Have You Herd? USDA Releases Draft Animal Welfare Rules
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a proposed rule to amend organic livestock and poultry production requirements. The proposal incorporates years of public comment and recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board. It would provide clear guidance on animal welfare for organic producers and handlers, including:
- Clarify how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and well-being throughout life, including transport and slaughter;
- Specify which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production; and
- Establish minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.
Translation? Your chances of getting funded if you apply are very good! It also means that there may be very little money for the last two years of the VAPG program in this Farm Bill. If you have ever thought about developing a business or marketing plan or a feasibility study for value-added products or need working capital to start or expand your value-added business venture, now is the time to take the next step!
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has put together a great resource that will answer your questions about VAPG, or read about Ann’s Raspberry Farm and how these used VAPG here.
Raising the Salad Bar: Your Kids Could See More Local Foods and Agriculture Education in their School
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has included language from Representative Tim Ryan’s (D-OH) Salad Bar in Schools Expansion Act in its mark-up of the bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
The Senate version of the reauthorization increases annual funding from $5 to $10 million per year for the Farm to School Grant Program, which will help schools purchase more local food and expand educational food and agriculture activities.
The House version of this bill also includes strong support for the Farm to School Grant Program, although anti-hunger and nutrition advocates have raised concerns. Read more on the NSAC blog.
Help the USDA Help You
The local and regional food sector is a $12 billion industry and yet farmers and entrepreneurs often face challenges when applying for loans and accessing credit because they cannot provide the necessary data on markets, prices, and growth trends.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is launching a first-of-its-kind Local Food Marketing Practices Survey that will collect benchmark data on the production, marketing, and sales of local food and farm products. Help NASS provide farmers with the data they need to launch and grow successful businesses by sharing your input.
The survey has been mailed out to more than 40,000 farmers. If you have not done so already, please take some time to complete this survey by May 2.
Tell the USDA to Stand Up to Corporate Agribusiness and Ensure Fairness for Farmers
Advocates working to protect farmers from unfair contracts, restrictions on free speech, and corporate abuses in the poultry industry caught a break last fall when, for the first time in seven years, a Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rider was not attached to the annual budget bill. Those riders have blocked the USDA from finalizing rules written to implement protections that were supposed to be put in place years ago.
Ohio Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan voted against this harmful amendment, but northeast Ohio Congressman David Joyce voted for it. If you are in Representative Joyce’s district (find out here), call him at (202) 225-5731, and ask him to support a level playing field for contract livestock producers. You can also watch a trailer for a new documentary, Under Contract, and sign a petition asking the USDA to finalize these rules.
Food Safety Audits Just Became More Affordable
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently announced that GroupGAP, a new certification option ideal for small and mid-sized farms, will be available nationwide.
GAP is a Good Agricultural Practice standard and certification is required by many retailers. However, certification can be costly. GroupGAP provides a long-awaited alternative, allowing grower groups, farmer co-ops, and food collaboratives to pool together and share the cost.
AMS GroupGAP audits include an analysis of the group's system of oversight, a site visit to ensure compliance, and spot checks to verify implementation.
For more information, visit the GroupGAP website or the AMS GAP Audit Program website.
Do You Want Politicians To Be Talking About Food, the Environment, and Justice?
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will be hosting a People’s Peace and Justice Convention in Cleveland July 15-17 before the Republican National Convention (RNC). The event challenges both parties to propose real solutions and will feature keynote speakers, panels, films, and cultural performances. A major component will be developing a specific People’s Peace and Justice Platform on economic, social, and political justice, the environment, and foreign affairs, which will be delivered to both the RNC and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
You can help make sure that food and agriculture get on the agenda. For more information about the event, please contact AFSC at (330) 928-2301
CAUV Reforms Could Help Reduce Farm Tax Sticker Shock
Sponsored by Senate Republican Cliff Hite, Senate Bill 246 is designed to reform the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) tax so that it more closely aligns with changing conditions in the agricultural industry. Some farmers have seen their property taxes triple in the past two years.
Farm groups, the legislature, and state tax officials have been discussing how to make sure the complex system of calculating taxes on agricultural land prevents extreme fluctuations and reflects market conditions. Read more at Farm and Dairy.
Take a Stand to Protect Organic Farms Threatened by Fracking and Pipelines
Join people from across the United States concerned about the effects of fracking by holding an event in your community on June 7 as part of the National Day of Action on Fracking. Shine a light on the numerous problems associated with fracking, including toxic waste, pipelines, spills and leaks, and injection wells, which have been links to earthquakes.
At 2 p.m. on June 7, OEFFA will host a farm tour at Bluebird Farm in Cadiz where organic pioneer Mick Luber will talk about how fracking and impending pipeline development are threatening the future of his farm. More information will be available later this month on our website.
See how many people raised awareness last year and learn how you can host an event in your community at FrackFreeAmerica.org.
OEFFA Farmer Asks Organic Standards Board to Protect Farmers from Fracking
Kip Rondy of Green Edge Gardens in Athens County travelled to Washington, D.C. in April to address the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Kip farms in an area of the state with a high concentration of injection wells. He is one of many farmers and food activists concerned about how this industry and the lack of regulation and oversight are affecting food production.
Kip asked the NOSB to look at how contaminants can be introduced by the oil and gas industry. In addition to Kip’s comments, OEFFA policy coordinator Amalie Lipstreu asked the NOSB to add fracking to its work agenda so that the board can begin a study of how this affects the organic industry.