Archive for the ‘Sustainable Agriculture in the News’ Category
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
By Denise Yost
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new jobs bill would allow local farmers to expand their markets and get fresher food into school cafeterias.The local farms, food, and jobs act would allow more farmer’s markets to accept supplemental nutrition assistance program money and senior coupons.
It would also give farmers whole crop insurance, and allow local schools to purchase locally-grown food instead of buying pre-packaged items.
Bryn Bird owns Bird’s Haven Farm in Granville, and said that demand for fresh produce in schools is growing.
“The parents want to know that their kids going to school are getting the most nutritious lunches that they have available, and I think the schools see it as a win-win economically. It’s local tax dollars going back into the schools, and keeping those dollars again going back into farms,” Bird said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown said the new legislation will cost $120 million each year, nationally, but it will save $20 billion over ten years by eliminating farm subsidies paid to larger farms.
Watch video here.
Monday, May 6th, 2013
The Huffington Post
By Joe Satran
On Wednesday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced bills to the Senate and House of Representatives that would require food manufacturers to clearly label any product containing genetically engineered ingredients — or risk having that product classified “misbranded” by the FDA.
Boxer and DeFazio have both previously sponsored bills that would have mandated GMO labeling — Boxer in 2000 and DeFazio on numerous occasions in concert with former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). But the new “Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act” is the first genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill to be introduced with both bicameral and bipartisan support. Its nine co-sponsors in the Senate include Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, while Rep. Don Young, also a Republican from Alaska, is among its 22 cosponsors in the House.
In a phone conversation with The Huffington Post, DeFazio, who’s been growing organic produce for 40 years, said that he remains agnostic about the health impact of GMOs. He supports mandatory labeling of food with genetically-engineered (GE) ingredients because he wants consumers to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to eat organisms that have only existed for 20 years.
“Even the most ardent free market advocate, someone who’s a devout follower of Adam Smith, would have to admit that consumers aren’t being given full information right now,” he said. “Depriving them of the knowledge of whether or not this food has GMOs does not support a free market.”
DeFazio said he hoped the new act would generate a “grassroots tidal wave of support” from constituents, as the National Organic Standards did when he and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) proposed them in 1993.
“That year, my amendment was the only amendment to the Farm Bill that got passed,” he recalls. “We had built this incredible grassroots base of support — from farmers, co-op owners, parents. People would go see their members of Congress constantly asking them to support the standards. At one point, I remember one Congressman coming up to me in the hall and telling me, ‘DeFazio, I have no idea what an organic standard is, but I’m gonna vote for it just so people stop bugging me!’”
It’s not an unrealistic hope. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans — over 90 percent — supports mandatory labeling of foods with GE ingredients. Sixty-four other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, already require such labels. And dozens of advocacy groups and food corporations have signalled their support of the new bill.
However, strong opposition from the agriculture and biotech industries has scuttled proposals for GMO labeling laws in the past. The most recent and high-profile of these failed attempts at a GMO labeling requirement was California’s Proposition 37, which was narrowly defeated in a popular referendum after opponents, mostly in these industries, spent $50 million lobbying against it.
On Wednesday afternoon, representatives of leading GE seed producer Monsanto and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a GE trade group, said that they generally opposed mandates for GE food labels, though they had not yet seen the full text of the new bill.
“Unfortunately, advocates of mandatory ‘GMO labeling’ are working an agenda to vilify biotechnology and scare consumers away from safe and healthful food products,” BIO spokeswoman Karen Badt wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
Scott Faber, president of the Environmental Working Group and the Just Label It! campaign in favor of GMO labeling, said that opposition from the biotech and agricultural industries will mean the bill “faces an uphill climb in both the House and Senate,” despite its popularity. But he noted that Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) successfully introduced an amendment to the Senate budget bill in late March to require labeling of genetically modified fish. Moreover, the bill doesn’t necessarily need to pass to have its intended effect.
“No matter, what, it will put more pressure on the White House and FDA to act on this issue,” Faber said.
Faber explained that the FDA — which, as part of Department of Health and Human Services, answers to the White House — already has the authority to require food manufacturers to label GE foods. Over a million Americans signed Just Label It’s petition to the FDA to get them to do so, prompting the FDA to address the issue directly on its website on April 8. FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said that the agency is currently in the midst of addressing the petition, and directed The Huffington Post to the FDA’s procedures for answering petitions.
DeFazio confirmed that he intended the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act to put political pressure on President Barack Obama and the FDA. He described the executive branch’s stance toward GMO labeling so far as “indifference or even overt opposition.”
“They’re approaching it more like a competitive biotech issue for the U.S., as opposed to a much more insidious threat to our farmers and to consumers,” DeFazio said. “They don’t seem to get it yet. We’ve got work to do there.”
Obama promised to require labeling for genetically modified food on the campaign trail back in 2007, but since taking office, he’s done little to advance that cause. A few weeks ago, he signed into law a proviso known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” which makes it legal to sell genetically modified crops before they’re proven 100 percent safe.
But even if the bill fails to pass and to convince Obama and the FDA to require labeling on their own, GMO labeling could still happen soon — because of the private sector. Whole Foods recently announced that it would require the manufacturers of any GE foods sold in its stores to mark them as such. Elsewhere, a surefire way of avoiding GMOs is to buy organic. DeFazio and Leahy wrote National Organic Standards before the advent of GE crops, but they’ve since been amended to exclude the use of genetically modified ingredients.
Monday, May 6th, 2013
By Tom Troy
The Toledo Blade
Schools that get federal funds to provide lunches would be encouraged to buy locally grown produce under his proposed farm bill, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said an an event in a downtown Toledo arts school Thursday.
With some 130 students in the sixth-to-12th-grade Toledo School for the Arts charter school eating their lunch in the background in the school’s Flying Pigs Cafe, Senator Brown said his proposal would boost local farmers, help the local economy, and improve the environment.
The question is whether the $120 million-per-year initiative will make it through a politically divided Congress.
Senator Brown joined with Toledo restaurateur Marty Lahey and two area farmers, Andy Keil of Swanton and Liz Bergman of Genoa, Ohio, to promote the legislation.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would allow school districts to spend a portion of federal funds for free and reduced school lunches on locally grown fruits and vegetables, rather than U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities.
“By increasing access to fresh local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio’s agricultural producers while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy,” Mr. Brown said.
According to Mr. Brown, the act would cost up to $2 billion over 10 years and would be paid for by phasing out an estimated $22 billion in farm subsidies. The proposal passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last year but was not acted on by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, so the bill expired. Mr. Brown said committee work to reintroduce the bill and try again to pass it starts next week.
Mr. Lahey, owner of Manhattan’s Restaurant, caters lunches at the Toledo School for the Arts and six other schools.
“We’ve seen a growing demand in the restaurant for fresher, more local fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Lahey said. “The bill the senator’s talking about would help move in that direction.” He told the students that watermelons that were on the menu in the fall came from Mr. Keil’s farm.
Other aspects of the bill are to help small farmers buy crop insurance and enable seniors to use senior food stamps to pay for local produce at farmers markets. Ms. Bergman, owner of Sage Organics, said Mr. Brown’s legislation would assist local farmers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs.
“The next step to help build a vibrant food economy in Northwest Ohio is to develop large wholesale options for our farmers,” Ms. Bergman said. That means being able to place local produce in universities and other institutions.
Senator Brown said deficit concerns and the implementation of $85 billion in automatic cuts mandated by the sequester ought not prevent the program from getting off the ground.
“We’ve cut almost $2 trillion in spending in the last two and a half years. We should be funding some of these things that people want,” Senator Brown said. Mr. Brown, now in his second term, is the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than four decades, according to his staff.
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
The New York Times
March 8, 2013
By Stephanie Strom
Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, on Friday became the first retailer in the United States to require labeling of all genetically modified foods sold in its stores, a move that some experts said could radically alter the food industry.
A. C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods, said the new labeling requirement, to be in place within five years, came in response to consumer demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Mr. Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled.”
Genetically modified ingredients are deeply embedded in the global food supply, having proliferated since the 1990s. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, for example, have been genetically modified. The alterations make soybeans resistant to a herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide. Efforts are under way to produce a genetically altered apple that will spoil less quickly, as well as genetically altered salmon that will grow faster. The announcement ricocheted around the food industry and excited proponents of labeling. “Fantastic,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group that favors labeling.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade group that represents major food companies and retailers, issued a statement opposing the move. “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,” Louis Finkel, the organization’s executive director of government affairs, said in the statement.
Mr. Finkel noted that the Food and Drug Administration, as well as regulatory and scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, had deemed genetically modified products safe.
The labeling requirements announced by Whole Foods will include its 339 stores in the United States and Canada. Since labeling is already required in the European Union, products in its seven stores in Britain are already marked if they contain genetically modified ingredients. The labels currently used show that a product has been verified as free of genetically engineered ingredients by the Non GMO Project, a nonprofit certification organization. The labels Whole Foods will use in 2018, which have yet to be created, will identify foods that contain such ingredients.
The shift by Whole Foods is the latest in a series of events that has intensified the debate over genetically modified foods. Voters defeated a hard-fought ballot initiative in California late last year after the biotech industry, and major corporations like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, spent millions of dollars to fight the effort. Other initiatives have qualified for the ballot in Washington State and Missouri, while consumers across the country have been waging a sort of guerrilla movement in supermarkets, pasting warning stickers on products suspected of having G.M.O. ingredients from food companies that oppose labeling. Proponents of labeling insist that consumers have a right to know about the ingredients in the food they eat, and they contend that some studies in rats show that bioengineered food can be harmful.
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a campaign for a federal requirement to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients, called the Whole Foods decision a “game changer.”
“We’ve had some pretty big developments in labeling this year,” Mr. Hirshberg said, adding that 22 states now have some sort of pending labeling legislation. “Now, one of the fastest-growing, most successful retailers in the country is throwing down the gantlet.”
He compared the potential impact of the Whole Foods announcement to Wal-Mart’s decision several years ago to stop selling milk from cows treated with growth hormone. Today, only a small number of milk cows are injected with the hormone.
Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for BIO, a trade group representing the biotech industry, said it was too early to determine what impact, if any, the Whole Foods decision would have. “It looks like they want to expand their inventory of certified organic and non-G.M.O. lines,” Ms. Batra said. “The industry has always supported the voluntary labeling of food for marketing reasons.”
She contended, however, that without scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods caused health or safety issues, labeling was unnecessary.
Nonetheless, companies have shown a growing willingness to consider labeling. Some 20 major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart, met recently in Washington to discuss genetically modified labeling.
Coincidentally, the American Halal Company, a food company whose Saffron Road products are sold in Whole Foods stores, on Friday introduced the first frozen food, a chickpea and spinach entree, that has been certified not to contain genetically modified ingredients.
More than 90 percent of respondents to a poll of potential voters in the 2012 elections, conducted by the Mellman Group in February last year, were in favor of labeling genetically modified foods. Some 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, favored it.
But in the fight over the California initiative, Proposition 37, the opponents succeeded in persuading voters that labeling would have a negative effect on food prices and the livelihood of farmers.
That fight, however, has cost food companies in other ways. State legislatures and regulatory agencies are pondering labeling on their own, and consumers have been aggressive in criticizing some of the companies that fought the initiative, using Twitter and Facebook to make their views known.
Buoyed by what they see as some momentum in the labeling war, consumers, organic farmers and food activists plan to hold an “eat-in” outside the F.D.A.’s offices next month to protest government policies on genetically modified crops and foods. Whole Foods, which specializes in organic products, tends to be favored by those types of consumers, and it enjoys strong sales of its private-label products, whose composition it controls. The company thus risks less than some more traditional food retailers in taking a stance on labeling.
In 2009, Whole Foods began submitting products in its 365 Everyday Value private-label line to verification by the Non GMO Project.
But even Whole Foods has not been immune to criticism on the G.M.O. front. A report by Cornucopia, “Cereal Crimes,” revealed that its 365 Corn Flakes line contained genetically modified corn. By the time the report came out in October 2011, the product had been reformulated and certified as organic.
Today, Whole Foods’ shelves carry some 3,300 private-label and branded products that are certified, the largest selection of any grocery chain in the country.
Mr. Gallo said Whole Foods did not consult with its suppliers about its decision and informed them of it only shortly before making its announcement Friday. He said Whole Foods looked forward to working with suppliers on the labeling.
Monday, January 21st, 2013
The Columbus Dispatch
By Mary Vanac
December 21, 2012
More and more grocery stores and restaurants from Michigan to Washington, D.C., are stocking Luna Burger’s Ohio-made vegan burgers and breakfast patties.
“We’re excited about our list of retail locations,” said co-owner Megan Luna. “And it’s growing. That makes us happy.”
The growth also makes John Lowe, CEO of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, happy.
The artisan ice-cream-maker in Columbus started Eat Well Distribution early this year to get novel products of other small, mostly local, food companies on retail shelves nationwide.
Eat Well is meeting the needs of small frozen-food companies that don’t have enough sales to attract a handful of large national distributors. Eat Well also distributes its food in a unique way: packing it with dry ice and shipping it to retailers rather than delivering it with trucks.
“A company like Jeni’s that figured out how to do this for ice cream could really help other companies figure out a game plan to get their products to market,” said Nate Filler, president and CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association.
Luna Burger was Eat Well’s first client. “We’ve just about doubled our retail locations with them in less than a year,” Luna said. “So that’s been a significant impact for us.”
By taking over Luna Burger’s sales and distribution responsibilities, Eat Well also has freed up owners Megan and Barbie Luna to do other things, Megan Luna said.
Eat Well is compensated mostly with the difference between what it pays for the products it distributes and what retailers end up paying for the products. “As a simple matter, we buy from them at a distributor price and we sell at a wholesale price,” Lowe said.
Jeni’s expertise at taking orders, packing and shipping boxes of frozen food, and learning the lingo of frozen-food retailers sprang from necessity.
“When we started our wholesale business three and a half years ago, we didn’t sell enough ice cream for distributors to want to take up space at their warehouses,” Lowe said.
So a team at Jeni’s started packing 45 pints of ice cream and dry ice in a box, and shipping the boxes to retailers who stocked their own shelves.
“The Hill’s Market was our first customer, and then Foragers in Brooklyn, New York,” Lowe said. “ These retailers were always a little skeptical. But we would talk them into trying it.”
Today, Jeni’s is the largest buyer of dry ice in Ohio and ships its ice creams to 675 retail locations nationwide, Lowe said. It made business sense to leverage the company’s sales, marketing and distribution expertise by adding other small, frozen-food companies.
“We got excited about another product in town called Luna Burger, vegan veggie burgers that we think are fantastic,” Lowe said. “They’ve got a great product, but the chances of them breaking through and making a name for themselves is pretty thin” without a distributor.
Consolidation in the food industry by retailers, distributors and producers has left small, young food companies with few sales and distribution options, he said. Eat Well’s help could improve their odds for sales breakthroughs.
In addition to Luna Burger, Eat Well Distribution serves Brezel, the maker of gourmet Bavarian pretzels at Columbus’ North Market.
Eat Well and Brezel have been developing a line of four flavors of pretzels to be distributed first locally, then statewide, and eventually nationwide, beginning early next year, said Brittany Baum, founder and owner of Brezel.
“We really don’t know what to expect, but we’re hoping our retail business will pick up, and more people will put our products on their menus,” said Baum, who expects to pay Eat Well a success fee every time it gets her pretzels on a new store shelf.
Eat Well also distributes dry beans, grains, seeds and flour for Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens, as well as Naanwiches — frozen naan bread sandwiches filled with Indian dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala — for Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods in Hayward, Calif., and herb-infused, whole-food snack bars for Simple Squares in Chicago.
For Lowe, using Jeni’s expertise “on behalf of these other great companies is fun and exciting,” he said. “We think that if we help companies like Luna Burger and Shagbark grow with very low-cost services, their volumes will increase, and good will come of it.”
Monday, January 21st, 2013
WKSU Quick Bites with Vivian Goodman
December 28, 2012
We’re at Breakneck Acres with Ami Gignac. You’re going to show us some new friends.
“Sure am. Let’s go take a look. So we’ve, since you visited Vivian we’ve added three Berkshire pigs to the family.”
And you were telling me you’re working with a few new people, producers that you’re working with, right?
“We are. We started a relationship with a very small micro-brewery in Cuyahoga Falls called Toms Foolery. And they’re actuially going to do a certified organic bourbon. The toughest thing for me is that I’m going to have to wait over a year to have our first taste test.”
Ami Gignac starts most days with her feathered friends in a retrofitted school bus that serves as a mobile chicken coop. Sixty laying hens including 20 leghorns live with her and Tim Fox on their Portage County farm.
“And then we’ve just recently taken on two cows. They are grass-fed beef that we will later use for meat.”
The cows have quite a salad bar. Breakneck Acres sits on 35 lush acres not far from Kent State University in Portage County.
RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS
Tim Fox grew up on a dairy farm. “Basically I guess it’s still part of my heritage.”
Amy had been a city girl. She realizes they’re getting into farming at the right time, at the peak of the farm-to-table movement.
“But it wasn’t planned. The transition was for personal reasons. I was 70 pounds heavier than you see me today. My blood pressure was 160 over 100. I had this great 6-figure salary but I wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t happy.”
She’d been the general manager of a small mining company. They were living in Kent in 2006 when Tim found the property they turned into Breakneck Acres.
THE SKILLS TRANSFER
“When I was in the mining business there was always this piece tied to sustainability and being environmentally conscious and a lot of that transitioned over. And then of course the financial management, the human resource issues, all of that has really transitioned nicely. And I think the difference is when I have a meeting I have cowboy boots on and before I had high heels.”
At first farming had been only a hobby.
“We had started out as row crop farmers and transitioned recently into doing seasonal produce and also specialty grains that we mill on the farm. Our primary is the wheat, corn and beans. We grow a special variety of a hard red winter wheat and hard red spring wheat that are high in protein and excellent for milling and for bread-baking. We grow a special variety of corn that’s a little sweeter than your typical field corn, lovely for corn meal, grits, and polenta. We also grow soybeans and different varieties of heirloom dry beans that are lovely for soups and that sort of thing. I think this year we have 5 varieties in the ground from an heirloom Black Turtle to Jacob’s Cattle, and one called Tiger’s Eye. We’re also looking for some wholesale customers. So we’re working with Breadsmith in Lakewood and they do a lovely loaf of bread that uses all local ingredients that’s really cool. And we’re also just starting to work with Ohio City Pasta on some signature pastas that will offer local ingredients which is also really neat because we love pasta.”
LISTED IN THE GOOD EARTH GUIDE
Ohio farms that sell directly to customers are listed in the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Good Earth Guide. Published since 1990 , it’s grown from a list of a dozen or so to 350 farms including organic farms, like Breakneck Acres.
“Now that we are certified organic it’s important for me then to keep our information updated because I would guess that about ten percent of our customers find us via the good earth guide. Customers that are specifically looking for specialty products. I’ve even had someone from Malaysia call to talk to me a little bit about milling that said they had found us from the Good Earth Guide and then did a little more research on us so that was really cool.”
STONE MILLS FLOWN IN FROM EUROPE
One of the farm buildings houses two hand-crafted East Tyrolean stone mills they had shipped over from Austria.
“Stone milling keeps the temperature really below 140 degrees as it mills, says Gignac.” And so you don’t lose as much of the nutritional value as you would with some of the burr milling.”
Amy claims her chickens taste great and it might be because they feed on a gourmet blend.
“We use stone ground corn, buckwheat and hard red winter wheat and then we also add some trace minerals, some salt, some sea kelp. It’s great. In fact Tim taste-tests it each time I make a batch. They eat better than we do!”
She says she and her partner have no regrets about buying the farm. And they plan to keep life simple.
“We’re not going to go into ‘big Ag.’ We appreciate that we do need to grow to be sustainable and really for both of us to officially quit our day jobs. But it’s a slow growth and its making small steps in the directions that keep Tim and I healthy and happy and stress-free.”
Amy Gignac and Tim Fox sell their specialty grains, beans, organic vegetables and herbs and free-range eggs every Wednesday afternoon at the farm. They’re also at the Kent and Ravenna farmers’ markets.
Monday, January 21st, 2013
January 14, 2013
By Steve Brown
Urban farming is growing. In cities around the country, residents are planting crops on rooftops, on abandoned elevated train tracks, in vacant lots and, of course, backyards.
On Columbus’s north side, a new store near the corner of High Street and Morse Road has become a resource for urban farmers.
Shawn Fiegelist owns and operates City Folk’s Farm Shop. It’s a small corner store that offers chicken feed, cheese making kits, and everything in between to help people live off a little bit of land.
Fiegelist say she’s always had a passion for homesteading and growing her own food. She opened the store last March after growing frustrated with having to drive up to two hours to find supplies.
“There are other people who are like me. I knew some of those people so I knew there were people who were looking for this sort of thing and not finding it. And there’s also a big push to buy locally, so that helps us, as well.”
She says business has been steady, even really good at times. Over the last ten months, City Folk’s has evolved into more than just a store.
“If somebody’s looking for something specific or some sort of specific information, there are a lot of people that come through the doors, so we keep track of those folks and pass on information that way,” Fiegelist says.
“We have classes and workshops, so people who are interested in doing, let’s see what we’ve got coming up. We’ve got ‘Making Bee’s Wax Candles’, ‘Edible Medicine’, there’s a bee-keeping class, there’s a classroom for the urban coop…”
It’s hard to tell just how many urban farmers there are. They range from people growing tomatoes on an apartment balcony to full-scale commercial farms inside abandoned factories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply is now grown in urban areas, and cities including Columbus have loosened zoning rules allowing people to grow crops and raise livestock.
That includes Joseph Swain, owner of Swainway Urban Farm in Clintonville. He started farming four years ago, and it’s grown from a hobby to a career. He’s transformed his third-of-an-acre property into a commercial farm producing raspberries, mushrooms, and dozens of herbs and vegetables he sells at local farmers’ markets.
“We do have to take some different strategies and techniques to kind of compete with people who have vast amounts of land, so we focus on high-value crops and growing crops really intensively.”
He buys supplies from the City Folk’s Farm Shop, and has started supplying the store with some of his seedlings.
“What Shawn is doing is really fantastic. She does an awesome job at connecting with local businesses and other organizations to provide education and outreach programs. And I think it’s really important to support businesses like that to ensure the success of our community.”
Shawn Fiegelist hopes her shop will teach even more people about the benefits of urban farming.
“It’s a wide, wide group of people. It’s all sorts of people, all income levels. Clintonville obviously is a place I think that a lot of people think it’s going on. But it’s not just Clintonville, it really is all over the city.”
Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
We, the undersigned, worked diligently and in good faith with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to complete the 2012 Farm Bill in regular order. When that did not occur, the Committees jointly developed a plan for a one-year extension that, while flawed, had many merits. Like the Agriculture Committee leaders and members, we were shocked to learn that this agreement had been replaced by a biased extension that also disappointed the farmers, fishers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, farmworkers, and rural and urban communities we represent.
Direct payments were continued at the full 2008 levels – despite agreements to reduce them – while disaster response support for producers who have suffered up to three years of extreme drought and heat was eliminated.
In the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, Congress gradually adopted a set of programs to build the foundation for a new food system. This emerging food system, a small but growing portion of overall US Farm and Food Policy, has the potential to enhance equity for our nation’s diverse producers and farmworkers, secure a future in agriculture for new entry farmers and rural, urban and tribal communities, and provide fresh, local food for all consumers.
The Agriculture Committees’ December 31 agreement continued 2013 support for these critical programs, which ranged from Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers to Beginning Farmer Development, Rural Development, Specialty Crop, Organic and Urban Agriculture, and others, including a deep surprise cut in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) education program. All of this funding was zeroed out as the Farm Bill extension was attached to the fiscal cliff bill that has now become law.
We thank the Agriculture Committee leadership and members for their efforts to achieve balance. Beginning immediately, we pledge to work with the incoming Agriculture Committees to complete a full and fair Farm Bill that mitigates disasters, protects natural resources, provides equity and inclusion, constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities, and assures healthy food for all consumers.
National Family Farm Coalition
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Monday, November 26th, 2012
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
November 14, 2012
On Oct. 1, the farm bill officially expired due to inaction by the U.S. House of Representatives. Their fumbling over budget cuts and money allocation has led us to the first full expiration of the farm bill in history, leaving many programs without funding to continue their essential actions toward advancing agriculture in this country. One such program is the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which stopped accepting applications after Oct. 31.
Organic farmers are required to pay an annual fee for certification. The NOCCSP gives farmers the opportunity to offset those costs by up to $750 per year. Without this low-cost program, we are likely to see the number of enrollments to organic certification programs in Ohio slow and re-enrollments decline. Being organically certified helps consumers know that their food is held to the standards set by the National Organic Program, which approximately one-third of Ohio’s organic operations utilize.
The loss of such a program could have devastating effects on the growing organic movement, but all hope is not lost. Congress can replenish funding by voting in its current lame-duck session to reauthorize the farm bill. A call to your congressmen can help make this a reality.
Shane Richmond, Granville
Monday, November 19th, 2012
November 15, 2012
By Bonnie Hazen
WARREN – Students in Warren City Schools soon will enjoy salsa made from locally grown tomatoes.
Five bushels of tomatoes were delivered this week to Warren G. Harding High School.
Warren Schools Department of Food Service director Laureen Postlethwait poses with locally grown tomatoes delivered Tuesday at Warren G. Harding High School.
“We were really happy with what came today,” said Laureen Postlethwait, director of the Warren Schools Department of Food Service, explaining the aroma and vibrant color of the tomatoes was surprising for a November delivery.
The tomatoes were the last pickings of the field-grown tomatoes from Anguili’s Farm Market in Canfield. The produce was purchased from the Lake to River Food Cooperative, a member-owned cooperative comprising a local group of food producers, processors and institutional and commercial buyers, including a number of area farms, schools and businesses.
The cooperative was formed in 2011 and is supported in part by a $75,000 USDA grant. It offers a variety of foods, including fresh produce, meat, cheese, eggs and other products.
“Our goal is to keep food dollars in our community,” said Lake to River Food Cooperative produce manager Greg Bowman of Salem, who made the delivery.
Though this was the first delivery to Warren, he said the co-op has also served Austintown, Youngstown, Girard, Boardman, Springfield, Labrae and Badger schools.
The food co-op is helpful both to schools and farmers because it serves as an intermediary and helps provide fresh produce that is grown locally to schools while helping farmers wrap up the season after their stands close, said Melissa Miller, marketing manager for the Lake to River Food Cooperative.
The variety of produce offered by the co-op assists local schools in providing more nutritious ingredients in their school lunches, helping them comply with the stricter dietary guidelines initiated this year, Postlethwait said.
The federal meal program guidelines, signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, require schools to offer healthier food choices to students, such as lower-calorie and lower-fat foods.
“It’s a challenge to change the mindset of the students’ meal patterns,” Postlethwait said, adding that students have been very receptive to the fresh salads, and they recently made salsa from tomatoes grown at school.
The tomatoes delivered Tuesday were the first of three shipments to be delivered within the next two weeks, and will primarily be used for salsa in nacho and burrito lunches at the high school.
Postlethwait said apples also will be purchased from the co-op in the winter months.
Editor’s Note: The Lake-To-River Food Cooperative’s (L2R) $75,000 grant was provided by the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in the Farm Bill. The FMPP provides grants to community supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans, support innovative market ideas, and educate consumers. L2R’s FMPP funding supports the group’s efforts to sell produce to 10 local school districts feeding nearly 14,000 school children and bring fresh food to low-income neighborhoods in Youngstown and Warren. Go to http://policy.oeffa.org/farmbill2012 to urge Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill that funds the FMPP and other important programs.