Congress has 11 days of joint work time during the month of September to hammer out major differences in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. While this large piece of legislation can be hard to track, the action needed is straightforward. We need a farm bill that:
Invests in a sustainable future by permanently funding programs that support local and regional food systems, beginning farmers and farmers of color, organic and sustainable agriculture research, and healthy food incentives for families. Permanent funding is needed for the following programs, which is in line with the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill:
Local Agriculture Marketing Program, which combines and strengthens the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grant Program, Regional Food Economy Partnership Program, and Food Safety Cost-share Assistance
Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, which combines and strengthens the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and Section 2501 Program
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and National Organic Cost-Share Program
Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program
Protects our shared natural resources by preserving the nation’s largest resource conservation program on working farm and ranch lands, the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Targets support to family farmers instead of Wall Street by maintaining payment limits and closing loopholes for farm subsidies by including the actively engaged provisions adopted by the Senate.
Ensures food access and dignity for families in need by protecting the SNAP program from cuts as directed in the Senate farm bill.
Show your support for this positive food and farm agenda for the future by adding your name to this letter to Congress today!
8th Annual Ohio Food Policy Summit: Developing and Financing Food Systems
Join local and regional food policy advocates from across the state and beyond for a day of informative and engaging sessions, presentation from national experts, and energizing networking opportunities.
The summit will take place on Monday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a reception to follow, at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, hosted by the Ohio Food Policy Network and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
This national framework will be applied to discussions on financial resources available for local and statewide efforts, exploring how it can be harnessed to build food systems, and how to leverage the economic development potential of local food in Ohio. This event is dedicated to connecting food council members, policy-makers, finance and economic development specialists, and all other stakeholders who want to see a strong regional food system in Ohio.
Review the agenda and register today. Cost: $20, No charge for undergraduate students with valid ID. Scholarships are available. Parking and lunch are included.
Down but Not Out: Legal Action Against USDA for Not Implementing Animal Welfare Rule Moves Forward
On August 21, the federal court for the Northern District of California issued a decision concluding that the Center for Food Safety and the National Organic Coalition’s legal challenge to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) withdrawal of organic animal welfare provisions could proceed.
The Court's decision rejected arguments from USDA that the nonprofits did not have legal standing to challenge the withdrawal decision. The Court held that the withdrawal of the rule that set organic animal welfare standards injures the organizations' members because it "undermines the organic label" for consumers.
In March, seven nonprofit organizations sued the Trump administration's USDA and Secretary Sonny Perdue, challenging its decision to withdraw the organic standards for animals on certified organic farms, called the "Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices" rule. The regulation, finalized by the Obama USDA in early 2017, strengthened the requirements for the care and well-being of animals on organic farms. The regulation was the culmination of more than a decade of work by organic stakeholders and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The Trump administration delayed the final rule's effective date three times, and then formally withdrew it.
OEFFA is a member of the National Organic Coalition and is supportive of measures to ensure implementation of this rule.
Non-Profit Advocacy Group Rates Organic Dairies
The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit organic watchdog organization, has developed a scorecard for organic dairy operations across the country based on a 19-question survey, unannounced site inspections, aerial photography, satellite imagery, an analysis of documents and interviews. Their analysis found the top-rated farms–which go beyond federal organic standards—to be small- to medium-size family businesses that emphasize pasture management, grow most of their own feed and raise their own replacement cows from the young animals born on the farm.
Analysis Finds the Midwest Food System Failing
A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis highlights the fact that much of what is grown in top midwestern agricultural states today isn’t really food (much less healthy food), and how it is grown works against nature, not with it.
It also points out the hopeful signs that things are starting to change, such as farmers expanding their crop rotations to add oats or other small grains, which research has shown aids in regenerating soils, improving soil health, and delivering clean water while also increasing productivity and maintaining profits. Diversifying crops in the field can also help to diversify our food supply and improve nutrition.
UCS conducted a survey of more than 2,800 farmers in seven states (Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) about federal farm policies that today incentivize the Midwest agricultural status quo. Nearly three-quarters of farmers who responded indicated they are looking for a farm bill that prioritizes soil and water conservation, while 69 percent supported policies that help farmers grow more real food for local consumption. More than 70 percent even said they’d be more likely to back a candidate for public office who favors such priorities.
Northwest Ohio Land Conservancy Looking for Aspiring Farmers
The Black Swamp Conservancy Food and Farm Initiative is looking for the next generation of Ohio’s farmers to help them knock down some of the barriers that are keeping beginning farmers from the land.
The Conservancy will use long-term lease agreements to provide affordable access to farmland for beginning farmers and help connect aspiring farmers to the services and partners they’ll need to establish sustainable farms. They are accepting applications from individuals interested in starting or expanding a farm in northwest Ohio. To learn more about the initiative, contact Chris Collier at (419) 833-1025 or email@example.com. Download the Request for Proposal here.
Ohio Legislature Forms Water Quality Panel
Not long after Ohio Governor Kasich proposed to designate almost half of the Lake Erie Watershed basin as distressed and the state Soil and Water board temporarily halted the move, the Ohio House and Senate leadership appointed a panel to look at the issues, again.
The “distressed watershed” designation would have required strict rules on the use of fertilizers—both manure and synthetic chemicals—used by farmers in the watersheds that flow into Lake Erie.
Joe Logan, President of the Ohio Farmers Union, said in speaking to the Toledo Blade, he is “not terribly optimistic” something substantive will come from this.
Photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press
Ohio Group Awarded $2.3 Million to Expand Healthy Food
On August 2, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced an award of $2,276,890 to Produce Perks Midwest to expand the Produce Perks program.
This program supports Ohio farmers and strengthens local economies while increasing affordable access to healthy, local produce for the 1.4 million Ohioans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The award, along with matching funds contributed by Produce Perks Midwest and partners from across the state represents a $4.6 million investment.
Produce Perks is Ohio’s nutrition incentive program, empowering SNAP recipients to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers' markets and grocery-retailers across the state. The program provides a $1-for-$1 match for shoppers using SNAP/EBT to buy healthy produce. The program operates at more than 100 locations statewide and generated more than $300,000 in sales in 2017.
Cost of Food Safety Compliance Highest for Small Growers
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has estimated that the cost of compliance with the Food Safety Modernization (FSMA) Produce Rule for U.S. growers will be $368 million over 10 years.
According to the report, very small farms covered by the Produce Rule would pay an average of $5,560 a year in compliance costs, while the largest fully regulated farms would pay, at $37,115 a year, nearly seven times as much.
The USDA classifies “very small” farms as having annual sales of $25,000 to $250,000, while the largest farms have sales 14 times as much, topping $3.45 million. These findings are consistent with what many food and farming organizations shared with the FDA as the rule was being developed. You can read the USDA Economic Research report here.
Young, Beginning, and Small Farmers Loans have Decreased
New loans to young, beginning, and small producers dropped by 9.8 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the 2017 Farm Credit System (FCS) report.
New loans to young and small farmers declined by 8.5 percent and to beginning farmers by 6.8 percent. New loans for all groups totaled $76.8 billion. The report also showed that outstanding loan dollar volume increased by 4.8 percent for young farmers, 5.3 percent for beginning farmers and 2 percent for small farmers.
The Farm Credit Administration, the regulatory body of the FCS, defines young farmers as those who are 35 years old or younger; beginning farmers as those who have been farming for 10 years or less, and small farmers as those with gross annual sales of less than $250,000. Producers can check off more than one box when applying for loans.
Monsanto Roundup® Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff
A San Francisco court awarded $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson who is dying of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma linked to the application of the Roundup® weed killer he applied 20 to 30 times per year while working as a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco.
He currently has lesions covering 80 percent of his body. The questions for the jurors were whether Roundup® can cause cancer and, if so, whether Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the product's cancer risk. The jury sided with Johnson on both. Johnson’s trial was fast tracked as it was feared he would die before his case went to trial.
Bayer, which recently merged with Monsanto, plans to appeal the verdict and, to this day, denies the carcinogenicity of its pesticide product. This was the first of what may be thousands of cases to come charging that the company did not warn the public about cancer risks from glyphosate. After the verdict, shares of Bayer dropped 14 percent.
European leaders are renewing calls to remove the product from store shelves.
Photo: Dewayne Johnson (AP Images)
Group Sues Trump Administration over GE Labeling Delay
On August 1, the day after the legal deadline to finalize federal genetic engineering (GE) labeling rules passed without action, the Center for Food Safety filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration for not meeting their legal deadline.
OEFFA alerted our members about draft rules the USDA released for GE labeling earlier this summer. The agency had until the end of July to gather and review public comment and finalize these federal labeling rules. Many thanks to the OEFFA members that reached out to their communities and to everyone that took the time to submit comments.
Most of the more than 40,000 comments received by the agency voiced opposition to the proposed sunshiny smiling face labels. In keeping with other regulatory and marketing labels controlled by the USDA, OEFFA stated that GE labels should be value-neutral such as the blue GE label image here submitted with OEFFA’s official comments.
We don’t know if or when the USDA will set a timeline to finish these standards. It is important to remember that in developing the legislation, Congress and the federal government negated laws passed at the state level that would have let the public have the information they seek on genetically engineered foods. If you are interested in participating in OEFFA’s workgroup on labeling GE food, contact OEFFA today.