A new survey commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future looked at voter attitudes on several key farm bill issues, including conservation programs designed to protect U.S. land, water, and food supply.
Key findings include:
•61 percent of respondents said they were opposed to reducing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.
•85 percent of respondents support increased opportunities for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers to participate in government programs.
•57 percent of respondents support increased funding to help small- and mid-sized farms.
•58 percent of respondents oppose “eliminating funding for conservation programs that help farmers and agricultural operations maintain environmental quality.”
Read more about the poll and detailed findings here.
2018 Farm Bill Status Update
Now that the House and the Senate have passed their own (very different) versions of the farm bill, they need to “conference” the two and come up with a final compromise. Members of the Ohio delegation that have been assigned to the conference committee include Representatives Bob Gibbs, Marcia Fudge, and Steve Chabot. While the Senate has not yet announced its conferees, Senator Sherrod Brown is expected to serve on the committee.
There is still time to advocate for your sustainable agriculture priorities as the bill is finalized. Find contact information here for Representatives, give them a call today, and ask them to include permanent mandatory funding for beginning farmer, local and regional food systems, and organic research, and to protect funding for working lands conservation and organic certification cost-share. Contact us at (614) 421-2022 for more information or just to share that you made that call!
If you want to dig into the weeds, check out this complete guide to the conference process from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Is the 2018 Farm Bill a Crisis of Democracy?
According to this opinion piece in The Hill by Alison Cohen of WhyHunger, the goals of the farm bill since its inception have been to “keep food prices fair for both farmers and consumers, ensure an adequate food supply, and protect and sustain the country’s natural resources.” The House version of the farm bill would increase food insecurity by weakening SNAP, which would harm working families. It would also slash support for small scale and sustainable farmers. This disconnect is an indication of the fraying social contract between the government and the people.
Farmers’ Markets Face Harvest Season Crisis
The Washington Post recently reported that Novo Dia Group, an Austin-based company that processes some 40 percent of SNAP transactions at farmers’ markets nationwide, would end its service by July 31, leaving about 1,700 of the more than 7,000 markets that offer SNAP with no way to serve low-income customers. The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) then stepped in to provide the company with funding for an additional 30 days to prevent disruption in processing SNAP benefits.
Groups across the country are still scrambling to find ways to continue to sell farmers’ market produce to individuals receiving food assistance through the end of this year. New York state Governor Mario Cuomo stepped in with a plan to ensure New York farmers’ markets would be able to process SNAP through the end of this season.
How did we get into this situation? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded the new contract that provides SNAP EBT equipment and services for farmers' markets to a company that does not support mobile, cellular-based transactions without replacement technology in place. Ohio and other states are still looking for a more permanent solution.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Provides Producer Grower Consultations
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is offering produce growers free Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved consultations to help them comply with the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety rule. Farm inspections will begin in spring 2019, but prior to inspections, ODA staff is offering voluntary consultation visits to help growers identify what steps they may need to take to comply with the Produce Safety rule before regulatory inspections begin.
This service is offered as a one-day course that provides one-on-one training, in which trained and certified ODA staff will visit farms and walk growers through what will be expected with new federal regulations on their farm. In addition to the consultation, farms will also receive resource materials that will help aid in compliance.
For more information on FSMA, the Produce Safety rule, or to schedule your on-farm consultation click here or call (614) 600-4272.
Overshooting Our Carrying Capacity
On August 1, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organization. This date is called Earth Overshoot Day—the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in that year.
According to Mathis Wackernagel, “Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet…We are borrowing the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. But as nations, companies, or households dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart.”
Kasich Signs Executive Order on Lake Erie Cleanup, OSWC Delays Implementation
On July 11, Governor Kasich signed an executive order recommending that eight watersheds in northwest Ohio be designated as “distressed” due to the phosphorous contamination leading to persistent algal blooms in Lake Erie.
The move would lead to a rules package putting in place nutrient management requirements for all farms.
Kasich also signed the Clean Lake 2020 Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Ohio Legislature and allocates $36 million for farm-related conservation measures intended to improve water quality. Following the announcement, several organizations—including the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean Association, and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation—came out in strong opposition to the plan.
The measure came before the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, at which time Kasich’s order was delayed. The OSWC Commissioners voted 4-2 to establish a subcommittee to review whether or not the eight watersheds should be designated as distressed.
Coal Mining the Dreams of Beginning Farmers
At a time when we could all use some good news, beginning farmers are a hopeful part of our future. Despite the many challenges faced by these strong individuals, they put their lives into providing food and fiber for their communities.
Beginning farmers Lauren Ketcham and Zachary Schultheis moved to Perry County in the summer of 2011 where they purchased a 12-acre farm. They were able to find land, credit, and good markets for their produce and grow their business. A coal mine in their backyard was not the kind of challenge they expected to face; especially not in a state-owned forest. But that is exactly what they, other farmers, and neighbors in the area are facing.
Read more about how the state may allow a company at the brink of bankruptcy to mine the Perry State Forest and what you can do to stop it.
Company to Explore Oil and Gas Extraction Potential in North Central Ohio
Most of Ohio’s fracking activity has occurred in the eastern and southeast parts of the state. That is changing according to a recent report by Chris Kick of Farm and Dairy. Cabot Oil and Gas company is drilling exploratory wells in Ashland and Richland counties with the footprint expanding to surrounding counties. While prior attempts to drill in north central Ohio were not productive, Cabot feels that deeper drilling will yield more.
This has the potential to expand the fracking footprint across a wider range of the state, bringing with it greater potential for accidents and impacts to Ohio agriculture.
The Food and Environment Reporting Network reports on how academic findings show that bisphenol A (BPA) and other hormone-disrupting chemicals, which can contaminate foods and drinks, can contribute to early puberty, obesity, diabetes, developmental delays, and even cancer. Yet despite these findings, the agency charged with protecting the public from these food contaminants—the Food and Drug Administration—insists these chemicals are safe.
The reporter, Lindsey Konkel, finds this is likely due to the Food and Drug Administration utilizing studies conducted by chemical manufacturers. While there was a move to use independent science when reviewing these chemicals, important toxicity studies are being ignored because academic science is focused on discovery, not the regulatory approach developed back in the 1970s. According to one of the scientists interviewed for the piece, "...if we want to take a more precautionary approach to public health, then we need to change the way we've been doing things."
Real Organic Project and Regeneration Midwest Provide New Alternatives for Farmers
The mission of the Real Organic Project is to grow people’s understanding of traditional organic values and practices, and their first goal is to create an add-on label to USDA certified organic to provide more transparency on organic farming practices. They have completed board development, drafted standards and started a pilot project.
Regeneration Midwest (RM) is a 12-state regional coalition organized to serve as the foundation for transitioning five core sectors of the food and agriculture system from the current industrial model to a regenerative model. Started in late 2018, RM is self-described as a platform for scaling up models that address the three pillars of regenerative agriculture: social, ecological, and economic regeneration.
Gene-Editing Will be Regulated in Same Way as GMOs
The European Union (EU) Court of Justice decided last month to regulate gene edited food and feed crops in the same way they do other genetically modified crops. The biotech industry proposed that products of the new generation of genetic engineering techniques be exempt from existing EU regulation for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Sustainable Pulse reported that scientists, consumer groups, farmers, and NGOs have called for products from gene editing and other new GM techniques to be regulated under existing GMO rules, as any new approach to producing food and feed crops should be fully tested and its products labelled to ensure their safety for the public and the environment.
In response to the ruling, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a statement saying in part, “Government policies should encourage scientific innovation without creating unnecessary barriers or unjustifiably stigmatizing new technologies. Unfortunately, this week’s ECJ ruling is a setback in this regard in that it narrowly considers newer genome editing methods to be within the scope of the European Union’s regressive and outdated regulations governing genetically modified organisms.”
Gruesome Symptoms of Industrial Agriculture
A very real and horrifying symptom of our global industrial agriculture and food system can be found in recent video footage from a company that supplies pork to JBS, the largest meat packing company in the world.
The footage shot at a Tennessee company shows workers smashing the heads of piglets against the ground, kicking and punching them in their faces, and more. The undercover video was shot by an animal rights non-profit Mercy for Animals; the content is disturbing and viewer discretion is advised.
This comes at a time where food consumers are demanding better treatment of animals, something many large-scale industrial meat suppliers appear unable to respond to. Shop from farmers listed in OEFFA’s Good Earth Guide or look for symbols such as the one here to know you are purchasing from suppliers that meet animal welfare standards and send an e-mail to the USDA and let them know that you believe organic should include animal welfare standards.