Election Season Heating Up
At the federal level, 16 members of the House of Representatives and two Senators shape the policies that affect our lives every day. All but one—Senator Sherrod Brown—are up for re-election this year. Additionally, 16 state Senate seats and 99 House seats are up for grabs. Now is the time to find out who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues.
For the first time ever, OEFFA has developed an election resource for people who care about sustainable agriculture. The Food and Farming Questions for Candidates Guide includes background information on eight issues, 19 questions for state and/or federal candidates, and information about how to build relationships with your representatives.
You are our food system's best advocate, so whatever issues are most important to you, use this guide to stimulate community dialogue and to ask questions of candidates at public forums or by contacting their campaign. Find out what the candidates think and go into the voting booth knowing that you are supporting people that share your values.
To request printed copies or to let us know about your experience using the guide, contact Amalie Lipstreu.
New Guidance Released for Non-GMO Labels
The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) released guidance for companies that want to make non-genetically modified organism (GMO) label claims on meat, poultry, and dairy products. The new guidance applies to livestock or poultry that have not been fed genetically egnineered (GE) grain. The GE labeling bill signed by President Obama last month stated that "a food may not be considered to be 'not bioengineered' or 'non-GMO', or any other similar claim describing the absence of bioengineering in the food solely because the food is not required to bear a disclosure that the food is bioengineered..."
The guidance will, therefore, close the loophole that many labeling advocates were concerned about: the ability of companies to claim their products were non-GMO just because they are not labeled with a GE bar code, symbol, 1-800 number, or statement.
Find the guidance and instructions on how to comment through the FSIS website.
OEFFA Lauches Begin Farming Program
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a grant award that will allow OEFFA to provide aspiring and early career farmers the support they need to get into farming and grow their businesses. The new Begin Farming program will provide skill-building educational opportunities to facilitate beginning farmers' development as producers and small business owners with the goal of increasing the number of successful beginning farmers with viable farm businesses using organic and sustainable production practices.
The project will include on-farm apprenticeships, field days, workshops, networking opportunities, business skills training, mentoring, fact sheets, phone support, and land access services. If you are interested in learning more about participating in the program, contact Kelly Henderson.
Draft EIS Released on NEXUS Pipeline Project
The Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nexus pipeline project. The project will bring hundreds of miles of new pipeline infrastructure to Ohio and Michigan as well as six compressor stations and 17 mainline valves.
In Ohio, the project will directly impact four certified organic farms and be within one mile of six additional organic farms. OEFFA has been educating FERC staff and industry on the unique situation and certification requirements faced by organic farmers, and have requested they take steps to avoid impacting those farms. When that is not possible, OEFFA has developed an Organic Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plan to lessen the negative impact and risk on organic farms.
Read the DEIS and learn how you can comment on the FERC website.
What Does Contamination Prevention Cost Farmers?
The USDA has been discussing the issue of "coexistence" since the advent of GE crops. Coexistence refers to the concept that organic, non-GE, and conventional farmers can work out the issues of contamination and prevention among themselves. However, in many communities, it can be very difficult to arrive at voluntary agreements that protect organic and non-GE farmers.
The level of contamination experienced by organic and non-GE farmers is likely vastly under-reported and the costs that non-GE farmers incur to prevent contamination has not been calculated. These costs can include planting, maintaining, and harvesting buffer strips; delayed planting, and equipment cleaning. To help quantify these impacts and better advocate for measures to protect farmers from contamination, OEFFA has begun to collect data on the costs of contamination prevention. Contact Amalie Lipstreu to receive a one page worksheet to help us tabulate your farm's costs.
OEFFA Participates in National Sustainable Agriculture Planning
OEFFA staff was in Maine last month for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's (NSAC) summer meeting. We had the opportunity to hear from Maine legislator Chellie Pingree (an organic farmer and strong advocate for sustainable agriculture in Washington DC), learn about organic research, and take steps to plan for a new presidential administration as Farm Bill.
We value our participation in NSAC and the National Organic Coalition (NOC), which help represent us on the Hill and provide us with the resources and information we need to advocate for Ohio farmers and local food systems. As great as those resources are, they don't work without you! Without the involvement of farmers and citizens who care about sustainable food and farm issues, our environment, and public health, we cannot succeed in bringing about change.
Whether you are passionate about conservation, healthy food access, farm to school, loans and grants for farm businesses, genetically enginering, or other issues, we need your voice. Contact OEFFA today to learn more about the small ways you can be involved that have a big impact!