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Farm Policy Matters

Monthly News Bulletin
5th Edition

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Farm Bill

Food Safety

Fracking

Genetic Engineering

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February 1, 2014

Dear Supporter,  

After nearly three years of debate, it appears we may finally have a Farm BillOn January 29, with a 251-166 vote, the House passed the Farm Bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill early next week, and send it on to President Obama to sign into law. 

The bill renews critical investments in important programs for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access. 

For example, the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which has been without funding for more than a year, will receive $11.5 million in mandatory annual funding. The program, which is utilized by more than 40 percent of Ohio organic growers, reimburses farmers for up to 75 percent of their certification fees. 

In addition to NOCCSP, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will receive $20 million annually in mandatory funding, and the Organic Data Initiative and the National Organic Program will each receive $5 million in one-time mandatory funding. 

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who served on the conference committee, played a vital role in advocating for these and other sustainable agriculture provisions.

Thank Sen. Brown for his leadership on the Farm Bill!
Call (202) 224-2315

It’s easy: Just ask to leave a message with the Senator’s agriculture staff and thank them for Sen. Brown’s leadership in promoting sustainable agriculture in the Farm Bill. Afterward, let us know how your call went!

For more information on the final bill, including the places where it falls short, take a look at OEFFA’s press release.   

Read on to learn more about nutrient management legislation, agricultural coexistence, and other important policy news and events. 

Thanks for all you do to protect local and sustainable agriculture!

MacKenzie Bailey
Policy Program Coordinator
Phone: (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208

SENATE PASSES NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BILL

On January 22, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 150. Last year, Ohio Senators Cliff Hite (R) and Bob Peterson (R) introduced the bill aimed at addressing Ohio’s nutrient runoff problems, which have led to toxic algae in waterways across the state. The bill would require applicators of commercial fertilizers that operate on 50 or more acres of land to register annually with the state, but not to reduce their rate of application. OEFFA sent this letter to the bill sponsors and will continue to advocate for changes in the bill that promote conservation practices, soil testing, and strong manure management, and recognize the management practices already utilized by organic farmers. The Ohio House is expected to vote on the bill within the next few weeks. Contact Representative Dave Hall, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, today and ask him to exempt organic farmers from this bill. For more information, contact mackenzie@oeffa.org or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

OEFFA's GE LOBBY DAY

On January 21 OEFFA hosted its very first Lobby Day at the statehouse – and it was a tremendous success! Nearly 50 farmers, food entrepreneurs, students, community leaders, and consumers met with more than 30 different legislative offices. During the meetings, we educated legislators on the difficulty of avoiding genetically engineered (GE) food and the dangers of GE food, dispelled myths about GE food, and demonstrated strong public demand for labeling. This is just the beginning, however! To get involved in OEFFA’s efforts to label GE foods, email mackenzie@oeffa.org or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

AGRICULTURAL COEXISTENCE COMMENT PERIOD ENDS MARCH 4

Farmers and others concerned about GE contamination can weigh in on how agricultural coexistence—defined as “the concurrent cultivation of crops produced through diverse agricultural systems including traditionally produced, organic, identity preserved, and genetically engineered crops”—can be strengthened in the United States.

The public comment period on a recommendation from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Advisory Community on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC 21) has been extended to March 4. The USDA specifically seeks comments on identifying ways to foster communication and collaboration among those involved in diverse agricultural production systems. This is an opportunity for farmers to share their experiences of trying to prevent GE contamination. Click here to submit comments online.

SIGN UP FOR CSP BY FEBRUARY 7

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the deadline for applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Farmers and ranchers interested in enrolling in CSP now have until February 7 to submit their initial applications. For more information on how to enroll, check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s Information Alert

CONGRESS PASSES A BUDGET

The House and Senate passed a budget bill to fund the U.S. government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014—a major step forward for a Congress which has been lurching from one short-term budget extension to another. Sustainable agriculture research programs fared well in the omnibus package: Congress allocated $22.7 million to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the largest allocation since its inception in the 80s. The Agriculture Food and Research Initiative saw a 15 percent increase from 2013 levels. Additionally, Congress allocated $15 million to the Value-Added Producer Grants program, up from $13.8 million in 2013. However, funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program  dropped to $1.35 billion, compared to $1.75 billion in the last Farm Bill. Finally, the bill includes an anti-farmer provision (the GIPSA rider), which undermines protections for livestock and poultry farmers in contract with multinational meatpacking corporations. For more information on the omnibus package, click here.

SUPREME COURT DECIDES AGAINST FARMERS IN MONSANTO CASE

On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to deny a group of 73 organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations, including OEFFA, from having their case challenging Monsanto’s patents on GE seed heard in court. The case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, sought protection for farmers whose fields can become contaminated by Monsanto’s GE seed and then be sued by the company for patent infringement. Plaintiffs filed their petition with the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision to dismiss the lawsuit in June.

OEFFA JOINS THE NATIONAL ORGANIC COALITION

In December, OEFFA joined the National Organic Coalition (NOC) and became its 15th member. NOC is a national alliance of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers, and progressive industry members who work to advance organic agriculture and food. NOC is committed to organic integrity and advocates for strong, enforceable, and continuously improved standards to maximize the multiple health, environmental, and economic benefits that only organic agriculture provide. Read more about NOC in their visionary National Organic Action Plan.


UPCOMING POLICY EVENTS

Planning Meeting for Screening of GMO OMG
On Monday, February 3 at 6 p.m., join OEFFA’s GE Labeling Working Group for a meeting to discuss screenings of the film, GMO OMG, planned for Columbus and Athens. For more information about this meeting, or to join by phone, email mackenzie@oeffa.org or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

Public Forum on Shale Gas Development and Radioactivity
On Tuesday, February 4 at 7 p.m., join RadioactiveWasteAlert.org for a public forum on the potential health and environmental risks associated with fracking. Michael Schultz, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Radiology at the University of Iowa and Larysa Dyrszka, M.D., co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York will speak. For more information, click here.

Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit
On Wednesday, February 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. attend the Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit at the OSU Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center in Columbus. The event includes guest speakers, breakout sessions, an exhibit space, and lunch. Cost: $50. For more information, click here.

Akron and Solon Screenings of Genetic Roulette
On Thursday, February 13, at 6 p.m., join GMO Free Northeast Ohio for a screening of Genetic Roulette at Mustard Seed Market in Akron. They will also screen the movie on Thursday, February 20 at 6 p.m. at Mustard Seed Market in Solon. For more information about this event, contact grlustig@gmail.com.
 
OEFFA’s 35th Annual Conference: Affirming Our Roots, Breaking New Ground 
Join OEFFA for our 35th annual conference and pre-conference events Friday, February 14 through Sunday, February 16. OEFFA’s conference will feature keynote speakers Kathleen Merrigan and Atina Diffley; more than 100 workshops; a kids’ conference, teen conference, and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and full-day pre-conference workshops on wholesale marketing and soil health. For more information, click here or call (614) 421-2022.

GE Labeling Working Group Meeting
On Monday, February 24, at 6 p.m., join OEFFA’s GE Labeling Working Group for their monthly meeting. For more information about this meeting, or to join by phone, email mackenzie@oeffa.org or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

Fracking and Farmland Conference Call
On Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m., OEFFA’s Fracking Working Group will discuss OEFFA’s next steps in our campaign to protect farmers and their land from the dangers of fracking. For more information about this call, email mackenzie@oeffa.org or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd., Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 421-2022 www.oeffa.org


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