Top 10 Policy Wins for 2016
1. Protections for Organic Farmers—OEFFA submitted an organic agriculture impact mitigation plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), encouraging them to protect organic farmers in the path of pipelines. Those efforts, along with comments from members (thank you!!), led FERC to require specific steps to be put in place to protect organic farmers in the path of the ET Rover pipeline.
2. Day of Action on Fracking—OEFFA co-sponsored a June 7 Day of Action on Fracking. As part of that, OEFFA organized a farm tour at Mick Luber’s Bluebird Farm which had been threatened by the Utopia Express pipeline. Approximately 60 people attended the farm tour which was covered by the media. Mick shared the news that the Kinder Morgan company will re-route the pipeline around his farm.
3. Organic Education Provided to Ohio NRCS Regions—It is critical to OEFFA that U.S. Department of Agriculture programs work well for organic producers. We have created strong partnerships with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administer most conservation and loan programs for farmers. This year OEFFA staff provided detailed educational programming for all NRCS regional staff on organic production.
4. Bad Policy Rider Blocked—One way to get controversial policies through Congress without public input and review is by attaching “policy riders” to the budget bill. In the past, Congress has used this tool to block rulemaking that would protect farmers working under contract. Thanks to efforts by the sustainable agriculture community, this rider was not included in the budget bill and rules are under development to protect the free speech rights and fair contract provisions for contract farmers.
5. Questions for Candidates Guide Reaches More Than 2,500 People—This year marked an important election cycle. A new president, one U.S. Senate seat, and all U.S. House seats were up for election in Ohio, in addition to hundreds of state level candidates. OEFFA's Food and Farming Questions for Candidates Guide provided a succinct summary of OEFFA policy issues in an accessible format that was disseminated to thousands of Ohio voters. While we have some way to go, we have begun to put food and farming issues on the agenda for our legislators.
6. OEFFA Comments Included in NOSB Recommendations—The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) advises the National Organic Program (NOP) on materials that are allowed and prohibited as well as policy issues for organic certification. OEFFA submitted comments on many issues, including “excluded methods,” or variations of genetic engineering that are prohibited. The NOSB incorporated our comments in the recent draft that will move forward as a final recommendation to the NOP.
7. OEFFA Brings Fracking Impacts to the Table at NOSB—OEFFA staff co-presented on the impacts of fracking activity on organic farmers with Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch at a spring meeting of the National Organic Coalition. OEFFA staff and organic farmer Kip Rondy asked the NOSB to take a leadership role on the issue of fracking’s impact on our food system.
8. Money for Ohio Producers—The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) is a competitive grant that helps farmers create or expand value-added businesses, create jobs, and grow local and regional economies. This year, we brought together USDA Rural Development staff and several farmers interested in the program. OEFFA member Kate Hodges received more than $8,000 to develop a marketing plan to increase offerings to the local community.
9. OEFFA Secures Funding for Food Policy Network Staff—The Ohio Food Policy Network has been working to provide information and resources to folks working on the frontline of creating healthy, local food systems—local food policy councils/coalitions—ever since the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council was disbanded by the Kasich administration. Now, thanks to OEFFA advocacy and the Stinner Endowment, there is funding for a part-time staff person to provide much needed capacity-building support to these local councils.
10. Mandatory GE Labeling—The bill passed by Congress this year is problematic on many levels but Senate Bill 764 does establish a mandatory federal labeling standard for foods that have been made with genetically modified organisms. We will continue to work on this issue over the next year to impact what those labels actually look like.
OEFFA Conference Policy Line-Up
The 38th Annual OEFFA Conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, includes policy track sessions that will help empower us to grow and transform local food and agricultural systems.
Some of the policy workshop track speakers include Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch who will speak about the impacts of fracking on our food system, and former NOSB chair Jim Riddle who will share an "Agenda for an Organic America."
The policy track also offers options for you to share your ideas on the Farm Bill (No, its not just for policy wonks!) and your vision for Ohio's food system.
New this year, we're also offering The Cream of the Crop Banquet on February 10. Join us for a menu comprised of local and organic food, an empowering program, insights from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (invited), and meet OEFFA's Advocate of the Year!
Ohio Landowners Want Improvements to CAUV
A group of Ohio landowners have a case before a Franklin County judge seeking tax relief. They are arguing that the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) determinations were based on row crops and did not take into consideration other crops, such as grapes, woodlands, or pastureland. Other types of land use such as livestock, timberland, and pastureland, they argue, should be included in addition to traditional row cropping. Some landowners have seen tax relief since reforms were instituted in the program this year. Find more information about how to use CAUV here.
Is Glyphosate in Your Food?
Despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) postponed hearings which were due to explore glyphosate’s link to cancer in humans, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found the substance a “probable carcinogen.”
Where can you find this potentially cancer causing substance?
According to a testing project, alarming levels of glyphosate can be found in General Mills’ Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Frosted Flakes, Cool Ranch Doritos, Ritz Crackers, many other foods. Read the full article or sign-up for a wait list for glyphosate testing here.
New Conservation Option Levels Playing Field
There is a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grassland program option for smaller scale livestock farms. In the past, these operations had to compete with large western ranchland applications. The program now includes a "set aside" so these farms are competing with farms of similar scale.
Small livestock operations with 100 grazing livestock or less can submit applications to enroll up to 200 acres of grasslands per operation. With CRP Grasslands, landowners and operators can protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and other lands, while maintaining the areas for grazing. Enrollment will close on December 16. Offers selected this fiscal year will be enrolled into CRP Grasslands beginning October 1, 2017. Small livestock operations or other farming and ranching operations interested in participating in CRP Grasslands should contact their local FSA office.
Organic Fruit and Vegetable Grower Survey
Fruit and vegetable growers are being asked to take a 10-15 minute survey to help the North Central Region Center for Food Safety Modernization Act Training, Extension, and Technical Assistance as they develop new ways to engage producers in food safety trainings. Participants will be entered to win a $50 gift card.
CSP Sign-Up and "Reinvention"
Sustainable farmers protect our air, water, and soil resources, and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) recognizes and rewards those efforts. CSP is built on the belief that we need to enhance our natural resources as we produce food, fiber, and energy. By providing comprehensive conservation assistance to farms, CSP offers farmers the opportunity to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming—even while they work their lands for production.
The USDA recently announced the start of the 2017 CSP sign-up period. The program will include major changes with implications for farmers across the country. More than 70 million acres of working farm and ranchlands are currently enrolled in CSP, making it the nation’s largest working lands program.
Are you interested in enrolling? If so, you have until February 3, 2017* to complete the initial CSP application, which is a simple form that asks for basic information regarding land ownership, type of production, and contact information. More information on the restructured program is available on the CSP Portal.
*Although applicants can sign up for CSP anytime throughout the year, those who miss the February 3 deadline will not be considered for the program until 2018.
December 5 Deadline Set for Dakota Access Protesters
On November 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered protesters fighting pipeline construction to vacate property near the Cannonball River in North Dakota, the location of a large campsite for demonstrators. While the Corps issued a statement committing to a peaceful transition and said that they have no plans to “forcibly remove” demonstrators, it has made clear that emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response may not be provided should those services be needed.
More than 500 people have been arrested at the site since protests began. According to the Standing Rock Tribal Chair David Archambault, “It is both unfortunate and disrespectful that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving—a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe… Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people." Read the article from CNN here.