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Farm Policy Matters
Monthly News Bulletin
October 2017
    
New CAUV Reform Law Takes Effect
With tax bills rising by as much as 300 percent, many farm groups have been active over the past few years trying to offset the large increases in taxes on Ohio farmland.  That relief may come over the next several years.
    
The Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) is a program that taxes farmland at a rate that reflects land value for agricultural purposes instead of its value as development property. CAUV has worked to reduce farmers’ tax burdens and keep farmland in production; however, changes in the farm economy and the structure of the formula used to calculate tax rates has caused rapid tax increases over the past few years.
   
It is estimated landowners will see an average of 30 percent savings beginning with the 2017 reassessments, with full savings realized after six years. Read a FAQ at Farm and Dairy to learn more.

Want a Better Understanding of the Legislative Process? Look No Further
POLITICO, a global news and information company that provides non-partisan reporting on politics and policy, recently released a very useful and easy-to-read guide on the legislative process.
   
The guide breaks down each step of the legislative process in the House and Senate, the steps that can result in changes to legislation before it becomes law, and how the two houses resolve legislative differences. It also talks about the differences between the House and Senate leadership and power.  Download the guide here.
  
Each state usually has at least some basic information on their legislative process as well.  Here is an overview of how a bill becomes a law in the Ohio legislature. Click on the guidebook link for more information. 
  
While it’s great to read and learn more about how things work, it is equally important to put that knowledge into action. Contact OEFFA today if you are interested in protecting organic agriculture, growing local food systems, supporting farm conservation, and creating a level playing field for small to mid-scale farmers.
  
Protect Your Community from Fracking Impacts
We often hear about how regulation gets in the way of business, but that certainly has not been the case with fracking. This industry is not subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund Program.
   
This means that it’s up to citizens to monitor the impacts of this industry in their communities. The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project recently released a Citizen Science Toolkit so that people can take steps toward protecting family and neighbors from the potential harms associated with fracking. Download the toolkit here.
   
New Eco Labels Coming Soon
Organic Valley and Maple Hill Organic recently announced a new Grass-Fed Dairy Standard for grass-fed dairy products that will carry their label. The standard calls for animals to be raised with maximum access to pasture and for the health of the animal to be a priority, with the goal of reducing fraudulent grass-fed claims in the marketplace.
   
This new third-party certification system will prohibit farmers from feeding their livestock grain and the standard has to be followed for 90 days before the milk will be accepted. We don’t yet know what the label will look like but will keep you posted on any updates.
   
The new Regenerative Organic Certification is a cooperative effort among a coalition of farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, scientists, and brands, led by Rodale Institute, to establish a new, high-bar standard for regenerative organic agriculture. The standard encompasses guidelines for soil health and land management, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness. 
   
According to the Rodale Institute, the label will not replace the organic standards or label but build onto it, particularly in the areas of animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness. Review and comment on the Regenerative Organic standards here.
   
Produce Rule Water Quality Standards May Be Postponed
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years (for produce other than sprouts).  According to the FDA, this action will ensure that the new water standards are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country, while protecting public health.
   
The new agricultural water compliance date the FDA is proposing for the largest farms is January 26, 2022. Small farms would have until January 26, 2023 and very small farms until January 26, 2024.
  
Further, the notice states that FDA will not take action to enforce the agricultural water requirements for produce—other than sprouts—while the rulemaking is underway. Sprouts, because of their unique vulnerability to contamination, remain subject to applicable agricultural water requirements in the final rule and their original compliance dates. The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days. If you are concerned about needing additional time to comply with the new water standards that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, you can learn more and comment on the proposed extension here.

Farmers Realize Multiple Benefits from Cover Crops
Respondents to a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) farmer survey said that using cover crops resulted in increased yields of corn, soybeans and wheat, and improved control of herbicide-resistant weeds.  Findings include:

In the most recent survey, farmers said they committed an average of 400 acres each to cover crops in 2016, up from 217 acres per farm in 2012. They expected to increase their cover crop planting in 2017 to an average of 451 acres. Read the full report here.

Help for Farmer Grant Applications   
Each year, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition releases a farmers’ guide to the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program to help producers understand the complex application process. The 2017 guide is now available in plenty of time for submitting a grant. 

VAPG provides grants—awarded to farmers, groups of farmers, farmer controlled organizations, and cooperatives—to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses. For working capital projects requesting less than $50,000, there is a simplified grant application.

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. Download the 2017 Farmers’ Guide to the VAPG program here and call OEFFA at (614) 421-2022 if you have questions.
    
National Organic Standards Board Releases Fall Meeting Materials
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) advises the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) on policies and materials, and holds public meetings twice each year at different locations across the country.  The NOSB’s fall meeting is October 31-November 2, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. 
  
This is an important opportunity to share feedback that will continue forward progress in the NOP and maintain the integrity of food with the organic seal.  You can submit comments in writing, by phone during a pre-meeting webinar on October 24, and during the in-person meeting on October 31 and November 1.  A variety of important topics will be discussed at the upcoming meeting. Find out what is on the agenda and how to submit comments here. OEFFA staff is available to help submit comments as well. Call Julia Barton at (614) 359-3180 for more information.
  
Are QR Codes Good Enough?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published the results of a study to assess whether consumers can access information about the genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in food when it is provided only through an electronic or digital link by assessing the availability of wireless networks, as well as the availability of landline telephones in stores, the challenges faced by small and rural retailers and their efforts to overcome those challenges, and the costs and benefits of installing in-store electronic or digital link scanners.
  
The study finds that the use of QR codes poses many challenges for retailers and technological and accessibility problems could prevent the public from accessing the information on GE ingredients. According to the results, the public is likely to have trouble in the following areas:
The picture here depicts the type of QR code that is being considered as a way to convey information about GE ingredients in food. 
   
The 2016 federal GE labeling law requires GE ingredients to be disclosed and that USDA finalize the standards for that disclosure by July 2018. OEFFA has consistently called for clear on-package text to notify shoppers when there is a presence of GE ingredients.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd., Columbus OH 43214
(614) 421-2022 | policy.oeffa.org

 

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