Ohio’s Marcy Kaptur Leads Effort to Protect Farmers
For years, deceptive practices and retaliatory measures have been used against farmers that operate under contract. The Grain Inspection and Stockyards Protection Administration was created to stop those abuses, but opponents in Congress have repeatedly used budget riders to block the creation and implementation of rules. Last year, for the first time, that harmful rider was not on the annual appropriations bill, largely thanks to the comedic advocacy of John Oliver.
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) joined seven other legislators in sending a message to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for protection for farmers operating under contract in the highly concentrated livestock industry. You can find that letter here.
As Debate Continues, Companies Commit to GE Labeling
General Mills, Mars, and Kellogg are a few of the companies that have committed to labeling genetically engineered (GE) ingredients nationwide as Vermont’s GE labeling law is set to go into effect this summer.
Legislation to preempt state labeling passed the U.S.House last year; efforts to move similar legislation in the Senate stalled last month.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voted against the preemption bill in the Agriculture Committee and against a measure that would have ended debate and forced a vote in the full Senate. Take a minute to thank Senator Brown for holding firm and representing the views of 87 percent of Ohio voters who want transparent and honest labeling on their food products.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) voted to end debate on the bill and force a quick vote. We hope that as GE labeling comes to the Senate floor once again, Senator Portman decides to stand with the majority of Ohioans. Send him a note today and ask him to support clear, honest labeling for GE foods.
Far from transparent and honest, the Yakima Herald reported that the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) broke the law as they fought against GE labeling (Initiative 522) in Washington State. In a pre-trial ruling, the judge found GMA broke campaign-finance disclosure laws by trying to shield the identities of corporations that poured $11 million into the campaign to defeat GE labeling in 2013. The Yakima Herald quotes the attorney general who filed the suit as saying “big money donors cannot evade Washington law and hide from public scrutiny.”
Let the NOSB Know What You Think
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the advisory board of the National Organic Program, accepts comments from the public twice each year. This is your opportunity to share input on policy, process, and/or materials related to organic certification. There are three ways you can engage:
- Share your comments during the NOSB webinar, or listen in on the public comments and NOSB discussion. Join by computer or phone on Tuesday, April 19 from 1-4 p.m. ET. To comment, sign up by April 14.
- Submit written comments to the NOSB.
- Attend the NOSB meeting in Washington, DC April 24-27. If you are interested in attending the meeting, please contact Julia Barton at email@example.com.
Click here for more information about the NOSB meeting and webinar, agendas, and commenting opportunities!
Farm Bill Funding Available
Take advantage of one or more of these funding opportunities:
- New Conservation Option for Organic Farms—Organic farmers use field borders and buffers to maintain and improve natural resources, support biodiversity and native species, and develop habitat for beneficial insects. Through a new option in the Continuous Conservation Reserve program, cost-share and land rental payments for field border buffers are available for organic farmers. Read more about this new option here. The program is quickly reaching its acreage cap so if you are interested contact the Farm Service Agency today!
- Funding Available for Local and Regional Food Systems—This year, $13 million is available through two Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs: direct marketing grants (Funding opportunity # USDA-AMS-TM-LFPP-G-16-002), and local and regional food marketing grants (Funding opportunity # USDA-AMS-TM-LFPP-G-16-001). Applications must be submitted here by 11:59 p.m. ET on May 12.
- $20 Million Available for Conservation Innovation—Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) assist farmers as they develop pioneering conservation technologies and practices. The CIG program funds both single and multi-year projects through a national, competitive call for proposals. There is a match requirement, equal to the amount requested. Proposals are due to the Natural Resources Conservation Service by 4 p.m. ET on May 10 and must be submitted both electronically via the federal grants website (Funding opportunity # USDA-NRCS-NHQ-CIG-16-01) and as a PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Value Added Producer Grants Coming Soon—If you have ever considered applying for a Value-Added Producer Grant, the application window will be announced soon. Organic and specialty crop producers are considered to already be “value-added.” Find out more and get prepared to apply during an upcoming USDA training on April 12 in Findlay, Ohio. For more information or to RSVP, call (614) 255-2425 or email Deborah.Rausch@oh.usda.gov.
OEFFA Member Asks Presidential Candidate About Fracking
Christine Hughes, co-owner of Village Bakery and Café, Della Zona, and Catalyst Café restaurants in Athens, Ohio was selected to ask a question of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a nationally televised town hall meeting last month. She asked, “As president, will you let farmers and communities say no to fracking and fully support a clean energy future?”
According to an article in the Athens Messenger, Clinton said that she would push for “tough rules” on the fracking industry. She went on to say, “I’m not sure given the present political makeup we could pass a federal law to end fracking, but we sure can try to regulate it very efficiently under the rules we already have that give us federal jurisdiction over some of these chemicals and releases.”
Keep up the good work, folks! Let's put food and farming issues up front this election season and find out where the candidates stand! Find OEFFA's Questions for Candidates resource here.
Farmer Feedback Needed on Food Safety Manure and Compost Rules
When the final Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules came out last year, one rule was not finalized: regulations for the use of “biological soil amendments of animal origin.” In a national effort to evaluate the needs and concerns of organic producers surrounding the safe use of manure and compost-based soil amendments University of California-Davis, University of Minnesota, University of Maine, The Organic Center, and the Organic Trade Association are conducting a farmer-focused survey.
This is an important opportunity for organic producers to weigh in on this issue. Survey results will be incorporated into a proposal for a long-term research project to study the use of untreated manure and compost in organic agriculture and the impacts of those practices on food safety. It will also ensure that the Food and Drug Administration's efforts to improve production and handling regulations take into account the needs of organic farmers. Take the survey here and visit OEFFA’s website to learn more about the FSMA rules.
Ohio Growers Receive Funding for On-Farm Research Projects
Congratulations to Ohio’s latest North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) grant program recipients:
- Barry Adler of RainFresh Harvests, Plain City: $3,467 grant for the project, “Growing Mealworms as a Fish Feed for Sustainable Aquaponics”
- Sandy Ashmore of That Guy's Family Farm, Clarksville: $5,318 grant for the project, “Economic Implications of Using Tomato Suckers to Produce Late Season Tomato Plants Instead of Starting Late Season Plants from Seed”
- Richard and Tatiana Jeffers of the Sunny Mead Farm, Athens: $22,500 grant for the project, “Converting Residual Livestock and Deer Bones into a Char/Fertilizer Soil Enhancer”
- Weston Lombard of Solid Ground Farm, Millfield: $7,481 grant for the project, “Field Testing the Mulberry for Commercial Production in the Midwest”
- Don Maloney of Don's Prawns & More, Lancaster: $7,477 grant for the project, “Viability of Using a Low Energy Air Pump to Aerate Freshwater Prawn Ponds”
- Jeanine Seabrook of Glass Rooster Cannery, Sunbury: $7,500 grant for the project, “Formalizing Partnerships to Scale Up Value-Added Local Food in Rural Ohio”
- Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm, North Bend: $7,452 grant for the project, “Could Wort Serve as a Viable Soil Amendment?”
Find out more about NCR-SARE programs and funding here.
Still Time to Respond to Organic Survey
The 2015 Certified Organic Survey is underway and the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is reminding farmers that it's not too late to respond. In early February, survey questionnaires were mailed nationwide to all known organic farms. NASS is now conducting telephone follow up with producers who have not yet responded. Some farmers may also be selected for in-person interviews to assist with data collection efforts.
This is an important way to collect data about the growth of the organic industry, and to identify production challenges, resources, and strategies to help organic producers. Find more information here.