How Did Your Representatives Score?
|Graphic: LA Times
|How Congress votes has a huge impact on our food system. Food Policy Action (FPA) rated legislators on the food policy-related votes they cast in the 114th Congress. While there has been some improvements, “Washington is still falling short, showing little progress on major food policy in the last two years,” according to FPA co-founder, food advocate, and chef Tom Colicchio. “Food is connected to every critical issue facing our nation—everything from our health, economy, and immigration, to labor and the environment.” View their scorecard to see how your legislators voted.
First Big FSMA Compliance Deadlines are Here
|Photo: Sunbeam Family Farm
The first major compliance dates for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) arrived on September 19 for the Preventive Controls rule. Large food facilities now need to meet Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) and other requirements.
There is more time for farmers that need to gear up for the Produce Safety Rule. For now, the best place to start is to learn about basic food safety that can help you implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) on your farm. OEFFA’s sustainable agriculture educator Eric Pawlowski has been helping farmers assess risk and develop food safety plans. Case studies will be shared in 2017.
While a formal training has been developed by the Produce Safety Alliance, it has not yet been tailored to the needs of diverse producers and additional training options will be available in the future. In the meantime, check out this informative FAQ developed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and contact OEFFA directly with your questions at (614) 421-2022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tougher Fracking Regulations in Pennsylvania
More than 10 years after the state’s fracking boom began, new regulations for unconventional natural gas drilling are now taking affect in Pennsylvania. The new rules will require a more thorough reporting process for spills and contamination, water supply restoration standards, and improved protection for public resources.
According to EcoWatch, Ohio’s Senate Bill 315, passed more than four years ago, is “one of the worst fracking laws in the nation.” There have been no major updates to the law since then. To learn more about fracking issues in Ohio, visit the Network for Ohio and Gas Accountability and Protection and to engage in protecting Ohio farms from the impacts of fracking, contact OEFFA today.
Local Food Funding for Rural Communities
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has funding available for rural communities interested in developing strategies that help grow the economy and revitalize neighborhoods. One of those efforts, Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP), helps communities leverage local food enterprises to diversify their economy and renew their downtowns. The deadline is November 6. Find out more information on the EPA smart growth website.
Ohio EQIP Deadline November 18
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps farms protect the environment on working lands. Farmers can receive technical and financial assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement environmentally beneficial conservation practices.
While farmers can submit an application at any time, the EQIP and EQIP-Organic Initiative application ranking deadline in Ohio is Friday, November 18. Find more information on eligibility, ranking questions, and payment schedules here. Find your local service center here.
U.S. Farmer GMO Corn Lawsuits Granted Class Action Status
A U.S. district court judge has found that lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers against seed company Syngenta can proceed as a class action. The lawsuit involves the sale of biotech corn seeds that were not approved for import by China. Ohio is one of the states approved for state-wide class action status.
According to Reuters, the farmers who did not plant Agrisure Viptera corn claimed they suffered losses when China rejected grain shipments that contained traces of the corn and that the rejections disrupted trade and dragged down corn prices to the tune of more than five billion dollars. While Syngenta has appealed the decision, the lawsuit will proceed.
Food Policy Has a Problem
According to agricultural journalist Tamar Haspel of the Washington Post, “Food policy’s biggest problem is that it’s boring.” She argues that despite the wonky details of things like price loss coverage and cover crop termination guidelines, these types of incremental policy can really change our food and agricultural system.
While there may be little overlap between "ideas that will engage the public and ideas likely to improve food,” there is commonality between public interest and the interests of farmers. In this easy read, Haspel lays out “eight gloriously wonky ways to improve ag policy.”
Who is OEFFA Policy Advocate of the Year?
OEFFA is only as effective as its members. You are the heart and soul of what we all do every day.
At the 2017 OEFFA conference’s The Cream of the Crop Banquet on February 10, we will take time to honor an OEFFA member who has been a model of excellence in his or her efforts to advance food and farm policy goals.
Please send your ideas for a member that you see as being “outstanding” in the field of policy advocacy!
Be sure to mark your calendars for the conference February 9-11; we will have an entire workshop track dedicated to food and farming policy issues you care about. And, we hope you’ll also join us for the February 10 banquet!
Loan Programs Streamlined for Beginning, Small, and Urban Producers
EZ Guarantee Loans uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved, and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.
The USDA has also expanded the pool of lenders that can offer assistance. Microlenders, which include Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations, will be able to offer their customers up to $50,000 of EZ Guaranteed Loans, helping to reach urban areas and underserved producers. Banks, credit unions, and other traditional USDA-approved lenders can offer customers up to $100,000 to help with agricultural operation costs.
EZ Guarantee Loans offer low interest rates and terms up to seven years for financing operating expenses and 40 years for financing the purchase of farm real estate. USDA-approved lenders can issue these loans with the Farm Service Agency guaranteeing the loan up to 95 percent. Contact your local USDA service center for more information.
Wood County Judge Denies Eminent Domain Authority to Kinder Morgan
|Photo: Robert Studzinski
Kinder Morgan has been working to route a pipeline that would carry ethane from Ohio’s shale region to Canada for plastics manufacturing.
A Wood County Common Pleas court judge ruled that the company lacks eminent domain authority because the project is not necessary and not for a public use. According to the attorneys cited by the Toledo Blade, “it’s probably the most important eminent domain case in the United States right now.”
This is the same pipeline project that threatened the farm of long-time OEFFA member and organic farmer Mick Luber. Mick, working with attorneys at Fair Shake Legal Services, was able to get the project rerouted, largely because of the question about the company’s eminent domain authority.