Farm Policy Matters
Monthly News Bulletin
OSU Releases Food and Agriculture Economic Study
A report from a team of agricultural economists at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University looks at trends in Ohio’s agricultural and food production sectors based on 2015 data.
Farm incomes have steadily improved, increasing an average of 2.2 percent each year since 2005.
Ohio’s agricultural and food production cluster employed 402,874 (one out of every eight) Ohioans in 2015 and contributed $33 billion (5.3 percent) to Ohio’s gross state product.
Since 1994, Ohio’s farm input sector employment has declined by 23.5 percent, agricultural production employment has declined by 38 percent, and food processing and food wholesaling/retailing jobs have decreased by 16.9 percent and 47.1 percent, respectively.
The food-processing sector in Ohio has seen a continuous decline since 2005.
The picture mirrors what is happening in other farm states across the country. Efforts to increase farm productivity have been successful and correlate with lower commodity prices, fewer farmers on the landscape, and fewer food and agriculture related employment opportunities.
Big Players Spent Big Money Influencing Agriculture in 2017
Lobbying disclosures show that the Big Ag lobbying expenditures remained about the same in 2017 compared to 2016. Monsanto spent $4.34 million in 2017, slightly down from $4.6 million the year before, but the American Farm Bureau Federation increased the amount it spent to more than $4 million in 2017, up from nearly $3.8 million the year before. CropLife America spent $2.7 million in 2017, up from $2.4 million in 2016.
Enrollment Begins in March for New Insurance Program for Diversified Farms
Whole-Farm Revenue Protection provides a risk management safety net for all commodities on the farm under one insurance policy and is available in all counties nationwide. This insurance plan is tailored for any farm with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities (both crops and livestock), or those marketing to local, regional, farm-identity preserved, specialty, or direct markets.
OEFFA Staff Talks Farm Bill with Ohio Members of Congress
OEFFA’s Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu traveled to Washington, DC in January as part of a winter meeting and fly-in for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. OEFFA votes on the annual policy priorities for the coalition as a represented member. Amalie also met with staffers for Senator Brown and Representatives Stivers, Joyce, Gibbs, and Fudge, to discuss member priorities for the upcoming farm bill.
If you are in one of the districts (click here if you’re not sure) listed above, or would like to contact Sherrod Brown’s office to reinforce priorities around local and regional food systems, conservation, organics, modernizing the crop insurance program, or beginning farmer programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org today!
OEFFA Members Show Support for Local and Regional Foods in Farm Bill
More than 250 members and supporters have signed an online petition in support of Senator Brown’s Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act.
This legislation advocates for continued investments in local and regional food systems that create jobs, improves farm viability and community health, funds the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program that helps offset the annual costs of organic certification, pilots a produce prescription program, and much more.
Show your support for these important programs that will all go away at the end September unless our members of Congress see overwhelming support. Sign the Local FARMS Act petition today!
Hearing on Bill to Allow Livestock on Small Parcels
Ohio House Bill 175 was introduced by Representative Brinkman (R-District 27) in 2017 and a hearing on the bill was held in late January.
The bill would set parameters for keeping small livestock on residential property and prohibit county and township zoning authorities from regulating certain agricultural activities conducted on residential property for noncommercial purposes. In cases where local zoning already deals with residential small livestock for noncommercial purposes, the legislation allows local units of government to be less restrictive but no more restrictive in terms of the number of animals being kept. See the legislative summary and follow the bill here.
USDA Still Light on Leadership
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is still operating without a full crew of leadership. There have been no nominees for five of the seven undersecretary posts, each of whom directs one of USDA’s operational arms, such as food safety or public nutrition. According to Partnership for Public Service, there are 14 jobs at USDA that are filled by presidential appointment, starting with Secretary Perdue and running through the USDA’s chief lawyer and its chief financial officer. The Senate has confirmed nominees to four of those jobs. Two nominees are awaiting Senate confirmation.
Feds Put a Halt to ET Rover Pipeline Construction
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wrote in a letter to Energy Transfer Partners on January 24 that the company should cease drilling under the Tuscarawas River until assurances can be made that additional drilling fluid is not released.
Before the company resumes construction, they must provide detailed information to assure FERC that they have a plan to address “expected drilling fluid losses,” provide a feasibility analysis of the technique they will use for one of the river crossings, conduct a feasibility analysis of alternate crossing locations, and provide additional technical information.
NEXUS Pipeline Project to Utilize Organic Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans
In a meeting between OEFFA staff, consultants, and Nexus staff, the company provided assurances that they will utilize an organic agriculture impact mitigation plan with all certified organic farms and those that are in transition to organic. In order for these measures, which work to protect the integrity and certification of organic farms, to be put in place, the farm needs to notify the company of their organic status prior to, or within 60 days, of signing an easement.
This has presented challenges for organic operators renting land. They may be unaware of the pending pipeline or easement agreement until construction begins. If you suspect this may apply to your farm, contact OEFFA today.
New Study Assesses Fracking Impacts on Quality of Life in Ohio Counties
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Rochester assessed how residents of Ohio’s Guernsey and Noble counties are impacted by fracking activities. Residents reported psychological stress, social stress, and quality of life impacts on the environment, physical health, and traffic.
Residents living near fracking development were more anxious about the uncertainties of fracking, frustrated by interactions with oil and gas industry officials, stressed about noise or light pollution, and, in some instances, facing the possibility of moving from the region. Read the peer-reviewed publication here.
Ohio House Holds Hearings on Legislation that Would Create a Market for Frack Waste
House Bill 393, introduced by Representatives Devitis (R-District 36) and O’Brien (D-District 64) would authorize the sale of “brine” from oil or gas operations as a commodity for use in activities such as deicing, snow, and dust control.
Currently, this frack waste substance cannot be disposed of without a permit. According to the bill analysis, “free oil, contaminants, and dissolved organic compounds” would be removed. However, since the byproducts of fracking include trade secret protected chemicals and radioactive compounds, the purification of these byproducts is highly questionable and the use of brine could have negative effects on soil quality, food production, and the organic status of certified farms.
National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Comes to Cincinnati
The 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference April 25-27 will provide skill-building workshops, inspiring field trips, engaging speakers, and great local food while making connections with farm to cafeteria advocates from across the country. This event is the top national training and networking event for farm to cafeteria professionals working to improve community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide.
Register by March 9 for their early bird rates and before registration closes April 9! To be considered for a scholarship, apply by February 12.
Increasing Damage from Dicamba Results in New Use Requirements
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is requiring revised labels and new training for applicators who intend to use dicamba herbicide products this year. Some of the ODA’s new restrictions include:
Only licensed applicators can purchase these “restricted use” products;
Applicators must complete dicamba-specific training;
Increased record-keeping requirements;
Wind speed restrictions;
Temperature inversion restrictions;
Sensitive/susceptible crop consultation; and
Spray system equipment clean-out.
Fracking Pollutes Water in Pennsylvania, Residents Required to Keep Quiet
The Public Herald details how the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection failed to protect public drinking water supplies from fracking contamination. After contamination was found and proven, homeowners received minimal monetary compensation and, importantly, were required to keep quiet about what had happened.
The use of non-disclosure agreements in Pennsylvania, and perhaps other areas, means that we do not know how many families living in close proximity to fracking have, according to the report, “traded their freedom of speech for money over contaminated water.”
39th OEFFA Conference Filled with Policy Offerings
Are you interested in food and farm policy? OEFFA’s 2018 conference, A Taste for Change, February 15-17 in Dayton, has a full workshop track dedicated to policy sessions. Join us to:
Learn more about policies and programs available to support beginning farmers;
Hear from farmers about common sense ways we can improve crop insurance risk management for all farmers;
Discuss ways to improve and protect the National Organic Program;
Learn more about the Ohio food policy landscape and the efforts of the Ohio Food Policy Network;
Delve into the environmental and health implications of fracking; and
Engage in a discussion with keynote speaker Stacy Malkan about how we can make a difference in the food fight for clear and transparent information.
Online conference registration is now closed, but walk-in registration is available. Learn more here.