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Food Alliance Midwest: Market Incentives for IPM

Grant Recipient:

Food Alliance Midwest
400 Selby Ave. Suite Y
St. Paul, MN 55102

Project Period:

April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009

Principal Investigator:

Bob Olson

Description
Food Alliance Midwest (FAM) seeks to retain and provide services to an existing customer base in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (47 farms/ranches and 2 processors/distributors), leading to further improvements in implementation of IPM and reductions in pesticide use and toxicity across 21,032 acres. FAM also plans to expand participation by certifying at least 24 new farms/ranches representing 24,000+ additional acres and 4 new processing/distribution facilities.

To recruit new certification customers, FAM pursues both indirect and direct outreach. To retain existing customers, FAM provides marketing support, technical assistance for continuous improvement, and new market opportunities through continued cultivation of relationships with ‘partners in change,’ including retail grocery stores, restaurant chains and food service companies. Food Alliance Midwest will organize workshop and networking events to provide opportunities for farmers and ranchers to hear from and meet with commercial food buyers. Food Alliance Midwest will also publish a bi-monthly newsletter on related marketing and agricultural topics.

Because food packers, processors, and distributors offer an important avenue of influence on food production practices through purchasing from Food Alliance Certified farms and ranches, promoting certification to other suppliers, and marketing certified products to their customers, Food Alliance Midwest seeks to leverage its growing network of relationships with these businesses to improve IPM and eliminate targeted pesticides.

FAM has previously received grant funding from EPA Region 8.

Project goals and objectives
In October 2006, Food Alliance Midwest received a grant of $31,000 from EPA Region 8 to facilitate the adoption of reduced-risk integrated pest management (IPM) by reducing grower risks and providing market rewards for such adoption. To date nine farms in North and South Dakota representing 38,854 acres have been Food Alliance Certified for sustainable agricultural practices and are supplying products to local natural food cooperatives and foodservice institutions. FAM staff members are working with beef ranchers and grain growers.

In March of 2007 Food Alliance’s national office in Portland, Oregon received a grant of $70,000 from EPA Region 10 to leverage its growing network of relationships with food packers, processors, and distributors to improve IPM and eliminate targeted pesticides on at least 25 farms representing 25,000+ acres. In the last 9 months, working in the target states, Food Alliance has recruited and certified 6 new processing and distribution facilities, and 19 new farms and ranches representing 128,107 total acres. Data from applications, inspection reports, and annual client reports show clear improvements on environmental measures.

Food Alliance Midwest seeks $38,000 from EPA Region 5 in 2008 to do the following:
1) Retain and provide services to an existing customer base in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (47 farms/ranches and 2 processors/distributors), leading to further improvements in implementation of IPM and reductions in pesticide use and toxicity across 21,032 acres;
2) Expand participation by certifying at least 24 new farms/ranches representing 24,000+ additional acres and 4 new processing/distribution facilities.

To make clear the opportunity for improved implementation of IPM and reductions in pesticide use and toxicity, it is important to understand Food Alliance’s certification program and standards. Food Alliance certification both sets a bar for environmental performance and provides a framework and incentives for continual improvement of management practices.

Pesticide related criteria evaluated under Food Alliance certification include:

• Continuing pesticide education
• IPM planning
• Crop monitoring/field scouting
• Pesticide selection and justification
• Lowest effective application rates
• Resistance management
• Pesticide record keeping
• Application equipment calibration
• Drift management
• Hazardous material storage
• Pesticide handler safety
• Emergency management procedures

Food Alliance also specifically prohibits the use of 14 targeted, high-toxicity pesticides, including: azinphosmethyl, aldicarb, carbofuran, methyl bromide, phorate, terbufos, disulfoton, methyl parathion, oxamyl, ethyl parathion, fenamiphos, methomyl, ethoprop, and strychnine.
The certification process includes: 1) A review by the applicant of the requirements outlined in the standards and criteria (the majority of which represent ‘best practices’ from university and agency research); 2) Completion of the certification application describing the operation and management practices, and; 3) Work with an inspector on-site to review management practices and outcomes in order to assess compliance with standards. Each step of this process provides educational opportunities for producers seeking to adopt or improve integrated pest management.

Despite the fact that Food Alliance’s certification standards and criteria are available on-line (www.foodalliance.org), it is common that farms and ranches do not pass the initial inspection or are certified with conditions requiring them to document improvements in a fixed time period. This is increasingly the case as processors and distributors begin to push suppliers to pursue certification who may not already have strong environmental management systems.

Producers and producer cooperatives can use inspection results as a guide for their own efforts to seek technical or financial assistance for management improvements.

As a matter of course, inspectors also note specific opportunities for improvement in their inspection reports, even where management and outcomes meet or exceed the standards. A very small selection of recommendations made during recent certification inspections includes:
• Research biological controls for aphids in alfalfa.
• Establish a greater diversity of trees, shrubs and grasses to support beneficial insects.
• Research effectiveness of ‘Caution’ level herbicides and alternative strategies for weeds.
• Add vegetation as a buffer to better contain fertilizer and pesticides.
• Maintain better scouting and pest control records.
• Research alternative cultural practices to control pests while eliminating chem-fallow.
• Scout fields using a sweep net to determine populations of Twelve Spot Beetle.

In addition, Food Alliance requires producers to set and report annually on goals for improvement of environmental performance, including improved pest management, as well as steps to improve water quality, reduce erosion, improve soil quality, and protect or improve wildlife habitat. Progress on these goals is a condition for maintaining certification.
As an example of goals, one farmer certified in 2007 included the following in a longer list:
• One year: Eliminate the use of all organophosphate pesticides on our farm.
• Three years: Use mating disruption and codling moth virus for codling moth.
• Five years: Eliminate the use of late season pesticide applications.


American Farmland Trust