Phosphorous Run-off Legislation Takes Fast Track in Ohio Legislature
The Ohio House and Senate have been busy in the first month of the 131st session. The Senate introduced SB 1 and the House introduced HB 61. Both of these bills include prohibitions on spreading manure or fertilizer on snow-covered or frozen soil, when the top 2 inches are saturated, and when there is more than a 50 percent chance of rain of more than 0.5 inches in 24 hours. There are some exceptions to those prohibitions and these bills only apply to Lake Erie’s western basin including: St. Marys, Auglaize, Blanchard, Sandusky, Cedar-Portage, Lower and Upper Maumee, Tiffin, St. Joseph, Ottawa, and River Raisin watersheds. The Senate bill includes a sunset provision after five years of implementation but HB 61 does not. On February 10, OEFFA provided interested party testimony on SB 1, which passed the Senate unanimously.
Sustainable Businesses See a Frack-Free Future
A growing number of American business leaders believe that fracking is not the answer to our country’s economic, energy, or climate challenges. The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is asking the President to support mandatory, enforceable national standards that will apply to both new and existing gas and oil development. They’re also asking for no new fracking on public lands or in states until essential protections are in place and full cost and scientific analysis have been conducted. If you are a business owner or an organization that would like to voice your concerns about fracking and support better alternatives, learn more or sign ASBC’s letter to the President.
Courts Consistently Uphold Legitimacy of Country of Origin Labeling
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) went into effect in 2005. But instituting labels on meat products did not prove so easy. The American Meat Institute (AMI) filed a lawsuit challenging the labeling requirements in 2013. The U.S. courts have consistently supported the law and AMI dropped the lawsuit on February 9. The decisions affirm U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to implement COOL and its role in satisfying legitimate consumer disclosure objectives as well as promoting food safety and public health. The court further rejected AMI’s contention that labeling meat products with factual and uncontroversial information about livestock production steps would violate their First Amendment free speech rights.
This is a real win for consumers and producers. The last threat to COOL implementation is the World Trade Organization, which has found the rules discriminate against countries importing meat into the U.S.
Farm Bill Funding Available
There is still time to file your application for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The deadline for this important program that pays growers for on-farm conservation practices has been extended until March 13. Visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Service Center Locator to find out where you can apply—and don’t wait!!
On February 13, the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) posted a Request for Applications (RFA) for the 2015 round of the Community Food Project Grants Program (CFP), with total grant funding available nearly doubled to $9 million, thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill. Applications are due by 5 p.m. EST on March 17. Funding will be available for both Community Food Projects ($125,000 maximum) as well as Planning Projects ($35,000 maximum).
Arctic Apple Gets the Green Light
Once again the USDA has approved another biotech crop for production, distribution, and consumption. Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., based in British Columbia, has genetically engineered (GE) two varieties of apple to resist enzymatic browning. Enzymatic browning is the oxidation of apple flesh once it’s cut open and exposed it to oxygen in the air. Anyone who’s ever cut an apple has observed this process. Hold the genetic engineering: we can eat our apples before they turn brown!
National GE Labeling Bill Re-Introduced
H.R. 1699, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, has been reintroduced into the 113th Congress. This bill would require clear labeling for any GE food. Stay tuned for updates this month on how you can let your legislators know that you care about clear food labeling and that powerful corporations should not be able to block your right to know what you eat and feed your family. OEFFA’s GE food work group has been active on this issue and a growing number of members have signed up to help pass right to know labeling bills. Interested in helping your community become involved? Contact OEFFA!
Wave of Food Democracy
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, used the Presidents’ Day observance to highlight the great things that are happening across the US. Local bans on GE foods, state labeling efforts, and state and local community fracking bans: Kimbrell points to these as evidence of a wave of local democracy that is taking control back from powerful special interests. Read more about the good things that are happening across the United States and then take action by contacting OEFFA and signing up for our Fracking or GE work groups.
The Farm to School Act of 2015
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced by senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools while improving program participation from beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. This act is what's known as a "marker bill," which means it will be considered by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (CNR), which is set to expire on September 30.
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. Make sure Congress knows that farm to school is a powerful tool for supporting our kids, our farmers, and our communities!
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