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*Co-Authors Madeline and Dr. Charles Mellinger are, respectively, Founder/CEO and Technical Director of Glades Crop Care in Jupiter, Florida. Madeline is also a member of the Farm Foundation. HHRA ED Charles Benbrook has worked as a consultant and collaborator with GCC on the adoption of biointensive Integrated Pest Management systems for 40 years.

Archived Blog Posts
  • HHRA Earns Highest Rating from Guidestar/Candid

    By Russell K. King, executive director I’m pleased to announce that the HHRA has earned the Candid Platinum Seal of Transparency for 2023 –an achievement earned by fewer than one percent of US-based nonprofits. The Candid Platinum Seal is the highest level of recognition offered by Candid (formerly known as GuideStar) and is awarded to organizations that meet the highest standards of transparency and accountability. It’s an achievement that’s doubly important for the HHRA. The Candid Platinum Seal demonstrates the HHRA’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Our board, staff, volunteers, and partners believe that by sharing our data, metrics, and strategic priorities with the public, we can build trust and confidence in our organization and our work. To earn the Candid Platinum Seal, non-profit organizations must meet a rigorous set of criteria, including providing complete and accurate information about their mission, programs, finances, and governance on the Candid website, and sharing strategic priorities and information about outcomes. So why is this doubly important for the HHRA?  It’s important for all nonprofit organizations seeking grants and donations because the Candid Platinum Seal is a globally recognized acknowledgement that can inspire a higher level of confidence in the organization among potential grantors and donors–thereby making them far more likely to give. For the HHRA, however, it’s also important because our mission is one that relies on our credibility.  For our work to make a difference in people’s lives, people have to trust our processes, our findings, and our recommendations. The Candid Platinum Seal will help tell the world that, indeed, the HHRA is to be trusted. The leadership of the HHRA has always put integrity of the science first, which sets the HHRA apart in en era awash in willful misinformation and pseudoscience. I’ve long been a fierce advocate for the integrity in science, science reporting, and health information, so I’m proud to carry the torch that’s been passed to me. The HHRA supports researchers willing to seek answers to controversial questions. Our alliance of doctors, researchers, policy experts, and communicators works to answer questions that the government and private sector are too often unable or unwilling to address.  Through it all, we adhere strictly to scientific and ethical best practices to keep our research above reproach. The Candid Platinum Seal is an echo of the values that form the heart of the HHRA.  Let’s wear it with pride as we move forward.

  • Russell King | Executive Director Greetings from the New Executive Director

    By Russell K. King, HHRA Executive Director But yield who will to their separation,My object in living is to uniteMy avocation and my vocationAs my two eyes make one in sight. Robert Frost’s sentiment rang in my ears as I considered adopting the HHRA’s mission as my own. Why, after more than 25 years as a nonprofit CEO, would I take on a challenge of this complexity? Typically, when evaluating a potential professional challenge, you compare the attributes and experiences needed with those you possess. If they align sufficiently, it’s a good omen. I’ve spent more than a decade leading nonprofit organization through transitions, including a foundation that funded scientific research and two associations of medical professionals. I’ve created two development programs and led four others. And I’ve shared my expertise in nonprofit governance and policy, communications, and servant leadership. This constellation of what HHRA needs and what I can offer suggested that this was the direction I should follow. But there was something more. That something echoed Frost’s lines above: The chance to unite that which I enjoy, that which is most meaningful to me, with my work, thus uniting “my avocation and my vocation.” The two principles that have driven both my personal and professional lives have been: 1) we best find our way via the rigors and integrity of the scientific method, and 2) we create the richest meanings for our lives when we strive to help others. The HHRA, using science to improve and protect human health, rings both those bells with vigor. So here I am, eager to help the HHRA build on its illustrious beginnings and move to its next stage of development and growth. I will, of course, need your help. I won’t be shy about asking for it; please don’t be shy about offering it. This mission will require our collaboration, cooperation, and coordination. It will present moments in which we must support, encourage, and inspire each other. Worthy missions always do. For me, it’s the worthiness that matters most. Again, as Frost noted, we do this because it’s the right thing to do: Only where love and need are one,And the work is play for mortal stakes,Is the deed ever really doneFor Heaven and the future’s sakes.

  • A man spraying pesticides California’s Bold Plan to Transform Pest Management Systems is Long on Ambition and Light on Details

    By: Chuck Benbrook, HHRA ED By: Mark Lipson, HHRA Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement We welcomed the invitation from California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation for members of the public to offer comments and guidance as the State begins to take concrete actions needed to achieve the goals set forth in the new report Sustainable Pest Management: A Roadmap for California. Reviewing the 94-page Roadmap report reminded us how many constituencies, forces, and factors are pushing and pulling farmers, pest managers, and government agencies in multiple directions that are rarely aligned. This Roadmap document describes a very different pest management future that will hopefully become the “de facto” way pests are managed on and off the farm by 2050. If successful by 2050, prevention-based biointensive Integrated Pest Management (bioIPM) will be the norm and there will be minimal if any use of high-risk “Priority Pesticides”. Some thirty-two years ago, DPR hired Chuck Benbrook to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of DPR’s programs and policies to assist in the integration of DPR into the newly-formed Cal-EPA. The resulting report, Challenge and Change: A Progressive Approach to Pesticide Regulation in California, came out in March of 1993. It provides dozens of recommendations intended to do many of the same things that the 2023 Roadmap report hopes to bring within reach. The fact that most pest management systems in California have become more, not less reliant on pesticides over the last 30 years suggests that DPR’s and CDFA’s efforts to achieve Roadmap goals are going to entail heavy lifting, mostly uphill. For this reason in HHRA’s comments, Mark and Chuck describe the nature and substantial scope of changes in laws and policy that will be required to track progress toward Roadmap goals and hopefully, someday, achieve them.

Securing the Future Supply of Apple Pie and Related Challenges

Nov 23rd, 2021
*Co-Authors Madeline and Dr. Charles Mellinger are, respectively, Founder/CEO and Technical Director of Glades Crop Care in Jupiter, Florida. Madeline is also a member of the Farm Foundation. HHRA ED Charles Benbrook has worked as a consultant and collaborator with GCC on the adoption of biointensive Integrated Pest Management systems for 40 years.

By Madeline Mellinger, Charles Mellinger, and Charles Benbrook*

What does Mike’s Pies in Florida have in common with a pregnant woman in the Midwest who is worried about the potential impact of rising herbicide use on her pregnancy and soon-to-be delivered child?

It turns out a lot. “How climate change and extreme weather are crimping America’s pie supply” (Laura Reiley, Washington Post, November 17, 2021) explains the myriad of ways climate change has disrupted the food-supply chains supporting Mike’s Pies in Florida.

Glades Crop Care (GCC) is one of South Florida’s largest and oldest independent crop consulting firms. Crop Care works with growers and shippers producing Florida’s fruit and vegetable crops. Disruptions all along farm-to-table supply chains starting out in GCC-grower fields have been unprecedented.

The list of endemic and disruptive forces impacting Florida agriculture is a long one. Big hitters include new invasive pests, water issues and runoff, labor shortages, demand changes due to COVID-19 lockdowns, endless economic pressures and the many factors undermining our growers’ profit margins.

But there are four major drivers of ag and food industry problems that all Americans should be concerned about. Collectively they are beginning to cut deeply into the muscle of American agriculture.

Plant pathogens like the citrus greening shown here are often worsened by climate change.

First, climate change is leading to more frequent and severe droughts and flooding. The GCC team is struggling to help growers preserve at least some of the Florida citrus industry plagued now for over a decade by greening disease. Too often our scouts deal with a new pest or one that is surging and beginning to require more frequent pesticide treatments.

Second, growing high-quality fruits and vegetables and getting them to people and into Mike’s pies takes people with skills and experience, time, and patience — and a living wage all along food chains. Those people who promise a robot for this and a drone for that mistake growing food for writing computer code. Artificial Intelligence has its place, but will benefit farmers only when wisely deployed and not asked to do too much.

Biological systems don’t follow code or behave as we think they should. Boots on the ground connected to people with experience and knowledge cannot be replaced. Those companies, academic institutions, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs promising solutions programmable from smartphones are overstating what artificial intelligence can bring to the task of feeding the world.

Third, cheaper imports arguably dumped into the US market have been steadily trimming the diversity of fresh produce grown and marketed in Florida, Texas, the Southwest and key production regions in California, Oregon and Washington.

The price of land, water, inputs, regulatory compliance and labor is much higher in all these states than in Mexico, Latin and South America, and many other countries. Our markets are the promised land for them. Their success comes at the expense of our growers and our nation’s capacity to feed our people. How about this radical idea — Buy local, or at least American.

Fourth, we see no end in sight of climate-change driven shifts in pest pressure. Some of our pests in South Florida are headed north into Georgia and the mid-West where they will pose new challenges. Our growers in South Florida will be contending with new invasive pests from Cuba, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Movement of people creates movement of pests and pathogens and resistance genes. Our inspection systems need upgrades because prevention is so much cheaper and better than treatment.

And farmers everywhere will have to find ways to contend with the growing number of pests that have become or are becoming resistant to several, if not most widely used pesticides.

This brings us to the connection between Mike’s Pies and pregnant women in the Midwest. In the Heartland the spread of weeds resistant to most widely used herbicides is driving an unprecedented increase in reliance on higher-risk herbicides and may soon threaten the sustainability of corn-soybean production, the backbone of the US food system.

Rising herbicide use is accompanied by rising human exposures. Pregnant women, infants and children are the most vulnerable among us when pesticide exposures are rising. Climate change in the Midwest is making weed management even more challenging.

Rising use = Rising Exposure. Concern about the possible health implications to our most vulnerable – pregnant women, infants, and children – of increased herbicide use is why our team came together to plan and conduct The Heartland Study.

Solving the climate-change driven problems facing Mike’s Pies in Florida and corn and soybean farmers in Iowa will be the stress test for this generation of farmers, food companies, scientists and policy makers.

For the health of the next generation of babies born in the Midwest and apple pie lovers in Florida, we need to address these four major drivers of change more effectively. Let’s encourage unbiased research. We worry that the scope and scale of challenges facing farmers and the food industry might outpace agricultural system and food industry innovation. If that happens we will have to become accustomed to periodic shortages of apple pie and a whole lot more.


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