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April 15, 2015 - ABJ Extra

USDA Announces Record Number of Organic Producers in U.S.

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the organic industry continues to show remarkable growth domestically and globally, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world.

According to data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP), the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent. The certified operations list is available at apps.ams.usda.gov/nop.

"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country's rural economy will be."

USDA is committed to connecting organic farmers and businesses with resources to ensure the continued growth of the organic industry. Along with programs to support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and integrated pest management, USDA administers organic certification cost share programs to offset the costs of organic certification for U.S. producers and handlers nationwide.

Now, USDA is using funding from the 2014 Farm Bill to develop the Organic Integrity Database, a modernized certified organic operations database that will provide accurate information about all certified operations that is updated on a regular basis. The modernized system will allow anyone to confirm organic certification status using the online tool, support market research and supply chain connections, allow international verification of operator status to streamline import and export certificates, and establish technology connections with certifiers to provide more accurate and timely data. The initial launch is planned for September 2015.

Additional information about USDA resources and support for the organic sector is available on the USDA Organics Resource page at www.usda.gov/organic.


April 7, 2015 - ABJ Extra

USDA to Issue Disaster Assistance to Help Honeybee,

Livestock and Farm-Raised Fish Producers

"Farm Bill Program Offers Producers Relief for 2014 Losses in more than 40 States"

 WASHINGTON, April 6, 2015 – The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency today announced that nearly 2,700 applicants will begin receiving disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm- Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses experienced from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014.
The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief to livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible losses may include excessive heat or winds, flooding, blizzards, hail, wildfires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions and diseases, or in the case of honeybees, losses due to colony collapse disorder. Beekeepers, most of whom suffered honeybee colony losses, represent more than half of ELAP recipients.
The farm bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year and the Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress, requires USDA to reduce payments by 7.3 percent, beginning Oct. 1, 2014. To accommodate the number of requests for ELAP assistance, which exceeded 2014 funding, payments will be reduced to ensure that all eligible applicants receive a prorated share.
Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit http://www.usda.gov/farmbill.
To learn more about ELAP, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/elap. For more information about USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster assistance programs, visit disaster.usda.fsa.gov or contact your local FSA office at http://offices.usda.gov.


April 3, 2015 - ABJ Extra

Rapid Increase in Neonicotinoid Insecticides

Driven by Seed Treatments

(Courtesy of PENN STATE)

Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the
mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated
with the pesticides. Image shows treated soybean seeds (blue), versus untreated
soybean seeds at the top and treated corn seeds (red) versus untreated corn seeds
at the bottom. (Credit: Ian Grettenberger, Penn State)


Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated with the pesticides, according to researchers at Penn State.

"Previous studies suggested that the percentage of corn acres treated with insecticides decreased during the 2000s, but once we took seed treatments into account we found the opposite pattern," said Margaret Douglas, graduate student in entomology. "Our results show that application of neonicotinoids to seed of corn and soybeans has driven a major surge in the U.S. cropland treated with insecticides since the mid-2000s."
According to Douglas, research suggests that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators. The European Union suspended neonicotioid use on bee-attractive crops and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expediting their review.

After discovering that neonicotinoid seed treatments were not explicitly documented in U.S. government pesticide surveys, the researchers synthesized available information to characterize the widespread use of these insecticides. First they compiled pesticide data from two public sources -- the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- that both reported aspects of neonicotinoid use, but did not estimate seed treatment use specifically. Using these data, together with information from insecticide product labels, the team estimated the percentage of land planted in corn and soybeans in which neonicotinoid-treated seeds have been used since these products were introduced in the mid-2000s. They corroborated their results with information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DuPont Pioneer, a major seed supplier.

The team found that in 2000, less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed, constituting a significant expansion in insecticide use. The researchers also found that the vast majority of neonicotinoids are used on crops, rather than in other arenas such as people's homes or gardens, or in turf grass and ornamental settings. The results appeared  Apr. 2 in Environmental Science & Technology.

"Adoption of neonicotinoid insecticides by seed companies and farmers has been very rapid and does not appear to relate well to a corresponding risk from insect pests," said John Tooker, associate professor of entomology. "This pattern suggests that neonicotinoids are often being used as an 'insurance policy' against uncertain insect attack, rather than in response to a documented pest threat."

The team found that in 2000, less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid- coated seed, constituting a significant expansion in insecticide use. (Credit: John Tooker and Maggie Douglas, Penn State, with permission from the American Chemical Society)

According to Douglas, the results inform an ongoing debate that is driven by detection of neonicotinoids in the environment and their possible negative effects on non-target animals, including wild and managed pollinators.

"Regulators, seed companies, farmers and the public are weighing the costs and benefits of neonicotinoid use," she said. "This debate has been happening in a void of basic information about when, where and how neonicotinoids are used. Our work is holding up a mirror so that this conversation can be informed by basic facts about neonicotinoid use."

In the future, the researchers plan to better document the prevalence of secondary insect pests targeted by seed treatments. They also will explore the unintended effects of neonicotinoid seed treatments on predatory insects that help to suppress insect pests.

Finally, they are studying alternative management practices for early-season insect pests, for instance, using cover crops to reduce pest pressure and foster predatory insects. The USDA's Northeast IPM Center supported this research.


April 2, 2015 - ABJ Extra

Neonicotinoid Pesticide Uses

As part of EPA's ongoing effort to protect pollinators, the Agency has sent letters to registrants of neonicotinoid pesticides with outdoor uses informing them that EPA will likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. The letters reiterate that the EPA has required new bee safety studies for its ongoing registration review process for the neonicotinoid pesticides, and that the Agency must complete its new pollinator risk assessments, which are based, in part, on the new data, before it will likely be able to make  regulatory decisions on imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran that would expand the current uses of these pesticides. Affected neonicotinoid actions include:

•    New Uses (including crop group expansion requests)
•    Addition of New  Use Patterns, such as aerial application
•    Experimental Use Permits
•    New Special Local Needs Registrations

This is an interim position. However, if a significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals, EPA is prepared to consider whether an emergency use under FIFRA section 18 might be appropriate. Due to the localized nature of many emergency pest management programs, it may be possible to develop mitigation or adjust the use pattern in a manner that would minimize exposure to bees. In the event that an emergency use is requested, the Agency plans to assess such requests by relying on available information and risk mitigation strategies. .

More information on EPA’s efforts to protect pollinators: http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection


April 2, 2015 - ABJ Extra

Ringing in Spring!

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)

The end of March ushered in the official first day of spring, so in April we would like to celebrate the spring honey harvest with some fun, bright and light recipes that will help you shake off the chill and gloom of winter and prepare yourself for the sunshine of spring.

From a savory leg of lamb in honor of Passover, to refreshing sparkling drinks perfect for an afternoon on the porch, these delicious delicacies will have you in high spirits for the upcoming season. What better way to ring in the season of renewal and new life? It’s also not a bad time to make good on those New Year’s resolutions with marathon season around the corner.

Oh how delicious this spring will bee, honey!

Crunchy Honey-Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

•    1 large - banana, sliced, divided
•    1/3 cup - honey, divided
•    1/2 cup - plain yogurt, divided
•    1/2 cup - crunchy granola, divided
Reserve several slices of banana for garnish. Layer 1 Tablespoon honey, 1/4 of the pre-sliced banana, 2 Tablespoons yogurt, 2 Tablespoons granola, 1/4 of the sliced banana, 2 Tablespoons yogurt, 1 Tablespoon honey and 2 Tablespoons granola in parfait glass. Repeat for second parfait. Garnish with reserved banana and honey.
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High Impact Honey Vanilla Ricotta Pear

•    2 teaspoons - honey
•    1/2 cup - part skim ricotta cheese
•    1/4 teaspoon - vanilla extract
•    1 - pear, sliced

Mix together ricotta cheese, honey and vanilla. Add sliced pears and serve chilled.
Printer Friendly Version - High Impact Honey Vanilla Ricotta Pear

Grilled Lamb with Spanish Sherry Sauce

•    1-1/2 lbs. - lean American lamb leg steaks, cut 1-inch thick
•    3 - russet potatoes, cut in 8 wedges each
•    1 - red bell pepper, cut in 8 strips
•    1 - green bell pepper, cut in 8 strips
•    1 - yellow bell pepper, cut in 8 strips
•    1/2 cup - unsweetened apple juice
•    1/2 cup - honey
•    2 Tablespoons - tomato paste
•    2 Tablespoons - red wine vinegar
•    2 Tablespoons - onion, minced
•    2 cloves - garlic, minced
•    1 teaspoon - Worcestershire sauce
•    1/2 teaspoon - black pepper, freshly ground

Spanish Sherry Sauce: In small saucepan, combine sherry, honey, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Simmer five minutes. Makes 1 1/4 cups. Ignite coals in barbecue; allow to burn until bright red and covered with gray ash. Grill steaks and vegetables 4 inches from coals, cooking 5-6 minutes. Turn lamb and vegetables and brush with sherry sauce; cook an additional 5 minutes. Turn lamb, brush with sherry sauce and cook 2-3 minutes longer for medium-rare. Grill vegetables to desired degree of doneness. Cut lamb steaks into thirds and serve with grilled vegetables.
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Sparkling Ginger-Infused Honey Hibiscus Drink

•    1 cup  - dried hibiscus leaves
•    4 cups  - boiling water
•    1 ¼ cups  - ginger infused honey simple syrup
•    ¼ cup - turbinado sugar
•    1 cup - sparkling wine
•    lime wedge, for garnish
•    ice cubes

Ginger Infused Honey Simple Syrup
•    1 cup  - Wildflower honey
•    ¼ cup  - water
•    1 inch piece  - fresh ginger, cut in ¼-inch pieces
•    1 lime - zest

Place dried hibiscus leaves in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over leaves and let steep for 20-30 minutes. In a pot combine honey, water, ginger and lime zest and gently warm on low. Let the ginger and zest steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain hibiscus mixture and discard the leaves. Strain ginger honey syrup and discard the ginger and zest. Combine honey simple syrup and hibiscus liquid and sugar. Stir well. Chill. Before serving, add sparkling wine. Serve over ice. Garnish with lime wedges.
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Spiced Honey Echinacea Cooler

•    4 - Echinacea tea bags*
•    4 - cinnamon sticks
•    20 - whole cloves
•    1/2 cup - honey
•    1/4 cup - fresh lemon juice

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add tea bags, cinnamon, and cloves ; let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon and cloves and stir in honey and lemon juice. Place in refrigerator until chilled (approx. 1 hour). Pour over ice and garnish with fresh lemon slices. *May substitute chamomile tea for the Echinacea tea.
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