Friday, July 20, 2007

Fish Heads Threat To Homeland Security

Mayo Underwood runs a certified organic, heirloom seed, plant and supply firm called Underwood Gardens. It’s located east of Woodstock, Illinois.

After 15 years old in business, Underwood has run afoul of the Homeland Security Department.

She was giving a talk in Fairbury (near Bloomington) to a group of organic farmers about two weeks ago. They had expected her to bring down cases of concentrated liquid plant food made from wild Canadian salmon heads.

They didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she told them that the shipment had been held up in Customs in Detroit “as a threat to homeland security.”

That’s strange because she received a half a pallet load of the stinky stuff, called Salmon Plant Food, in April.

No problem then.

“Something changed between April and June,” when she made another order, Underwood said.

The Canadian manufacturing company, Envirem, submitted every piece of documentation that the U.S. Department of Agriculture requested “immediately.”

“OK, we’ve done everything they requested. Now, we have to wait for the USDA to approve,” the firm’s President Colin Murray told Underwood.

She contacted State Senator Pam Althoff and her assistant, county board member Tina Hill, suggested contacting Congresswoman Melissa Bean.

Underwood did that July 5th.

A letter dated July 9th came back from Bean’s office asking “to allow 30 to 60 days for a response.”

“I called and my caseworker is Susan Giannone, who said that’s the standard and there’s nothing more they can do.

“Then on my answering machine I had a response from them saying it takes 60-90 days to get a response,” she continued.

“So, I called back, 30 to 60, 60 to 90, asking which was correct and saying these are farmers waiting for it now and this doesn’t help and I would have to tell the farmers what Melissa Bean’s office was telling me.”

D“At that, she said, ‘I’ll get back to you.’”

“Ten minutes later she called back and said, ‘You might have an answer in ten days.’

“And, Monday will be ten days.

“In the meanwhile, I contacted Dick Durbin, Don Manzullo and Barack Obama. I only did those Wednesday and Thursday and haven’t heard back yet.

“I’ll take help from anybody.”

The embargoed product “is one of the major weapons in an organic farmers arsenal,” Underwood said. “It not only boosts plant health and production, it also deters pests—deer, rabbit and cucumber beetles. Most mammals do not like the smell.”

= = = = =
The photographs were supplied by Underwood. The heirloom flowers grown by Underwood include, from top to bottom, Amaranth Joseph's Coat, Bee Balm Close and Dwarf Bees Close. A number of the "farmers are growers for the Chicago restaurateur Rick Bayless. They supply him with organic heirloom tomatoes and unusual edibles like the amaranth and bean flowers below, lily buds, etc.," Underwood says.

Much, much more on McHenry County Blog this weekend, including possible successors to retiring State Rep. Pat Lindner.


Anonymous,  8:26 PM  



Anonymous,  8:48 PM  

Thank you for another insightful post about local and state politics. Keep up the good work.

Skeeter 9:45 AM  

I disagree with the comments above.

This absolutely does concern Illinois politics. It concerns Illinois farmers and the response of Illinois political leaders to the issues faced by farmers.

That being said, it looks like the feds are doing OK here. This sort or material could potentially be a threat. This requires some diligence on the government's part to keep our farms safe, and it looks like they have chosen to actually study the material to make sure that dumping this stuff on Illinois farms is not going to end up destroying Illinois agriculture.

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