GMO-Free Zone Upheld in Federal Court
In an important victory for genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling supporters, on May 29 a federal court upheld a Jackson County, Oregon ban on growing genetically modified crops. The measure was originally passed last year by a wide margin (66 percent) of the county’s voters.
Two alfalfa farmers challenged the ban under the state’s Right to Farm Act, which protects farms from most restrictions as long as “generally accepted” farming practices are followed. However, the judge ruled the Right to Farm legislation clearly was intended to exempt Jackson County’s ban on GMO crops.
Many local farmers argued the GMO ban protects their farms from contamination, which can render crops unsalable—particularly if they are certified organic. GMO alfalfa growers are expected to pursue millions in damages from the county claiming the ban is a regulatory “taking."
Pompeo Bill a Threat to GMO-Free Zones and GMO Labeling
Recent changes to the anti-GMO labeling bill, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (otherwise known as the Deny Americans their Right to Know [DARK] Act) would prohibit states and local communities, such as Jackson County, from creating GMO-free zones or mandating GMO labeling. In fact, the bill would also prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from labeling genetically modified foods.
If you don’t want to be in the DARK, the best way you can make real change is to call your representative. Tell him or her you want the right to know if your food contains GMO ingredients and that you are concerned about the herbicide use and other environmental effects of GMO farming.
Young Farmers Could See Loans Forgiven
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is proposing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program be amended to include farmers. This program offers doctors, government workers, and nonprofit employees full forgiveness of student loans to graduates who work at least 10 years in a covered field, provided they make loan payments along the way.
Farmers face high costs to start farming; relieving loan debt could enable more young people to choose farming as a career. NYFC is asking the public to encourage their representative to co-sponsor the bill, which was introduced June 1.
New Study Suggests America Can Feed Itself on Local Food
According to a University of California-Merced study, up to 90 percent of Americans could be fed by cropland within just 50 miles of them. Aside from New York and Los Angeles, most American cities are surrounded by enough cropland to meet their populations’ caloric needs. According to journalist and University of California-Berkley professor Michael Pollan, “Campbell’s maps suggest careful planning and policies are needed to protect farmland from suburbanization and encourage local farming for the future.”
Trans-Pacific Partnership on Track for Fast-Track?
President Obama will likely get his wish for “fast-track” authority from Congress. This will speed negotiations in an 11 country proposed free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). By granting fast-track authority, Congress would waive its right to amend the deal and could only approve or reject the final agreement. Leaked portions of the TPP agreement, negotiated behind closed doors, indicate new rules would be set on GMOs, food safety, food labeling, and more.
Passage of free trade agreements, such as the TPP, undermine local authority by providing a means for international corporations to challenge local laws. In addition, the details of the agreement are so secret that only a few members of Congress have access to it, while hundreds of corporations have been heavily involved in negotiating terms that benefit them. There are limited opportunities to weigh in on international free trade agreements that contain damaging provisions. Call Congress and ask them to oppose the TPP!
WTO Rules on Country of Origin Labeling
The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently issued a final ruling against the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), a mandatory requirement in the 2008 Farm Bill. According to COOL opponents in Canada and Mexico, this requirement unfairly places their meat exports at a disadvantage—and the WTO agrees. The WTO ruling allows Canada and Mexico to implement retaliatory tariffs if the U.S. does not repeal its COOL requirement. The House of Representatives recently approved a bill that repeals COOL’s meat labeling requirements.
Contact your representative’s office and let him or her know you support Country of Origin Labeling for all foods, and to oppose repeal efforts. We can find a legislative solution that will preserve this law’s purpose while achieving compliance—or at least compromise—with the WTO.
Keep GIPSA Rider Out of the Federal Budget
Congress has tacked the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) rider onto the past several annual agriculture funding bills, severely limiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture from protecting farmers’ basic rights—such as free speech or freedom of association—as they deal with large meatpacking and poultry companies. Contract producers that speak out about their contracts or conditions often face retaliation from these corporations. Learn more about what GIPSA is and why the rider is so damaging to farmers and sustainable agriculture.
Thanks in large part to Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the GIPSA rider is not yet included in the 2016 federal budget bill. But the process is far from over. There is speculation that the rider will be introduced when the budget bill gets to the full appropriations committee. In the meantime, call your legislator and ask him or her to oppose the GIPSA rider.
Making That First Call to Your Legislator
Hopefully you are moved to action on one or more of the issues in OEFFA’s monthly policy bulletin. If you have never called your legislator’s office, it can be a little intimidating. Click here to view a “How to call your legislator” video where you can watch someone make that call and get some really good tips!
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