Farm Policy Matters
Monthly News Bulletin
March 1, 2014
Documents released a couple weeks ago revealed the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Governor Kasich had developed a communications plan that would discredit organizations and individuals opposed to fracking in Ohio’s state parks, and identified allies to help minimize public concern.
The 10 page memo went so far as to recognize the public-relations initiative “could blur public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role in oil and gas,” which would require “precise messaging and coordination” to counteract.
After the release of the documents, the Kasich administration retracted its position on drilling in state parks—a victory according to the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, who originally discovered the documents.
OEFFA members have been voicing their concerns about fracking too. To see some of the stories, click here, click here, and click here.
On March 10 at 7 p.m., OEFFA’s fracking working group will meet by conference call to discuss strategies to increase landowner protections and public input in the fracking process. If you would like to join this meeting, contact MacKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on to learn the latest about organic crop insurance, nutrient management legislation, GE and non-GE coexistence, and other important policy news and events.
Thanks for all you do to protect local and sustainable agriculture!
Policy Program Coordinator
Phone: (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208
Coexistence of GE and Diverse Agriculture Systems
Farmers and others concerned about genetic engineering (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 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting comments online until March 4. Additional information can be found on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) website.
The National Organic Coalition (NOC), of which OEFFA is a member, is requesting farmers and handlers comment on the threat of GE contamination presents ask the USDA to:
Ensure shared responsibility for the unwanted spread of GE products. Non-GE farmers should not shoulder the burden through GE contamination crop insurance. Patent holders should be held responsible for contamination.
Attacks on Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards
Last week the Ohio Senate held a hearing on a substitute Senate Bill 58, which would gut Ohio’s clean energy standards—despite investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy have a proven record of reducing pollution and saving money.
ACTION NEEDED: To help make the case for protecting Ohio’s clean energy standards, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is asking farmers, business owners, consumers, and academics to write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper. For talking points, click here.
OEFFA Keynotes Speakers Urge Farmers and Advocates to Act
At OEFFA’s 35th annual conference last month, former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and organic farmer, author, and activist Atina Diffley inspired the audience to get involved in policy.
Atina encouraged farmers to advocate for strong organic policies by sharing their personal stories and knowledge with decision-makers. “This is something every single one of us can do—be educators,” she said. Click here and click here for more on Atina’s appearance at the conference and her call to action.
Kathleen encouraged the audience to engage with the federal government, as dysfunctional as it may be. “There’s this interest — this hunger across all the federal bureaucracy for local and regional efforts in food production,” she said. “And that’s screaming out ‘opportunity and opportunity.’” She walked the audience through 10 reasons to advocate for sustainable agriculture through federal policy.
Recordings of these keynote speeches, as well as other conference presentations, are available for purchase at Dove Conference Services.
Dow’s 2,4-D Still in Line for USDA Approval
The USDA has extended the comment period on a recommendation that would result in the increased use of the dangerous herbicide 2,4-D. With the dramatic rise in glyphosate‐resistant “superweeds” in GE crops, the agency issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), recommending commercialization of GE crops that can tolerate 2,4-D. Comments will be taken through March 11.
The herbicide 2,4-D, is a dangerous weed killer known to drift and kill non-target crops, and is also linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption. It was one of the herbicides used to make “Agent Orange,” which was applied during the Vietnam War to defoliate forested and rural land.
ACTION NEEDED: Tell the USDA to stop approval of Dow’s GE “Agent Orange” corn and soybeans, designed to survive repeated spraying of the toxic herbicide 2,4-D.To submit a comment, click here. For more information read the National Organic Coalition’s comments and Center for Food Safety’s factsheet.
Organic Crop Insurance Changes
The USDA’s Risk Management Agency will be offering more options for organic producersunder the federal crop insurance program, including the elimination of the five percent surcharge. Afact sheet has been published explaining the organic Contract Price Addendum which will allow organic producers to insure their crops at a specified contract price.
The deadline to buy a new policy or change an existing one is March 15. A list of crop insurance agents in your area can be found by clicking here.
Farm Bill Passes
On February 7, President Obama signed theFarm Bill into law. The bill renews critical investments in important programs for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access.
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 (up to $750) of their certification fees.
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OAREI) will receive $20 million annually in mandatory funding, and the Organic Data Initiative (ODI) and the National Organic Program (NOP) will each receive $5 million in one-time mandatory funding.
Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Marcia Fudge played important roles in these victories. OEFFA members spoke about how the new bill will impact their farms and businesses. For more information, read OEFFA’s press release.
Nutrient Management Bill Update
On January 22, a bill aimed at addressing Ohio’s nutrient runoff, which causes toxic algae in waterways across the state, was passed by the Ohio Senate. The House has already held their first hearing on the bill. Senate Bill 150 requires applicators of commercial fertilizers that operate on 50 or more acres of land to register annually with the state. The bill also includes a training component, but does not require farms to mitigate runoff through regulated reductions of fertilizer application.
ACTION NEEDED: NOP regulations require organic farmers to prevent nutrient pollution and maintain soil and water quality. Contact Representative Dave Hall, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, today and ask him to exempt certified organic farmers from the annual registration and training requirements. To learn more, contact MacKenzie at email@example.com or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.
UPCOMING POLICY EVENTS
Farm Bill Webinar
On Monday, March 3 at 12 p.m., a webinar hosted by the Montana State University Extension Office will provide an overview of the Farm Bill, the rulemaking process, and an overview of the Farm Bill Extension Consortium. For more information and to register, click here.
Label the Truth Meeting
On Saturday, March 8 at 2 p.m., the Label the Truth Campaign will be hosting a meeting in Akron to work toward placing a GE labeling initiative on the Ohio ballot. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
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 the campaign to protect farmers and their land from the dangers of fracking. For information, contact MacKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org or(614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.
Climate and Agriculture: Three-Part Webinar Series
Beginning on March 21 at 10 a.m., the California Climate Action Network will host a three-part webinar series describing expected climate impacts (such as increased water scarcity, warming temperatures, and unpredictable and extreme weather events) and tools for enhancing on-farm resilience and adaptation to changing climate conditions. The series is geared toward agricultural conservation professionals. For more information or to register, click here.
GE Labeling Working Group Meeting
On Monday, March 24 at 6 p.m., join OEFFA’s GElLabeling working group for their monthly meeting. For information, or to join by phone, email email@example.com or call (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.
Ohio Environmental Council Lobby Day
On March 26, the OEC will host its annual Lobby Day at the Ohio Statehouse. This is a chance to bring your environmental concerns and priorities directly to state lawmakers and officials. Click here to register.
Free Screenings of OMG GMO
In search of answers about GE food, GMO OMG film director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert set out on a journey across the globe. Watch the trailer.
Seifert works to uncover the truth about GMOs. How do GMOs affect our children and the health of our planet? Is it even possible for consumers to make informed choices and reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t gain back? Along the way, he helps to reveal our current industrial food system and we gain insight into a question that is of growing concern to consumers everywhere: What's really on our plate?
OEFFA is organizing two free screenings of the film onSaturday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Athena Cinema in Athens and Sunday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus. Following the film, there will be a panel discussion with the director. Reserve your seat today!
Fracking Event: “Living on the Shale”
On Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Coschocton Environmental and Community Awareness Inc. will host an exciting and informative event about the influx of oil and gas exploration in Ohio. The event includes respected speakers, networking opportunities, group discussions, and vendors. For more information and to register, click here (scroll to the bottom).