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Grow Home: 38th Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conferences moves to Dayton Convention Center

By Tara Pettit, Dayton City Paper, 1/31/17

Collaboration, ideation, and innovation on statewide practices in sustainable food and farming practices will be “homegrown” this year at the 38th annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) Conference, “Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.” For the first time, Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will be hosted on Dayton soil, transforming the Dayton Convention Center into what will become the new “brainstorming headquarters” of OEFFA’s kick-off food and farming event of the year.

Previously held in Licking County’s Granville school building for 11 years, OEFFA’s continuously growing conference prompted leaders to seek a larger space to accommodate increased participation and diversify programs, speakers, workshops, and banquets. OEFFA is excited that conference attendance continues to increase as a result of the nation’s growing awareness and interest in sustainable farming and food production.

“The local and organic audience is very different than what it was 38 years ago when we first started,” says Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator. “When we first started holding the conference, ‘the O-word’ [‘organic’] was a dirty word. Since then, our work has become much more mainstream and the demand from consumers for organic foods has grown tremendously.”

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As the conference has grown since its inception in the early ’80s, OEFFA has tailored programs for multiple audiences, incorporating a wider variety of workshops and sessions that appeal to both the agriculturalist and the food enthusiast. OEFFA designed many sessions to stimulate public discussion on food and farming issues, policies, and best practices—with current-focus topics at the community and state level. As these legislatures address issues around food production and farming practices, OEFFA has continued to play an influential advocacy role.

Work for the farm, you

Since its establishment in 1979, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, help farmers and consumers reconnect, and work to build a sustainable food system. The organization aims to bring prosperity to family farmers, meet the growing consumer demand for local food, create economic opportunities for rural communities, and safeguard the environment in Ohio and beyond. The organization also supports several key initiatives that have made a real difference in Ohio’s local and organic food systems: an investment fund to create access to affordable capital for local farmers, direct assistance for small farmers through promotion and support of their businesses and products, diligent state and federal policy advocacy, annual free public farm tours and workshops, and publicly accessible local food and farm resources.

Additionally, OEFFA operates one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the nation. The annual conference serves as the culminating event where results from OEFFA’s past year of activities are featured, directly connecting individuals from the Ohio communities in which it invests.

Family style

Responding to the expanding interest and involvement in food and farm policy, OEFFA has restructured the conference’s programs to accommodate a wide spectrum of agricultural knowledge and expertise, even for the non-farmer.

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“We have really designed this year’s conference to have something for everyone,” Ketcham says. “If you are a farmer, gardener, participate in a community garden, or just like to shop at the local farmer’s market and care about local food, the conference has a lot to offer.”

With Dayton hosting this year, several local OEFFA members and organizations will lead a variety of workshops and sessions to educate the community on innovations and best practices in the sustainable food and farming field. Local workshop and session leaders include Krista Magaw of Tecumseh Land Trust leading “Farmland Access 101: Options for Landowners and Growers”; Lisa Helm of former Garden Station co-op leading “Low-Tech Farm Hacks and DIY Infrastructure”; Mary Lou Shaw of Milk and Honey Farm leading “Chemical-Free Home Orchards”; and Ben Jackle of Mile Creek Farm leading “Old MacGyver Had a Farm: A Forum for Sharing On Farm Innovations.” In addition, OEFFA Stewardship Award winners Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics will engage in a live interview as part of the Ohio Humanities’ newly launched OEFFA multi-media oral history project.

As key players in Dayton’s sustainable food and farming efforts, each local leader involved in this year’s conference will share her or his own expertise and lessons to educate and engage participants on ways they can contribute to a local sustainable movement.

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Shaw points out that OEFFA’s conference “gives attendees the information they need for a changing future… the tools and resiliency to survive a changing climate, weakening global food system, and threatened water sources.” She advocates for personal food production beyond the U.S. population’s 2 percent of industrial farmers, stating, “It is for all of us, wherever we live, including urban areas like Dayton. Nothing is more healthful and satisfying as growing our own food.”

Each workshop leader is excited to be part of this statewide event and to bring OEFFA members from all over Ohio to Dayton for a weekend dedicated to what they are most passionate about and to present a diverse, but united, farming community right here in our city.

“The conference serves as an open community space to allow people with a shared passion for food and sustainable agriculture to come together,” Magaw says. “It will expose more newcomers to OEFFA and the great local food resources we already have in the Dayton region. Our hope is that people leave with a greater connection to the larger community working on these issues that, hopefully, continues beyond the conference to help throughout the year.”

This year, in addition to the traditional lineup of innovative food and farming key note talks, brainstorming sessions, open discussions, and do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops, OEFFA has scheduled several additional special programs to boost the conference’s renown as an intimate setting for networking, learning, and fellowship. With the conference’s new home in Dayton, these events will also allow participants to become more intimate with Dayton’s local food culture.

On Thursday evening, in remembrance of Ohio’s “Contrary Farmer” Gene Logsden, a brand new Contrary Farmers Social will be held at 2nd Street Market for a special, small plate sampling provided by market vendors. The social will also feature a fine assortment of Ohio and other domestic cheeses and craft beer as conference-goers gather to remember Logsden and reflect on where agriculture was in 1995 when his seminal book (“The Contrary Farmer”) was published.

Also new is the Cream of the Crop Banquet, held on Friday evening, a specially prepared meal comprised of local and organic food coupled with a program featuring insights from Ohio Senator Steve Maurer, former Ohio Department of Agriculture director and executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Ohio from 2009-2017.

With a greater focus on free events to increase exposure of the conference across the city, this year’s event will introduce morning yoga and Chi Kung exercise, open to the public, as well as free extended trade show hours on Thursday, from 4-7 p.m. and Friday, from 5-6:30 p.m.

“We have been heartened by how welcoming the Greater Dayton community has been to implement some of these community events,” Ketcham says. “We have been lucky to have received such a warm embrace by local organizations and look forward to building on those relationships in the future.”

Each year, OEFFA invites recognized leaders to present lectures on key topics in sustainable agriculture and food. This year, the organization brings two nationally-renowned individuals whose work has transformed standard practices within the larger food and farming industry.

Jim Riddle, former chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board and founding chair of Winona Farmers’ Market in Minnesota, and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), will present his lecture titled “Transform Organic Today, Grow with Integrity Tomorrow” on Friday afternoon. Riddle will speak to the group about making “personal, societal, and political transformations during challenging times, in order to preserve human life on earth by transforming our agricultural systems to support life at every level,” as he tells Dayton City Paper. Riddle will focus on the role we all must play to advance sustainability and protect America’s future in farming and agriculture.

“I hope that audience members will hear my wake-up call, combined with suggestions for positive change, and leave with a sense of empowerment and concrete ideas they can incorporate in their daily lives,” Riddle says.

Saturday’s keynote will feature former financial and food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien, who has been considered “food’s Erin Brockovich” for her work focused on transforming our food system and calling out how our foods have been manipulated with additives that can cause allergies, cancer, and other health problems. Her talk, “Building the 21st Century Food System: Capitalizing on the New Food Economy,” reviews the state of our country in terms of health care costs associated with consumption of unhealthy foods, explores the challenges of the organic industry’s lack of support, and poses the larger question of how we would rebuild our food system to promote smarter consumer decisions.

“Progressing the sustainable food production movement is going to require all hands on deck,” O’Brien says in an interview with Dayton City Paper. “It is initiated at the local level with locally-focused individuals who understand the local issues. To be at an event like this where you not only have access to keynotes, workshops, data, but access to network with the local farming community, is so important. It’s the most valuable information you can gather for yourself and your family.”

As in previous years, this year’s conference will continue to promote family-participation. Child and teen conferences will be held, which engage youth in age-appropriate food and farming activities and programs. Childcare is available for children under the age of 6.

Dayton HQ

With the conference’s expansion comes a need for a larger space and accommodations, which spurred OEFFA’s hunt for a larger, more conference-friendly venue.

“We have actually spent years looking into our site options around the state…” Ketcham says. “Many conference venues were just not going to be a good fit for us.”
Dayton was officially chosen as OEFFA’s appointed gathering grounds for the conference, becoming this year’s epicenter for transformative food and farm ideation.

However, what’s most curious about Dayton’s hosting this statewide food and farming event is that it holds a not-so-remarkable ranking as one of the nation’s top 10 worst cities—and worst city in the state—for food access.

Last year, WHIO reported that since Kroger closed its Gettysburg Avenue store in Dayton eight years ago, thousands in the area now lack access to a full-service grocery store. Nearly every urban area in the Miami Valley contains food deserts (areas where there is limited access to both affordable and nutritious food) and local urban farming initiatives, often with the help of OEFFA, have attempted to fill the gaps with their dedicated work. The issue, however, is far too large for small groups to tackle and requires full-on citywide support.

“Maybe this year OEFFA’s presence can have a greater impact on influencing our local government to take sustainable food production more seriously… the city should be supporting efforts like ours, not undermining them,” Helm says.

Despite the obvious need for improvement in the city’s plan for food and farm sustainability reform, the decision to host in Dayton was strategic, nonetheless. In fact, the reason OEFFA decided on Dayton may point to the city’s growing alignment with the organization’s values, its conference, and the aspirations of those who are a part of it.

It was only in Dayton that OEFFA found a willing partner with the Dayton Convention Center to support its goal—nearly impossible to find elsewhere.

OEFFA “walks the talk,” as Ketcham puts it, ensuring the conference provides quality, made from scratch, all locally-sourced meals for its attendees; Dayton Convention Center rose to the call, agreeing to OEFFA’s request.

“We have worked to make sure our chicken and pork are local, but also even down to the butter and individual ingredients in our carrot cake… and that meals are prepared from scratch,” Ketcham emphasizes. “The Dayton Convention Center has been really generous in working with us to accommodate our needs.”

Sherry Chen of Adelain Fields has donated her free-range, slow-growth, and organic-fed chickens to the OEFFA conference for the past four years. She understands how important providing locally-sourced, made-from-scratch meals is to the organization and the statement it makes about the conference, which is why she readily contributes each year.

“I so believe in this organization… not only what they’re doing, but how they do it,” Chen says.

Helm remains hopeful that community sustainability efforts may be reaffirmed and even increase with OEFFA’s local presence in Dayton this year.

“Hopefully, having the conference in our area will encourage more people who have never attended from our area to make the commitment to go and ramp up their production,” Helm says. “We need more than ever to support local and sustainable food production. I would like to see Dayton’s OEFFA partnership bring more credibility and awareness to the sustainable food production efforts in our area.”

Perhaps the choice to host in Dayton is the motivation our city needs to actively join OEFFA in transforming the state’s food and farming system while addressing food security issues here at home. Regardless, it will be more important than ever, at both the state and local level, to build and support a locally focused system that improves access to wholesome foods t a time when homegrown quality is imperative.

OEFFA’s 38th Annual Conference takes place Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 at Dayton Convention Center, 22 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. The Exhibit Hall is open to the public Thursday, 4-7 p.m. and Friday, 5-6:30 p.m. All other conference events require paid registration. Registration will only be accepted at the door, not online. Thursday’s pre-conferences, as well as all meals, are sold out. Adult member registration weekend tickets cost $165 and non-member registration costs $225. Day passes, student discounts, and teen and kids’ registration will be available at the door. For more information, please visit
OEFFA.org/Conference2017.

Young, urban farmers the focus of OEFFA’s conference in Dayton, Feb. 9-11

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/20/17

Leading organic farmer, Jim Riddle, and a prominent foe of genetically engineered food, Robyn O’Brien, will be keynote speakers at this year’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Feb. 9-11 in Dayton.
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Educating and supporting young farmers and urban farmers is the theme of the conference, which offers a series of workshops specifically geared to beginning farmers or those about to expand their operations. Planting and management of crops, water quality, business planning, safe handling of organic approved pesticides and other topics will be discussed in more than 70 workshops.

Others include organic grain production, on-farm poultry processing, soil fertility, bee health, local meat co-ops, foraged food and combating food waste.

“Urban Agriculture has the ability to transform our urban and blighted communities by becoming a practical solution,” said Clarence Bunch, associate director at Central State University’s Cooperative Extension Service.

The annual meeting dedicates all its programming to sustainable farming – done for the health of the environment, the farmers and consumers.

Riddle, a Minnesota berry farmer, has been an inspector for organic certification and spent several years on the National Organic Standards board of the United States Department of Agriculture. He has also devised ways for farmers to better afford organic certifications.

O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst and author of “The Unhealthy Truth,” a popular book about the health effects of food additives and manipulations.

This year’s conference moves to Dayton after many years in Granville. Dayton Convention Center will host most of the events. A trade show, meals, kids’ and teen conferences are part of the weekend.

Registration fees are $90 for the intensive, pre-conference session on Thursday, focused on growing high-nutrient food and working smarter on the farm, and $225 for the Friday and Saturday sessions. Discounted prices are available for OEFFA members, students and children. For more information, and for registration through Jan. 23, go online. The OEFFA offices can be reached at 614-421-2022.

Urban Agriculture Featured at Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference: Central State University Cooperative Extension Presents Nine Hour Urban Agriculture Workshop Track

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2017

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
Sabrina Pritchett, CSU Associate Director of Public Relations and Marketing, (937) 376-6323, spritchett@centralstate.edu
  
Urban agriculture offers exciting opportunities for individuals to make a living farming and gain educational and job training, and provide communities with healthy food.
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Addressing the specific challenges and issues that face urban farmers is the focus of a six-part workshop track sponsored by Ohio’s recently-designated 1890 land-grant institution, Central State University (CSU) Cooperative Extension.
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The workshop track is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, which will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“Urban Agriculture has the ability to transform our urban and blighted communities by becoming a practical solution,” said Dr. Clarence Bunch, Associate Director at CSU Cooperative Extension Service. “Food security has been identified as a critical need by Central State University Extension. Our sponsorship of the urban agriculture workshop track and OEFFA Conference provides the support needed to offer practical solutions that benefit families and the local community.”
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Six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of urban agriculture education, will address production practices for small spaces, business planning, and cost-effective technologies for efficient urban production:
  • Safe Handling and Use of Organic Approved Pesticides—Terry Grace, Ohio Central Community Co-op (Friday, February 10, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • Urban Farm Planting and Management—Milan Karcic, Peace, Love, and Freedom Farm (Friday, February 10, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)
  • Business Planning for Ag Entrepreneurs—Stephen Washington, Central State University (Friday, February 10, 2-3:30 p.m.)
  • Water Quality’s Role in Sustainability on Small and Urban Farms—Krishnakumar Nedunuri, Central State University (Saturday, February 11, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • Low-Tech Farm Hacks and DIY Infrastructure—Lisa Helm, Dayton Urban Green (Saturday, February 11, 1:30-3 p.m.)
  • Growing Efficiently Through Technology—Cadance Lowell, Central State University Extension (Saturday, February 11, 3:30-5 p.m.)
In addition to the urban agriculture workshop track, the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will feature:
For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration will be open until January 23.
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AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
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Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Rhinegeist Brewing | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms
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About OEFFA
OEFFA is a state-wide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system.
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About Central State University
Central State University, located in Wilberforce, Ohio, is a regionally accredited 1890 land-grant university with a 129-year tradition of preparing students from diverse backgrounds and experiences for leadership, research, and service. The university fosters academic excellence within a nurturing environment and provides a strong liberal arts foundation and STEM-Ag curriculum leading to professional careers and advanced studies globally.

Ohio State Experts to Speak at Sustainable Agriculture Conference

By Kurt Knebusch, 1/13/17, OSU CFAES

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ten experts from The Ohio State University will be among the 100-plus presenters at this year’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Organizers call the event, which is Feb. 9-11 in Dayton, the largest sustainable agriculture conference in Ohio.

It will have, for example, nearly 80 hour-and-a-half educational workshops, two keynote speakers, a three-day trade show, four full-day intensive preconference workshops, a banquet featuring Ohio-grown foods and “The Contrary Farmer’s Social” honoring the late Ohio farmer-writer Gene Logsdon.

Now in its 38th year, this is the first time the conference is being held in Dayton.

CFAES well represented

The Buckeye presenters — most of them from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — will speak on topics such as cover crops, local meats, food policy and soil organic matter. They’ll be, for example, from the college’s research and outreach arms — which are the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Ohio State University Extension, respectively — and programs including the Organic Food and Farming Education and Research program.

The college is one of the conference’s many sponsors.

The presenters from Ohio State will be:

A complete list of all the conference’s speakers is at oeffa.org/conference2017.php. Online registration for the event is available at the same URL and is open until Jan. 23. Onsite registration will also be available. Prices range from $95 to $225 depending on full-conference, one-day, student or adult registrations.

Grassroots coalition

OEFFA, according to its website, is a “grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers and others 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.” It was founded in 1979.

Ohio State has made transforming food production and agriculture, and improving people’s food security as a result, one of its university-wide areas of focus. Details are at discovery.osu.edu/focus-areas/infact/.

“Generation Rx” and a “Sick” Food System

Robyn O’Brien with the AllergyKids Foundation says it's time to heal the nation's "sick" food system. (OEFFA)
By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service, January 12. 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Food allergies, diabetes and cancer are among the growing health concerns for Ohio families, and a best selling author and mother says the nation’s “sick” food system is partly to blame.

Robyn O’Brien, director of the AllergyKids Foundation, is scheduled to speak about the issue at an upcoming event in Ohio. She says rising rates of diseases are increasing health care costs and giving today’s children the reputation of “Generation Rx.”

O’Brien believes it’s all connected to the use of genetically-engineered ingredients in food.

“People are really struggling in a way that we weren’t 50 years ago,” she stresses. “And all families are being impacted – regardless of what side of the aisle we’re on, regardless of where we live – and it’s becoming one of the biggest issues we face as a country.”

One in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy; nearly 1 in 4 people under age 20 are estimated to have diabetes; and cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death under age 15.

O’Brien contends that healing the food supply can protect the nation’s health.

She’ll deliver the keynote address Feb. 11 at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference in Dayton.

Genetically-engineered ingredients are said to be found in 80 percent of processed foods sold in the U.S. And O’Brien says other parts of the world have placed a higher value on people’s dietary health.

“Other countries tend to exercise precautions,” she states. “They do not allow things into the food system until they have been proven safe where we take an approach and we say, you know, ‘It’s not yet been proven dangerous, so we’ll allow it.'”

O’Brien notes that with growing demand for organic products, many food companies are stepping up and working to eliminate artificial ingredients. But she says the farmer’s role in creating a healthier food system needs to be elevated.

“Our biggest constraint is that about 1 percent of our farmland in the United States is organic, and we have a bottleneck,” she points out. “So, what can we do, how can we have these conversations, how can the farmers’ voices be heard? What can companies do to support the farmers? Because our federal policy is sort of stuck in 1995.”

In-Depth Workshops to Explore Vital Farm Business and Production Practices

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2017

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director, (614) 421-2022, renee@oeffa.org
  
Four full-day pre-conference intensive workshops designed to help farmers develop their production and business skills will be featured as part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.
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The conference will be held Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“These day-long workshops allow farmers to delve deep into these topics with experienced presenters who have direct, hands-on experience,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.
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The four pre-conference intensive sessions are:
  • Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune Up Your Farm Business and Increase Your Net Profit—This full-day session, led by Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm in Vermont and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, will help farmers plan to increase their net profit, market their products strategically, and meet their long-term business goals. Participants will learn how to efficiently determine the profitability of different enterprises, and about farm office administration, key financial statements, employee management, and more.
  • Growing Bionutrient Rich Food: Applying the Principles of Biological Systems—Dan Kittredge, founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association, will take an in-depth look at soil, crop, and human nutrition and how farmers can improve crop quality by applying the principles of biological systems to their land. With a strong focus on management practices and techniques, this intensive session will cover pest and disease control, soil testing, mineral balancing, cover crops and minimal tillage, plant visual analysis, seed quality, Brix, and other topics.
  • Respect Your Elderberries: Growing and Selling Niche Fruit Crops from Aronia to Service BerriesJim Riddle of Blue Fruit Farm in Minnesota will explore how to grow high value specialty perennial berries, like black currants, elderberries, aronia berries, josta berries, service berries, and honeyberries. He will describe nursery sources, site selection and preparation, fertility, irrigation, pollination, pest management, and marketing challenges and strategies for effectively selling these niche berries.
  • Building a Profitable Pastured Broiler Business—Mike and Christie Badger of Badger’s Millside Farm will take an in-depth look at developing a profitable pastured broiler business. Topics will include breed selection, designing shelters, nutrition, management, marketing, and pricing.
All pre-conference intensive workshops will be held on Thursday, February 9 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Dayton, which is attached to the Dayton Convention Center. Pre-registration is required. The cost is $75 for members and $90 for non-members, and includes lunch.
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Beyond the pre-conference sessions, other Thursday activities include:
  • The Contrary Farmers’ Social from 7-9 p.m. at the nearby 2nd Street Market featuring food, drinks, and a remembrance of Ohio’s Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon, led by David Kline of Farming Magazine;
  • Free, public admission to OEFFA’s Exhibit Hall from 4-7 p.m.;
  • A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception from 5-6:30 designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers with land and farming opportunities;
  • An Old MacGyver Had a Farm meet-up from 5-6:30 where farmers can share on-farm innovations they’ve developed to solve problems on the farm; and
  • An oral history presentation from 5-6:30 p.m. featuring stories, multimedia shorts, and interviews with the founders of Ohio’s organic movement.

In addition, on Friday and Saturday, the conference will feature:

For more information, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration is open until January 23.
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Our Sponsors
    
   
     
 
AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
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Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Rhinegeist Brewing | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Beginning Farmers the Focus of Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference: Workshops, Scholarships, and Farmland Access Networking Featured

For Immediate Release: January 3, 2017

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
Kelly Henderson, OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, kelly@oeffa.org
  
Helping beginning farmers start and grow their operations is the focus of a six-part workshop track, which is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow. The event will be held Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“Our goal is to help early career and aspiring farmers increase their knowledge and skills, find leads on farmland, and make business and professional connections,” said OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator Kelly Henderson.
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Six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of education, will cover a range of topics from choosing the right equipment to developing a successful business:
  • Start with the Soil: Establishing a First-Year Fertility Program—Raymond Yoder, Jr., Green Field Farms (Friday, February 10, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • Starting Your Own Farm Business from Scratch—Richard Wiswall, Cate Farm (Friday, February 10, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)
  • Farming the Farm Bill: FSA Programs and How They Can Support Your Farm—Matt Kleski and David Drake, USDA Farm Service Agency (Friday, February 10, 2-3:30 p.m.)
  • Farmland Access 101: Options for Landowners and Growers—Krista McGaw, Tecumseh Land Trust (Saturday, February 11, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • The Path to Organic Certification: Lessons from Farmers—Julia Barton and Patrick Turner, Octagon Acres (Saturday, February 11, 1:30-3 p.m.)
  • Walk-Behind Tractors for Small Farms—Michael O’Donnell, Purdue University Extension (Saturday, February 11, 3:30-5 p.m.)
In addition to the begin farming workshop track, the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will offer other opportunities geared specifically toward beginning farmers, including:
  • A full-day pre-conference intensive workshop on Thursday, February 9, “Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune Up Your Farm Business and Increase Your Net Profit.” Long-time organic farmer and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, will explore ways farmers can plan to increase their farms’ net profit, market their products strategically, and meet their long-term business goals.
  • A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception on Thursday, February 9 designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers looking for employees, retiring farmers interested in a transition plan, and landowners with land to sell or lease.

To help budding farmers access these educational opportunities, OEFFA is offering a limited number of full scholarships for early career farmers. The application deadline is January 7.

In addition, the conference will also feature:

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration will be open until January 23.
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Begin farming workshops and scholarships are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program. For more information about OEFFA’s other beginning farmer work, go to www.oeffa.org/q/beginfarming.

Our Sponsors
   
     
 
AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
  .
Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Best-Selling Author Robyn O’Brien to Address Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2016

Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

How we can heal a sick food system will be the focus of a keynote address by concerned mother, author, and activist Robyn O’Brien at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
 

In her February 11 keynote address, “Building the 21st Century Food System: Capitalizing on the New Food Economy,” presented by Horizon Organic, O’Brien will describe her journey from Wall Street to the farmers’ market aisle and call for change in the food industry to protect the health of our families.

After her youngest child was diagnosed with a life-threatening food allergy, O’Brien created an allergic reaction in the food industry when she asked “Are we allergic to food or to what’s been done to it?” and exposed the skyrocketing rate of food allergies and other diet-related and environmental health issues.

“This generation of kids has earned the reputation of “Generation Rx” because of the rates of food allergies,” O’Brien said at the 2016 Environmental Media Association Awards, where she was honored. “Those kids have done nothing to deserve that and we have every opportunity to fix it.”

A former financial and food industry analyst, O’Brien has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich.”

O’Brien analyzed the impact that our food system has on the health of our families, companies, and our economy in her bestselling book, The Unhealthy Truth, and became recognized around the world after her TEDx talk in 2011, which has been viewed by millions.

Her work has drawn the connection between the rising rate of food allergies and cancer, ballooning U.S. health care costs, and the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients—now found in 80 percent of U.S. processed foods—into the American food supply.

“Governments around the world said we’re going to exercise precaution and we’re not going to allow [GE technology] into our food supply because it hasn’t yet been proven safe, and yet here we said, it hasn’t yet been proven dangerous, and we allowed it,” O’Brien said in her TEDx talk. “[Companies] need to place the same value on the lives of American eaters that they’ve already placed on the lives of eaters in other countries,” she continued.

O’Brien has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, the Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, CBS, and countless media outlets, and she wrote a popular column for Prevention while serving as the Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, which she founded, and doing strategic advisory work for companies making changes in the food industry. O’Brien also produces a weekly podcast, Take Out with Ashley and Robyn.

She has been named by SHAPE Magazine as a “Women to Shape the World,” by Forbes Woman as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter,” and by The Discovery Channel as one of its 15 Top Visionaries.

“Robyn has made the personal political. She is giving voice to other mothers and to the children and families who are burdened with health problems as a result of the corporate manipulation of our food,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.

O’Brien will speak as part of Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.

In addition to O’Brien, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Jim Riddle on February 10; nearly 80 educational workshops; four pre-conference intensive workshops on February 9; a three-day trade show; networking events; activities for children and teens; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.

Our Sponsors

   

     

Dickinson Wright PLLC | Five Rivers MetroParks | Greenacres Foundation | Morning Ag Clips | Natural Awakenings Central Ohio, Cincinnati, and Toledo | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Sustane Natural Fertilizer

  AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
  
Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
  

Bexley Natural Market | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Carriage House Farm | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Organic Advocate and Farmer Jim Riddle to Address Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

For Immediate Release: December 13, 2016Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

The need for personal, societal, and political transformation in our food and farm system and the challenge of growing organic agriculture with integrity to meet consumer demand will be the focus of a keynote address by farmer and activist Jim Riddle at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
 . 
In his February 10 keynote address, “Transform Organic Today, Grow with Integrity Tomorrow,” Riddle will explore the environmental and health problems associated with our current food system, the need for farmers and citizens to engage in organic policy issues, and solutions for change.
   . 
“I would like to see organic agriculture elevated to a high priority, fully integrated into long-term U.S. agricultural policy, recognizing the multiple benefits of environmental protection, climate change mitigation, food security, nutrition, health, biodiversity, and sustainable farm income,” Riddle told Natural Foods Merchandiser.For more than 30 years, Riddle has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, and activist.

From 2001 to 2006, Riddle served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board, chairing the board from 2004 to 2005. In the years since, he has remained engaged on organic issues and GMO labeling, calling for attention to process, transparency, and integrity.

He is founding chair of the thriving Winona Farmers’ Market and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), and has served on the leadership team for eOrganic and on the boards of the International Organic Accreditation Service, Beyond Pesticides, and the Organic Processing Institute.

He served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force from 1991 to 2009, and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark organic certification cost-share program in 1998 and a national organic certification cost-share program in 2002. From 2006 to 2013, he worked for the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center as Organic Outreach Coordinator.

From 2013 to 2016, Riddle coordinated organic research grant programs for the Ceres Trust. He has recently been appointed to chair the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force, which provides advice to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota. He and his wife also own and operate Blue Fruit Farm, a five acre fruit farm in southeastern Minnesota growing certified organic blueberries, elderberries, aronia berries, black currants, blue plums, honeyberries, and juneberries. The farm is part of a 360 acre organically-managed land cooperative.

“We’ve always tried to produce good, healthy food, educate and empower others to do the same, make sure that the word “organic” has meaning, and protect the beautiful planet that we’re lucky to live on,” Riddle told the Houston County News in 2013.

On February 9, Riddle will facilitate a full-day, pre-conference intensive workshop, titled, “Respect Your Elderberries: Growing and Selling Niche Fruit Crops from Aronia to Service Berries.”

He will also lead two 90 minute workshops as part of the conference: “Getting Started with Blue Fruits” on February 10 and “An Agenda for Organic America” on February 11.
  . 
“We’re excited to welcome Jim to this year’s conference, now in our new home in Dayton. He has been a leader in the organic movement and a knowledgeable, vocal advocate for strong and transparent standards for decades,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.
  . 
Riddle will speak as part of the Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.
   . 
In addition to Riddle, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Robyn O’Brien on February 11; nearly 80 educational workshops; four pre-conference intensive workshops on February 9; a three-day trade show; networking events; activities for children and teens; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.
  . 
For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.
  . 

Our Sponsors

   

     

Dickinson Wright PLLC | Five Rivers MetroParks | Greenacres Foundation | Morning Ag Clips | Natural Awakenings Central Ohio, Cincinnati, and Toledo | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Sustane Natural Fertilizer

  AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
 . 
Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
   . 

Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

 

OEFFA Comments to the National Organic Standards Board

October 26, 2016

National Organic Standards Board  
USDA – AMS
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250
RE: AMS-NOP-16-0049

National Organic Standards Board members:

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a grassroots coalition of over 4,000 farmers, gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, and others who since 1979 have worked to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, safeguards the environment, and provides safe, local food to consumers.  OEFFA employs education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic foods, helping farmers and consumers connect to build a sustainable food system.  OEFFA’s Certification program has been in operation since 1981.  OEFFA certifies over 1,100 organic producers and food processors, ensuring that these operations meet the high standards established for organic products.

We thank you for your service to the organic community, and we respectfully offer the following comments.

COMPLIANCE, ACCREDITATION, AND CERTIFICATION SUBCOMMITTEE

Discussion document: Personnel Performance Evaluations of Inspectors (NOP 2027)

We thank the Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Subcommittee for considering the topic of Inspector Field Evaluations, for the information it summarized, and the questions it posed.  While we view inspector field evaluations as important to consistency and integrity in the inspection portion of organic certification, we see this requirement as overly prescriptive and inefficient.  In short, we disagree with the “every inspector, every year” requirement.

In response to NOSB’s questions on this topic, we offer the following feedback:

For certifiers: To date, what have you observed about the benefits, costs and logistics of meeting this requirement?

OEFFA was initially excited about this idea, but has discovered that our understanding of the inspectors’ work has changed very little as a result of the “every inspector, every year” field evaluation requirement.  While we view inspector field evaluations as important to consistency and integrity in the inspection portion of organic certification, we have other ways of collecting information about inspectors from certified operators and staff feedback.  There are some returns on the investment in field evaluations to be sure, but the marginal benefit is greatly reduced after the highest priority inspectors in a risk-based approach are evaluated.

OEFFA currently works with about 40 contract inspectors, in addition to staff inspectors, to cover an 18 state region.  We estimate that it will cost $20,000 to conduct a field evaluation for every inspector this year.  Ultimately, this high cost must be passed on to certified operators through increased certification fees.

The logistics of meeting this requirement are burdensome beyond our expectations. Scheduling between the three parties of inspector, evaluator, and certified operation is several times more complex than scheduling between two parties.  Additionally, since travel is essential for one or more of the individuals involved, field evaluation inspections must be scheduled further in advance than is usually necessary, which does not fit well with the nature of life and work on the farm.

  1. For certifiers: If given an option to present alternative evaluation plans to the every inspector, every year, what would these look like? If a risk-based approach, how do you define risk?

Risk can be defined using multiple criteria, including:

  • the number of inspections conducted by the inspector each year;
  • the experience level of the inspector in the scope being inspected;
  • the feedback regarding the inspector provided by certified operators;
  • the feedback regarding the inspection report provided by certification staff; and
  • performance during prior field evaluations.

Before the NOP began issuing noncompliances for failing to conduct field evaluations of every inspector, every year, OEFFA created a risk-based approach to conducting field evaluations using such criteria as is listed above.   We prefer that the NOSB or NOP not dictate an overly prescriptive formula for determining which inspectors must be evaluated in a given year.  Instead, we request that we, as a certifier, understanding the general expectation, report on it as part of our annual update, and that it be addressed by the NOP during regular audits to make sure our inspector field evaluation approach is adequate.

  1. For certifiers and inspectors: What has been your experience sharing evaluation forms and processes? What have been the challenges associated with this sharing?

The sharing of evaluations has functioned adequately in order to meet the requirement. The sharing of evaluations between certifiers or among certifiers and IOIA should continue to be an option in meeting the requirement.

Rather than every certifier submitting an alternative proposal to this requirement, OEFFA recommends a model for field evaluations which is not overly prescriptive, risk-based, and which will allow assessment of all inspectors over a period of several years.  We believe such a model will accomplish the goal of accuracy and integrity in the inspection process, while maintaining a “sound and sensible” approach to field evaluations.

Conversion of Native Lands                                                

While we support the continued growth of the organic industry and expansion of organic acreage, we feel that it should not be at the cost of converting native ecosystems that have no cropping history. The NOSB has a track-record of working successfully to tackle difficult subjects related to organic production, and we have faith that the NOSB is equipped to find a viable solution in partnership with the organic community.

OEFFA looks forward to a discussion document on the important subject of eliminating the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic production.  We strongly encourage the Certification, Accreditation, and Compliance subcommittee to prioritize this topic, so that this discussion document will be presented to the public for comments in advance of the spring 2017 NOSB meeting.

MATERIALS SUBCOMMITTEE

Proposal: Fall 2016 Research Priorities

Crops

Organic no-till

We agree with the NOSB statements that “Organic no-till preserves and builds soil organic matter, conserves soil moisture, reduces soil erosion, and requires less fuel and labor than standard organic row crop farming.”

We support research focusing on the benefits of organic no-till.  This has been viewed by many as the gold standard for sustainable production.  While we support this research, we also understand that continued focus and research on the multifunctional benefits of organic soil building and management systems must also be maintained.  Research examining tillage and soil carbon sequestration has raised questions about the value of no-till for carbon sequestration, calling for more in-depth research and analysis[1] [2]. While there are other benefits to no-till and reduced tillage systems, additional research should focus not just on this practice, but as the NOSB has stated, with consideration of the whole farm system.

Fate of genetically engineered plant material in compost

We support the NOSB advocating for additional research on the fate of genetically engineered plant material in compost.  This is an issue that been cited as a weakness in the organic standards.  The NOSB cannot make informed recommendations without research indicating the ultimate breakdown of GE plant material in compost.

Integrity of breeding lines and ways to mitigate small amounts of genetic presence

There are many questions about the viability of public germplasm collections. Understanding inadvertent presence of GMO’s in those collections is critical.  Maintaining pure breeding lines is a foundation for a strong organic agriculture system and should be prioritized.

Prevention of GMO contamination: Evaluation of effectiveness

We support a better understanding of how prevention strategies are working to maintain the integrity of organic crop production systems.  Advocating best practices for both organic and conventional farmers is important for organic farmers who are required to take preventative measures, and for conventional farmers that chose to be good stewards and good neighbors.  In those instances where organic producers cannot rely on the best practices of good neighbors, policy research is needed to develop a mechanism that will not just provide conventional growers incentives to take their own prevention measures,  but will also focus on policy research that includes mandatory compensation mechanisms paid by patent holders to farmers that experience contamination.

Livestock

Holistic, Systems-based measures for reducing and eliminating the use of synthetic methionine in poultry diets

Recently, in reviewing ingredient lists for livestock minerals, we noticed an increased use of metal methionine hydroxy analogue chelates, or, in common language, synthetic methionine stuck to copper, manganese, or zinc.  We have allowed the use of such chelates under §205.603(d)(2), “Trace minerals, used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved,” because these substances are AAFCO approved as sources of these minerals. Typically, however, synthetic methionine use would be regulated under §205.603(d)(1), which specifically addresses DL-Methionine.  This work-around underscores the urgent need for natural methionine sources within an holistic, systems-based approach to poultry production.

Substantial research has already been conducted investigating isolated strategies for raising chickens organically and humanely without synthetic amino acid supplementation. Please see the summary presented in comments by our colleagues at the Center for Food Safety.  In researching systems approaches to eliminating the need for DL-Methionine in organic poultry feeds, studies should assess multiple strategies that investigate the impacts of natural methionine feed sources, breed, and high-welfare management strategies simultaneously.  If we don’t spend time investigating natural methionine sources in a systems-based approach, creative ways of including synthetic methionine in poultry diets will likely proliferate.

Proposal: Excluded Methods Terminology

We commend the NOSB and ad hoc group members for their efforts in developing the draft Excluded Methods definitions. We strongly support adoption of the Excluded Methods terminology and the incorporation of a Classical/Traditional plant breeding definition to provide clarity and a strong basis for decision-making.  We also support the inclusion of multiple definitions to ensure that the guidance is as comprehensive as possible.

The Principles and Criteria section provides a strong foundation consistent with the process-based system of organic agriculture. This section clearly explains how techniques are to be evaluated in determining whether they should be permitted for use in organic agriculture.  We agree with this section as proposed.

We also support the Terminology Chart which shows which techniques, defined in Appendix A, are excluded from or allowed in organic production, and the criteria that were used to make that determination.  Additionally, we concur with the comments submitted by the Center for Food Safety this fall,  that specify four additional terms in the Discussion Document’s Terminology Chart — transposons, cisgenesis, intragenesis and agro-infiltration — should be considered excluded methods.

We urge the NOSB to add these terms to the proposal’s Terminology Chart before approving the proposal.

In sum, we strongly urge the adoption of this proposal, with the inclusion of the four technologies cited above.  We hope it will serve as guidance while supporting a long-term proposal to move through the regulatory process with the new administration.

Discussion Document: Excluded Methods Terminology

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the discussion document which addresses areas for additional work around Excluded Methods. We will comment specifically on:

  1. Additional criteria for evaluating technologies which need to be considered
  1. How to detect those technologies that are excluded but may not provide detectable genetically engineered DNA when tested

We put forth the following suggestions for dealing with these difficult questions:

Additional Criteria

We support the NOSB including the research institute of organic agriculture from Switzerland’s recommendation on Excluded methods stating that:  A variety must be usable for further crop improvement and seed propagation. This means that the breeders’ exemption and the farmers’ right are legally granted and patenting is refrained from, and that the crossing ability is not restricted by technical means.

Detection and testing

The NOP should begin gathering data on the presence of GMO materials in seeds and crops. We ask that the NOSB recommend a national pilot study with proper sampling methodology. ACA members could conduct a percentage of their required sampling for GE presence and voluntarily report anonymous data to the NOP.  An analysis and report of those findings could help the NOSB in future discussions about the presence of excluded methods and any threshold establishment.

New methods of biotechnology, for which testing methods are costly or non-existent, present particular difficulties. Given the current testing limitations, we recommend:

  1. An affidavit system for ACAs to use for varieties identified as being derived from these new excluded methods. This is a system with which ACAs, producers, and seed dealers are familiar. While it has limitations, it is, at present, the most suitable alternative.
  1. A national reporting system for genetically manipulated crop and animal material. If statutory authority is required for the establishment of such a system, we urge you to request that support from the Secretary. As GE technology rapidly evolves and outpaces the U.S. regulatory structure, measures must be put in place to allow for protection of the organic industry.

In summary, OEFFA supports the following suggestions for additional criteria, detection, and testing:

  • Ensure crop varieties are usable for further crop improvement and propagation;
  • Consider a national pilot study for GE presence in seeds;
  • Of the options presented, the affidavit system for ACAs to use for varieties derived from excluded methods should be explored further; and
  • Consider a national reporting system for genetically manipulated crop and animal material.

Report to the USDA Secretary on progress to prevent GMO incursion into organic

We appreciate the ongoing work of the NOSB on GE contamination and we support the action of the NOSB to update the Secretary of Agriculture regarding its progress in preventing GMO incursion into organic production. We are thankful that those efforts start with seed by securing research funding and data collection for testing of organic and non-GMO seed, as well as emphasizing the need for more data.  Now the data needs must broaden beyond avenues of contamination to include the comprehensive costs of contamination prevention and product rejection, as well as an assessment of the barriers to reporting farm contamination.

While USDA and AC21 continue to focus on coexistence, organic, non-GE, and even GE farmers have experienced the failure of this strategy as is evidenced by the recent and unauthorized use of Dicamba. Now is the time to expedite the issue of holding GE technology developers responsible for trespass.  The NOSB has a significant window of opportunity to emphasize the importance of USDA leadership in this area.

The body of work that has been completed by the NOSB materials/GMO subcommittee on GE contamination issues is substantial.  We believe that the proposed letter is a fair representation of NOSB activities. We request your leadership in developing mandatory policies around shared responsibility.  OEFFA views it as important that the cost of avoiding GMO contamination of organic farms and products be borne by those who profit most from the use of GMOs-the patent holders for GMO seeds.  We ask NOSB to prioritize the development of policies around shared responsibility in your report to the Secretary. Prevention and contamination costs should be borne by GE patent holders.

CROPS SUBCOMMITTEE

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride is a 2018 sunset review material listed at §205.602(c) with the annotation “brine process is natural and prohibited for use except as a foliar spray to treat a physiological disorder associated with calcium uptake.”

In addition to the twenty registered OMRI products and the ten WSDA products noted in the NOSB materials, OEFFA has seven products on our Approved Products List containing calcium chloride.

While we support the re-listing of this material, and appreciate the spirit of the listing, we find the annotation difficult to understand and explain to producers.  The example we use with producers is often blossom end rot on tomatoes.  In a situation where a tomato crop shows early signs of or first fruits with blossom end rot, the foliar application of calcium can help prevent the development of blossom end rot on developing fruit.  We would allow the use of calcium chloride in this circumstance.[3]

We request the continued listing of calcium chloride, clarification about the interpretation of the calcium chloride annotation, and that NOSB consider re-wording the annotation for better clarity and broader understanding by producers. 

Discussion document: Strengthen and clarify the requirements for use of organic seed (NOP 5029)

We support many of the points in the Organic Seed Alliance’s comments.  In particular, we support the concept of continuous improvement with regard to organic seed sourcing and use, however, we have identified some additional issues regarding organic seed for further discussion.

  • Uncertified seed dealers– Seed dealers that are not breaking packages, because they are not required to be certified organic, are held one step away from accountability with regard to completing and documenting seed searches on behalf of the producer. While producers often request and are willing to pay for organic seed, they are often shipped untreated, non-GMO varieties.  Frequently, seed searches, if performed by the dealer, are not documented, and producers are issued noncompliances, despite their intention and willingness to pay for and use organic seed.  In this way, we may be penalizing the wrong actor, as we have no formal method of feedback for an uncertified seed dealer.
  • Regional variations in organic seed availability– The Organic Seed Alliance has worked hard to collect and summarize data regarding organic seed use and availability. It has noted that the largest farms use less organic seed (by percentage of seed used) than smaller farms.  As previously mentioned, many organic producers are willing to purchase organic seed, but such seed is much easier to obtain in some regions than others.  Quantity of seed may also impact this equation, as smaller volumes of organic seeds may be easier to obtain, or less costly to ship, than larger volumes.  Organic producers in regions where organic is not prominent already face significant challenges.  They may need to maintain more buffers, clean equipment more frequently, and cannot benefit in the same way as high-density organic regional producers can in terms of group orders, work sharing, and mentorship. In moving forward with stronger requirements for organic seed, we want to be sure not to further disadvantage farmers who are acting, in some cases, as regional organic pioneers.
  • Seed search documentation– Related to the two, aforementioned topics is the idea of requiring organic producers to document a search for five, rather than three sources of organic seed per crop before purchasing an untreated, non-GMO variety. OEFFA is not convinced that this additional burden, placed on the producer, will affect the desired outcome of increased use of organic seed.  In our minds, different tools, rather than bigger versions of the same tools are needed to meet the organic seed requirement.  We support the concept of continuous improvement, and we support an industry-wide effort to move toward more organic seed use, balancing that effort among requirements for producers, handlers, variety developers, seed producers, and seed dealers.

OEFFA supports many of the Organic Seed Alliance’s recommendations, and asks that these additional considerations foster further dialogue on the topic so that undue burdens are not placed on organic producers.

Proposal: Aluminum Sulfate

OEFFA supports the Crop Subcommittee’s preliminary vote NOT to add aluminum sulfate to the National List at §205.601.

LIVESTOCK SUBCOMMITTEE

Proposals: Aluminum Sulfate, Sodium bisulfate, Acid-activated bentonite

OEFFA supports the Livestock Subcommittee’s preliminary vote NOT to add the three proposed materials, aluminum sulfate, sodium bisulfate, and acid-activated bentonite to the National List at §205.603.  We do not view these synthetic substances as compatible with a system of organic production.

OTHER ISSUES

Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans to Address Fracking and Related Activities        

For some time now, producers have faced oil and gas industry activities on organic farms.  These activities range from seismic testing (the releasing of charges under the earth to determine if oil or gas is present for removal), to traditional gas and oil wells, to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of hard to access fossil fuels, and pipelines for transportation of these the fossil fuels.  We also know that the water used in hydraulic fracturing (produced water) is, in some cases, being applied as irrigation water on certified organic land.  We recognize this as a tough and complicated issue, which is precisely why we are soliciting your help to address it.

The issue of oil and gas extraction on or in close proximity to organic farms is complex and multifaceted and as such, would require effort over a long-term. We ask the NOSB to begin work on this topic.  While farmers and certifiers are being told this topic is outside of NOSB jurisdiction, organic farmers are regularly being impacted by these activities. The farmers look to organic educators and certifiers for guidance or for standards to support them, and educators and certifiers are left similarly under-equipped to address these issues, often working in isolation with little guidance.  The lack of discussion of this topic is not preventing its impacts on organic farms.  OEFFA and other certification agencies are already dealing with these issues in the absence of guidance, so your leadership on this topic cannot come soon enough.  There must be consistency under the National Organic Program in both the US and abroad regarding the impacts of oil and gas infrastructure construction (wells, pads, and pipelines), fracking water, and related impacts on organic land.

One tool currently in use to address the aforementioned activities on organic farms is an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan.  Such a plan was developed and employed in the well-known decision in favor of Gardens of Eagen in Minnesota, which defeated a Koch Industries pipeline that threatened to traverse the organic farm via eminent domain.  The farmer, author, and policy advocate Atina Diffley has shared and spoken about the plan widely. OEFFA has edited this Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan to incorporate livestock concerns, specifically those related to dairy operations.

Please review the attached Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan and consider its ability to be tailored to the contextual situation of the farm, its surroundings, its organic system plan, and the day-to-day needs of the operation.  Imagine how it might be used to protect organic farms from the impacts of oil and gas industry exploration, extraction, transport, and waste disposal.

In the absence of sufficient federal regulatory oversight, the organic industry has of necessity taken it upon itself to attempt to shield organic farmers from the negative impacts of energy extraction.  For example, OEFFA, working directly with farmers impacted by the oil and gas industry, has advocated for the use of the agricultural impact mitigation plan to protect them with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and companies involved in pipeline projects in Ohio. FERC has adopted language explicitly stating that the company should “…file with the Secretary, for review and written approval of the Director of OEP, an impact avoidance, minimization, or mitigation plan for the organic farm….”, additionally the company “…should include documentation that the plan was developed in consultation with the landowner.”, “…coordinate with the landowner to develop site-specific mitigation measures…” as well as “mitigate and compensate for potential impacts on these lands.”

We urge the NOSB add the topic of Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans with respect to oil and gas Industry activities on organic farms to its Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Subcommittee and Crop Subcommittee work plan, as applicable.  We ask you to consider the utility of Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans in conjunction with the certification process to help protect organic producers’ operations, make clear to oil and gas industry representatives the requirements of organic systems and organic certification, and to provide guidance to producers and certifiers in thinking through and mitigating impacts of these activities on organic farms.

Additionally, we request that the NOSB share a draft Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan with both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA,) including a recommendation that organic farmers and oil and gas companies utilize such a plan, tailored to site-specific and operational needs, prior to engaging in oil and gas activities on organic farms.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

On behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and OEFFA Certification,

Carol Goland, Ph.D.
Executive Director

[1] Tillage and soil carbon sequestration-What do we really know? Baker,J., Ochser,T., Venterea, R. Griffis, T., Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 118 (2007) 1-5.

[2] PLOS One: Soil Water Holding Capacity Mitigates Downside Risk and Volatility in US Rainfed Maize: Time to Invest in Soil Organic Matter?  A. Williams, M. Hunter, M. Kammerer, D. Kane, N. Jordan, D. Mortensen, R. Smith, S. Snapp and A. Davis., August 25th, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.137/journal.pone.0160974

[3] http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/thomas/anr/documents/Blossom_End_Rot_H-98-036.pdf