Nation's First Regenerative Farm Certification Bill Introduced in Vermont
BY Kiss the Ground and Regeneration International
Kiss the Ground and Regeneration International announced today support for Vermont's Senate Bill 159, a bill that would introduce a state-level certification program under which farmers could have their land and farming methods certified by the state as regenerative.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Brian Campion (of Bennington, Bennington County), was first written by Jesse McDougall, a farmer in Shaftsbury, Vermont. McDougall employs regenerative farming practices, including planned rotational grazing, which eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and tilling and regenerate the soil's capacity to retain water and sequester carbon.
McDougall had considered pursuing a formal organic certification for his meat products and farm, Studio Hill, but decided he wanted to do more than tell customers what's not in the food—the absence of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. McDougall sought instead a certification that would tell consumers what is in their food, how the food was raised and how the land was improved by its production.
"The certification is intended to help legitimize this style of farming as an economically viable option for farmers," McDougall said. "It is our hope that this certification program not only creates a high-value market for regeneratively-grown food, but also rewards regenerative farmers for their work with better marketing opportunities and bigger margins."
"As a small, farmer-friendly state and agriculture pioneer, Vermont is perfectly positioned to lead the country with this type of legislation," Finian Makepeace, co-founder and policy director at Kiss The Ground, said. "We expect and hope to see many more states adopt similar legislation as part of the regenerative movement that is spreading across the United States and globally."
Also known as “carbon farming," regenerative agriculture practices put the emphasis on soil health using nature's systems to regenerate the land. According to Andre Leu, president of IFOAM—Organics International, "Rebuilding soil by sequestering carbon reduces CO2 from the atmosphere and creates land that is more drought resistant and grows healthier, food, plants and animals."
“The trends are clear. Consumers increasingly want to know more about their food. What's in it, how it was grown, whether it was locally produced or shipped a long distance and how humanely animals were treated," Ronnie Cummins, member of the Regeneration International Steering Committee and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, said. “And as public concern around global warming escalates, consumers are looking for food produced using practices that contribute to a climate solution, rather than to the problem."
This is the first piece of legislation specific to regenerative agriculture in the U.S. and one that serves both farmers and consumers. The certification is intended to result in a State of Vermont seal, visible to consumers at the grocery store and available to certified farmers to share, educate and promote their work.
The certification includes three standard, binary tests: if topsoil has increased; if carbon has been sequestered; or if soil organic matter has increased. A farm would need to meet only one of these criteria, over a three-year period and with each successive year, to be certified as regenerative.
Healthy soil via regenerative agriculture is gaining traction worldwide with 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, a visionary initiative introduced at last December's COP21 and signed by 25 countries, to increase the organic carbon level of each country's agricultural soils by 0.4 percent each year.
“Regenerative farming can rebuild the soil, sequester carbon, produce nutrient-dense food and eliminate the need for toxic chemicals," McDougall said. “If we want the next generation of farmers to do this work, it is our responsibility to provide them with the tools that make it possible. We wrote this bill to begin building those tools."
The Vermont Senate Committee on agriculture will review SB 159 in the coming weeks and determine whether it will be included in the next legislative session and continue on to the Senate floor.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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