In June, the Recirculating Farms Coalition, along with various other organizations petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect Pacific Bluefin Tuna under the Endangered Species Act, because the total population has plummeted to about 3% of its initial size. The effort, let by the Center for Biological Diversity, has resulted in the federal agency publishing a notice that the petition contains important scientific information and the requested action – listing Pacific Bluefin Tuna – may now happen soon. There is a 60-day period, open now, for the public to send in comments. Tell the Feds to save Pacific Bluefin Tuna and sign the CBD’s pledge that also asks restaurants to stop serving this depleted fish.
WOW – we can’t believe it’s been 5 years! This summer the RFC team celebrated it’s 5th birthday along with our extended family – our volunteers, gardeners, neighbors, and friends. We partied NOLA style with a big shrimp boil and all the fixings (corn, mushrooms, onions, garlic), fresh from the farm watermelon, red beans and rice and of course a giant cake!
Over the past 5 years we’ve built an organization that:
- works locally, regionally and nationally to develop new green jobs in farming and related areas;
- grows accessible, fresh, sustainably-raised food in communities where it is most wanted and needed;
- transforms empty, blighted, abandoned, and/or overgrown lots into edible green spaces;
- reduces, reuses and recycles our resources to have true “recirculating” farms;
- provides training in eco-efficient farm and garden techniques so people can raise food for themselves and their communities;
- brings together diverse people who work, play, and eat together
We’ve seen farms grow on rooftops and abandoned lots, in warehouses, shipping containers, schools and more. Our own farm in New Orleans grew from a collaborative community project that now brings fresh food, recreation, outdoor exercise, and health-supportive cooking to a long under-served neighborhood.
We’ve created new laws nationwide to support farmers and bring fresh local food into schools. Along with so many supporters, we’ve raised recirculating farming (various forms of hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics) to a recognized and notable part of U.S. agriculture. Even the National Organics Program is discussing organic standards for certifying these types of farms!
What we are most celebrating is the sense of community that has grown over these past 5 years and an increase in innovative recirculating farms nationwide!
Thank you for supporting us for the past 5 years and we look forward to many more!
Each year on Earth Day we here at Recirculating Farms think about all the dedicated groups and individuals we work with to make our world a cleaner, greener place for us all to enjoy now and in the future. So, we are taking this opportunity to say a big THANKS to some of our long time and newer national and regional friends and partners today – check out how they hope to make our planet a better place:
On Friday afternoon, February 12th, twelve fishing and public interest groups jointly sued the federal government, challenging new regulations allowing industrial fish farming in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), under the Department of Commerce are agencies charged with protecting and managing ocean resources. The groups allege the agencies overextended their authority in creating a permitting scheme for ocean fish farming.
The questionable federal permitting scheme, more than ten years in the making, is an attempt to do an end-run around the United States Congress: multiple national bills that would have allowed and regulated industrial aquaculture never made it into law in the past decade. In an effort to push offshore aquaculture forward without a new law permitting it, NOAA and NMFS decided they would try to regulate fishing under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the main federal law that controls fishing, and now plan to permit offshore aquaculture as a “fishing” activity.
Finalized in January 2016, the regulations will allow up to 20 industrial facilities and collectively 64 million pounds of fish to be produced each year in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the same amount of wild fish currently caught from the Gulf of Mexico annually (excluding menhaden, a fish used mainly in pharmaceuticals, and pet and fish feed, not for direct human consumption), so farmed fish would essentially double offerings and flood the market.
Fishing communities, conservation organizations, consumer groups, scientists and many others are very concerned about the regulations to allow this new industry. The global experience with open water aquaculture has been riddled with serious problems – water pollution, fish escaping, habitat damage, spread of disease and parasites and more.
With the Gulf of Mexico still recovering from the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and existing issues like a large dead zone and run-off pollution, allowing development of aquaculture in the Gulf to many seems irresponsible and unnecessary. Especially given that there are other more sustainable ways to increase availability of domestic seafood without risking harm to the natural environment or competing with commercial fishermen.
Recirculating farms raise fish in aquarium like tanks, located on land. They reuse waste and water, and are closed loop, so they avoid many of the problems associated with open water farms – escapes are very difficult and there is no pollution of the surrounding environment, as everything in system is recycled. Further, because they are not attached to natural waters, a wide range of fish can be raised, to avoid competition with local fishermen.
The groups are challenging the new regulations allowing industrial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry unanimously passed a bill reauthorization the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act that expired at the end of September 2015. The legislation, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, is being updated to change food served in schools and expand farm-to-school activities. The Recirculating Farms Coalition, the National Farm to School Network, Louisiana Farm to School and other local and national groups pushed for various important items in the bill. If passed, the new law will reauthorize child nutrition programs through 2020, and double the funding for the federal Farm to School grant program from $5 million to $10 million annually! The individual grants, allowing eligible schools to partner with local farms and develop their own gardens too, will see an increase from $100,000 to $200,000. The scope of the Farm to School program will be widened to include pre-schools, summer food services and after-school programs.
The farm-to-school movement promotes healthy eating and a connection with fresh food – where it comes from, how it is grown and even how to cook healthy dishes. In addition to expanding farm-to-school, the bill includes nutrition standards for free or reduced school food programs, moving meals served through these programs to include healthier items. Some nutrition goals are sodium reduction, more fruits and vegetables and an increase in whole grains. Especially for kids who eat most or even all of their meals a day at school, it’s critical that school food programs offer healthy options and help shape long term good eating habits.
The increase in funding, and expanded farm-to-school programs will inspire nutritious eating, and connect kids and their families with where good food comes from. Farm to School is also an important way to support our farmers. Making new markets – schools – for local farms, keeps our farmers employed doing what they do best – growing good food! The new bill is a huge win for farmers, school children and their families. Next the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 will go to the full Senate for a vote.