Fraccidents Become Commonplace
In late December, work crews lost control of a fracked well-head. Natural gas spewed into the air for days and families were evacuated within a mile and half of the well. This marks the third shale gas incident in Monroe County during the last six months. The other fraccidents involved a well pad in Clarington that leaked chemicals causing 20 trucks to catch fire and a loss of 70,000 fish and wildlife, and a gas well in Beverly that leaked more than 15,000 gallons of oil and chemicals into a tributary of the Muskingum River. No reports from the first two incidents have been made public at this point. Are more accidents on Ohio’s horizon? See this visual history of fraccidents in West Virginia.
New York State Bans Fracking
New York officials have banned fracking in the state, citing the high potential for health and environmental impacts. They were particularly concerned about a lack of scientific studies about the long-term safety of hydraulic fracturing and noted the inflated economic impacts of fracking were insufficient to justify the potential risks.
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told the Huffington Post that there are no longitudinal studies that provide an authoritative picture of the health impacts of fracking. The “bona fide scientific literature is only now emerging," he said. He also said that in other states where fracking is currently taking place, state health officials were not at the table when decisions about the process were made.
HB 490 Stalls in the Ohio Senate at the End of the 130th Session
House Bill 490 included some good provisions, such as limiting the spread of manure on frozen and snow covered ground. The worst provision was an attempt to circumvent federal law by making the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the repository for chemical information used in the fracking industry.
According to some reports the far-reaching bill “collapsed under its own weight.” Certain aspects of the legislation are likely to appear again in the 2015 legislative session. If you support a ban on the spread of manure on frozen and snow covered ground, let us know. Legislators need to hear from their constituents about the bills they care about!
Organic Exemption from Commodity Check-off Programs Comes to Fruition
USDA Releases Proposed Rule: Important Time for Organic Farmers to Comment!
The new rule would exempt more organic farmers from paying into conventional commodity check-off programs by extending the exemption for organic farmers, handlers, marketers, and importers to products that are certified “organic” or “100 percent organic” and also to those who produce, process, handle, or import both organic and conventional products. The exemption will provide a level playing field by allowing organic farmers and handlers to use check-off monies to benefit their own operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting comments on the new rule until January 15. Click here to read more and learn how you can comment.
Crummy Crominibus Guts Conservation Funding
Congress used a combination of a Continuing Resolution (for homeland security funding) and an Omnibus bill for all other funding, creating a new term: “Cromnibus.” In a last minute maneuver, Congress passed the bill and inserted provisions that would cut funding made mandatory through the 2014 Farm Bill. Hardest hit are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which lost $136 million in funding, and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which was cut by $402 million. This is legislation at its worst and a backdoor approach to defund programs that are widely used and provide tremendous benefit.
Obscene is the best way to describe another policy rider that prevents the USDA from implementing basic protection for family farmers that raise livestock and poultry for multinational meat companies. Congress has given the green light to allow corporate meat companies to retaliate against producers that speak-out about the conditions on their farms and the one-sided contracts.
Under an ambiguous provision, Congress also appears to direct the USDA to propose changes to Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Our right to know where our food comes from is under continued attack and it will be imperative that we are all vigilant with our legislators to maintain the COOL requirements authorized by law. Stay tuned to OEFFA’s policy page for updates.
There was good news to be found in the Cromnibus: increased funding for direct farm ownership and direct operating loans. The three-fold increase in funding is hoped to reduce a large program backlog.
Deadline for EQIP Funding Near
The 2015 EQIP application deadline is January 16! Organic farmers can choose to sign up for the traditional EQIP program or wait and apply for the organic EQIP sign up projected for March. As the funding for the program has been reduced, competition is expected to be high. For more information about EQIP, contact your local NRCS service center.
Looking for Another Reason to Attend the OEFFA Conference?
The 36th annual OEFFA Conference is filled with informative workshops, great keynote presentations, and much more that you will not want to miss! There is a People and Policy track that includes knowledgeable speakers on genetic engineering, fracking, Farm Bill programs, grassroots advocacy, and Ohio food policy. If you are currently involved in a local food policy council or want to learn more about their work, join us after the conference on Saturday, February 14for a policy meet and greet at Denison University featuring a cash bar and appetizers. Details will be included in the conference program. Come and join us to engage in all things policy!
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