Category Archives: Agriculture

Walmart Joins Home Depot and Lowe’s In Non-Denials On Bee-Toxic Plants

by Categorized: Agriculture, Environment Tagged: , , , , , Date:

It’s now official: None of the Big Three in the home improvement retail game are directly denying a new report’s accusations that they’ve been selling “bee-friendly” flowers and plants that actually contain bee-harmful pesticides.

Walmart has issued a statement that sounds very similar to the non-denial responses from Home Depot and Lowe’s earlier this week to a study by the Pesticide Research Institute. The group tested samples of plants sold at major garden retailers in 18 cities across the U.S. and Canada and found more than half had traces of a potentially bee-toxic insecticide called “neonicotinoid.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency photo.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency photo.

“Walmart shares the concern of others regarding pollinator health, including the health of bees,” Walmart spokeswoman Susan Saronitman wrote in an emailed response to the report. “We are actively engaging with many stakeholders, including scientists, suppliers farmers and customers to explore additional steps we can take to enhance the health of bees and other pollinators in the food and garden supply chaines.”

What Friends of the Earth, Boston’s Toxic Action Center and the other groups associated with the new study want is for major retailers and all the other garden centers to halt all sales of plants with bee-toxic pesticides.

None of the responses from Walmart, Home Depot or Lowe’s mentioned even the possibility of that sort of action. The closest any of them came to the central issue was the Home Depot statement, which stated it planned to have its suppliers label any plants with neonicotinoid by the last quarter of 2014.

Allowing Running Bamboo to Run Wild Could Cost You

by Categorized: Agriculture, Environment Tagged: Date:

Running bamboo has acquired an evil reputation in Connecticut. And now the state is trying to increase restrictions on this plant and create potentially big financial risks for people who let it run wild.

Legislation signed into law this week by Gov. Dannel Malloy doesn’t go as far as some bamboo critics hoped – they wanted to totally prohibit the sale or planting of running bamboo in Connecticut.

Image courtesy of state House Democrats.

Image courtesy of state House Democrats.

But the new law, which took effect immediately, does expand on anti-bamboo legislation passed in 2013. That initial bill prohibited planting of running bamboo within 100-feet of a neighbor’s property, but included some significant loopholes.

The first was that it applied only to plantings that occurred after the law took effect in October 2013. The second was that it allowed plantings closer to a property line if the bamboo was “properly contained” by a barrier system.

Many Connecticut residents suffering from damage caused by running bamboo planted much earlier insisted  that the 2013 law didn’t go far enough.

Continue reading

Malloy Signs E-Cigarette Ban for Minors, New Anti-Puppy Mill Bill

by Categorized: Agriculture, Gov. Dannel Malloy Tagged: , , , Date:

Bills to ban minors from buying or smoking e-cigarettes and to set tough new state standards for animal-abusing “puppy mills” were among the 23 pieces of legislation signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy Tuesday.

Electronic cigarettes have become hugely popular among younger smokers, and lawmakers were fearful the e-cigarette fad would encourage a new wave of nicotine addicts. The ban prohibits anyone under age 18 from buying or possessing any “electronic nicotine delivery system.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy. Hartford Courant photo.

Gov. Dannel Malloy. Hartford Courant photo.

E-cigarette advocates insist these products can actually help people quit smoking. But the fear from health activists is that e-cigarettes, which can come in many different flavors, would entice lots more kids into smoking.

The new law, which takes effect on Oct. 1st, will also crack down on sales of individual loose cigarettes.

Continue reading

Connecticut Official: No Kids Exploited On Our Tobacco Farms

by Categorized: Agriculture, Uncategorized Tagged: , , Date:

An international rights organization alleges that child tobacco farm workers in several states are being exploited and exposed to dangers from nicotine and pesticides, but a Connecticut official says it’s not happening here.

Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

The report by the Human Rights Watch is based on interviews with more than 140 young farm workers in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those are the states that produce most of the U.S. tobacco used in cigarettes. The group is pushing for new federal protections for child farm workers.

Connecticut tobacco farms grow much higher-grade plants used in fine cigars.

“I don’t think anyone on Connecticut tobacco farms is being exploited in any way,” said George Krivda, a spokesman for this state’s Department of Agriculture.

Federal law allows kids as young as 12 to work on farms with parental permission, as long as the work is performed outside of school hours. Federal law sets no limits on how many hours or days per week a child can work on a farm.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor website, Connecticut’s farm labor law is stricter than the federal standard.

In Connecticut, the minimum age allowed for a farm worker is 14, and the most a person under 16 can work on a farm in one day is eight hours. A minor worker’s farm week is limited to no more  than six days and 48 hours, under this state’s laws.

 

 

 

Scotts CEO Warns Malloy About Reviving GMO Seed Ban Bill

by Categorized: Agriculture, Environment Tagged: Date:

A bill to ban genetically modified grass seed and sod from Connecticut’s lawns was uprooted and dumped on the legislative mulch pile by the House last week, but that wasn’t good enough for the head of Scotts Miracle-Gro.

EPA photo.

EPA photo.

The chairman of that company wrote Gov. Dannel Malloy Thursday warning that any revival of the ban or any moratorium on the new grass seed could lead Scotts to reconsider its investments in Connecticut.

Scotts is creating a grass seed using genetically modified organism (GMO) technology. This new form of lawn grass could survive being sprayed with Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup. That would allow homeowners to use Roundup to kill every weed in their yard without hurting the grass.

Environmentalists are worried that could result in a huge boost in pesticide and herbicide use, which could create more pollution, and that the new type of grass could spread and endangering Connecticut’s organic farms. They fear Scotts’ new GMO grass seed could be available soon and wanted the ban in place now, but House lawmakers rejected that plan on a bipartisan vote.

Jim Hagedorn is chairman and chief executive officer of Scotts, and he wrote to Gov. Dannel Malloy Thursday because he is “dismayed that so many uninformed comments have been made about our technology.” Continue reading

GMO Battles Set for NY, Massachusetts, Vermont and Congress

by Categorized: Agriculture, Environment, Uncategorized Date:

Connecticut made national headlines last year by becoming the first state in the nation to pass legislation requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Anti-GMO rally at Connecticut State Capitol

Anti-GMO rally at Connecticut State Capitol

There were some big, big conditions attached to Connecticut’s bill that have prevented those labeling requirements from actually making an impact for consumers. But developments in other states could change the situation soon.

In order for Connecticut’s law to take effect, at least four other states with a combined population of at least 20 million would have to pass similar laws. And at least one of those state would have to border Connecticut.

Right now, the odds of those conditions being met seem to be getting better.

New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maryland all have GMO labeling legislation in the works. (Maine passed its own GMO law last year.) Polls consistently show massive public support for such labeling requirements, but federal officials and Big Food and  Big Agriculture are opposed. Continue reading

Oh, Wilbur, Not All Horses Are Wild

by Categorized: Agriculture Date:

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he\’s pleased by the Environment Committee\’s unanimous vote Friday approving a bill he introduced to protect horse owners and keepers by making it clear that domesticated horses are not wild animals, and not \”inherently dangerous.\”

\"MrEd\"

Malloy introduced the bill last month, saying a 2012 Appellate Court decision could adversely affect horse owners. In a court case that involved a horse that had bitten a child, the court found that the species is \”naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” The ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, give that committee a carrot and a few lumps of sugar.

National Chicken Fight Could Impact Our Hens

by Categorized: Agriculture, General Assembly Date:

There’s a big fight brewing in the world of chickens. It’s all about how much living space they should have, and it’s an issue that may eventually impact Connecticut’s poultry industry and how much you pay for eggs.

\"USDA

Connecticut has more chickens than people. According to federal statisticians, Connecticut actually had more chickens in 2013 than all the rest of New England combined: our poultry population topped 3.9 million birds last year and those chickens laid 667 million eggs.

The national debate concerns a California ballot initiative passed in 2008 that set new (and by U.S. poultry industry standards) extraordinarily roomy requirements for how much space a hen should have. That would effectively outlaw so-called “battery cages” used in most big-time industrial-style poultry operations where hens are confined to small wire enclosures.

In 2009 and 2011, there were attempts in Connecticut’s General Assembly to outlaw those “battery cages” the way California did. Both efforts failed.

The California law requires that egg-laying hens be given room enough to flap their wings, stand up and move around. It also requires that eggs from outside California that are sold in that state be from hens raised under the same standard, and those provisions will take effect in January 2015.

That would hurt the big-time egg producers in places like Iowa and other Midwest states. They favor putting as many chickens as possible in the smallest amount of space allowed that will still get them plenty of eggs to meet the massive demands of American consumers at the lowest price. Critics insist those methods are inhumane and cruel, that cramped conditions lead to disease, and they believe more and more consumers agree with them.

Missouri’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit arguing the California standards violate interstate commerce protections in the U.S. Constitution. Big Food is also gearing up for the fight, fearing such restrictions on production could eventually hit industrial-style beef and pork farming.

In 2009, a General Assembly hearing on the Connecticut proposal to ban battery cages brought a massive response from the poultry industry. The biggest producer in this state is Kofkoff Egg Farms, which has major facilities in Bozrah and Lebanon.

But it wasn’t only Kofkoff that warned of the consequences of passing a bill mandating larger cage sizes for hens. The Teamsters were against it. New England Central Railroad was against it. The Connecticut Farm Bureau, the state Department of Agriculture, Interstate Commodities Inc. were opposed, as were town officials in Bozrah and Lebanon.

“The industry says it’s going to be a disaster,” state Rep. Diana Urban, D-Stonington, said this week. Urban sponsored the legislation in 2009 and 2001. “But it’s not going to be a disaster… and this is coming, why not lead the way?”

Urban doesn’t have any anti-battery cage bills in this year – in 2014 she’s concentrating on legislation to ban tiny “gestation crates” for pigs, even though Connecticut apparently doesn’t have any farmers that use them to raise swine.

“I’ll go back to battery cages,” Urban said of her plans for next year. “No question about it.”

Legislators Leaning Toward Task Force On Drones

by Categorized: ACLU - CT, Agriculture Date:

With technology changing on a rapid basis, a bipartisan group of legislators said Monday that they are leaning toward forming a task force to study the use and potential misuse of flying drones.

The lawmakers conducted a lengthy hearing of the judiciary committee on a bill that would put the first regulations in Connecticut on drones, which are unmanned aircraft.

Drones are currently used chiefly by the military, but the improving technology, the ever-decreasing price, and the expected unleashing of regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration could change things sharply in 2015. Officials say that drones could start to take off in the Connecticut skies and eventually jump by leaps and bounds in usage.

The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association has asked for the legislature to form a task force instead of passing a bill to regulate drones. The bill\’s two chief proponents – state Rep. Matthew Ritter of Hartford and Rep. James Albis of East Haven – both said Monday that they would be open to studying the issues further.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, the ranking House Republican on the committee, said that passing legislation too quickly could be a mistake.

\”I would love the additional time to look at what other states have done,\’\’ Rebimbas said at the state Capitol complex. \”I do think the right people need to be serving on that task force.\’\’ Continue reading

Watching The Snow, Thinking About Monarchs

by Categorized: Agriculture, Environment Date:

 

If this cascade of snow has you dreaming about summertime and gardens and flowers, maybe you should also be giving some thought to the ugly reports coming out of a small valley in Mexico, and the plight of the Monarchs.

\"monarchEPA\"The Monarch butterfly\’s winter retreat in Mexico\’s Sierra Madres once covered something like 45 acres. Billions of the brilliantly colored butterflies would make there way there from all over Canada and the U.S. (including Connecticut), sometimes taking as many as four generations to complete the migration.

Now, biologists report that this winter less than 1.7 acres are covered with Monarchs, and their numbers have dwindled to about 35 million.

Theories about why this massive decline is occurring range from climate change to the dramatic increase in the use of certain GMO-related pesticides that have nearly wiped out milkweed, a key Monarch feeding resource, from great stretches of the Midwest.

If it is the loss of milkweed that\’s driving down North America\’s Monarch populations, it\’s an unintended consequence of the push to find better, more profitable agricultural methods.

Monsanto genetically engineered corn and soybeans to be able to withstand the herbicide Roundup. Farmers in the Midwest have vastly expanded acreage devoted to those GMO crops, and one consequence is that Roundup has virtually eradicated milkweed that once grew in those farmlands. One biologist estimated that 98 percent of all milkweed has disappeared from Iowa farmlands

Monsanto scientists insist there is evidence indicating the Monarchs\’ decline is linked to other causes, such as shifts in climate caused by global warming.

What to do about the Monarchs may actually become a topic at a summit meeting next week in Mexico between President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.