USDA Releases Two Key Surveys
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture published two important surveys. The Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) Survey is a comprehensive study of all land and provides information about farmers and ranchers who rent agricultural land to other farmers as well as agricultural landlords who do not farm.
The updated survey provides a wealth of information on the two million landowners who manage or rent out our country’s farmland. Key findings include:
• 39 percent of all U.S. farmland is rented or leased
• 80 percent of all rented farmland is owned by non-farming landlords
• Rented farmland is valued at $1.1 trillion
• 91.5 million acres, or about 10 percent of all farmland, is slated for ownership transfer in the next 5 years
• 21 million of these acres are expected to be sold to a non-relative
These findings are especially relevant as pension plan and hedge fund managers increasingly see buying farmland as a good investment.
Also released in September, the 2014 Organic Production Survey is the first comprehensive survey of the organic industry since 2008. The results are from a self-reported survey of farmers certified through the National Organic Program, transitioning to organic, or exempt (earning less than $5,000 annually from organic sales). Key findings include:
• Organic sales increased by 72 percent between 2008 and 2014
• Despite sales growth, the overall number of organic farmers and total organic acreage in the U.S. declined slightly
• Ohio remains in the top 10 of states in the number of organic farms in operation
• More than 40 percent of Ohio organic farmers earn between 75 and 100 percent of their income from organic farming
• More than 40 percent of Ohio’s organic farmers plan to increase organic production
Secretary of State Denies County Charter Initiatives Place on November Ballot
Activists seeking local bans on fracking were dealt a blow when Ohio Secretary of State John Husted rejected three charter amendments submitted by officials in Fulton, Medina, and Athens counties.
While the county petitions to ban oil and gas activity had the required number of signatures, Husted invalidated the initiatives citing the state's exclusive authority to regulate fracking, which was affirmed in a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision. Supporters of the charter amendments sought a court order to overturn Husted’s decision, but on September 16 the high court upheld his decision.
A local anti-fracking issue will be on the November 3 ballot, however. In a separate decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the Mahoning County Board of Elections lacks authority to reject an anti-fracking charter amendment for the city of Youngstown.
FSMA Preventive Controls Rule Released
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the final Preventive Controls (PC) rule, which establishes regulations for entities that are required to register with FDA as food facilities as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). According to the FDA, a food facility manufactures, processes, packs, or holds human food.
The Preventive Controls rule has two main parts:
• New requirements for hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, and
• Updates to existing Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) requirements.
New definitions in the PC rule—for primary production farms, secondary activities farms, retail food establishments, farm mixed-type facilities, small scale facilities, small and very small businesses, low risk food/activities, and qualified facilities—define how and when the rule applies to your operation.
To learn more about what these definitions mean, what category you fall into, and whether you are exempt from all or part of the rule, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s three part blog series.
Expanded Crop Insurance Options for Organic Farmers
Many organic farmers had few options for insuring crops in the past. With standard “price elections” organic farmers that experienced crop loss could only receive a payment based on the cost of the conventional commodity. In September, the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) added 14 new Organic Price Elections to the 28 that are already available, allowing organic farmers to insure more crops based on the organic sales price.
Another option is Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), which allows a farmer to insure all of his or her crops in a single policy. This is a good choice for diversified farmers in general, including organic farmers, but is not an option if you grow only one crop or if you have been farming for less than four years. Find out more about WFRP and the recent improvements made to the policy for the 2016 season on RMA’s WFRP page.
DARK Act Headed to the Senate
Now that the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act (H.R. 1599) has passed the House, the fight over labeling genetically engineered (GE) food is headed to the Senate. It has been rumored that Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) may introduce the bill if he can get a Democratic co-sponsor.
Last month, five OEFFA members met with Senator Sherrod Brown’s Central Ohio Regional Director. The message was that consumers should not be kept in the DARK about GE foods; they overwhelmingly support their right to know, and do not want GE foods to be labeled non-GE. We have submitted two requests to meet with Senator Portman’s office in Cincinnati and are still waiting to hear from his staff.
If you are interested in meeting with either Senator Portman or Senator Brown’s staff, contact OEFFA and we can help you get a meeting scheduled. It’s also important for Senators Brown and Portman to receive phone calls from the public. Tell them to oppose the DARK Act and support mandatory labeling for GE food!
Your Farm Advocacy Matters!
In case you missed it, last month's advocacy training webinar is available on OEFFA’s Advocacy Toolkit webpage. If you have never made a phone call to a legislator, are not sure about what advocacy entails, or if it really makes a difference, this webinar is for you.
Whether you care about the land that feeds us, the effects of agriculture on climate change, the health of our families and communities, ensuring healthy food access for all, or investing in the economic development power of agriculture, Farm Policy Matters, and so does your advocacy!