Agricultural & Outdoors Briefs Georgia urges caution for residents ahead of wildfire season
State forestry officials cutting back on burning
Georgia urges caution for residents ahead of wildfire season
With spring and a greener landscape around the corner, state forestry officials are cutting back on burning to reduce the leaves and brush that can fuel wildfires.
In South Georgia, prescribed burns on tree plantations began around Christmas, and more than 3,000 acres were burned around the Okefenokee Swamp last month, said state Forestry Commission district ranger Frank Sorrells.
Georgia’s wildfire season typically runs from February to May. Though the southeastern part of the state has gotten more rain, the prolonged drought has made the area vulnerable for wildfires, Sorrells said.
Below-normal rainfall is expected over the next two months.
Sorrells said the main cause of wildfires is people burning debris in their yards. The commission is working to educate people about the dangers of wildfires, and urging residents to watch the weather — especially the wind — and to never leave a fire unattended.
People must also get burn permits and call the Georgia Forestry Commission before burning debris. Sorrells said that burn permits will be issued on a day-to-day basis, depending on the weather.
Wildfires burned for two months last year in south Georgia, charring more than 600,000 acres of swamp and timberland — and putting hundreds of residents in a state of flux as they fled their homes to live with relatives or in emergency shelters.
That experience will likely leave people less complacent about wildfires this season, said Jonathan Daniell, director of Ware County’s Emergency Management Agency.
“I think people look at it more seriously now when we say evacuate because of the fires last year,” he told the Florida Times-Union.
LUXEMBOURG — The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that only the tasty, crumbly cheese that has been made for some 800 years near the Italian city of Parma can legally be called Parmesan.
In a case dating back to 2003, the court criticized Germany for allowing sales of imitation Parmesan in violation of European Union food origin rules that reserve the name Parmesan for Italian cheese only.
The case was brought by the European Commission. There was no punishment for Germany, but German producers will now have to change the name of their cheese.
Over the years, the EU has become more active in legally protecting dozens of brand names of foods and drink peculiar to European regions — from Champagne to feta cheese.
In 2005, in a setback for Danish producers, the EU high court said feta can only come from Greece, and imitations cannot use that name.
Germany argued in court that Parmesan was a generic term for a type of hard, crumbly cheese that is often grated over food and cannot claim an Italian uniqueness.
The court disagreed, saying Parmesan was “clearly a translation of ‘Parmigiano Reggiano.’”
It added Germany had provided some “quotations from dictionaries and specialist literature” about Parmesan but these shed no light on how “the word Parmesan is perceived by consumers.”
In Parma, the producers’ alliance Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium celebrated the ruling as a “victory for all the producers and consumers for whom we created strong quality.”
The German Dairy Industry Association said the ruling affected a small number of German companies and complained that Italian producers have for decades exported “cheese of varying origin ... under the name of Parmesan.”
In its judgment, the EU court said it was up to Italy to monitor the illegal use of the Parmesan name in Germany and alert the German authorities of any violations. German officials said that has already happened.
The EU court’s judgment is important because national food is not just an emotional issue — it’s big business.
The German dairy industry estimates German farmers produce some 10,000 tons of “Parmesan” a year.
The Italian agricultural lobby Coldiretti believes that one out of every four Italian products sold abroad is an imitation — representing $24.7 billion in sales.
Parmigiano Reggiano and the very similar Grana Padano are the two most imitated Italian products in the world. It is sold as Parmesao in Brazil, Regianito in Argentina, Parmeson in China and Parmesan in North America.
EPA’s decision regarding pesticide challenged
SEATTLE — Juan Angulo arrived for work at an eastern Washington apple orchard one day in 1995 and began vomiting. He developed a terrible headache, and his eyes and nose started to run.
The same thing happened to the rest of his work crew, all from exposure to the pesticide azinphosmethyl, Angulo believed.
“To this day, I still experience severe headaches, which I attribute to this poisoning incident,” he said in a court declaration last fall.
Citing his case and others, lawyers for the United Farm Workers of America argued in federal court Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow the use of the pesticide until 2012 was unconscionable. The EPA did not consider harm to farmworkers and their families, or to rivers, lakes and salmon, they said, and the agency should be forced to reconsider.
“There are workers getting sick,” Patti Goldman of the environmental law firm Earthjustice told U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez. “This isn’t just hypothetical. There are workers being taken out of the field.”
The pesticide, commonly called AZM, was derived from World War II-era nerve gas agents and has been used since the late 1950s.
In 2001, the EPA barred growers from using AZM on two dozen crops, including cotton, cab- bage and grapes. But the agency continued to allow treatments on apples, pears, cherries, blueberries, parsley and other plants while it waited for cost-effective alternatives to emerge.
In 2006, the EPA decided to phase out all uses of the pesticide by 2012 — two years later than it had initially proposed.
Cynthia Morris, a Justice Department lawyer who argued on the agency’s behalf, told the judge that the short-term benefits of allowing growers to keep using AZM for the next several years outweigh the potential harm. It could cost apple growers nationwide tens of millions of dollars to switch to alternative pesticides more quickly, she said, and in some cases other countries do not allow the import of apples with residue from those alternative pesticides.
Furthermore, Morris added, the later phase-out date led growers to voluntarily take measures to ease the impact of the pesticide until it is phased out, such as imposing buffer zones and training workers to avoid exposure.
She argued that the agency’s decision was reasonable, and failed to meet the “arbitrary and capricious” standard for the judge to undo it.
Martinez said he would rule as soon as possible.