E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Heritage breeds make a comeback; other news

(Friday, June 10, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Heritage & Organic Livestock Making a Comeback
2. House Votes to Postpone Country-of-Origin Labeling in Appropriations Bill
3. Farmers Markets Growth Steady
4. Farm Bill funding application deadline approaching
5. Cargill to Acquire Ukrainian Sunflower Facility
6. Louis Dreyfus may build soybean plant in northeastern Indiana

1. Heritage & Organic Livestock Making a Comeback: Food lovers are developing a taste for "heritage" breeds ignored by big farms and nearly extinct

By MARGOT ROOSEVELT, Time Magazine, Monday, Jun. 06, 2005

Down a dirt road, amid rolling hills of alfalfa, Larry and Madonna Sorell's 40-acre spread looks, smells and sounds like any other Kansas homestead. The weathered wooden farmhouse. The whiff of manure. The cacophony of grunting, gobbling and bleating. But the livestock at Lazy S Farms are no ordinary farm animals. Rooting about in the fields are Red Wattle pigs, a breed thought to have been imported from New Caledonia in the 1700s and practically extinct until a wild herd surfaced in Texas. The turkeys are Standard American Bronzes, which were Thanksgiving fare for more than a century but have now been reduced to some 950 breeder birds. The lambs are Katahdins, a subspecies developed in Maine and named for the state's highest peak.

Fifty years ago, such breeds were common on family farms. But with the intensive post--World War II industrialization of American agriculture, they all but died out, surviving only on isolated farmsteads for local consumption. In the past five years, however, a new market has sprung up for now rare varieties, thanks to a lively network of big-name chefs, conservation-minded farmers and slow-food devotees. Like heirloom tomatoes and antique roses, so-called heritage meats are attracting discriminating customers--and fetching top dollar.

For Larry Sorell, 65, a fourth-generation grain planter, raising rare animals began as a lark. But as he learned more about the threat to the survival of traditional varieties, he came to see his hobby as a higher calling. "If a breed goes extinct, all the genetics go down the tube," he says. Besides, he adds as he waters a passel of squealing piglets, "I just love to watch 'em grow."

Sorell's pigs aren't the only things that are growing. Heritage Foods USA, the largest mail-order firm in the business, was buying five 200- lb. hogs a month from Lazy S but is ratcheting up to 25 a month to meet demand. Besides Red Wattles, named for their ruddy hair and folds of neck skin, the company's biannual "almanac" offers 70 products, from Tunis lamb to Bourbon Red turkeys. "Dozens of delicious American treasures with a long history are on the brink of extinction," says Patrick Martins, co-founder of the company. "We must eat them to save them."

The renewed interest in rare breeds is driven in part by the limited offerings of factory farms in the U.S. Agribusinesses, trying to maximize efficiency in a competitive market, pursue a ruthless genetic specialization, driving the industry toward what ecologists call monocultures--vast numbers of a single variety. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), 15 different breeds of pigs were raised for market in the 1930s; today, six of them are extinct. Only three varieties--Hampshire, Yorkshire and Duroc-- account for 75% of U.S. production. In the 1920s, some 60 breeds of chickens thrived on American farms; today one hybrid, the Cornish Rock cross, supplies nearly every supermarket. A single turkey dominates: the Broad Breasted White, a fast-growing commercial creation with such a huge breast and short legs that it is unable to mate naturally.

Mass marketing may demand a cow that produces more milk or a duck with a bigger breast. But narrowing the genetics means losing valuable traits, such as resistance to disease and drought, intelligence, easy birthing and longevity. Alarmed at the trend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is creating a national gene bank in Fort Collins, Colo., for endangered livestock. The urgency has grown since 9/11. "A virus introduced into a poultry plant with 10,000 birds of a single variety is a potent terrorist opportunity," says ALBC executive director Charles Bassett.

But what fires up many old-breed farmers--and draws food lovers from New York to California--is how the heritage meat tastes. Chefs rave about the complex, succulent flavors of Tamworth pork and Katahdin lamb. Martha Stewart has featured a Standard American Bronze on her Thanksgiving cooking show. At Muss & Turner's in suburban Atlanta, chef Todd Mussman puts Lazy S Farm's lean, dark Red Wattle ham on sandwiches that sell for $11.99 each. "The texture is so silky, it melts on the tongue," says Mussman. He tells customers they are saving not just endangered breeds but small farmers too. Says Mussman: "People want to feel good about what they eat."

And there's a lot to feel good about. Most of those animals are organically fed and humanely raised in free-range conditions, although that is at least in part out of necessity. Heirloom breeds tend to be unsuited to factory farming; they grow slowly and reach smaller sizes than industrial varieties. At Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, N.Y., Gloucestershire Old Spots hogs root around in the woods even in the snow--making for a marbled meat that is, like other old breeds', high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. At Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg, Kans., owner Frank Reese brags that he doesn't clip his purebreds' beaks or pump them full of antibiotics. A webcam allows customers to spy on their prospective Thanksgiving dinners while the birds are still squabbling and gobbling grasshoppers.

Much of the trade in heritage fare these days is either at farmers' markets or over the Internet. http://LocalHarvest.org connects consumers to 140 heritage-meat farms, including Peaceful Pastures, in Hickman, Tenn., which sells lamb from rare Lincoln Longwools. http://heritagefoodsusa.com touts Texas' Thunder Heart ranch, whose bison are killed in the fields in a Cohahuiltecan Indian ceremony. Farmers are even putting up their own websites and shipping directly to consumers. Two years ago, Mary and Rick Pitman added Bourbon Reds and Narragansetts, an old New England breed, to their Fresno, Calif., ranch and began selling them at MarysTurkeys.com Soon, says Mary, "I was on my hotline eight hours a day with calls about heritage turkeys." She sold 5,000 last year, including one to a U.S. soldier in Iraq.

Such efforts have led to a comeback in heritage turkeys that an ALBC report this month calls "amazing." In 1997, from eight traditional varieties, only 1,335 breeding turkeys were found nationwide, including just six of the splendidly black-and-white-feathered Narragansetts. Today the total has grown to 5,363, including 686 Narragansetts. Highland cattle and Shetland sheep are also moving out of the danger zone. And this month Heritage Foods USA began selling rare Barred Plymouth Rock chickens from farms in Michigan and Kansas. "It's been 50 years since authentic chickens have been on the market," says Reese.

How big that market will grow and how much of a premium customers will be willing to pay remain to be seen. Today heritage turkey sells for up to $6 per lb. and Red Wattle pork for $10 per lb., prices that won't fall unless a lot more Americans change their eating habits. Meanwhile, however, the trend is supporting a growing number of small farms that might otherwise have gone under. Since Sorell began raising old breeds, his farm income has doubled, to $40,000 a year, and could grow bigger when his Red Wattle pork starts getting ground for sausages and hot dogs. But profit, he says, is not the point. "I don't like to see things disappear," he says--not small farms or Red Wattles.

2. House Votes to Postpone Country-of-Origin Labeling in Appropriations Bill

Western Organization of Resource Councils update, June 8, 2005

Today, the House of Representatives rejected the wishes of livestock producers and consumers across the country when they included a provision in the Agricultural Appropriations bill that postpones implementation of mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling.

In an attempt to preserve mandatory labeling, Representatives Rehberg (R-MT) introduced an amendment that would remove the language postponing mandatory labeling. However, this amendment failed by a vote of 240-187.

The postponing implementation of labeling for meats one more year is a slap in the face to consumers and agricultural producers across the U.S. who have anticipated implementation of the law for three years now.

A Roll Call vote record will be available later today or tomorrow morning and will be posted at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:H.R.2744 .

3. Farmers Markets Growth Steady, 06/06

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Gina Humphreys has been in the espresso business for 15 years, managing coffee bars from coast to coast. But lately she's been getting more excited about carrot juice and salad greens than cappuccino.

Specializing in veggie juices, she is one of about a dozen sellers who set up shop every Saturday at a West Philadelphia farmers market, a cornucopia of eggs, baked goods, grass-fed beef and pork, goat milk and cheese, flowers, local honey and maple syrup, fruits and vegetables.

"I love this so much, I can't even tell you," said Humphreys, who grows organic vegetables on a slice of her father's 70-acre farm in Pennsville, N.J.

In big cities and small towns, farmers markets are finding fertile ground: The U.S. Agriculture Department says their number has doubled nationally in the past decade, to more than 3,700.

The growing popularity of the markets is attributed to a number of factors: less tolerance for bland meat and produce some consumers associate with big factory farms; more demand for the just-picked freshness and nutrition of locally grown food; increased awareness about supporting local economies; and health and environmental concerns about the use of antibiotics and pesticides.

A 2003 study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University found that if price and appearance were identical, consumers given a choice were more likely to purchase locally grown foods over those produced far away. Even though prices tend to be higher for local produce, consumers will pay more for a product they believe is healthier and tastier.

"Buying local is less wasteful, it reconnects us with our neighbors, and the food tastes better and is more wholesome," said Duane Perry, founder of The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that helps bring more farmers markets into the city, and advocates for healthier school lunches.

Since Perry founded The Food Trust in 1992, it has evolved from a single stand to 20 open-air markets in the Philadelphia region, drawing about 65 farmers from within a 2 1/2-hour radius. Most of their farms range in size from 10 acres to 100 acres.

Once they are established in markets, farmers often will adapt to the demand.

"You can have farmers who start raising goats for goat cheese, or who start growing microgreens and other more avant-garde products," Perry said. "There's huge market potential to grow more than cantaloupes, corn and tomatoes."

The market demand for locally grown produce in Pennsylvania could increase to the point that it outstrips the supply, said Cheryl Cook of the state Agriculture Department. In response, the state has unveiled initiatives including "PA Grows," which helps farmers get funding they need to start or expand their operations.

The trend reflects what is essentially an effort to "bring back the milkman," said Guillermo Payet, who in 1998 founded California-based Local Harvest, an online directory of farmers markets and other local food options that gets about 9,000 visits daily.

Farmers more recently have branched out to grass-fed beef and lamb, and free-range chicken and eggs, because of consumer awareness of mad cow disease and how animals are treated - and the taste of the products.

"I dream all winter long about the peaches I get here in the summer," said Mike Simpson, a regular at the twice-weekly market in West Philadelphia. "I'm out here for the potatoes and the greens come December, but summertime is heaven."

Customers like Simpson have proved very loyal.

"They're here in the blinding snow, torrential rain," said Susan Richards of Spiral Path Farm in Loysville, about 130 miles west of Philadelphia, as her strawberries, organic sauces and fruit spreads were snapped up.

Though the government has not tracked farmers market sales nationally, the "buy local" movement has clearly helped many small farms regain their financial footing, Perry said.

"It's not as though farmers are making a fortune on this, by any means," he said. "But some farmers are finding there's a growing market out there for them to tap into."


Wind Energy Weekly
Vol. 24, #1144
3 June 2005

The June 28 deadline is fast approaching for applications for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill established the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements loan and grant program to encourage agricultural producers and small rural businesses to create renewable and energy efficient systems. The funds will be available to support renewable technologies such as biomass (including anaerobic digesters), geothermal, hydrogen, solar, and wind energy, as well as energy efficiency improvements.

The $22.8 million announced will be made available in two stages. One-half, for which the application deadline is nearing, is available for competitive grants. Renewable energy grant applications must be for a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $500,000. Energy efficiency grant applications may range from $2,500 to $250,000. The grant request may not exceed 25% of the eligible project cost. Further information on rural programs is available at a local Department of Agriculture Rural Development office or by visiting the Web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov .

The remaining $11.4 million will be set aside through August 31 for renewable energy and energy efficiency guaranteed loans. Final details on how to apply for these funds will be published in the Federal Register later this year. Any funds not obligated under the guarantee loan program by August 31 will be reallocated to the competitive grant program as of that date.

The USDA Rural Development office has published a number of tools and resources to help with Section 9006 applications.

5. Cargill to Acquire Ukrainian Sunflower Facility 06/06/05

OMAHA (DTN) -- Cargill has announced its intention to acquire a sunflower seed crushing facility in Ukraine from Ukrainian consumer food company Chumak. The deal is subject to Ukrainian regulatory approval.

The facility is located in Kahovka in southern Ukraine and has a capacity of 1,200 MT per day. The acquisition would complement Cargill's existing oilseed crushing facility in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

"Our interest in acquiring the Kahovka sunflower seed crushing facility marks the latest step in our strategy to strengthen our oil crushing capabilities in Ukraine," comments Andreas Rickmers, Cargill's country manager in Ukraine.

"The new facility has an excellent geographic location for both the national and export markets. Together with our existing facility in Donetsk and our network of grain elevators, this acquisition would provide a platform for future growth. It would also support the national agricultural community as we would source our sunflower seeds from farmers in Ukraine."

The sunflower seed crushing facility in Kahovka is part of Chumak's industrial complex that also includes an oil refinery and bottling plant. Neither of these is included in the proposed acquisition.

Chumak is one of Ukraine's most well-known consumer food brands with a strong market position in a range of categories including tomato ketchup, bottled sunflower oil, mayonnaise, pickled vegetables and tomato paste. The company markets its products in 16 countries.

Carl Sturen, managing director of Chumak, said "We are happy to announce this agreement with Cargill regarding our sunflower seed crushing facility. The long-term strategy for Chumak is to focus on the innovation and branding of value-added products for the consumer market. Cargill's international expertise in oilseed crushing and extensive supply network in Ukraine will develop the full potential of the Kahovka sunflower seed crushing facility and therefore strengthen our branded bottled oil business and open up new opportunities for our business operations."

Louis Dreyfus may build soybean plant in northeastern Indiana

(Bakingbusiness.com, June 6, 2005) by Bakingbusiness Staff

KANSAS CITY -- A subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus is considering construction of a $100 million soybean processing plant in northeastern Indiana, according to numerous local news reports.

Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries L.L.C. proposes building the plant southwest of Claypool, in Kosciusko County, which is 40 miles west of Fort Wayne, according to the reports.

At an informational meeting for county officials and residents late last month, Louis Dreyfus officials said the soybean plant, which would process 140,000 bus of soybeans a day, would be the first phase of a three-step plan that could develop into a 250-acre agro-industrial park. The park?s second phase would include an 80-million-gallon per year biodiesel plant, while the third phase would consist of a 100 million gallon ethanol plant.

A final decision on the Claypool development site is dependent on costs, the amount of economic development incentives provided by the state and county and securing necessary government permits, the news reports said.