Farm Policy Matters
Monthly News Bulletin
The Federal Reserve Talks Regional Food Systems
The Federal Reserve Board of Governors, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) agencies of Rural Development and the Agricultural Marketing Service, has released Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities. It’s a compilation of research, essays, and reports that explore the potential for the growing popularity of locally sourced food to be harnessed to boost economic opportunities for rural and urban communities.
Contributors include experts from the USDA, financial institutions, universities, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and more. The book covers topics such as:
Opportunities in the regional food systems sector,
How to advance efforts to provide meaningful earnings and job opportunities for low and moderate income households and communities,
The vital partnerships that are key for deploying knowledge and capital to support the sector’s continued growth,
Examples of communities who have used regional food strategies to advance economic and social goals, and
Models of collaboration between policymakers, practitioners, and the financial community.
In addition to exploring how the development of regional food systems can contribute direct economic benefits, the book also shows how improved access to healthier foods can boost community health and lead to a more productive workforce.
Fraudulent Organic Imports Lead to Crack Down
The Organic and Non-GMO Report wrote last month on steps by the organic industry to crack down on fraudulent grain imports. While many within the industry have been concerned about the dramatic increases in grain imports from Eastern Europe being sold as organic, reporting by the Washington Post documented fraudulent shipments of organic corn and soybeans from Turkey and Ukraine.
The report cites John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing and 2018 OEFFA conference speaker, who stated “…40 to 50 percent of organic corn and 70 to 90 percent of organic soybeans used in the U.S. are now imported.” The losses to U.S. organic farmers are estimated to be in the range of $250-410 million.
The report details actions by the Organic Trade Association and certifiers to rectify the problem and highlights the importance of growing the domestic supply of organic grains.
Dicamba-Drift Soybean Damage Grows
The number of soybean acres across the country estimated to have been harmed by the herbicide dicamba increased from about 2.5 million to more than 3 million, as of August 10. Official dicamba-related cases currently being investigated by departments of agriculture in 17 states across the south and Midwest are also increasing.
It is unclear what to do about the problem but some groups are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to delist the herbicide. Monsanto and BASF both manufacture dicamba and are pointing to misuse by farmers and factors other than the increased volatilization of the product. Arkansas instituted a ban on dicamba and while Missouri (home to the corporate headquarters for Monsanto) had a ban in place it has already been lifted. Some extension agents predict that more growers will start using Monsanto’s new dicamba resistant soybeans to avoid the damage. This will likely put increased pressure on non-GE, organic, and specialty crop producers.
Local Seed Laws Illegal in 29 States
According to the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, 29 states now have laws on the book that are designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. This is part of the packages of legislation prepared by the American Legislative Council (ALEC) and industrial agriculture interests similar to the “ag-gag” and “right to farm” laws that make it easier to evade reporting of animal welfare complaints. ALEC’s corporate members include the Koch brothers as well as some of the largest seed-chemical companies—Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont.
While proponents feel that localities don’t have the scientific knowledge needed to develop these laws, critics—including organic and conventional farmers and some independent seed companies—are afraid of losing their rights. According to Kiki Hubbard, policy director of the Organic Seed Alliance, “There is no looming threat that warrants forfeiting the independence of local agricultural communities in the form of sweeping language that eliminates all local authority governing one of our most valuable national resources.”
These bills would also prohibit a community’s ability to ban neonicotinoids— a class of pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder in bees.
Ohio passed a seed and pesticide preemption bill under the Taft administration.
An Informed Take on FSMA’s Water Testing Requirements
Many farmers are very concerned about the water testing requirements that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. While the FDA has said that they will take another look at what they had initially proposed for this complex rule, it has caused much heartburn in the agricultural community. This article from Food Safety Magazine provides an in-depth analysis of what FDA originally proposed and provides some alternate suggestions.
Free Food Safety Course for Artisan Cheesemakers
North Carolina State University recently turned a cheese food safety workshop into an online course. Food Safety for Artisan Cheesemakers will be offered at no cost until the end of the year by using the code INTRO-FREE. Click here to enroll.
The course was designed to help artisan and farmstead cheesemakers to develop and refine their food safety programs to protect consumers and comply with food safety regulations. It provides cheesemakers with knowledge of basic food safety concepts and introduces a number of best practices and preventive controls. The class was developed at North Carolina State University, in collaboration with food safety and cheese experts from the University of Connecticut, the Center for Dairy Research, Cornell University, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and artisan cheesemakers.
Federal Court Rules in Favor of the Environment
Last month environmentalists won a major victory when a three judge panel rejected the decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the 700-mile long Southeast Market Pipelines Project. The court found that the agency had not properly considered the effects of climate change. The Sierra Club brought suit against FERC in 2016 and feels that this decision provides precedent for blocking other pipeline projects based on a lack of climate change analysis on the effects of burning fossil fuels. The court found that climate impacts and alternatives must be evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act. The hope is that this will slow the rubber stamping of other pipeline projects across the country.
Take Part in Crop Insurance Survey
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) wants to know what farmers think about crop insurance. The last Farm Bill increased crop insurance access for organic, diversified, and specialty crop farmers but few eligible farmers have signed up for coverage.
While farmers are asked to complete many surveys, this information will be very helpful in providing important information to help with risk management. Please take the 20- 30 minutes to complete this confidential, anonymous survey (on any computer, smart phone, or other mobile device) and open to anyone farming commercially in the U.S.
A $20 honorarium is offered to the initial group of respondents. (Honorarium funds are limited.) Please take the survey here and share the link with all who may be interested. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Value-Added Producer Grant Applications Are Out!
On August 28, the USDA announced the availability of at least $18 million in funding through the competitive Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Administered by USDA Rural Development, the VAPG program provides competitive grants to producers for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and for marketing efforts to establish viable value-added businesses. Up to $75,000 is available for planning grants and up to $250,000 is available for implementation grants.
The deadline to submit paper applications is January 31, 2018, while the deadline to submit electronic applications is January 24, 2018. Electronic applications must be submitted through grants.gov.
Individual and groups of producers, as well as farmer coops and producer-controlled businesses, are eligible to apply for these grants, which help to increase income and marketing opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers, along with fishermen, loggers, and other harvesters of agricultural commodities.
USDA has created a “toolkit” for applicants, which include an application checklist, templates, required grant forms, and instructions (this can be found under the “Forms and Resources” tab).
You can find the notice here. The USDA Rural Development officer charged with the VAPG program is Deb Rausch. She will be hosting a VAPG session at Farm Science Review this year at the Small Farm Center Programs (corner of Beef St. and Corn Ave.) on September 19 at 10:30 a.m. For more information, contact Deb at (614) 255-2425.