A Tale of Two Visions
In June, we told you about the deeply flawed House version of the farm bill that failed. On June 22, the House tried for a second time and succeeded in passing their vision for food and agriculture policy for the next five years, one which did not make the necessary investments in local and regional food systems, beginning farmer support, or organic agriculture. The measure passed by a slim two vote margin.
In the last few days of the month, the Senate passed their version of the farm bill. In stark contrast to the House bill, the Senate included mandatory permanent funding for beginning farmers, local and regional food systems, and organic research. The Senate bill also closes loopholes in commodity subsidies. How the two chambers of Congress bring these divergent bills together remains to be seen, but there is still time to weigh in and let your representatives know you want to be included in the final farm bill. If you have questions or need help contacting your legislators, give us a call!
Ohio Bill Would Relax Wind Setbacks and Clean Energy Standards
On June 27, the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered House Bill 114 which, if enacted, would weaken standards associated with renewable energy and ease wind turbine regulations. The bill would make renewable energy standards nearly voluntary, resulting in higher emissions and diminished air quality.
Planning for renewable energy has been difficult, if not impossible, for industry given the state’s on again, off again approach. According to renewable energy advocates, HB 114 is a step backward. Easing of wind setbacks could provide a potential benefit of $4 billion in economic development, but some are concerned about noise pollution. Any version of the Senate bill would likely face opposition from members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Governor John Kasich as he has vetoed similar bills.
National Organic Coalition Joins Center for Food Safety Lawsuit
OEFFA is a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers, and industry members involved in organic agriculture. NOC joined with the Center for Food Safety and other organizations in a lawsuit to challenge withdrawal of the organic regulations for animals on certified organic farms, called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule.
According to NOC Executive Director Abby Youngblood, “NOC is joining this lawsuit to protect the integrity of the organic seal. The new rules represent more than a decade of work to clarify and improve animal welfare standards in organic and have the support of thousands of stakeholders, including farmers, consumer advocacy groups, and other members of the organic industry. Consumer trust in the label is vital and assures the success of the organic seal in the marketplace. Failing to enact these new rules puts consumer trust in jeopardy.”
Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees
Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has filed six patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides, and pollinate plants.
To track pests, Walmart describes using machine vision to monitor damage to crops as well as spot and identify the pests themselves. To prevent damage, the drones could shoot targeted sprays of pesticide or simply fly by to shoo off birds. Noting "chemical spraying of crops is expensive and may not be looked upon favorably by some consumers,” the patent indicates drones could spray pesticides across a more targeted set of crops. Additionally, they note that pollination drones could help offset the loss of bee populations by carrying pollen from one plant to another, and using sensors to verify the transfer was successful.
Study Finds Health Threats Posed by Oil and Gas Wastewater Sprayed on Roads
A new study raises questions about using oil and gas waste on roads. This is an issue we first brought to your attention in May as the Ohio House considered HB 393, a bill that would classify wastewater from oil and gas operations as a “commodity,” allowing it to be sold for use in deicing and dust suppression. This new study highlights why regulators should test whether the practice is causing water quality problems near treated roads.
Avner Vengosh, a Duke professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said the study's lessons are clear. "It's basically releasing a very toxic material into the environment," said Vengosh, who has studied the effects of oil and gas wastewater treatment on rivers and streams. You can find the study here.
Ohioans Garners International Spotlight on Fracking and Human Rights
For years, Ohioans and others from across the world have been telling the public and their governments why fracking must stop due to an alarming, increasing number of adverse impacts to public health, safety, and human rights. Now, these grassroots advocates have reached an international audience.
According to the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) preliminary statement:
"The evidence clearly demonstrates that the processes of fracking contribute substantially to anthropogenic harm, including climate change and global warming, and involve massive violations of a range of substantive and procedural human rights and the rights of nature. Thus the industry has failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations. The evidence also shows that governments have, in general, failed in their responsibility to regulate the industry so as to protect people, communities, and nature."
Ohioans achieved international attention on human rights violations and fracking by joining efforts with others across America and the world with similar grievances.
According to Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Environmental Network, "Every day the amount of evidence increases which shows that fracking and related processes cause unacceptable impacts to human rights and public health and safety. It must stop now. The heavy industrial operations are frequently alarmingly near family homes. State governments are failing to protect the health and safety of their residents." Written and video evidence and testimony from the two local pre-Tribunals was shared with the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal and will be considered by PPT human rights judges for their final report.
You can view video testimony of the pre-Tribunals held in Youngstown and Athens here. The next step will be the issuance of the final report by the PPT judges in the fall of 2018.
DUNS and SAM Numbers No Longer Needed
The rule requiring producers to obtain Data Universal Number System (DUNS) and System for Award Management (SAM) numbers to participate in USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs has been eliminated. Prior to this rule change in the 2018 Omnibus spending bill, DUNS and SAM numbers were required for any federal contract application. Now, DUNS and SAM registration are only required for agreements through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, the Agricultural Land Easement, the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program, the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, and federal contracts used by NRCS to procure goods or services.
Cornucopia Releases Comprehensive Report Documenting Suspicious Organic Grain Import
The Cornucopia Institute’s report details how a small number of multi-billion dollar agribusinesses came to dominate the U.S. organic grain industry due to the failure of the USDA’s National Organic Program to curb imports of questionable organic grains.
The U.S. became a dumping ground for imports of fraudulent organic corn, soybeans, and other commodities after the European Union cracked down on abuses originating in former Soviet countries including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Russia.
What makes this particularly problematic is that imports now make up the majority of feed grains fed to domestic certified organic livestock, according to the report. In 2014, the U.S. imported 14,000 metric tons of organic soybeans from Turkey. That number skyrocketed to 165,000 metric tons in 2016. Organic corn imports from Turkey increased more dramatically, going from 15,000 metric tons in 2014 to more than 399,000 by 2016. Read the report here.