Senate Ag Committee Makes Great Strides for Child Nutrition: Thank You, Senator Brown!
On January 20, the Senate Agriculture Committee (including Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown) passed a bipartisan agreement on the Child Nutrition Bill, which includes school breakfast, school lunch, and summer food programs; farm to school, and more. The bill, which will be considered next by the full Senate, includes many wins for farm to school including:
Thank Senator Brown for his support of increased farm to school funding in the Child Nutrition Act. This increased support will directly benefit farmers and school children in our state. Then, encourage Senator Portman to support the Senate Agriculture Committee bill.
- Doubling funding from $5 million to $10 million for the Farm to School Grant Program. This increase will make it possible for nearly 3 million additional students nationwide to access farm to school programs each year.
- Expanding access for farm to school programs for preschools, summer food service program sites, and after school programs.
- Increasing outreach to beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
- Reducing regulatory barriers in order to increase farmer participation in farm to school sales.
USDA Revokes Grass-Fed Labels
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS) rescinded the national labeling standard for grass-fed meat. This change, posted in the Federal Register, states that having a strong, clear, consumer-friendly labeling standard “does not facilitate the marketing of agricultural products in a manner that is useful to stakeholders or consumers” because a different USDA agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), must approve meat labels and “there is no guarantee that an USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS.”
The USDA came to this decision after almost 10 years of administering the grass-fed label. This comes on the heels of withdrawal of Country of Origin Labeling for beef and pork products, Congressional debate on GE labeling, and a public comment process on the “Natural” label.
Because AMS revoked the standard instead of working toward consistency with FSIS, farmers and meat companies who have been using the USDA grass-fed label now have 30 days to either convert their label claims to an existing private grass-fed standard, or develop a new grass-fed standard of their own.
Food and Farming Election Year Resource Now Available
2016 is a major election year, so you have a big opportunity to advance the food and agriculture issues you care about. OEFFA has developed a Questions for Candidates guide, highlighting key sustainable agriculture policy issues and providing important background information and sample questions that you can use as you attend candidates’ nights, attend meetings with decision-makers, or call candidate offices.
This election cycle is an important one. Not only will a new president be elected, but the following offices will all be up for grabs as well: 16 U.S. House seats, one U.S. Senate seat, 15 Ohio House seats, and 7 Ohio Senate seats.
If you come to the OEFFA conference in February, you will receive a complimentary copy of the guide. If you are not able to make it, contact Amalie Lipstreu at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy. Stay tuned to the OEFFA events calendar for postings about upcoming candidate nights.
Conservation Stewardship Program Opportunity
The cut-off date for applications to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is March 31.
CSP is a working lands conservation program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting new and maintaining existing conservation and environmental stewardship practices on eligible lands.
CSP has open enrollment throughout the year, but if you apply after the applications are “ranked,” your application may have to wait until the following year. The process has many steps including an NRCS application, having a farm record number from the Farm Service Agency, and completing additional CSP specific application and eligibility materials—so don’t wait to get started!
The Farmer’s Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program developed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will walk you through the process. Visit Ohio NRCS for more information and to apply today!
Campbell’s to Label GE Ingredients
The Campbell’s Soup Company is the first major food manufacturing company to back mandatory labeling of GE foods. Vermont’s GE labeling law is set to take effect in the coming months and many large food manufacturers are working to block mandatory labeling, often citing the cost of changing labels. According to an article in Marketplace Business, Campbell’s found the process of complying with GE labeling fairly straightforward and in line with the label changes the company does through the normal course of business.
In late January, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack met with both pro and anti-labeling representatives to work on a compromise in two highly secretive meetings. Whatever the results of that compromise, we are working to make sure that it does not contain the false and misleading labeling provisions including those in HR1599, which allows food from animals raised on GE feed to be labeled as non-GMO. Find out more about this provision and what you can do to block it here.
The OEFFA conference is just days away, and filled with moving keynote presentations, great food, and information-packed workshops—including sessions with Elizabeth Kucinich of the Rodale Institute (Beyond GMO Labeling: Messaging for a Regenerative Future) and Sarah Hackney of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Advancing Sustainable Agriculture Through Advocacy: What Really Works?).
A special networking event is included at the end of the pre-conference sessions this year: The Farm Land of Opportunity gathering, developed for aspiring farmers, and landowners looking to sell, lease, or make other arrangements for their land, will take place on Friday, February 12 from 5:15-6:30 pm. The event is free of charge, but registration is required. Learn more and register here.
Investing More in Sustainable Agriculture
A white paper from the Union of Concerned Scientists confirms that our country is falling short when it comes to making the necessary investments in agroecological farming practices. According to their research, only 15 percent of external USDA grants go to projects that include agroecology, and only 4 percent go to projects that could be considered transformative.
Whether it is algal blooms, superweeds, or chemical drift, industrial agriculture brings a host of problems to communities that would be otherwise averted with more investment in sustainable agriculture systems. As we start gearing up for the next Farm Bill, more funding for sustainable agriculture needs to be on the agenda.