Rural Development Threatened
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including a proposal to eliminate Rural Development (RD) as a core mission area. Officials claim this would “elevate” RD to the top of the USDA, but it actually does just the opposite.
Eliminating RD as a mission area—and eliminating the RD undersecretary position with it—leaves rural communities (and the great work being done around food and farms within them!) without a champion in USDA’s leadership. It also is an assault on a core function of USDA and communities that count on RD to catalyze rural entrepreneurship, community infrastructure, and investments in farmers and local and regional food systems.
If you care about the vitality of rural communities call Senator Sherrod Brown today at (202) 224-2315 (if you live outside of Ohio, click here to find your Senator and his/her phone number). Let him know that you are a constituent and a voter. Tell him you oppose the USDA's plan to eliminate the Rural Development mission area and undersecretary. The decision will have major negative impacts on rural communities in Ohio and beyond. Ask him to do whatever he can to stop the proposal from moving forward.
Global Seed Network Established
A free, peer-to-peer online network for people to share rare and heirloom seeds is now available. The goal of the Center for Food Safety’s new Global Seed Network is to empower farmers and home gardeners to sustain diverse seed and plant varieties in the face of corporate control of the food supply and a changing climate.
Most of the seeds in the U.S. are controlled by a handful of chemical corporations—including Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, DuPont, and Syngenta—who now own more than 60 percent of the world’s seed supply. These companies are pursuing corporate mergers. If successful, the seed and chemical monopoly will be even more concentrated and powerful and the need to protect seed diversity will be more critical.
Take a Cincinnati Farm Stand to Protect Pollinators
It is well documented that neonicotinoid pesticides widely used in food production are putting our pollinators in danger. Yet efforts to stop the use of “neonics” have been stalled. By telling our grocery stores to stop selling food grown with pesticides that kill bees and other pollinators, we can bring about much needed change.
OEFFA is partnering with Friends of the Earth to ask Kroger, the second largest retailer in the U.S., to:
Kroger's shareholder meeting is coming up soon and Friends of the Earth is organizing an action that the shareholders can’t miss, drawing media attention to Kroger’s lack of a commitment while delivering countless voices to the company’s top executives. Join us in protecting our pollinators on Thursday, June 22 at 10 a.m. at The School for Creative and Performing Arts, 108 W. Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Organic Agriculture Research Act Introduced
Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and several other members of Congress recently introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act to increase support for organic agriculture. The bill increases funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) from $20 million to $50 million annually, as well as extending the program’s authorization to 2023. OREI is a program that funds research, education, and extension projects for organic growers and processors.
Investments in organic agriculture benefit all farmers and currently we have more demand for organic food than we can supply in the United States. Let’s keep the economic and environmental benefits of organic agriculture here in the U.S. by addressing the production challenges organic farmers face.
Groups Sue the FDA Over Food Additives
The Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and other environmental groups are addressing a controversy surrounding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of food additives. They believe the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) rule—which allows the industry to self-determine the safety of new chemicals used in food production—is unconstitutional and illegal, falls short of consumer expectations, and runs afoul of Congress' intent. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Read more.
GMO Labeling…Yes, We’re Still Waiting
According to recent reports, the USDA will “try” to follow the congressionally-mandated schedule to create a plan, by July 2018, for the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. The Trump administration is reportedly working with the food industry, in an effort to save them money by combining the revamping of the standard nutrition facts label and labeling for sodium and fiber with GMO labeling.
Censoring the Facts
Cartoonist Rick Friday worked for Farm News in Iowa for more than 20 years when he got an email that his services were no longer needed.
The notice came a day after this illustration of profits in modern farming. Friday’s editor said a seed dealer pulled their advertisements with Farm News as a result of the cartoon.
What does that say for the concept of a free press? Read more of this story at the Waking Times.
Food Safety Update: Produce GAP Harmonization
USDA recently updated the produce Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Harmonized Food Safety Standards for field operations, harvesting, and post-harvest operations. This will bring the USDA food safety audit checklists in line with the newly released Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiatives Standards.
The Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative develops food safety GAPs standards and audit checklists for pre-harvest and post-harvest produce operations. The Agricultural Marketing Service provides voluntary GAPs audit services to the specialty crops industry, which verifies that fresh fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.
The revised checklists took effect on May 1. More information on the checklists and the USDA Produce GAPs Harmonized program are available here.
Increased Infant Mortality Linked to Frack Water
Christopher Busby and Joseph Mangano examined early infant deaths 0-28 days before and after the drilling of fracking wells in 10 of the most heavily fracked counties in Pennsylvania. What they found was that, for the state as whole, infant deaths decreased 2.5 percent. In the 10 counties being studied, however, there was a significant increase in infant mortality.
According to the authors: "About 50 more babies died in these 10 counties than would have been predicted if the rate had been the same over the period as all of Pennsylvania, where the incidence rate fell over the same period."
While correlation is not causation, the authors believe the results support the suggestion that the vector for the effect is exposure to drinking water from private wells. Read the full study here.
Last Chance to Comment on Organic Animal Welfare Rule
The USDA is considering indefinitely delaying or even withdrawing the new organic animal welfare rule. We can’t let that happen. These new rules are critical to preserving trust in the organic label. The new standards level the playing field and eliminate loopholes that are being used by only a few producers to deny meaningful outdoor access to animals.
There are still a few days for you to send the USDA a strong and clear message: The organic animal welfare rule—also known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule—should become effective without further delay. The USDA has already delayed the rule until November 14. Tell the USDA NOT to abandon this important rule after years of effort and widespread support from organic farmers and the organic community.
You can comment to the USDA here and enter docket #AMS-NOP-17-0031; NOP-15-06A.
Here are a few helpful talking points to use as you introduce yourself and your take on these important rules.
The deadline for comments is June 9!