussions between the House Agriculture Committee and the Commerce Committee.

The legislation would create a program administered by USDA through which foods could be certified as being produced with or without genetic engineering, with a seal identifying covered products. Foods produced through genetic engineering have been in the food supply for about two decades, according to FDA.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) urged the House and Senate to pass the amended bill. The powerful trade association has been fighting Vermont’s attorney general in federal court to overturn the nation’s first GE labeling law. Vermont’s Act 120—requiring labeling of GE foods and preventing such foods from being marketed as “natural”—is set to take effect next summer. Connecticut and Maine also have labeling laws, but they won’t take effect unless neighboring states pass similar legislation.

Just Label It, an organization that favors mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, on Monday blasted the latest version of Pompeo’s bill. Critics last year dubbed the legislation the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.

Among other provisions that have angered critics, the House bill would prevent states and local governments from imposing any requirements regarding GE plants that are not identical to a requirement under section 461 of the Plant Protection Act (PPA). USDA is responsible for ensuring GE plants pose no risk of pests to other plants.

“The DARK Act has always been a bad bill, but these new provisions are a drastic government overreach by undermining the ability of state or local governments from placing safeguards around production of GMO crops,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the yogurt maker Stonyfield and chairman of Just Label It, in a statement. “Moreover, we know consumers already believe so-called ‘natural’ foods are GMO-free, and this bill will write that confusion into law.”

The House legislation would require FDA to examine the safety profile of new GE foods, replacing a voluntary consultation process that is currently in effect. As of 2012, FDA had completed 95 consultations on a number of crops, including canola, corn, cottonwood and soybean.

A number of government and research bodies have not identified safety concerns with GE foods, but consumers and others continue to question the effects of genetic engineering on the environment and whether bioengineered foods are truly benign. Consumer advocacy groups say consumers have a right to know what is in their food and point to 64 countries around the world that require labels on GE foods.

FDA would have authority under the bill to require labeling on GE foods, but only if two requirements were satisfied. First, the agency would need to find “a meaningful difference in the functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics, allergenicity, or other attributes between” the relevant food and a comparable food. Second, the labeling disclosure must be “necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of the food so produced from being false or misleading.”

In testimony last month on Capitol Hill, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz urged lawmakers to reject the House legislation.

The bill not only would kill Vermont’s Act 120, Daloz said, it would “provide only an incomplete federal structure for the labeling of GE foods, and one that lacks any meaningful statutory standards and places much, if not all, of the responsibility for creating the structure in the hands of a federal agency.”

WCAX: Neil Young joins Vermont GMO fight

Musician donates to Vermont Food Fight Fund
By Rachel Carcz
Full article and video

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. —With less than a year until Vermont’s GMO law goes into effect, music legend, Neil Young met with Gov. Peter Shumlin to voice his opinion about the GMO labeling controversy.

“I’m just a rock and roller who believes people should know what they’re eating,” Young said.

In his first trip to the Green Mountain State in years, Neil Young had more than just singing on the agenda.

“He called me out of the blue about ten days ago and said, ‘I’m coming to Vermont. I want to help you raise money for the Vermont food fight so you can beat Monsanto, beat the big corporations,’” Shumlin said.

Young has been vocal in the past about transparency in the food industry. Many manufactured foods contain ingredients whose DNA was altered in a lab to improve efficiency. Next year, a new law will take effect that would require food manufacturers to let consumers know if their foods contain GMOs.

“We knew Monsanto and the food manufacturers would sue us. They have, we are now raising money through the Vermont food fight fund to fight back against Monsanto. This is a simple example of corporate greed against people’s right to know what’s in their food and make an informed choice,” Shumlin said.

Before Sunday, the state had raised $450,000. Young donated $100,000 from his ticket sales.

“We would like to see some of the high rollers to come out and match that. Because if you got it, break it out,” Young said.

“This food fight is so critically important because if we win in Vermont, we’ll win in America,” Shumlin said.

If things go as planned, the law will take effect July 2016.