Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) jointly filed a fifth lawsuit in a series of legal actions against major Yakima Valley (Washington State) industrial dairies for violating critical environmental protection laws. The lawsuits allege violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s (RCRA) imminent and substantial endangerment and open-dumping provisions.

CARE and CFS have already succeeded in compelling the dairies to comply with certain crucial federal laws requiring disclosure of hazardous substances. Prompted by the groups’ October 2012 Notices of Intent to Sue, the industrial dairies filed mandatory reports for releases of hazardous substances that citizens have been seeking for years, namely ammonia. The industrial dairies had dragged their feet in filing these reports, in violation of two federal statutes: the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The reports allow community members access to their exposure levels of ammonia to help them make informed decisions to protect themselves and their families.

“We have repeatedly asked the dairies to do what the law requires—file hazardous substance reports so we know how much ammonia pollution we are all exposed to, and stop contaminating our precious groundwater,” said Helen Reddout of CARE. “While these particular dairies, only after the threat of litigation, finally reported, they are a long ways from stopping their pollution of our water supply.”

For more information on the lawsuits, see

A federal Appeals Court has rejected a challenge to the controversial raw almond treatment regulation. The decision was primarily based on procedural grounds, stating that questions of legality of the treatment mandate and the authority of the USDA to impose it should have been raised during the review period for the draft regulation in early 2007.

The USDA, at the request of the Almond Board of California, began requiring in 2007 that raw almonds be treated with a process described as pasteurization. The rule mandates either the gassing of the raw nuts with a fumigant (propylene oxide) or treatment with high-temperature steam-heat.

According to the Cornucopia Institute, this mandate has placed a significant financial burden on California’s small-scale organic and conventional growers, lacks scientific justification, and has damaged domestic almond markets (imports are exempt from the rule).

The rule was developed in response to two outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning, which sickened more than 100 people in Canada in 2001 and 29 people in the U.S. and Canada in 2004. One person died in the 2004 outbreak, and a costly lawsuit against a major almond processor ensued. The Salmonella outbreak of 2004 was traced to Paramount Farms, the world’s largest supplier of pistachios and almonds, although the source of the bacteria was never identified.

The raw almond treatment rule does not address agricultural practices, something that could have led to the contamination incidents. And, amazingly, the treated almonds can still be deceptively labeled as “raw“.
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Celebrate herbs for health!
HerbDay is an herbal education event celebrated at Olbrich Garden on Sunday, May 5th. All activities are free and open to the public. Herb classes include “The Wild Kitchen,” “All About Teas,” and “Plant Medicines for the Elderly.” There will be a demonstration on “Sustainable Herb Growing” as well as four herb walks in Olbrich Garden and herbal displays. Call 512-9633 for more info.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) introduced companion bills in Congress that would provide much-needed reform of the heavily subsidized federal crop insurance program. The Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act of 2013 would restore the program’s fiscal integrity while ensuring that farmers are protected by an effective safety net when the weather turns against them.

“Crop insurance should be the core of a safety net for farmers and ranchers, but the program has gone seriously off track since passage of the 2000 Agriculture Risk Protection Act,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at Environmental Working Group. “We thank Sen. Flake and Rep. Duncan for proposing smart reform for a program that has exploded in cost, distorts markets and threatens the environment.”

Taxpayers now pay on average 62 percent of farmers’ premiums for crop insurance policies, which are so heavily subsidized that farmers got back $1.89 for every dollar they paid to insure their crops between 1998 and 2011. As a result, crop insurance, sold as a way to reduce the need for ad hoc disaster relief, has grown into the most costly taxpayer-funded program propping up farm income at a time when the agricultural economy is thriving.

The Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act of 2013 would save taxpayers more than $40 billion over the next 10 years by reducing federal premium subsidies, and farmers would still be able to choose from a wide array of crop insurance options that fit their budgets and their business plans. The proposal is a stark contrast to the farm bills proposed by the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees last year, both of which would increase federal spending on crop insurance by as much as $11 billion.
For more on the story see,

Environmental Working Group applauds food retailer Whole Foods Market for its decision to label any foods sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores that contain genetically engineered ingredients by 2018. Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full transparency for GE foods (also known as GMOs).

“Today’s announcement by Whole Foods will give consumers the information they need to make the right choice for their families,” said Ken Cook, president of EWG and a board member of Organic Voices, a national nonprofit organization. “Whole Foods recognizes that consumers want to know more, not less, about their foods. This announcement will add new urgency to efforts to require GE labeling in more than 20 states and put new pressure on the Obama administration to fulfill the promise that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama made in 2007.”

EWG has been active in national and state efforts to ensure that consumers in the United States are accorded the same right that people have in more than 60 countries around the world—the right to know whether the food they eat and feed to their families has been genetically engineered. The DC-based nonprofit organization has a long history of providing consumers with useful information and research about environmental and public health concerns and supporting organic agriculture.
For more from EWG, see

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter:
“Food & Water Watch commends USDA for taking sensible steps to strengthen Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for meat. There is overwhelming consumer support for country of origin labels and a growing interest by consumers in knowing the source of their food. The USDA’s proposed rule will help families know where the meat in their supermarket came from.

“The proposed changes eliminate the vague and misleading ‘mixed origin’ country of origin label for meat and ensures that each cut of meat clearly displays each stage of production (where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered) on the label. This commonsense approach improves the usefulness of the information consumers receive from the label and allows livestock producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace.

“Improving the integrity of country of origin labels and providing clear, straightforward information also addresses concerns brought in a World Trade Organization challenge to the current rules. We urge the USDA to finalize this proposed rule.”
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