Farm Policy Matters
Monthly News Bulletin
OEFFA Represents Members in Jacksonville: Protecting Organic Integrity
OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator Julia Barton spoke to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at their fall meeting in Jacksonville, Florida.
OEFFA asked the NOSB to begin addressing the impacts of the fracking industry on organic farms. The board decided to begin looking at fracking through a discussion document. OEFFA will continue to work with affected farmers, our partners, and the board to ensure that protections are put in place for farmers.
OEFFA also asked for clarity on the issue of hydroponic fruits and vegetables being able to be certified as organic. In the absence of standards, OEFFA has not certified hydroponic operations, and because of the standard’s emphasis on soil health, it is questionable whether these products can even meet the criteria outlined in the organic law. The NOSB was not able to pass a resolution prohibiting hydroponics in organic at the meeting. While some view this as tacit acceptance, there remain no standards in place for certification.
OEFFA Represents Members in D.C.: Advocating for Conservation and Organics
Farmer Dean McIlvane joined OEFFA policy coordinator Amalie Lipstreu at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s 2018 Farm Bill fly-in.
Dean and Amalie spent a full day on Capitol Hill speaking with members of Congress and their staff about the importance of conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP).
During six meetings, Dean shared an organic farmer's viewpoint on what the next Farm Bill should include, and OEFFA made good progress in promoting sustainable agriculture. Many thanks to Dean and NSAC for their work!
Dicamba Damage Exceeds 3 Million Acres, EPA Sets New Standards for Use
Kevin Bradley with the University of Missouri compiled a list of reported Dicamba complaints and found that 3.6 million acres of soybeans were damaged. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only one in five cases were reported to state agricultural departments. There were also more than 2,700 injury complaints. AG WEB reported the story which included the following maps showing the damages and complaints by state.
As a result, the EPA outlined new parameters for the use of Dicamba, classifying it as a “restricted use pesticide.” The classification means that it can now be applied only by certified applicators and cannot be applied when winds are more than 10 miles per hour. Despite the new use restrictions, some experts do not believe better training for applicators will solve the problem. A trainer with direct experience in Arkansas and Georgia said that both states offered robust training programs, but Arkansas had nearly 1,000 complaints, while Georgia had none.
|Soybean Acreage Damage
© Kevin Bradley
List Your Farm in the Ohio Sensitive Crop Registry
Organic and specialty crop farmers are increasingly experiencing pesticide drift. The Ohio Sensitive Crop Registry (OSCR) is a free and voluntary online tool for beekeepers and growers of specialty crops to securely share their contact information and locations with pesticide applicators.
OSCR is a simple tool designed to show applicators where these sensitive locations are, so caution can be taken around these areas and so beekeepers can be contacted before spraying. New users can create an account through the OSCR website; they will then have access to a detailed user guide, a one-page quick start guide, and video tutorials.
This is an important tool for organic growers and beekeepers to protect their operations from pesticide drift.
Trump Administration Overturns Ban on Dangerous Pesticide
The New York Times reports that the Trump Administration has overturned a planned EPA ban of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
Chlorpyrifos originated as a nerve gas in Nazi Germany and its use has been associated with cancer, infertility, and impaired brain development in children.
In a study in the Journal of Environmental Research, the substance was found in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.
This picture illustrates areas of a child’s brain damaged by chlorpyrifos.
Senator Tester Speaks Out on GIPSA
This fall, the Trump Administration denied family farmers the ability to have standing in court if they are mistreated by large meatpacking companies. Now, if farmers wants to sue a company for retaliating against them because they complained about their contract—which could be done by sending them sick chicks or bad feed—farmers needs to show the company’s actions hurt not only them, but the entire industry.
Despite support by organizations like OEFFA, the National Farmers Union, Rural Advancement Foundation International, Farm Aid, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the Organization for Competitive Markets, large meatpacking companies seeking control of the market won the day.
Senator John Tester is a farmer in Montana and he released this video op-ed the day after the GIPSA rule, which would have leveled the playing field, was withdrawn.
Food Policy Action Releases Congressional Scorecard
While they found a few bright spots, Food Policy Action says that, overall, Congress fell short of demonstrating a strong food policy agenda.
Low points include bicameral measures to roll back basic safety protections that we all rely on in our food system, like requiring a permit for dangerous toxic chemicals and ensuring pesticides won’t harm the livelihoods of fishermen.
EWG Subsidy Database Updated
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) updated its farm subsidy database with information from 2015 and 2016. During these two years, farm subsidies cost $32.2 billion in the form of commodity supports from: programs such as Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage; premium discounts in the federal crop insurance program; conservation payments, and disaster assistance.
Commodity programs were the most expensive and paid out more than $14 billion in subsidies. Crop insurance subsidies paid out almost $12 billion. More than $3 billion was used for conservation payments and another $2 billion went to disaster assistance.
EWG proposes eliminating subsidies for wealthy operations, the top subsidy recipients. EWG said that Deline Farms Partnership, which has operations in several states including Missouri and Arkansas, was the top recipient in 2016 with $4 million in commodity subsidies.
Find EWG information on subsidy payments across the U.S. here.
Senators Ask USDA to Prohibit Electronic GMO Labels
Some Senators are urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prohibit electronic labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until internet access and scanners are in every grocery aisle.
The rules for labeling food produced with GMOs are to be finalized by July 2018, according to a law passed in 2016. Ten Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Perdue asking that he pay attention to the study conducted for the USDA, which found that most small and rural grocers do not have the technology and broadband access needed for QR code type labels.
According to Politico Pro reports, the senators urged Perdue to ban the use of electronic labeling until broadband internet access and smartphones are "near universal" and all grocery stores make QR code scanners and free Wi-Fi available. The USDA should also prohibit QR codes on glossy and other packaging that is difficult to scan, according to the letter.
Hundreds Gather to Talk Regional Food Systems in Columbus
On November 6, representatives of the more than 20 local food councils, engaged citizens, researchers, nutritionists, and others gathered to learn, network, and celebrate the work of the Ohio Food Policy Network (OFPN) over the past year.
OEFFA served on the governance committee of the OFPN, which spent the past year holding listening sessions across the state to identify values and visions for our food system. The effort, funded by the Ohio State’s Institute for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT), also mapped who is part of that network. The day was also the culmination of a project organized by OEFFA on behalf of the OFPN to map local food councils, help build their capacity, and create a platform for ongoing learning and networking.
In addition to these reports, the group heard about "Developing a National Food Policy" from Emily Broad Lieb of Harvard University Law School and "Examples of Networks in Action in the State of Michigan" by Professor Mike Hamm of Michigan State University.
Poison Papers Project Uncovers Industry Knowledge of Chemical Hazards
The Poison Papers Project works to document the hidden history of chemical and pesticide hazards in the United States. According to the project website, “…the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment.”
Decades before the herbicide 2,4,5-T was pulled from the U.S. market for containing dioxins, global chemical giants Dow, BASF, Monsanto, and others, had extensive discussions about whether to sell dioxin-contaminated chemicals. These discussions ranged from chemical analysis of each other's products to comments on their safety and whether to inform governments that their products contained contaminants of "extraordinary danger."
Farmers Needed to Speak Out Against Industry Consolidation
If you are a farmer concerned about what the increasing consolidation in the food and agricultural industry means for your profitability, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) has made it easy for you to contact the Department of Justice's antitrust division and ask them to reject another mega-merger between Monsanto and Bayer. The Dow and DuPont merger already went through but there is still time to act before the latest wave of consolidation is approved.
New Organic Management Resource Available from SARE
U.S. sales of organic products totaled $47 billion in 2016, an increase of nearly $3.7 billion from 2015. But demand for many organic staples continues to outstrip domestic supplies, despite record growth in the number of new organic operations.
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) service now has an Organic Production topic room to assist organic producers who are struggling to manage pests, fertility, and tillage in compliance with stringent organic standards.
Ohio EPA Asks Energy Transfer to Halt Drilling for Rover Pipeline
The Ohio Attorney General was already suing Energy Transfer Partners for $2.3 million due to previous environmental violations when 200 gallons of slurry spilled into a river in Ashland County on November 16. The Ohio EPA has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene and has requested the company cease all horizontal drilling activity in connection with the pipeline.