OEFFA Speaks to National Organic Standards Board
At the April National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting, OEFFA Grain Growers chapter member Jeff Dean spoke about the increase in suspect organic grain imports coming from Eastern Europe.
According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, “nearly three-fourths of the organic corn imported to the U.S. last year—and almost half of the soybeans—came from Turkey, which has had some of its organic shipments banned by the European Union and Canada, but not by the United States.” While farmers like Jeff do not question the need for imports, they are concerned about the integrity of those organic imports.
In his testimony, Jeff shared that “corn coming in from Turkey increased 500 percent from 2015 to 2016…most of this is certified by a questionable certifier and going through non-certified handlers…The USDA needs to take decisive action immediately.”
Jeff also addressed the problem of genetic drift. “If my cows were to get out and damage the neighbors’ crops, I would have to pay for the damage. But my crops get damaged by GMO drift and I have to pay for that too.”
OEFFA’s policy staffer Amalie Lipstreu commented to the NOSB on the need to protect organic farmers from the negative effects of the oil and gas industry. As part of an ongoing campaign for the past two years, OEFFA’s testimony relayed the damages caused by pipeline construction, fracking, injection wells, and compressor stations, as well as the opportunity to mitigate those impacts through planning and action. The NOSB requested that OEFFA and other organizations examine the Organic Foods Production Act to find statutory authority for NOSB to work on this topic.
The NOSB meets twice a year to review items on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, review issues of pressing concern to organic agriculture and make recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP).
EU Takes Steps to Tighten Oversight of East European Grain Imports
The European Union (EU) has installed a new system of electronic certification in order to monitor imports of organic products from the U.S. and other countries. According to the European Commission, this system utilizes electronic certification and enhances food safety, reduces fraud, cuts red tape for operators, and facilitates gathering statistics on organic products.
“Our commitment to stringent certification and inspection measures is an important component in the EU's food safety standards. These new rules will improve the traceability of organic products, which is an important growing market,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said in a statement.
These improvements demonstrate the EU’s leadership in traceability and integrity. Contrary to current US practice, the EU utilizes import certificates and through their new electronic system, these e-certificates will be added to the Trade Control Expert System (TRACES).
NOSB United in Message to Trump Administration and Congress
Also at the April meeting, the NOSB voted unanimously (not a frequent occurrence) to send a strong message to the Trump administration that the organic animal welfare standards should take effect without further delay. The board said the rules reflect consumer expectations about treatment of animals raised for organic meat, eggs, and dairy and are necessary to maintain the integrity of the department's organic seal.
The standards were finalized the day before Trump took office and were set to go into effect on March 20. The administration has delayed the rules until mid-May to allow for further review. According to Politico, “the regulations have come under fire from large organic egg producers for provisions requiring more indoor space and outdoor access for each hen. Producers argue that even with the years-long implementation called for in the rule, compliance costs could put them out of business.”
The reality is that this rule has been in development for more than 10 years and will level the playing field for the organic livestock and poultry farmers that currently adhere to high standards. These producers, most who already comply with the animal welfare requirements, are being undercut because of loopholes that allow a small number of large-scale producers to deny meaningful outdoor access to animals. This rule is necessary to preserve trust in the organic label.
You can help protect animal welfare AND organic integrity; learn more here.
Two Million Gallons of Drilling Fluid Spilled Into Two Ohio Wetlands
The ET Rover Pipeline had a rocky start in Ohio when approximately 2 million gallons of a non-toxic, clay-based lubricant spilled April 13 as employees drilled horizontally beneath the Tuscarawas River near Navarre in Stark County. The spill was caused by pressure during drilling that allowed mud to rise to the surface.
The very next day, 50,000 gallons of bentonite spilled in Richland County, about 70 miles northeast of Columbus, after a pump failed. According to the Detroit Free Press, the pipeline owner and builder, Energy Transfer Partners, called the "migration" of drilling mud "a common and normal component of executing directional drilling operations. Bentonite is a type of clay that is non-toxic and not harmful in any way to the environment." According to Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee, this substance can smother wildlife, fish, and invertebrates such as worms and dragonflies, and described both wetlands as floodplains.
New Bill a Boon to Homesteaders
Ohio Representative Thomas Brinkman Jr. (R-27) recently introduced House Bill 175. The bill allows residential property owners to keep backyard birds, rabbits, goats and other small livestock and prohibits local zoning authorities from regulating agricultural activities conducted on residential property for noncommercial purposes.
If enacted, the bill will give homesteaders the freedom to raise backyard livestock for eggs, meat, and milk.
Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs
Today’s farmers are changing the way we farm and eat in this country. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), folks starting out in farming today are:
From both rural and urban areas, and everywhere in between;
Conscious of their impact on the environment and interested in learning how to protect natural resources on their farms;
Pursuing new markets and selling both fresh and value-added products directly to consumers, wholesalers, restaurants, schools, and food hubs;
More likely to be female, a person of color, and/or have served in the U.S. military, and
More likely to consider diversification options, comprehensive conservation systems, and organic farming practices.
USDA recognizes the needs of farmers of all kinds, and has worked hard to improve federal resources so they work for all farmers. It has also reached out to farm organizations like NSAC to help with outreach to an increasingly diverse constituency for USDA programs. NSAC worked with USDA to produce this guide, and has also been very involved in the creation of the programs included in the guide.
This guide is for anyone who is farming—or thinking about getting into farming— whether you’re a beginner or just looking to try something new.
CAUV Reform Bill Reintroduced
For many years, the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program has resulted in lower property taxes for farmers (for example, 48 percent lower on average in 2014). However, in recent years, farmland property taxes under CAUV have risen dramatically. Many farmers have seen their real estate taxes increase by more than 100 percent. These increases are due, at least in part, to changes in some of the factors that make up the CAUV formula: crop prices, crop yields, interest (capitalization) rates, cropping patterns, and non-land production costs.
“Some farmers are seeing tax increases of more than 200 percent which presents a real threat to Ohio farms,” said OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu. “The legislature needs to ensure that providing state operating revenue does not come at the expense of family farms.”
Read an analysis of the CAUV reform bill here and contact OEFFA today to become more involved.
Court Rejects Bush Rule Exempting CAFOs from Reporting
According to Greenwire reporter Amanda Reilly, "In a win for environmentalists, a federal court today tossed a George W. Bush-era rule exempting animal feeding operations from certain pollution reporting requirements. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with green groups that lawmakers never intended to give U.S. EPA the authority to exclude those operations.”
Congress didn't "give the agency carte blanche to ignore the statute whenever it decides the reporting requirements aren't worth the trouble," Judge Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the court. The court also found that manure storage at livestock operations poses more than a "theoretical" risk to public health.
EPA adopted a 2008 rule that exempted all animal feeding operations from reporting releases of hazardous air pollution from animal waste from two separate reporting provisions.
“The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Humane Society of the United States, and other environmental groups filed the lawsuit, arguing that the rule put citizens at risk of breathing harmful ammonia and hydrogen sulfide,” according to the Greenwire report.
Kinder Morgan Pipeline Shifts Route After Wood County Judge Denies Eminent Domain Authority
Kinder Morgan’s Utopia East pipeline is being constructed to ship ethane (a byproduct from fracking) from eastern Ohio to a chemical company in Windsor, Ontario. The company appealed a previous ruling by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex, which found they did not have eminent domain authority, but last week filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, which they say is no longer needed as it has acquired a route around the properties at issue.
Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will conduct a study, funded by Kinder Morgan, of pipelines’ effect on cropland productivity. The company gave OSU $200,000 for the study. Read the full article from the Toledo Blade here.
Ohio Food Policy Network Listens to Local Food Communities
Over the past two months a team headed by Ohio State University conducted a series of listening sessions in northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest Ohio, as well as the February OEFFA conference in Dayton, to connect the visions, values, activities, needs, and priorities of Ohio’s key food system members and organizations.
The feedback will be used to summarize process, outcomes, and findings of all stakeholder meetings and create a visualization of the people, organizations, shared values, and shared activities to inform future collaborative work and be used to create a local food system “roadmap” to identify current projects while defining a research agenda to support ongoing work.
Dow Lobbies Big in First Quarter
Dow Chemical spent more than $5 million dollars on lobbying from January 2017 through March 2017. Advocates of sustainable agriculture may ask what influence that will have, especially in light of a pending merger with DuPont.
No doubt the lobbying investment is already paying dividends. Dow used the money to encourage federal agencies to ditch studies showing that their organophosphate pesticides would be harmful to endangered species and weighed in on a review for a controversial chemical, chlorpyrifos. At the end of the record spending quarter, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition, requesting that the agency ban the use of the chlorpyrifos in the US. Previous reports indicated that the EPA will likely move forward with the ban on this substance that can be neurotoxic to children.