December 2nd, 2013
By Dan Charles
November 21, 2013
Many organic farmers are hopping mad at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and their reason involves perhaps the most underappreciated part of agriculture: plant food, aka fertilizer. Specifically, the FDA, as part of its overhaul of food safety regulations, wants to limit the use of animal manure.
“We think of it as the best thing in the world,” says organic farmer Jim Crawford, “and they think of it as toxic and nasty and disgusting.”
Every highly productive farmer depends on fertilizer. But organic farmers are practically obsessive about it, because they’ve renounced industrial sources of nutrients.
So on this crisp fall morning, Crawford is rhapsodic as he watches his field manager, Pearl Wetherall, spread manure across a field where cabbage grew last summer.
“All that green material — that cover crop and the cabbage — all mixed up with that nice black manure that’s just rich and full of good microorganisms, and we’re going to get a wonderful fertility situation for next spring here,” he says
Crawford has been farming organically in south-central Pennsylvania for 40 years.
Crawford, founder of New Morning Farm in south-central Pennsylvania, buys hundreds of tons of manure every year from a big turkey farm a few miles away. “It’s really at the heart of our operation for having good, rich soil, and good fertility, so that we have the highest-quality crops.”
It’s also part of a natural cycle, and the basis of organic farming. Most crops strip vital nutrients from the soil. But the nutrients don’t disappear; if you feed those crops to cattle or turkeys, the nutrients mostly end up in manure. For the turkey farmer, the manure is waste. For Crawford, it’s precious. “Cycling nutrients. That’s what it’s all about. Cycling organic nutrients.”
This is a typical practice among organic farmers, especially the smaller ones. But they may now have to change.
The Food and Drug Administration considers manure a food safety risk. Disease-causing microbes, such as salmonella or toxic forms of E. coli, are commonly found in animal waste.
Patricia Millner, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research center in Beltsville, Md., says scientists are now trying to figure out exactly how long such bacteria survive in the soil. “In some cases, salmonella will survive for a few weeks; in other cases, it’ll be reported that it survives for 300-plus days,” she says
Pearl Wetherall, field manager at New Morning Farm, spreads manure.
When they survive, microbes do get on food. Carrots or radishes, of course, grow right in the soil. But bacteria also end up on salad greens. Raindrops, for instance, splash soil and microbes onto the plants.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about exactly how big of a risk this is. But the FDA is saying better safe than sorry.
The agency is proposing new national food safety rules. If those rules are enacted, when farmers spread raw manure on a field, they won’t be allowed to harvest any crops from that field for the next nine months. (This applies only to crops that people eat raw, such as carrots or lettuce.)
The rules don’t cover the smallest farms. They apply to farms with more than half a million dollars in annual sales, or which supply food to supermarkets.
But that includes Crawford’s farm.
He already follows the organic rules; he doesn’t harvest crops within four months of spreading manure. But having to wait nine months — longer than a growing season — would completely disrupt his operations. “We wouldn’t even be able to function,” he says.
There is an alternative: composted manure. The heat from composting kills disease-causing microbes. But Crawford says compost would cost him anywhere from three to six times more than manure. And he just doesn’t see why he should have to switch, because he doesn’t believe that what he does now is at all risky.
Feeding the chickens at New Morning Farm.
“No one’s ever been sickened by anything we’ve grown, in probably millions of transactions between us and our customers over 40 years,” he says. Crawford sells most of his food at farmers markets in Washington, D.C.
Yet organic farmers are not united in their opposition to the FDA regulations. There’s a divide between large and small producers.
Earthbound Farm, in California, is among the biggest organic producers of salad greens. Will Daniel, the company’s chief food integrity officer, says, “History is not always your greatest ally, unfortunately. We never thought that we would see spinach or other produce involved in outbreaks.” But in 2006, his company’s spinach was linked to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning; 200 people got sick. Three died.
Raw manure was not the source of that outbreak. (There’s evidence the E. coli could have come from wild pigs that got into the fields.) But Daniel says using manure does involve risks that his company won’t take.
Instead, Earthbound Farm uses mostly “a pelletized, processed chicken manure product” that’s been treated with heat and pressure to kill all microbes.
“We’ve gone in that direction because we feel that it’s very important to assure that we are not spreading these pathogens in our fields, that could lead to contaminated product,” he says.
Daniel supports the FDA’s proposed rules on manure. Many smaller organic farmers, meanwhile, are sending the FDA a blizzard of comments, arguing that the environmental benefits of using manure far outweigh the risks.
November 27th, 2013
Letter to the Editor
The Columbus Dispatch
The Dispatch’s description of a new “superweed” spotted in Ohio’s agricultural fields is alarming but not surprising (“Agricultural Armageddon,” Oct. 20). As pesticide use has increased, the number of correlated pesticide-resistant insects, pathogens and weeds has risen dramatically.
Today, an estimated 500 species of insects are resistant to at least one insecticide, and insecticide resistance continues to grow. Pesticide-resistant plant diseases and weeds are following the same pattern. As a result of the inevitable and inescapable biological facts of genetic variability, selection and resistance, farmers are caught on a “pesticide treadmill,” using more toxic synthetic chemicals or chemicals in greater quantities to try to stay ahead of pests and weeds.
Because of the increasing impotency of Roundup in the face of superweeds, agri-chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow are seeking approval for corn, soybean and cotton varieties engineered for resistance to the herbicides 2, 4-D and Dicamba, which are susceptible to drift and pose a serious threat to sensitive fruit and vegetable crops.
Weeds, pests and disease are significant problems for every farmer. Yet some have chosen alternative ways of controlling them that do not lead to superweeds or pollute our air, water and soil. Organic farmers control pests through agro-ecological systems that rely on crop rotations to break pest cycles, well-nourished soils to grow crops resistant to diseases and management practices that reduce weed pressure. This approach not only protects the environment and public health, but reduces costs and increases returns per acre.
Our experience with resistant pests, be they insects, pathogens or weeds, demonstrates the truth of ecologist Paul Ehrlich’s observation that “nature bats last.” Organic farmers have chosen to get on the same team as nature, rather than attempting to overcome it with synthetic chemicals.
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
November 20th, 2013
Senate Committee on Agriculture
1 Capitol Square
Columbus, OH 43215
November 19, 2013
Chairman Cliff Hite and Senator Bob Peterson:
I write to you today on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) regarding the proposed legislation on nutrient management (Senate Bill 150).
OEFFA was founded in 1979 and has more than 3,000 farmers, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and other members who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, creates economic opportunities for our rural communities, and safeguards the environment. OEFFA also operates one of the country’s oldest USDA accredited organic certification agencies and currently certifies 816 operations.
In recent years there has been growing public pressure to address the pervasiveness of algae blooms in Ohio’s waterways caused by farming. We appreciate Senators Hite’s and Peterson’s efforts to initiate conversations in order to address nutrient management deficiencies. Although registering and tracking the use of commercial fertilizers is a necessary step in taking control of problems surrounding nutrient pollution, we recognize that this alone will not resolve them. Specifically, there are two issues with the proposed legislation:
1. Certified organic farms should have the option to provide a valid certificate to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in lieu of the fertilizer applicator license.
The proposed legislation is aimed at identifying and resolving nutrient pollution causing algae blooms in Ohio lakes and other waterways. Certified organic growers applying fertilizer to their land may be subject to licensing requirements under Senate Bill 150. Due to the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) rigorous standards (NOP §205.200), which require farmers to maintain or improve the farm’s natural resources, regulating organic growers is misdirected and an inefficient use of state resources.
Certified organic farmers are required to complete Organic System Plans (OSP) and annually undergo onsite inspections and submit records for review. Every OSP must demonstrate that a farmer has taken steps to meet soil fertility and crop nutrient management standards that maintain or improve the condition of soil, minimize soil erosion, and prevent to contamination of water (NOP §205.203(a)(c)(d)). Organic System Plans include detailed information regarding the date and rates of application commercial soil amendments, compost, and manure, thereby superseding the reporting requirements in SB 150. Further, organic producers must demonstrate how contamination to soil or water was prevented (NOP §205.203(c)(1)). Other requirements under the organic standards include maintaining or improving soil integrity by implementing crop rotation, and utilizing cover crops (NOP§205.205).
Finally, if organic farmers incorporate commercial fertilizers in their operations, they must use substances approved for organic production (NOP§205.105, NOP§205.601(j)). Organic fertilizers usually contain many different nutrients that are in significantly lower concentrations than chemical fertilizers and release more slowly into the environment. Even if a farmer utilizes a synthetic fertilizer allowed under organic standards, it is in combination with other conservation practices required under the standards to mitigate any adverse impacts on water quality.
2. Fertilizer applicator licensing should be expanded to include manure.
Agriculture is the number one cause of contamination of our waterways. Nutrient runoff from over application of manure is a known pollutant, and to reduce such pollution in a
meaningful way, additional standards for manure application must be put in place.
A 2010 Columbus Dispatch article entitled “Manure, Pesticides Take Ohio, Waterways” ran shortly after the peak of toxic algae blooms at Grand Lake St. Marys in Mercer County, reporting that the number of cows, hogs, and chickens on farms in the county has more than doubled in 20 years. Altogether these operations, in this one county, produce more than 1.6 million tons on manure each year.
As written, SB 150 will not effectively solve the nutrient runoff issue because it is not regulating manure, the other contributor to the problem. For instance, loopholes in current regulations omit smaller manure distributors and applicators from registering with the state.
3. Without substantiated and regulated methods for reducing nutrient runoff, SB 150 will fail to effectively tackle algal blooms in Ohio.
Although creating fertilizer application registrations is a good first step, it will not result in meaningful reductions of nutrient runoff. Other solutions currently exist to help mitigate nutrient pollution, including strong conservation practices and soil testing as a basis for nutrient management. Ohio legislators should look to these strategies and require or incentivize reductions in nutrient pollution from farming.
Thank you for your consideration of these important issues.
Policy Program Coordinator
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Road
Columbus, OH 43214
Phone: (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208
November 17th, 2013
November 15, 2013
OEFFA submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to proposed produce and preventative controls food safety rules. To read OEFFA’s comments, click here. To learn more about the rules, click here.
November 10th, 2013
Mother Earth News
By Mary Lou Shaw
Farm apprentices enjoy hands-on experience growing food at Caretaker Farms in Williamstown, Mass. While most farm apprenticeships are unpaid, Caretaker Farms provides a monthly living stipend
Small-scale farmers and homesteaders are in a powerful position to bring about the changes our food system desperately needs. By growing food locally and sustainably, farmers improve the physical, economic and ecological health of their communities.
Today’s average farmer is in his or her late 50′s. These farmers will need replacements, and their numbers need to be dramatically increased. Transferring their knowledge to future farmers is vital to the expansion of the emerging sustainable food system.
Young Farmer Nights (YFN) are bi-weekly social and educational events where young and beginning farmers gather to share ideas, a meal and stories. Each event includes a farm tour, a potluck dinner and other host-inspired activities. In 2013, YFNs also include informational workshops.
Industrial agriculture is disastrous for the soil and environment, animal welfare, and local economies — not to mention human health. Most North Americans rely on this system for their food, however, and its sudden disintegration would be a catastrophe. Some experts argue that the collapse of the current food system is imminent because of its dependence on three fragile conditions: cheap petroleum, plentiful water and a stable climate.
Monsanto and Big Ag want us to believe that only industrial agriculture can feed the world. The truth is actually the opposite. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reviewed available farm productivity data from 27 countries and concluded that the productivity of smaller farms — which integrate growing multiple crops with raising livestock — is anywhere from two to 10 times higher per unit area than on industrial-scale, monocrop farms. This is due to several factors, including the following:
• Small farms use more niche space by planting crop mixtures. This complexity makes a huge difference in total production per unit area and cannot be achieved with machinery.
• The integration of crops and livestock allows plants to benefit from manure, while animals benefit from surplus crops that aren’t consumed by humans.
• Small-scale farmers invest more manual labor in their land. The quality of this labor tends to be better on small farms, because farmers can devote their attention and energy to intensively managed plots.
Chuck Currie (left) of Freedom Food Farm in Johnston, R.I., explains tractor implement use to NOFA/RI Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) Workshop participant, Mark Laroche.
If you decide to become a farmer, you can glean helpful knowledge from many sources, including universities, books and — most importantly — hands-on experience.
Volunteers through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) learn to dry garlic on their host farm in Princeton, N.J
One of the best ways you can connect with established farmers is through apprenticeship programs. You will need practical experience and access to affordable land, and experienced farmers need laborers and, sometimes, a trained person ready to buy their farm. Apprenticeships bring these two groups together through an agreement: Knowledgeable food growers pass on their know-how to people who want to learn to grow food in exchange for having additional, enthusiastic hands and minds around the farm.
November 10th, 2013
Our Town Sylvania
By Natalie Trusso Cafarello
Every Tuesday, Sylvania resident Amy Ormsey picks up her bushel bag of mixed vegetables form the Gust Brother’s Farm stand at the Sylvania’s downtown market.
For $375, her family receive various in-season vegetables, picked that morning. For $31.25 a week, the Ormsey family has enough vegetables from kale to squash to feed the five-member family.
This week’s supply brought them broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow zucchini, summer squash, and green beans, just to name a few.
The arrangement is called community supported agriculture, where people subscribe for the right to buy fresh produce and other products from nearby farmers.
Part of the exchange of dealing directly with the brothers of Gust Farms in Ottawa Lake, Mich., which has been in the Gust family for 100 years, is building a strong relationship with her farmer and food producer.
“Jake Gust has knowledge about the vegetables and also gives me recipe ideas,” she said.
Participating in a monthly or seasonal subscription for the seasonal crops of a local farm has economic benefits for the farm and patrons. Such community support agriculture has a “we’re in this together” attitude, said Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
She explained that it helps out local farmers because they receive a payment early in the growing season when they make a bulk of their farm investments and because they have a guaranteed market for some of their products.
Subscribers for the produce feel connected to the farmer and aware of how the season’s region, weather, and soil can impact food production, she said. There are 94 such community supported agriculture programs in Ohio, she said.
There are 22 participants in the Bust Farms’ community supported agriculture program, and more than half are from Sylvania. The 12-week program began in June with customers receiving the ripe vegetables of the week. Past weeks were kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli.
The five members of the Ormsey family spend Tuesday nights learning about the latest batch of vegetables, and preparing them together. The Ormseys supplement grocery story items with locally grown food.
“It’s amazing to have my children see the plants after they’ve been pulled out of the ground,” Mrs. Ormsey said. She grew up in the country so was familiar with the origins of the food she ate. But for her children, who live in Sylvania and Toledo, had never seen a celery stalk in all its leafy splendor before, she said.
“Now they know where celery comes from and that peas don’t come from a can.” she said. For her son Adam, 14, the family ritual of cleaning and cooking the fresh food together has turned him onto produce. “He is the picky one, but since we have been in the CSA, he said the food has more flavor than what’s in the store. He’s eating more vegetables.”
The Bust Farm allows customers to come to their stand and fill either a bushel for $375 or a half-bushel for $200 with that weeks vegetables. Mr. Gust expects eggplant, onions, potatoes, and lettuce to be ripe in the next weeks.
Because each program is run different and includes different types of produce, it is hard to the cost of buying such food through the program versus going to a grocery store, Ms. Ketcham said.
Mr. Gust harvests the vegetables, which are sprayed once to save the crop from invasive insects and animals the day they are sold.
This is the first year the Gust brothers, Joe, Nate, Dave and Jake have dedicated about 1.5 acres of land on a farm that was once the home of their late grandma Marian to the food given to subscriber vegetables.
Also on the land, are two pregnant Berkshire pigs, a rare prized breed, which after they give birth will be humanely-slaughtered for pork that will be added as a meat option in the fall to the Community Supported Agriculture, Joe Gust said. Cows also are being raised for the same purpose.
For more information about Gust Farms and the Community Supported Agriculture program, visit www.gustbrothers.com
November 10th, 2013
Dairyman Perry Clutts with one of his organic milk producing jerseys
More small farmers are turning to the production of organic meat and dairy products. But a looming shortage of organically certified animal feed might be limiting the expansion of the organic market.
On a central Ohio dairy farm, 20 jersey cows stand patiently inside the milking parlor.
“So all the milk is coming down that pipeline from the cows,” says dairyman Perry Clutts. “It goes from the cow into this big pipeline here. It gets chilled and every other day the milk truck comes and picks the milk up. It’s a special dedicated milk truck; organic milk only.”
Clutts is a former North Carolinian who returned to Ohio and the family farm near Circleville. Clutts designed and built a modern dairy parlor that can milk 100 cows per hour. While they’re milked, the cows munch on certified organic feed.
“They always get organic feed which means no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, no added hormones to make them produce more milk,” Clutts says.
Converting to organic farming is a lengthy process. So is obtaining organic certification. But there’s a new challenge facing producers. As Clutts and others scale up production of organic milk and meat they face a looming shortage of organic animal feed. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association – known as “OEFFA” – is an Ohio based group that does organic certification. OEFFA’s Eric Pawlowski says there are too few acres devoted to growing organic grains and other feed components.
“Right now the demand exceeds the supply here in Ohio. We have more of a demand than what our producers can grow,” Pawlowski says.
Take the 3 million acres of corn that are grown in Ohio to feed livestock. Pawlowski calculates that less than 100,000 of those acres is certified organic.
According to another dairyman, the demand for organic feed is driving prices up.
“If you’re willing to pay the price at this point in time you’re able to find feed. It is a lot more expensive. It is getting harder to find,” says Ernest Martin.
Martin runs a 55-cow dairy farm northwest of Mansfield. He says that several years ago, there was not much of a price difference between organic and conventional hay. But that’s changing. And as feed becomes more difficult to find, Martin says he’s had to search for suppliers outside the Mid-West. And there’s yet another problem, says Martin.
“There’s been a reduction in organic acres which has hurt dairy or any organic livestock producers.”
It makes sense, then, that organic meat and dairy producers raise their own organic feed. Again Eric Pawlowski.
“They have seen a greater challenge of sourcing as they have been trying to grow their business if they aren’t already producing their own feed for their livestock which the vast majority of our farmers do, they view their farm as a complete organism so that the less that they have to input from off their farm the more stable their business model is,” Pawlowski says.
Dairyman Ernest Martin says he sees a bright spot in the not-too-distant future.
“I think that it’ll eventually straighten out again. With the feed prices as high as they are right now it’s a little hard to make a profit but I think that if we’re steady at it, I think things will turn around again. I think things will look better in the near future,” Martin says.
November 10th, 2013
Farm and Dairy
June 25, 2013
By Chris Kick
WOOSTER, Ohio — When the new federal produce safety rules become effective — a process likely to happen in the next 12 months — they will do so at an additional cost to the farmers who must comply.The Food and Drug Administration estimates that its new rules, which meet the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, will prevent 1.75 million foodborne illnesses, with about $1.04 billion in estimated benefits.At the same time, the new rules will cost the produce industry about $460 million annually and $171 million annually for foreign farms that export to the United States.The rules, which are available for public comment in the Federal Register until Sept. 16, are estimated to cost a “very small farm,“ about $4,700 a year. Small farms would pay nearly $13,000 a year, and large farms, will pay $30,500.
A very small farm, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is a farm that sells more than $25,000 worth of food but less than $250,000, as an average of the previous three years. Small farms are slightly larger, and sell up to $500,000.And large farms are those that sell above $500,000 a year. Farms that sell less an average of less than $25,000 the previous three years would be exempt.For growers like Don Bessemer of Akron, the new costs are too much. He figures he could spend nearly $100,000 just to come into compliance, and would see the $30,000 fee for every year thereafter.He and his wife Carol, decided to lay off 30 workers this year and exit the produce industry, over what they say are too costly regulations.“You just can’t afford to farm,” he said. “The smaller growers are being put out of business.”The farm was started 117 years ago by Don’s grandfather, William Bessemer. The Bessemers said their age also is a factor. Don is 70 and Carol is 66. Although they’re in good health and don’t want to quit the produce industry, they say the investment in new equipment would not be a good business plan for their age.Instead, they’re planning for an auction in November.Don Bessemer said the farm’s workers already followed Good Agricultural Practices designed to keep the food safe. Now, the Bessemers fear they would need to hire separate staff to fill out the stacks of records and documents being required from the federal government.“What they want you to do is hire somebody to document this,” he said. “We’ve been here 117 years; we’ve never poisoned anybody.”
Some growers say they’ll be prepared for the cost, and expect it could be less as the rule is finished. At a public listening session April 30, Raymond Yoder, of Yoder’s Produce Supply in Fredericksburg, said most of what’s being required is “common sense,” and he doesn’t expect much of a burden to the industry.
But Bessemer is not the only grower who is concerned. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association says the costs, as they stand today, could put small farmers out of business.“Maintaining safe food in this country is essential, but it should not create unnecessarily burdensome regulations that put diversified, sustainable and organic farms at risk of going out of business,” MacKenzie Bailey, OEFFA’s policy program coordinator, said during the listening session.“We just can’t compete,” said Mark Bender, an Akron-area farmer who has operated a farm market since 1973. “The costs just got too crazy.”Bender still operates a self-service farm market, but has converted most of his produce farm to raising beef cattle and conventional crops.Mike Laughlin, of Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown, said, as a small farm, it could cost him $25,000-$27,000 just to come into compliance, and about $13,000 annually thereafter. He fears it will hurt small growers like himself, and favor larger farms that can adapt.“I can’t raise my prices enough to cover that,” he said. “That’s going to cut right into the money I make in my profit. It’s already pretty tight.He said it’s simple math.“If you’re only making $30,000-$50,000 a year and they’re going to take $10,000-$15,000 of that away from you, that’s a huge pay cut.”Laughlin said he’s not ready to make a decision about the future of his farm until the rule is finalized. But if the costs hold up, he said it will be a major challenge to staying in business.“You just have to start thinking, ‘is this worthwhile to do,’” he said.
Serious about safety
Laughlin said he’s not balking at food safety, adding it has always been a “huge part of our operation,” with workers trained on how to handle food and conduct operations. But with the new requirements for new equipment and documentation, it will become more costly.The Bessemers say they want safe food as much as anyone, but that the words “safe food” can be used for a lot of different motives. Don Bessemer said he fears the inspectors will not have a good knowledge of farming and what they’re supposed to inspect.He’s also concerned inspectors will purposefully try to find issues, to keep their jobs.“I just keep thinking they’re (federal government) trying to create jobs,” he said.Carol Bessemer said the news reports about foodborne illnesses often incite more concern than the actual issue. She said when even a couple people get sick, it makes national headlines and legislators want to pass new laws.“That small percentage has got a lot of power, and sympathy power,” she said.One relief for farmers is that when the rule becomes effective, they will have a pre-determined amount of time to come into compliance. Farms would generally have two to four years to comply, with smaller farms given the most time.“They’re giving you time, but then again, how much is it going to cost,” Carol Bessemer said.The proposed rule would cover an estimated 40,496 domestic farms and 14,927 foreign farms.It is available online at www.regulations.gov, and also on the FDA website, at www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA.
November 10th, 2013
Public News Service
September 16, 2013
By Mary Kuhlman
PHOTO: Some Ohio growers are concerned that new federal food safety rules are burdensome enough to hurt their business and ultimately, reduce access to fresh, local foods. Courtesy OEFFA
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some Ohio growers are concerned that regulations they see as overly burdensome are being proposed for reasons of food safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make changes to its Food Safety Modernization Act that the agency estimates will prevent close to 2 million foodborne illnesses.
However, as a result, small family farms such as Northridge Organic Farm in Licking County could incur expenses that the farm’s owner, Mike Laughlin, said are higher than they can afford – for changes that he sees as excessive.
“The added expense is going to drive an awful lot of farms out of business,” he warned. “At a time when people are asking for more and more local food for their tables, it’s going to mean fewer venders available to sell to farm markets, fewer choices for consumers.”
According to FDA estimates, a small farm would bear an initial cost of more than $27,000, and then an annual cost of nearly $13,000 – figures Laughlin said could wipe out a good chunk of annual profits. The FDA is taking public comment on the proposed changes until Nov. 15.
While he agreed food safety is an important matter, Laughlin said smaller operations are already at lower risk due to their size, scope and, for some, alternative farming practices that maintain soil and water integrity. He predicted that the new rules would favor larger farms and hurt the smaller growers who will struggle to absorb the costs of new equipment and documentation required under the changes.
“When you have rules and regulations, they do need to be size-specific,” he said. “It can’t be a ‘one size fits all.’”
Laughlin added it isn’t just farmers who need to weigh in on the matter.
“For the consumers who are out there shopping at the farm markets, if it’s something that’s very important to you then you need to get involved and get a hold of the FDA, and let ‘em know what you think.”
November 10th, 2013
By Lewis Wallace
A truck outside Mike Farm Enterprises south of Dayton. A variety of farm and nutrition programs are at risk since the Farm Bill expired Oct. 1.
MacKenzie Bailey with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association says the ongoing insecurity over the bill makes life harder for organic farmers.
“Farmers rely on programs like farmers market promotion programs that help put investments in our local farmers markets, the national organic cost share program, which helps alleviate the costs of organic certification,” she said.
This expiration won’t immediately affect food assistance or crop insurance. But a safety net program for dairy farmers that keeps down the price of milk, support for seniors to shop at farmers markets, and international food aid in the bill are among the programs to be suspended. If no new bill is passed by Jan. 1, 2014, consumers could see those changes on the shelves.
The two houses of Congress had been playing ping-pong with the bill after the House stripped out the food stamp program, known as SNAP, and sent the Senate two separate bills. The House version of the SNAP program included $40 billion in cuts rejected by the Senate, which proposed around $4 billion in cuts and insisted on keeping the farm programs and nutrition programs in one bill.