Closing the Holes in Biotech Regulation
When it comes to regulating genetic engineering, the United States is operating under a patchwork of existing laws that predate the technology. As a result, agencies have different interpretations for regulating genetically engineered (GE) crops and this patchwork approach has left holes: the absence of mandated contamination prevention practices, post-market monitoring, and a mechanism for compensating those harmed by contamination, to name a few. Lacking a robust regulatory framework, the organic and broader non-GE community has shouldered the costly burden of trying to protect their seed and crops, and markets from contamination.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in March that it was ditching a 2008 proposal that would have updated regulations governing genetic engineering. We support this decision and encourage the rapid development of new and stronger regulations that aim to protect the environment, human health, farmers, and their markets from direct and indirect impacts resulting from GE crops. This is a historic opportunity to advocate for new and stronger GE regulations.
We need you to comment on the importance of more thorough GE regulation. We will be posting information to help you submit comments soon on the OEFFA website.
Senate Approves Fast Track
On May 22, the Senate passed fast track legislation by a vote of 62-37. The House is expected to pick up the legislation in June. As we told you last month, international trade deals can set new rules on food safety, public procurement, pesticides, genetic engineering, and patents on seeds. They would also make it easier for corporations to shift production to where it’s cheapest, undermining local food systems. As the issue moves to the House, now is the time to contact your representative and tell him/her to put the brakes on fast track.
USDA and Chipotle Respond to Market Demand for GE-Free Products
Consumers are increasingly demanding non-GE food. Most of us are familiar with the Non-GMO Project, which offers a process-based certification for foods. Just last month, the USDA has decided to get into the non-GMO label business, using an existing program they use to certify products as “grass-fed” and “antibiotic-free.”
Another indicator of the growing market demand for non-GE foods, the restaurant chain Chipotle announced that it would be going GMO-free. This decision garnered a serious backlash, but in a very thorough and witty response the Natural Resources Defense Council put things in the proper perspective with this piece, titled “Tortilla Reform”.
What all of this change and discussion around GE food clearly indicates is that this is an issue of rising policy importance and that we need to keep the pressure on—because its working! Tell your grocer you want the right to know if GE products are on the shelf and tell your legislator to support GE labeling (HR 913).
Organic Certification Cost Share Funds Now Available
Nearly $12 million in funding for organic certification cost-share assistance is now available for organic producers and handlers. Payments for certification-related expenses incurred from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015 are limited to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certificate or certification scope. Applications must be postmarked by November 15. For more information on cost-share program guidelines or to apply, click here or call (614) 262-2022.
Value-Added Producer Grant Application Now Available!
Are you looking to adopt new systems of production, processing, or marketing for local or regional markets? Need help with working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, or marketing efforts? Want to create jobs and grow your business? The Value-Added Producer Grant program may be for you. It helps farmers and ranchers around the country expand their customer base and income by creating new or developing existing value-added enterprises. Currently $30 million in competitive grants are available to producers; up to $75,000 is available for planning grants and up to $250,000 is available for implementation grants.
Deadlines are July 2 for online applications and July 7 for paper applications.
Learn more about the program and eligibility with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s brand-new, free Farmers’ Guide to Applying for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.
Millions Still Available to Farmers for Real Estate Loans
The USDA Farm Service Agency has money available for real estate loans through the end of September. It is rare that there is money left this late in the FSA program year.
Since most of the real estate loans that FSA makes are targeted to help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers afford to purchase farmland, the significant amount of funding that FSA still has on the table is a huge opportunity for new and underserved farmers across the country! In fact, more than $750 million of the $900 million in loan funds still available are targeted to either beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers.
FSA Direct Farm Loans aim to help farmers who are unable to secure a loan from a commercial bank, and can finance the purchase of farmland up to $300,000 and up to $667,000 through FSA’s Down Payment Loan Program. Both loan programs offer very low interest rates between 1.5 and 3.25 percent. Contact your local FSA office for more information.
Annual Food Policy Summit
The State Food Policy Summit held by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs is the only event for food policy interests from across the state to come together. The summit will inspire action by increasing awareness of food policy activities and possibilities at the state level. If you would like to learn about the current state of food policy in Ohio and envision future policy priorities for strengthening our local food systems click here. This is your opportunity to hear from local and state health department officials, educators, and advocates for better local food policies in Ohio.
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