Archive for the ‘OEFFA Testimony, Comments, and Sign On Letters’ Category

Nutrient Management Bill Improvements Needed

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Senate Committee on Agriculture
Senate Building
1 Capitol Square
Columbus, OH 43215

November 19, 2013

Chairman Cliff Hite and Senator Bob Peterson:

I write to you today on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) regarding the proposed legislation on nutrient management (Senate Bill 150).

OEFFA was founded in 1979 and has more than 3,000 farmers, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and other members who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, creates economic opportunities for our rural communities, and safeguards the environment. OEFFA also operates one of the country’s oldest USDA accredited organic certification agencies and currently certifies 816 operations.

In recent years there has been growing public pressure to address the pervasiveness of algae blooms in Ohio’s waterways caused by farming. We appreciate Senators Hite’s and Peterson’s efforts to initiate conversations in order to address nutrient management deficiencies. Although registering and tracking the use of commercial fertilizers is a necessary step in taking control of problems surrounding nutrient pollution, we recognize that this alone will not resolve them. Specifically, there are two issues with the proposed legislation:

1. Certified organic farms should have the option to provide a valid certificate to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in lieu of the fertilizer applicator license.

The proposed legislation is aimed at identifying and resolving nutrient pollution causing algae blooms in Ohio lakes and other waterways. Certified organic growers applying fertilizer to their land may be subject to licensing requirements under Senate Bill 150. Due to the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) rigorous standards (NOP §205.200), which require farmers to maintain or improve the farm’s natural resources, regulating organic growers is misdirected and an inefficient use of state resources.

Certified organic farmers are required to complete Organic System Plans (OSP) and annually undergo onsite inspections and submit records for review. Every OSP must demonstrate that a farmer has taken steps to meet soil fertility and crop nutrient management standards that maintain or improve the condition of soil, minimize soil erosion, and prevent to contamination of water (NOP §205.203(a)(c)(d)). Organic System Plans include detailed information regarding the date and rates of application commercial soil amendments, compost, and manure, thereby superseding the reporting requirements in SB 150. Further, organic producers must demonstrate how contamination to soil or water was prevented (NOP §205.203(c)(1)). Other requirements under the organic standards include maintaining or improving soil integrity by implementing crop rotation, and utilizing cover crops (NOP§205.205).

Finally, if organic farmers incorporate commercial fertilizers in their operations, they must use substances approved for organic production (NOP§205.105, NOP§205.601(j)). Organic fertilizers usually contain many different nutrients that are in significantly lower concentrations than chemical fertilizers and release more slowly into the environment. Even if a farmer utilizes a synthetic fertilizer allowed under organic standards, it is in combination with other conservation practices required under the standards to mitigate any adverse impacts on water quality.

2. Fertilizer applicator licensing should be expanded to include manure.

Agriculture is the number one cause of contamination of our waterways. Nutrient runoff from over application of manure is a known pollutant, and to reduce such pollution in a
meaningful way, additional standards for manure application must be put in place.

A 2010 Columbus Dispatch article entitled “Manure, Pesticides Take Ohio, Waterways” ran shortly after the peak of toxic algae blooms at Grand Lake St. Marys in Mercer County, reporting that the number of cows, hogs, and chickens on farms in the county has more than doubled in 20 years. Altogether these operations, in this one county, produce more than 1.6 million tons on manure each year.

As written, SB 150 will not effectively solve the nutrient runoff issue because it is not regulating manure, the other contributor to the problem. For instance, loopholes in current regulations omit smaller manure distributors and applicators from registering with the state.

3. Without substantiated and regulated methods for reducing nutrient runoff, SB 150 will fail to effectively tackle algal blooms in Ohio.

Although creating fertilizer application registrations is a good first step, it will not result in meaningful reductions of nutrient runoff. Other solutions currently exist to help mitigate nutrient pollution, including strong conservation practices and soil testing as a basis for nutrient management. Ohio legislators should look to these strategies and require or incentivize reductions in nutrient pollution from farming.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues.

Sincerely,
MacKenzie Bailey
Policy Program Coordinator
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Road
Columbus, OH 43214
Phone: (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208
Email: mackenzie@oeffa.org

OEFFA’s Comments to the FDA on Proposed Food Safety Rules

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

November 15, 2013

OEFFA submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to proposed produce and preventative controls food safety rules. To read OEFFA’s comments, click here. To learn more about the rules, click here.

278 Groups Support Conservation Compliance and National Sodsaver

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

October 29, 2013

Dear Farm Bill Conferee,

As the House and Senate begins conferencing the final 2013 Farm Bill, the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you protect grasslands, wetlands, healthy soil and clean water by supporting a national sodsaver provision and re-coupling basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance. Both of these provisions, included in the Senate bill, ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to incentivize risky or environmentally destructive practices. Conservation compliance and sodsaver are among the top farm bill priorities for our groups, and both will be determining factors as we consider our support for a final bill.

For decades, in exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have committed to adopt land management practices that successfully reduced soil erosion and protected wetlands. By shifting subsidies away from direct payments and towards a strong crop insurance safety net, this new farm bill creates a loophole in the longstanding requirements that those who receive subsidies take minimal steps to protect the public good. Without these key protections, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on crop insurance over coming years will subsidize soil erosion that will choke our waterways, increase the cost of water treatment and dredging, and reduce the long term productivity of farmland. It will also allow for the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding, loss of wildlife habitat and decreased water quality. To keep these protections in place, it is critical that the final farm bill re-couple conservation compliance with crop insurance premium subsidies and does not weaken existing wetland conservation provisions.

Native grasslands across the country are disappearing at an alarming rate, threatening grassland-dependent wildlife species as well as the ranching and hunting industries dependent on those lands. From 2011 to 2012 alone, nearly 400,000 non-cropland acres were “broken out” for crop production. These acres are being lost across the entire country. In fact, over this period, more than 65 percent of these losses occurred outside of the Prairie Pothole Region states. A nationwide sodsaver provision will reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy these critical grassland resources. Most of the land that is being converted from native ecosystems to cropland is marginal, highly erodible, or prone to flooding. Bringing this marginally productive land into crop production provides little benefit to taxpayers, increases long-term costs due to erosion and nutrient loss, and ultimately leads to reduced water quality, less capacity to reduce flooding and the loss of valuable wildlife habitat. Sodsaver does not prohibit farmers from breaking out new land; it ensures that if they do, they do so at their own risk by partially reducing the cost to taxpayers. It is critical that sodsaver apply to the entire country. A regional approach, such as included in the House bill, is not adequate to protect our nation’s remaining native grasslands.

We thank you for your efforts to complete the 2013 Farm Bill, and we strongly urge you to support soil, water, and wildlife habitat conservation in the final bill by including a national sodsaver provision, re-linking basic conservation measures to eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies, and opposing efforts to weaken existing wetland protections. Doing so will save money and ensure long term farm productivity by protecting our nation’s vital natural resources.
Signed,

National Groups:

American Bird Conservancy
American Farmland Trust
Amphibian Survival Alliance
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Bridging The Gap
Caribou Ecological
Center for Rural Affairs
Chicago Botanic Garden
Clean Water Action
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Defenders of Wildlife
Delta Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited
Ecological Society of America
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Working Group
Farm Bill Primer
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
National Association of Clean Water Agencies
National Audubon Society
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
National Bobwhite Technical Committee
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National Parks Conservation Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nature Abounds
North American Falconers’ Association
Pesticide Action Network
Pheasants Forever
Pollinator Partnership
Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation
Quail Forever
SAVE THE FROGS!
Soil and Water Conservation Society
The Conservation Fund
The Izaak Walton League of America
The Nature Conservancy
The Tortoise Reserve
The Wildlife Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Watchable Wildlife, Inc.
Water Environment Federation
Wildlife Management Institute
World Wildlife Fund
Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Regional Groups:

Alliance for the Great Lakes
Appalachian Conservation Biology
Central Flyway Council
Chapped Rapids Audubon Society
Delmarva Ornithological Society
Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest
Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
Friends of the Upper Delaware River
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center
Gulf Restoration Network
Lake Champlain Committee
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northern Great Plains Working Group
Northern Prairies Land Trust
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Northwest Watershed Institute
Ohio River Foundation
Ozark Regional Land Trust
Quail & Upland Game Alliance
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
The Wetlands Initiative
The Wildlife Society-Central Mountains and Plains Section
Total Resource Management
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

State and Local Groups:

Arizona Wildlife Federation
Northern Arizona Audubon Society
Wild At Heart
Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Enviroscapes Ecological Consulting
Audubon California
California Climate and Agriculture Network
Endangered Habitats League
Roots of Change
Slow Food California
Wild Farm Alliance
Audubon Society of Greater Denver
Colorado Wildlife Federation
Grand Valley Audubon Society
Izaak Walton League of America, Pike’s Peak Chapter
Southern Plains Land Trust
Audubon Connecticut
Florida Wildlife Federation
Izaak Walton League of America, Cypress Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Florida
South Florida Audubon Society
South Florida Wildlands
St. Johns River Alliance
Georgia Wildlife Federation
Oconee Rivers Audubon Society
Friends of Camas NWR
Henrys Fork Chapter Idaho Master Naturalists
Intermountain Aquatics Inc.
Pend Oreille Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalists
Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc.
Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River
Garden Advisors
Illinois Ornithological Society
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation
Prairie Rivers Network
The Nature Institute
Geist Fall Creek Watershed Alliance
Hoosier Environmental Council
Indiana Assoc. of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Indiana Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Indiana Park & Recreation Association
Indiana Wildlife Federation
Save the Dunes
Sycamore Land Trust, Incorporated
Tippecanoe Audubon Society
Citizens for a Healthy Iowa
Des Moines Water Works
Driftless Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Decorah)
Iowa Bowhunters Association
Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa Wildlife Federation
Izaak Walton League of America, Maquoketa Valley Chapter
North Bear Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Des Moines)
Quad City Audubon Society
Spring Creeks Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Iowa City)
Trout Unlimited, Iowa Council
Wagner Conservation Coalition
Audubon of Kansas
Kansas Rural Center
Kansas Wildlife Federation
Frankfort Audubon Society
Kentucky Conservation Committee
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
The Wildlife Society, Kentucky Chapter
America’s WETLAND Foundation
Atchafalaya Basinkeeper
Friends of Maine’s Seabird Islands
Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative
Western Foothills Land Trust
Fox Haven Farm and Learning Center
Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER
Izaak Walton League of America- Maryland Mid-shore Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Free State Chapter
Maryland Ornithological Society
Broad Brook Coalition
Massachusetts Audubon Society
Dwight Lydell Chapter, IWLA
Garden Project
Huron River Watershed Council
Lafayette Greens
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
Michigan Wildlife Conservancy & Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
Brainerd Lakes Area Audubon Society
Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Central Minnesota Audubon Society
Friends of the Mississippi River
Izaak Walton League of America, Cass County Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Jaques Chapter
Land Stewardship Project
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union
Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust
W. J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
Mississippi River Trust
Mississippi Wildlife Federation
Wildlife Mississippi
Conservation Federation of Missouri
EcoWorks Unlimited
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Parks Association
Missouri Prairie Foundation
Missouri Stream Team
Missouri Stream Team 3762
Ozark (Missouri) Council Trout Unlimited
Social Services/Rural Life, CCCNM
Montana Audubon
Montana Wildlife Federation
Audubon Society of Omaha
Izaak Walton League of America- Grand Island Chapter
Nebraska Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society INC-NSAS
Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Western Nebraska Resources Council
Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
New Jersey Wildlife Society
Church Women United of New York State
Buffalo Audubon Society
Eastern Long Island Audubon Society
Save The River, the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper
Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Justice & Peace & Global Environment Committees
The Wetland Trust
Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
North Carolina Trout Unlimited Council
North Carolina Wildlife Federation
Resource Institute, Inc.
Browns Ranch
Izaak Walton League of America, Buckeye All-State Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Headwaters Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Wayne County Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Western Reserve Chapter
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Council
Ohio Farmers Union
Ohio Spider Society
Ohio Wetlands Association
Shaker Lakes Garden Club
Silvertip Productions, Ltd
Izaak Walton League – Oregon Division
Izaak Walton League – Silverton Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Mary’s Peak Chapter
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society
Lane County Audubon Society
Oregon Tilth
Salem Audubon Society
Ecological Associates
Lake Erie Region Conservancy
Lehigh Valley Audubon Society
PennFuture
Pennsylvania Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs
East Greenwich Municipal Land Trust
Coastal Conservation League
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History
South Carolina Wildlife Federation
Black Hills Sportsmen Club
Delta Waterfowl, the Sioux Falls, SD Chapter
High Plains Wildlife Association
Huron(SD) Puddle Jumpers Chapter of Delta Waterfowl
Izaak Walton League of America, Rapid City Chapter
Living River Group- Sierra Club
Northern South Dakota Chapter of Pheasants Forever
South Dakota Agriculture Conservation Coalition
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club
South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society
South Dakota Farmers Union
South Dakota Grassland Coalition
South Dakota Wildlife Federation
Tennessee Clean Water Network
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Audubon Dallas
Houston Audubon Society
Texas Conservation Alliance
Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park
Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
Shenandoah Valley Network
U.S. Trail Riders
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Conservation Network
Virginia Food Works
North Cascades Audubon Society
Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network
Izaak Walton League of America, Mountaineer Chapter
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Inc.
Wisconsin Society for Ornithology
Wisconsin Soil and Water Conservation Society
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Wyoming Outdoor Council

Letter to Congress In Support of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Friday, October 11th, 2013

October 10, 2013

Dear U.S. House and Senate Committee Leaders:

The agricultural sector of our economy continues to be vibrant and strong. In recent years, there has been an uptick in individuals and families interested in building careers in farming or ranching. Despite significant hurdles such as limited access to affordable land, high start-up costs, and lack of training, there are hard-working and talented people who want to start their own farm or ranch businesses.

With the appropriate policies in a 2013 Farm Bill, you can support successful new farmer start-ups and also mitigate some of the major obstacles new producers confront. By supporting new farmer opportunities with public policy we can strengthen the economic base and vitality of many of our rural and urban communities. As you begin conference negotiations on a new farm bill, we urge you to build upon the best provisions in existing bills to adopt the strongest possible measures for new and aspiring farmers. These include:

Supporting New Farmer Training Through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)

1. Sustain needed funding at no less than $20 million per year. Funding for this program has been absent since 2012 and without future investments we risk losing the focus and base of organizations and institutions assisting tens of thousands of beginning farmers across the country.

2. Refrain from creating a “state grants” subsection within the BFRDP focused solely on farm safety. While farm safety is an important training effort, it should be integrated into the existing purposes for which grants can be offered to groups, rather than prioritized in a block-grant that would divert funding away from the thirteen other critical program purposes.

3. Ensure a set-aside of 25 percent of yearly funds is available for socially disadvantaged producers, limited resource producers and military veterans. This set-aside has been a critical component of the program since its inception and is important in ensuring diverse and broad populations have access to this program.

Expanding Access to Farmland, Credit and Conservation Assistance

1. Provide $50 million for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program which allows new producers and retiring landowner to collaborate to make more farm and ranch land available.

2. Prioritize conservation easements at agricultural use value for beginning farmers through the Agricultural Land Easement Program in order to increase the availability of affordable land, especially in areas facing growing development pressure.

3. Authorize a microloan program, including intermediary lending, in order to expand credit options and simplify the Farm Service Agency loan application process for new farmers.

4. Increase the advance payment option within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which would make it easier and financially viable for a new farmer to adopt conservation practices on their operations.

Additionally, we encourage provisions that ensure outreach to our nation’s military veterans interested in starting farming as well as robust funding for outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

This farm bill process has already dragged on for far too long. Every day Congress fails to proceed forward with a bill is a day we miss the opportunity to make better investments in the next generation of American farmers and ranchers – this delay has both short-term on long-term consequences for our communities. We urge you to move deliberately and swiftly in finalizing a farm bill that incorporates these beginning farmer measures.

Sincerely,

Agribusiness Incubator Program
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association
Alden Economic Development Committee
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Beau Chemin Preservation Farm
Beginning Farmers LLC
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association
California Certified Organic Farmers
California FarmLink
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Catholic Charities of Louisville, Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Center for Rural Affairs
Chicago Botanic Garden
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community CROPS
Community Food & Agriculture Coalition
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Cultivate Kansas City
Cultivating Community
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship
Dakota Rural Action
Delta Land & Community
Earth Learning
Ecological Farming Association
Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm
Family Farm Defenders
Farley Center Farm Incubator Farm
Fresh Rhode Island
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc
FARRMS
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
Finger Lakes – Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training
Food & Water Watch
Food Democracy Now!
Food Field
Food Works
Georgia Organics
GoFarm Hawaii
Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming
Hawthorne Valley Farm
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Hope Farms/Bethany Christian Services
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Living Services of Northern California
Institute for Washington’s Future
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Just Food KAKOO OIWI
Kansas Rural Center
Kauai Community College Kerr Center Inc.
Land For Good
Land Stewardship Project
Leeward Community College
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Local Food Hub
Lowcountry
Local First Lutheran Social Services/New Lands Farm
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Rural Partners
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan Food and Farming Systems
Michigan Land Use Institute
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service
Minnesota Citizens Organized Acting Together
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Food Association
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Farmers Organization
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women In Agriculture Association
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society INC-NSAS
New England Farmers Union
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
New Farmers Network
New York Bee Wellness
North Country Sustainability Center
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New Hampshire
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New York
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Rhode Island
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Vermont
Northeast Pasture Consortium
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group
Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance
Okmulgee County Farmers and Ranchers
Onslow County Farmers Market, Inc
Oregon Tilth
Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success
PMJ Capital Corporation
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery
Pushing the Envelope Farm
Rogue Farm Corps
Root ‘N Roost Farm
Rural Advancement Foundation International School Food FOCUS National
Seattle Tilth
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Slow Food California
Slow Food Nebraska
Slow Food USA
Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership Inc.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Stoneyfield Farm
Sustainable Farming Association
SustainFloyd
Texas Mexico Border Coalition CBO
The Brice Institute
The Land Connection
Tilth Producers of Washington
Truly Living Well
United Farmers USA
Vermont Land Trust
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Viva Farms
Walk Farm, Incorporated
Washington Young Farmers Coalition
Wisconsin Farmers Union Women, Food and Agriculture Network
World Farmers Inc
Wren’s Nest Farm

BLM Fracking Rule Letter to Sen. Sherrod Brown

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

August 19, 2013

The Honorable Sherrod Brown
United States Senate
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3503

Dear Senator Brown,

The undersigned organizations are concerned with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft rule related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal and tribal lands[1], and we urge you to consider our concerns and share them with the BLM and Obama Administration.  We ask you to advocate for:

  • The prohibition of fracking in critical/sensitive areas, including National Forests, land contiguous to National Parks, and source water areas, among others
  • Banning the use of open waste pits
  • The full disclosure of chemical inputs and thorough pre-drilling water testing
  • And banning the use of diesel and other toxic chemicals

The rule provides much needed guidelines for drilling activities on federal and tribal land that the BLM has jurisdiction over, and the current draft rule is actually in its second iteration, as the first version elicited approximately 175,000 comments to the BLM.  Despite that most of these comments were likely critical of the rule’s deficiencies, the BLM, instead of correcting these deficiencies based on received comments, yielded to industry pressure and weakened the rule in its second version

The BLM holds more than 700 million acres of subsurface mineral rights across the United States, and while much of the land attached to these rights is in the western US, there are parcels of land that would be affected in the east and, specifically, Ohio.  In Ohio, the most notable impacts will occur in the Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only National Forest.  But the BLM also holds mineral rights within non-federal lands, and it appears to intend to lease these lands for fracking as well; it is currently pursuing leasing in Blue Rock State Forest.

The rule is supposed to be a comprehensive attempt at providing proper regulation to ensure a greater level of protection from fracking that occurs on federal and tribal lands, and update the existing regulations, which are recognized as inadequate.  However, the current version of the rule falls short of achieving even minimal protection for a variety of reasons. It is also important to recognize that although significantly updating existing regulations will provide more protections against the harms of drilling, these regulations cannot eliminate the environmental and public health risks that fracking poses.

Perhaps the most concerning deficiency with the rule is that it fails to address or recognize that certain areas, such as Wayne National Forest, might be too sensitive or critical for fracking activities.  Inherent in the practice of fracking is land industrialization, inevitable air pollution, eventual water pollution, and an enormous increase in traffic and water use.  For lands that have been designated or set aside because of their ecological value, or because they contain a drinking water source, there must be some mechanism to make them “off limits” to fracking activity.  In fact, the importance of a provision to protect certain unique and sensitive areas was outlined as a recommendation by President Obama’s shale gas advisory subcommittee in its August, 2011 90-Day Report.[2]

The rule is devoid of many basic best-management practices and requirements.  Perhaps the most glaring of these is the failure to prohibit the use of fracking waste pits.  These pits are highly problematic for a number of reasons, including that animals can easily access them, the risk of failure/contamination relative to other containment methods (e.g. closed-loop systems), and the lack of requirements related to liner integrity.  The BLM even recognized these and other risks related to open pits in a 2012 Instructional Memorandum advising BLM employees to attempt to have drillers utilize closed-loop systems.[3]

The draft rule also does an inadequate job in regards to chemical disclosure.  The chemical disclosure requirement in the rule relies on FracFocus, which has been shown to be a flawed method of disclosure.[4]  In the current version of the rule, drilling companies do not need to provide the chemical constituents of their drilling fluid until after a well is fracked, they have the ability to shield themselves from disclosure based on trade secret provisions, and they do not even need to provide the exact inputs for each well, but rather merely provide the inputs for a representative well.  This is unacceptable and poses considerable risk to the environment and human health.  Instead, every chemical that is injected into each individual well should be disclosed before fracking occurs, trade secrets provisions should be completely eliminated, and thorough baseline water testing should be conducted prior to drilling.  The use of diesel fluid, as well as other toxic chemicals that have been proven to be dangerous, should also be prohibited.

The BLM rule also fails to address well construction guidelines and setbacks for specific areas such as houses, schools, and campgrounds.  Studies indicate that all well casings will fail at some point, and a significant number fail in the beginning of their lives.[5]  Thus it is essential that stringent well construction rules are adopted within this rule, recognizing that even thoughtfully designed well construction rules cannot prevent the failure of well casings over time.  Responsible siting of wells is also important.  Sufficient set backs should be adopted to protect homes, schools, campgrounds and recreational areas, water sources, and other sensitive locations.

Finally, air pollution regulations should be incorporated into the rule, as fracking sites are responsible for a substantial volume of concerning air contaminants, including methane, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds.  These emissions pose a grave risk to human health as well as the health of our climate.  The current BLM rule does not address these concerns, and should be altered to prevent the practice of flaring and require “green completions.”

Thank you for considering our recommendations to limit damage from fracking on public lands.  Although our recommendations will not mitigate all the risks associated with fracking, they provide much more meaningful protections than the current version of the BLM’s fracking rule.  Again, we urge you to contact the BLM directly, as well as the Obama Administration, and share our, and your, concerns about these rules.

Sincerely,

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Sierra Club Ohio Chapter

*A full list of organizations that signed on is available through the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter.


[1] Bureau of Land Management, US Department of the Interior, “Oil and Gas: Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Tribal Lands,” 43 CFR 3160; available from http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wo/Communications_Directorate/public_affairs/hydraulicfracturing.Par.91723.File.tmp/HydFrac_SupProposal.pdf.

[2] U.S. Department of Energy, Shale Gas Production Subcommittee, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, “The SEAB Gas Production Subcommittee Ninety-Day Report,” August 11, 2011.

[3] U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, “Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-033,” December 13, 2012, available from http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2013/IM_2013-033.html.

[4] Kate Konschink, Margaret Holden, and Alexa Shasteen, “Legal Fractures in Chemical Disclosure Laws,” Environmental Law Program Policy Initiative, Harvard Law School, April 23, 2013, available from, http://www.eenews.net/assets/2013/04/23/document_ew_01.pdf.

[5] Anthony Ingraffea, “Fluid Migration Mechanisms Due to Faulty Well Design and/or Construction: An Overview and Recent Experiences in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Play,” Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, October, 2012, available from http://www.damascuscitizensforsustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/PSECementFailureCausesRateAnalysisIngraffea.pdf.

Full and Fair Farm Bill NOW

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
July 18, 2013

The undersigned 243 groups from all parts of the country have joined together today to demand that Congress develop and pass a full and fair Farm Bill this summer, without further delay. A full and fair Farm Bill must include farm, food and nutrition, conservation and rural economic development programs and commodity and crop insurance reforms. It must also provide renewed and enhanced funding for the now-stranded but critical subset of programs that assist the most chronically under-served segments of agriculture and our rural and urban communities. The House and Senate should immediately appoint conferees to work in an open and urgent fashion toward adopting a final full and fair Farm Bill this summer.

The final bill should include:
- All nutrition programs, while rejecting all cuts or changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would increase hunger or reduce access to nutrition education for any of the 47 million Americans who currently rely on the program to meet basic food needs;
- Full funding for farm conservation programs, enhanced and streamlined to better meet the pressing and accelerating natural resource and environmental issues of our day;
- The cost-saving crop insurance and commodity subsidy reforms included in one or both bills including payment limit reform, national sodsaver, and conservation compliance re-linked to crop insurance–plus additional reforms needed to create a strong, targeted and cost-effective safety net;
- Robust provisions and funding to increase economic opportunity for the nation’s diverse family farmers and ranchers, farm and food workers, rural and urban communities, and Indian Tribes; and
- Provisions to ensure that a comprehensive farm bill with all titles will be updated on a regular five-year basis as conditions in the food and farm system change.

We support equity, justice, opportunity, and access across all titles of the Farm Bill. Therefore, we support removing elements that make the bill less fair and that weaken protections for consumers, including those in need of food assistance; or of farmers, labor and the environment. These include provisions restricting SNAP eligibility as well as those related to the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Commerce Clause.

We further pledge to work with Congress to secure passage of a Farm Billpackage that continues the currently stranded programs that are so critical to producers and communities around the country. These vital programs–representing a small fraction of overall Farm Bill investments–support beginning, socially disadvantaged, tribal, women, and veteran farmers and ranchers; rural economic development and job creation; renewable energy; fruit and vegetable production; organic farmers; local and regional food systems; farmers markets; healthy food access; and community food and urban agriculture projects.

Completion of a full and fair Farm Bill in 2013 is critical to the health of our recovering national economy. We strongly urge Congress to act now to:
- assure access to affordable healthy and nutritious food for all;
- support the next generations of our nation’s farmers and ranchers;
- protect farm and ranch land, forests, and other natural resources;
- advance food and agriculture-based economic development and investment in sustainable agriculture and food system research;
- promote energy conservation and renewable energy production;
- rebuild local and regional food infrastructure and markets; and
- ensure the success of our nation’s diverse producers, farm and food chain workers, and communities in greatest need of the landmark programs wisely created by Congress in the past several Farm Bills, programs which must be funded as part of a full and fair farm bill.

21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, Eutaw, AL
American Friends Service Committee Southern NM Agriculture Apprentice Project, El Paso, TX
Agri-Cultura Network, Albuquerque, NM
Agricultural Missions, Inc.,New York, NY
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives, Forkland, AL
Alamosa Community Gardens, Alamosa, CO
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Helena, MT
America the Beautiful Fund, Washington, DC
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354, St. Louis, MO
American Sustainable Business Council, New York, NY
Angelic Organics Learning Center, Caledonia, IL
Archetypical Women, Minneapolis, MN
Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Brinkley, AK
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union, Windsor, OH
Bay Localize, Oakland, CA
Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Tillery, NC
Broadfork Farm, Moseley, VA
Brooklyn Food Coalition, Brooklyn, NY
California FarmLink, Sacramento, CA
California Institute for Rural Studies, Davis, CA
CAN-Act, Davis, CA
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Pittsboro, NC
Cascade Harvest Coalition, Seattle, WA
Catholic Charities Rural Life Coordinator, St. Cloud, MN
Catholic Charities, Arcadia, FL
Catholic Rural Life Conference of the St. Martin Deanery, Georgetown,OH
Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE
Center for Social Inclusion, New York, NY
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, San Francisco, CA
Center of Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS), Albuquerque, NM
Cervantes Orchards, Sunnyside,WA
Chesapeake Food Safety, Nottingham, MD
Chilili Land Grant, Chilili, NM
Church Women United in New York State,Rochester, NY
ColorOfChange.org, Oakland, CA
Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Davis, CA
Community Environmental Council, Santa Barbara, CA
Community Farm Alliance, Frankfort, KY
Community Food & Agriculture Coalition, Missoula, MT
Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland, CA
Concerned Citizens of Tillery, Tillery, NC
Corn Dance, Ltd., Oklahoma City, OK
CSA-Center For Social Advocacy, San Diego, CA
Cultivating Community, Portland, ME
Dakota Rural Action, Brookings, SD
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Milanville, PA
Delta Land & Community, Almyra, AR
Detroit Food Justice Taskforce, Detroit, MI
Dine Agriculture Inc., Shiprock, NM
Dine Policy Institute, Tsaile, AZ
Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Springfield, IL
Dockery Group LLC, Elm City, NC
Earth Cluster of Franciscans International, Rochester, MN
Echota Cherokee Nation, Fort Washington, MD
Ecological Farming Association, Soquel, CA
Edible San Diego, San Diego, CA
Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
Equinox Farm, Shirley, IN
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Chicago, IL
Fair World Project, Portland, OR
Family Farm Defenders, Madison, WI
Farm Aid, Cambridge, MA
Farm to Table-New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM
Farm to Table Food Services, Oakland, CA
FarmBillPrimer.org, Baltimore, MD
Farmer Jane, Sebastopol, CA
Farmers on the Move, Battle Creek, MI
Farms Not Arms, Petaluma, CA
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc., Apopka, FL
Farmworkers Center, El Paso, TX
Fay- Penn Economic Development Council, Lemont Furnace, PA
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Atlanta, GA
Feeding America San Diego, San Diego, CA
Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers (FOG), Gainesville, FL
Food and You, West Des Moines, IA
Food Chain Workers Alliance, Los Angeles, CA
Food Democracy NOW, Seattle, WA
Food For All, Buffalo, NY
Food System Economic Partnership, Ann Arbor, MI
Food, Health and Environmental Justice Coalition, Kansas City, KS
For Chicana Chicano Studies Foundation, Northridge, CA
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, WI
FRESHFARM Markets, Washington, DC
Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM, Inc.), Fresno, CA
Georgia Organics, Atlanta, GA
Grassroots International, Boston, MA
Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Grand Rapids, MI
Green Bee Soda, Brunswick, ME
Green For All, Washington, DC
Greene County Democrat (weekly newspaper), Eutaw, AL
GrowFood.org, Mount Vernon, WA
Haitian International Youth Leadership Institute Inc., Shannon, NC
Hazon, San Francisco, CA
Health Care Without Harm, Reston, VA
Hill Connections, Chaseburg, WI
Hmong National Development, Inc., Washington, DC
Hour Children, LIC, NY
Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC
Hunger Action Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Hunger Action Network of New York State, New York, NY
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance, Twin Bridges, MT
Inland Mexican Heritage, Joshua Tree, CA
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN
Institute for Community Engagement, Las Cruces, NM
Interfaith Community Services, Escondido, CA
Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative, Sebastopol, CA
Intertribal Agriculture Council, Billings, MT
Iowa Environmental Council, Des Moines, IA
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Baltimore, MD
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., Frankfort, KY
Kikandwa Environmental Association, Kampala, WI
La Semilla Food Center, Las Cruces, NM
Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, MN
Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Conference, San Antonio, TX
Lideres Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, New York, NY
Live Real, Boston, MA
Local Food Hub, Charlottesville, VA
Local2Global Advocates for Justice, Kansas City, KS
Local Matters, Columbus, OH
Long Island Cares, Inc.–The Harry Chapin Food Bank, Hauppauge, NY
Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute), Albuquerque, NM
LTV Productions Corp., Saugus, MA
Maine Rural Partners, Orono, ME
Maria Hines Restaurants, Seattle, WA
Maryknoll Affiliates Mexico, Silver City, NM
Maryknoll Society, Ossining, NY
Maternity of Mary Church, St. Paul, MN
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, WI
Michigan Food and Farming Systems, East Lansing, MI
Michigan Land Use Institute, Traverse City, MI
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition, Troy, MI
Minnesota Food Association, Marine on St Croix, MN
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Jackson, MS
National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Des Moines, IA
National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, DC
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc., Fresno, CA
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Washington, DC
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, DC
National Young Farmers Coalition, Tivoli, NY
Native American Task Group Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Paul, MN
New Mexico Acequia Association, Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Santa Fe, NM
North American Farm Alliance, Windsor, OH
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham, NC
North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Tillery, NC
North Coast Opportunities, Ukiah, CA
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA
Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council, Stillwater, NY
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Rochester, NY
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), New Paltz, NY
Northern New Mexico Stockmans Association, Espanola, NM
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Eugene, OR
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group, Seattle, WA
Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network, Traverse City, MI
NY Small Scale Food Processors’ Association, New York
NYC Foodscape, New York, NY
OFARM, Inc., Brussels, WI
Office for Human Dignity-Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Romeoville, IL
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America,Grand Rapids, MI
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, OH
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Oklahoma City, OK
One in Ten, San Diego, CA
Operation Spring Plant, Inc., Oxford, NC
Oregon Tilth, Corvallis, OR
Organic Consumers Association, Finland, MN
Organic Valley, La Farge, WI
Paradigm Permaculture Coalition, Prescott, AZ
Pearlstone Center, Reisterstown, MD
Pesticide Action Network, Oakland, CA
Place Matters: San Joaquin Valley, Fresno, CA
PLBA Housing Development Corporation, Gainesville, AL
Practical Farmers of Iowa, Ames, IA
Pululu Farm,Arroyo Seco, NM
Rio Grande Community Development Corporation, Albuquerque, NM
Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, Springfield, IL
Rooted In Community, Berkeley, CA
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Pittsboro, NC
Rural Advancement Fund, Orangeburg, SC
Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural, Washington, DC
Rural Development Leadership Network, New York, NY
Sacramento Hunger Coalition, Sacramento, CA
San Diego 1in10, San Diego, CA
San Diego Community Garden Network (SDCGN), San Diego, CA
San Diego Hunger Coalition, San Diego, CA
San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, San Francisco, CA
San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, Alamosa, CO
School Food FOCUS National Office, New York, NY
Sembrando Semillas San Luis, San Luis, CO
Sharon L Yeago, LLC, High Springs, FL
Silas H. Hunt CDC, Texarkana, AR
Silver Lake Conference Center, Sharon, CT
Single Payer New York, Ithaca, NY
Slow Food California, Sacramento, CA
Slow Food Orange Count, Laguna Beach, CA
Slow Food USA, New York, NY
Social Concerns Office, Diocese of Austin, Austin, TX
SOLAR, Chapparal, NM
South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRAA), Albuquerque, NM
Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON), Savannah, GA
Southern New Mexico Small Farmers Coop, Chamberino, NM
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Fayetteville, AR
St. Austin Catholic Parish, Austin, TX
St. Leo Catholic Church, Tacoma, WA
St. Luke’s Church, Bronx, NY
St. Mary’s Food Pantry, New York, NY
St. Raphael Parish Social Ministry,
East Meadow, NY
Surco, El Paso, TX
Sustainable and Organic Agricultural Resources (SOLAR), Chaparral, NM
Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), Los Angeles, CA
Sustainable Living Project, Potsdam, NY
Sustainable Living Systems, Victor, MT
Taos County Economic Development Corp, Taos, NM
TCTS Global, LLC, Dickens, IA
Texas/Mexico Border Coalition, San Isidro, TX
The Cornucopia Institute, Cornucopia, WI
The Global Action Research Center, San Diego, CA
The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, San Diego, CA
Tilth Producers of Washington, Seattle, WA
Town of Atrisco Grant Merced, Atrisco, NM
Torres Farm, Taos, NM
Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA
United Farmers USA, Manning, SC
Victory Garden Foundation, Berkeley, CA
Victory Gardens San Diego, San Diego, CA
Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Lexington, VA
Visiones Photography & Media Communications, Albuquerque, NM
Walker Memorial Baptist Church, Bronx, NY
Washington State Farmers Market Association, Seattle, WA
Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, Mount Vernon, WA
West Side Campaign Against Hunger, New York, NY
Western Center on Law and Poverty, Los Angeles, CA
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), Billings, MT
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Austin, NV
Wholesome Wave, Bridgeport, CT
WhyHunger, New York, NY
Wild Farm Alliance, Watsonville, CA
Winston County Self Help Cooperative, Louisville, MS
Women, Food and Agriculture Network, Ames, IA
Workers Collaborative, Chicago, IL
Working Families Party, Irvington, NY
World Farmers, Inc., Lancaster, MA

Letter to Congress: Equity Amendments for a Fair 2013 Farm Bill

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This Letter is sent on Behalf of the Undersigned Groups. For more information contact Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition at lpicciano@ruralco.org or 202-628-7160; Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition at kozer@nffc.net or 202-543-5675; Y. Armando Nieto, Community Food and Justice Coalition at yanieto@cafoodjustice.org or 510-547-1547

 
May 23, 2013

Dear Senator,

As the Senate considers the Farm Bill on the Senate floor, we write to express our support for passage of a full and fair 2013 Farm Bill that will increase economic opportunity for the nation’s diverse family farmers, farmworkers, rural and urban communities, and Indian Tribes; protect the environment; and ensure proper nutrition for all families and communities.

We, the undersigned organizations, have recommendations for the farm bill that extend beyond the specific issues in this letter, but we focus here on equity considerations. We support a full and fair package that balances any reductions across all areas of the Farm Bill; mitigates disasters especially for the most vulnerable producers; protects natural resources; enhances equity and inclusion; constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities; and assures healthy food for all consumers.

As written the bill under debate, S. 954 saves $24.2 billion. The Committee originally committed to saving $23 billion. Two of the amendments (#1055 and #1088) listed below would direct $210 million of the additional and unexpected savings to the programs listed below. The total savings for the bill would still exceed $24 billion and these amendments would make a small but significant investment in our diverse producers, new generation farmers, and the growing food systems in rural and urban communities across our country.

We ask you to co-sponsor and vote for the following still-pending amendments to restore funding for critical programs charged with serving chronically underserved segments of agriculture and the food system, and make additional policy changes to improve rural development, local food systems, urban agriculture including programs serving Indian Tribes, socially disadvantaged, beginning and veteran producers and farmworkers while assuring healthy food for all.

We urge Senators to SUPPORT the following priority amendments:

Udall (NM) – Heinrich (NM) (#1055) Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Producer Training –SUPPORT
The Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Rancher (also known as the 2501 Program) is a historic program that provides competitive grants to educational institutions, Extension, and community-based organizations to assist African- American, American-Indian, Asian-American and Latino farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms and participating in USDA programs. The committee-passed bill expands program eligibility requirements to include veteran farmers and ranchers and funds this program at $10 million annually, about half of previous funding. The amendment would restore funding of $17 million annually in order to serve both the traditional and new producers now eligible for the program.

• Udall (NM) – Heinrich (NM) (#1045) Receipt for Service – SUPPORT
This amendment adds authority to require the issuance of a receipt for service or denial of service to any current or prospective participant in USDA programs serving farmers and ranchers as operated by the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources and Conservation Service and in any other USDA program directly serving producers. In a time of tight resources, a receipt for service will help assure that all farmers and ranchers receive clear information on programs available to them and what they need to do to access them, and verify that information has been provided.

• Udall (NM) – Heinrich (NM) (# 1048) EQIP Community Irrigation Association Language –SUPPORT
The amendment defines eligible community irrigation associations and would allow USDA to make alternate payment arrangements so members of irrigation associations including acequias could receive support for conservation practices through their association so long as the payment limit for any individual producers in the association is not exceeded. This would allow NRCS to do a single contract for an irrigation-wide community project rather than a series of individual producer contracts for the same project.

• Udall (NM) – Heinrich (NM) (# 1049) EQIP Irrigation Water Saving – SUPPORT
This amendment would strengthen in the requirements Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to assure producers who use EQIP funds for irrigation not only to improve their irrigation systems but also to achieve true water savings. This would ensure that USDA payments for irrigation efficiency also generate water conservation benefits, such as enhanced in-stream flow and water storage.

• (Seeking Sponsor) Expansion of the Substantially Underserved Trust Area Initiative with USDA Rural Development – SUPPORT
This amendment expands the Substantially Underserved Trust Area (SUTA) Initiative in USDA Rural Development Rural Utilities Service to all programs under Rural Development. The amendment will improve access to family housing and community facilities financing and business and economic development funding, providing RD with added flexibility to invest in individuals, businesses and organizations developing private sector jobs and local economies in rural trust land communities.

• Brown (OH) – Tester (MT) – Heinrich (NM) – Schatz (HI) – Gillibrand (NY) – Reed(RI) – Wyden (OR) – Cowan (MA) (#1088) To Encourage Food And Agriculture Market Development, Entrepreneurship, And Education – SUPPORT
This comprehensive amendment provides much-needed funding and a few important technical policy changes to a handful of key programs that support development of a more resilient food system. These changes and the funding the amendment provides make strides towards aligning our agriculture, health, and economic policy in ways that ensure farmers get a fair price for their product, all Americans have access to affordable, healthy food, and that both contribute to strong communities and a thriving economy. The amendment increases mandatory funding in the Community Food Program from $5 million to $10 million per year, in the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program to $15 million in mandatory funding over the life of the farm bill, and in the Value-Added Producer Grants Program from $12.5 million to $20 million per year, in the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program from $20 million to $30 million per year and in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program from $20.6 million to $23.1 million in FY2014 and to $25.6 million per year in FY2015 – FY2018. In the Business and Industry Loan Program it modifies the existing set-aside for loans for local food enterprises to eliminate a burdensome third party labeling requirement, to clarify that project priorities include creating new market opportunities for farmers, increasing good food access in underserved communities, and supporting comprehensive regional economic development strategies, and to provide flexibility for USDA to reduce barriers to participation.

• Casey (PA) – Harkin (IA) (#986) Microloans – SUPPORT
The amendment would authorize micro-lending opportunities within the Department of Agriculture by creating a new simplified loan category within the Farm Service Agency’s direct operating loan portfolio. If adopted, this provision would authorize USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make small loans up to $35,000. The new loan program would be funded out of the existing direct operating loan portfolio, and would streamline the application process to facilitate participation. This amendment would also give FSA discretionary authority to establish a cooperative lending program to allow USDAselected intermediaries (such as non-governmental or community-based organizations, state departments of agriculture, and economic development councils) to make microloans to eligible borrowers.

• Tester (MT) Public Breeding for Food Security- SUPPORT
Farmer access to seeds and breeds adapted to their regions and specific farming and market needs is paramount to fostering the competitiveness of agriculture and ensuring future national food security. This amendment would designate conventional breeding for public cultivar and breed development as a high priority research area within the Department of Agriculture. The amendment would also remove hurdles that have hindered USDA’s efforts to address this need, including establishing a unified definition to ensure public breeding research is being funded through USDA.

• Leahy (VT) – Collins (ME) EQIP Organic Initiative Payment Limit Elimination – SUPPORT
This amendment eliminates the separate payment limit for farmers participating in the EQIP Organic Initiative so that all farmers are subject to the same payment limitations in EQIP.

• Grassley (IA) and Brown (OH) (#969) Special Counsel for Livestock Competition – SUPPORT
This amendment establishes an Office of Competition and Fair Practices headed by a Special Counsel for Competition Matters for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting violations under the Packers and Stockyards Act and coordinating antitrust enforcement between the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Agriculture is one of the most consolidated sectors in the U.S. economy, but the federal antitrust and competition oversight of the food and agriculture sector is fragmented, with uncoordinated oversight shared among USDA, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. The lack of coherent jurisdiction is further complicated by the increasing vertical integration in the sector, where some firms and combinations of firms require monitoring by more than one agency. The Grassley amendment creates a USDA special counsel on agricultural competition to coordinate and oversee competition and antitrust enforcement activities among the federal agencies.

• Rockefeller (WV) – Tester (MT) and Johnson (D-SD), Prohibiting Retaliation Against Farmers Who Speak Up – SUPPORT
It has become common for livestock and poultry companies to retaliate against contract farmers who speak up about abusive contracting practices. The amendment clarifies that it is a clear violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act for companies to retaliate against farmers for exercising their legal rights, such as talking to federal agency officials or members of Congress about their farming operations and contracts. It would prohibits meatpackers from taking any kind of retaliatory action against livestock producers who speak out and would put an end to the ongoing actions by meatpackers who retaliate against producers who complain to federal agencies and to their members of Congress.

• Tester (MT) (#971) Requiring An Annual USDA Report On Concentration In the Agriculture And Food Industries – SUPPORT
Despite the dramatic concentration of the agriculture and food sectors, USDA lacks comprehensive, sector-wide and timely information about the overall state of competitiveness in the agriculture and food sector from seed to supermarket. The Tester amendment requires USDA to collect information on the consolidation levels throughout the food and farm sector and issue an annual report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees that includes statistics relating to the four largest firms in agriculture markets.

• Enzi (WY) – Johnson (SD) (#982) Livestock Marketing – SUPPORT
A large portion of cattle are sold through formula contracts and marketing agreements are negotiated in secret, which gives packers all the information and market power and forces livestock producers to accept “formula” prices that are finalized on delivery instead of firm, base prices when the contracts are signed. The Enzi amendment prohibits the use of anti-competitive forward contracts, otherwise known as un-priced formula contracts and requires all marketing arrangements to use firm, fixed base prices for marketing arrangements to ensure that cattle producers are fairly paid for their livestock. This amendment is absolutely critical as it will immediately stop the packers from accumulating large volumes of un-priced captives supply livestock, which they use to drive down the cash market.

• Boxer (CA) (#1026) GE Labeling Amendment – SUPPORT
This amendment expresses the sense of the Senate that the United States should join 64 other nations in giving their consumers the right to know whether there are genetically engineered ingredients in their food. At least 93 percent of Americans want to know whether there are GE ingredients in their food, regardless of race, income, education, or party affiliation and 26 states are moving to require GE labeling.

• Merkley (OR) – Tester (MT) – Blumenthal (CT) – Begich (AK) – Heinrich (NM) – Boxer (CA)(#978) – Repeal of Biotechnology Rider in the Continuing Resolution – SUPPORT
The Continuing Resolution passed by Congress earlier this year contained a provision that strips federal courts of the authority to halt the sale or planting of biotechnology products that have not been adequately reviewed for their economic and environmental impacts. This amendment would strike that harmful provision.

• Coburn (OK) – Durbin (IL) – McCain (AZ) (#999) Limit crop insurance subsidies for wealthiest farmers – SUPPORT
This amendment would reduce the level of federal premium support for crop insurance participants with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) over $750,000 by 15 percentage points for all buy-up policies beyond catastrophic coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this amendment, which affects less than 1 percent of farmers, would save more than $1.2 billion dollars over ten years. Furthermore, we support any amendment that would extend the premium reductions and waivers for supplied in crop insurance to beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. All three groups are provided premium reductions in the NAP (Non Insured Disaster Assistance Program) in the Miscellaneous Title.

We urge Senators to OPPOSE the following amendments:

• Roberts (KS) – The following amendments reduce SNAP funding:

• Roberts (#949)To eliminate the low-income home energy assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – OPPOSE
This amendment eliminates the SNAP ‘Heat and Eat’ Program by reducing benefits to those who also receive energy assistance.

• Roberts (#950)To eliminate duplicative employment and training programs from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – OPPOSE
This amendment eliminates the SNAP employment and training program.

• Sessions (AL) – Both of the following amendments reduce SNAP funding:

• Sessions (#946) — To terminate the current Partnership for Nutrition Assistance Initiative between the United States and Mexico – OPPOSE
This amendment terminates the current Partnership for Nutrition Assistance Initiative between the U.S. and Mexico. This Partnership, established by the Bush Administration, helps low-income, legal immigrant (often citizen) children access food, allowing them to be healthier, better educated children with brighter futures.

• Sessions (#947)— To require the use of the systematic alien verification for entitlements program in the administration of the supplemental nutrition assistance program – OPPOSE
This amendment requires all members of a household applying for SNAP to provide documentation of citizenship or immigration status. If each household member could not meet the documentation requirements, then the entire household would be ineligible. Currently, states may not deny SNAP to eligible individuals based on the status of other family members who are not seeking services. Research shows that this new requirement would adversely impact senior citizens, especially African Americans, who live in rural areas because they do not have a birth certificate. Some may have never been issued a birth certificate because their birth was not officially registered – in some cases due to racial discrimination in hospitals, or poverty which prevented access to hospital care. Imposing these new requirements would create enormous administrative hurdles for the most vulnerable, delay benefits for needy households who must seek original birth certificates, and terminate benefits to individuals who cannot access such documentation.

• Thune (SD) (#991) Cuts to SNAP Education – OPPOSE
Would cut SNAP Nutrition Education by $2.1 billion by reducing state’s funding to $5 per SNAP participant.

We are continuing to review more amendments as information becomes available and will forward any additional recommendations that will also benefit these communities and we have also attached an earlier letter signed by more than 130 groups affirming the priorities reflected here.

As you move to complete action on this important bill, we urge you to make all funding and policy recommendations relative to farm bill programs with an eye toward the future: concern for the next generations of our nation’s farmers and ranchers; healthy and nutritious for food for all; and inclusivity of all women, minority, tribal, and limited resource farmers, farmworkers, and communities who are often in greatest need of these important programs.

Sincerely,
Agricultural Missions, Inc., New York, NY
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives, Forkland, AL
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
American Indian’s Truths – WPFW 89.3 FM – Pacifica Radio, Washington, DC
Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Brinkley, AK
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union, Windsor, OH
Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Inc., Syracuse, NY
Atrisco Land Grant, Albuquerque, NM
BioRegional Strategies, Albuquerque, NM
Canjilon Grazing Allotment, Canjilon, NM
Center for Social Inclusion, New York, NY
Colorado Hispanic Ranchers & Farmers, Antonito, CO
ColorOfChange.org, Oakland, CA
Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland, CA
Community to Community, Bellingham, WA
Delaware Local Food Exchange, Wilmington, DE
Fair World Project, Portland, OR
Farm to Table, Santa Fe, NM
FarmBillPrimer.org, Baltimore, MD
Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Rural Training and Research Center, Epes, AL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives, East Point, GA
Fernandez Ranch, Centerville, WA
Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
Food Chain Workers Alliance, Los Angeles, CA
Grassroots International, Boston, MA
Hispanic Organizations Leadership Alliance (HOLA), Washington, DC
Hunger Action Network of New York, Albany, NY
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN
Intertribal Agriculture Council, Billings, MT
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Baltimore, MD
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., Frankfort, KY
La Merced del Pueblo de Chilili, Chilili, NM
La Plazita Farm, Albuquerque, NM
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Hereford, TX
Lennon Ranch, Lookout, CA
Live Real, Oakland, CA
Maine Rural Partners, Orono, ME
Minnesota Food Association, Marine on St Croix, MN
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Jackson, MS
Morning Star Farm of Taos, Arroyo Seco, NM
National Dignity Campaign, San Francisco, CA
National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, DC
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc., Fresno, CA
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Washington, DC
National Women In Agriculture Association, Oklahoma City, OK
New England Small Farm Institute, Belchertown, MA
New Mexico Acequia Association, Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Santa Fe, NM
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham, NC
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), New Paltz, NY
Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association, Taos, NM
Northwest Forest Worker Center, Albany, CA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, OH
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project Inc., Oklahoma City, OK
Pesticide Action Network, Oakland, CA
Pululu Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM
Root ‘N Roost Farm, Livingston Manor, NY
Rooted in Community, Oakland, CA
Rural Advancement Fund, Orangeburg, SC
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, Washington, DC
San Diego Hunger Coalition, San Diego, CA
School Food FOCUS National Office, New York, NY
Shoreline Study Center, Encinitas, CA
Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, TX
Taos County Economic Development Corporation, Taos, NM
Torrez Family Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM
United Farmers USA, Manning, SC
Valencia County Older American Program, Belen, NM
Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Lexington, VA
Winston County Self Help Cooperative, Jackson, MS
World Farmers, Inc., Lancaster, MA
Attachment: Equity Letter 5/13/13, Signed by 130 Organizations
This letter was prepared and circulated by the signatories who regularly participate in the “Getting Our Act Together
(GOAT) on the Farm Bill” Collaboration, which promotes a fair farm bill with equity and sustainability.

Attention: Agriculture LA

This Letter is sent on Behalf of the Undersigned Groups. For more information contact Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition at lpicciano@ruralco.org or 202-628-7160; Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition at kozer@nffc.net or 202-543-5675 and Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at fhoefner@sustainableagriculture.net, 202-547-5754.

Supporting Equity in the 2013 Farm Bill

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman, Senate Agriculture Committee

The Honorable Thad Cochran, Ranking Member, Senate Agriculture Committee

The Honorable Frank Lucas, Chairman, House Agriculture Committee

The Honorable Collin Peterson, Ranking Member, House Agriculture Committee

May 13, 2013

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members,

As Congress continues its work on a new farm bill, we write to express our support for the Agriculture Committee efforts to complete a full and fair 2013 Farm Bill that will increase economic opportunity for the nation’s diverse family farmers, farmworkers, rural and urban communities and Indian Tribes; protect the environment; and ensure proper nutrition for all families and communities.

We, the undersigned organizations, all have recommendations for the farm bill that extend well beyond the specific issues in this letter, but we focus here on specific equity considerations. We support a full and fair package that balances any reductions across all areas of the Farm Bill, mitigates disasters especially for the most vulnerable producers, protects natural resources, enhances equity and inclusion, constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities, and assures healthy food for all consumers.

For years we have struggled to achieve a fair share of federal farm spending for all the communities we serve. Working with you in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, we have made significant strides forward to allocate a small but growing portion of overall US farm and food policy 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. Unfortunately, the farm bill extension we are currently operating under has shut down many of these very programs, setting back the modest progress achieved earlier.

We urge you to provide long-term protection and continued funding to this critical subset of small programs and offices charged with serving the most chronically underserved segments of agriculture. These represent a fraction of the full agriculture budget but are the lifeblood of a sustainable agriculture, rural development and food policy, including Indian Tribes, socially disadvantaged, beginning, and veteran producers, and farmworkers.

As you continue to shape your policy and budget proposals, we urge you to assure strong farm bill mandatory funding support at no less than $20 million a year each for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and Value-Added Producer Grants, as well as at least $4 million a year for Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.

A fairer farm bill would also provide appropriate waiver, premium reduction, targeting, and advanced payment provisions for beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers within the farm bill conservation, credit, crop insurance, NAP, specialty crop, and rural development programs. In this light, we urge you to include all of the provisions of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the 2013 Farm Bill Equity and Access Priorities Package in the new five-year farm bill (summaries attached; noting that a number of priorities are included in both packages).

As you proceed with your farm policy deliberations, we urge you to make all funding and policy recommendations relative to farm bill programs with an eye toward the future, a concern for the next generations of our nation’s farmers and ranchers and healthy and nutritious for food for all, and great care to being inclusive of women, minority, tribal and limited resource farmers, farmworkers and rural and urban communities who are oftentimes in most need of these important programs.

Sincerely,
African American Farmers of California, Fresno, CA
Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI), New York, NY
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives, Forkland, AL
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354, St. Louis, MO
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (ARMPPA), Kendall, WI
Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Brinkley, AK
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union, Windsor, OH
Atrisco Grant-Merced, Albuquerque, NM
BioRegional Strategies, Albuquerque, NM
California Climate and Agriculture Network, Sacramento, CA
California FarmLink, Sacramento, CA
Cape Cod Community Supported Fishery, Chatham, MA
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Pittsboro, NC
Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Indians, Inc., Waldorf, MD
Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE
Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy, Honolulu, HI
Center for Social Inclusion, New York, NY
Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CeSoSS), Albuquerque, NM
Colorado Hispanic Ranchers & Farmers, Antonito, CO
Community Alliance for Global Justice, Seattle, WA
Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland, CA
Community Servings, Boston, MA
Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County, Wagon Mound, NM
Connections Unlimited, LLC, Yachats, OR
Cultivating Community, Portland, ME
Dakota Rural Action, Brooking, SD
Dixon Farmers Market, Dixon, NM
Dockery Group, LLC, Elm City, NC
Ecological Farming Association, Soquel, CA
Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater, MA
Family Farm Defenders, Madison, WI
Farm Aid, Cambridge, MA
Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Providence, RI
Farm to Table, Santa Fe, NM
Farms Not Arms, Petaluma, CA
Farms to Grow, Oakland, CA
Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Epes, AL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, East Point, GA
Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
Food Chain Workers Alliance, Los Angeles, CA
Food First, Oakland, CA
Foodshed Alliance, Blairstown, NJ
Franciscan Fraternity Espiritu Santo, Albuquerque, NM
Grassroots International, Boston, MA
Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition, Washington, DC
Hispanic Organizations Leadership Alliance (HOLA), Washington, DC
Hmong National Development, Inc., Washington, DC
Hunger Action Network of New York State, New York, NY
Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Springfield, IL
Indian Country Agriculture and Resource Development Corporation (ICARD), Anadarko, OK
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance, Twin Bridges, MT
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Baltimore, MD
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., Frankfort, KY
La Minga Cooperative Farm, Prospect, KY
La Plazita Farm, Albuquerque, NM
La Semilla Food Center, Anthony, NM
Land Management Partners, Hilton Head Island, SC
Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, MN
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Hereford, TX
Lideres Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
Live Real, Oakland, CA
Local Food Hub, Charlottesville, VA
Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute), Albuquerque, NM
Maine Rural Partners, Orono, ME
Matthews Family Farm, Eighty-Four, PA
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, WI
Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers, Detroit, MI
Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS), East Lansing, MI
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Jackson, MS
National Council of La Raza, Washington, DC
National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, DC
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc., Fresno, CA
National Immigrant Farming Initiative, Washington, DC
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Washington, DC
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, DC
National Women In Agriculture Association, Oklahoma City, OK
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Ceresco, NE
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Lowell, MA
New Jersey SNAP-Ed , Clayton, NJ
New Mexico Acequia Association, Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Santa Fe, NM
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham, NC
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA
Northeast Organic Farming Association- Interstate Council, Stevenson, CT
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), New Paltz, NY
Northern New Mexico Stockmens Association, Espanola, NM
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Gloucester, MA
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Eugene, OR
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group, Seattle, WA
Northwest Forest Worker Center, Albany, CA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, OH
Oklahoma Black Historical Resear ch Project Inc., Oklahoma City, OK
Operation Spring Plant, Inc., Oxford, NC
Panola Land Buyers Association Housing Development Corporation, Eutaw, AL
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Millheim, PA
Pesticide Action Network, Oakland, CA
Positive Action Now, Inc., Richmond, VA
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington, DC
Progressive Agriculture Organization, LaFargeville, NY
Pululu Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM
Root ‘N Roost Farm, Livingston Manor, NY
Rooted In Community, Oakland, CA
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Pittsboro, NC
Rural Advancement Fund, Orangeburg, SC
Rural American Network, Estancia, NM
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, Washington, DC
Rural Vermont, Montpelier, AL
School Food FOCUS National Office, New York, NY
Shoreline Study Center, Carlsbad, CA
Silas H Hunt CDC, Texarkana, AR
Slow Food USA, Brooklyn, NY
Sofi’s Rock Farm, Halifax, MA
South Valley Economic Development Center, Atrisco, NM
South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRAA), Albuquerque, NM
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG), Fayetteville, AR
Sustainable Farming Association, Princeton, MN
Taos County Economic Development Corporation, Taos, NM
The Border Agricultural Workers Project, El Paso , TX
The Cornucopia Institute, Cornucopia, WI
The Eye of Heru Study Group, Detroit, MI
The Second Chance Foundation, New York, NY
Tilth Producers of Washington, Seattle, WA
Torrez Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM

This letter was prepared and circulated by the signatories who regularly participate in the “Getting Our Act Together (GOAT) on the Farm Bill” Collaboration, which promotes a fair farm bill with equity and sustainability.

Letter to Congress: Seeds and Breeds in the Farm Bill

Monday, May 20th, 2013

May 17, 2013

On behalf of more the undersigned agricultural businesses, organizations, and scientists, we respectfully ask for your support of Senator Tester’s amendment to the Senate Farm Bill. This amendment aims to enhance farmer access to improved crop cultivars and livestock breeds adapted to diverse and regional farming needs. Directing more public dollars toward classical breeding projects that result in finished seeds and breeds increases the competitiveness of agriculture across the U.S. Classical breeding projects also improve food security for our growing population.

Classical breeding is a proven approach to meeting our food and fiber needs

Classical plant and livestock breeding is a proven science. It is our most successful and benign approach to crop improvement, accounting for about half of our dramatic food and fiber crop yield increases throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Classical breeding, using field-based selection, complements newer forms of breeding and fills important roles that lab-based approaches, such as genomics, are not well suited to. Lab-based breeding has value, and may become more important as these technologies improve, but cannot be relied upon currently or in the foreseeable future to fulfill many breeding needs. Classical breeding, in particular, is highly cost-effective.

Senator Tester’s amendment reinforces and builds on a 2008 Farm Bill mandate

The need to better support classical breeding becomes more pressing each year. The 2008 Farm Bill included a congressional mandate that classical plant breeding be a priority within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). There have been other requests by congressional agriculture and appropriations committees for USDA to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority.

To date, USDA has not fulfilled the 2008 congressional mandate. USDA is aware of the problem, and Senator Tester’s amendment would support the agency’s efforts by clarifying the urgent need to prioritize classical breeding as an essential approach to improving traits of broad interest, and addressing the demand for new cultivars that meet the diverse needs of farmers, especially cultivars adapted to regional conditions – a critical requirement for developing highly productive crop cultivars and diverse cropping systems that are resilient.

Senator Tester’s amendment corrects problems in AFRI breeding grants that have become apparent since the last Farm Bill by prioritizing public cultivar and breed development through classical breeding. It also removes hurdles that hinder USDA’s progress toward this goal. Genomics methods would continue to receive substantial funding.

U.S. farmers face diminished seed choices to meet specific farming needs

Farmers constantly face changing insect, weed, and disease pressures that vary by region and that rapidly change. Crops must continuously be adapted to meet these changes. Similarly, climate, growing season length, soils, and water availability all greatly affect crop growth and vary across the U.S. The most productive approach is to have seeds that are adapted to the same environment as their intended use.

The large investments currently made in molecular breeding programs do not adequately support the development of complex traits necessary for adapting seed to regional needs. It is not cost-effective to use these approaches to develop crop cultivars or livestock breeds adapted to the diverse needs of farmers. The lack of seed options is especially apparent for farmers seeking a range of cultivars in major crops. Options are even less for farmers seeking cultivars that are held in the public domain.

Meeting food security needs

Beyond farmer choice, the lack of seed availability and the narrowing of genetic resources are making our food system less secure. Classical breeding can provide the genetic tools farmers need to manage evolving pest, disease, and weather challenges, creating a source of seeds and breeds adapted to changing needs and opportunities. Of course, one of these needs includes feeding our growing population. The maintenance and improvement of genetic diversity through classical breeding is essential for the success of productive food systems and the greater global food supply, both now and into the future. This is a national issue and should be addressed, at least in part, through national programs such as AFRI.

Summary

Farmer access to regionally adapted seeds and breeds is paramount to fostering the competitiveness of agriculture in all regions of the U.S. As agricultural research has shifted toward an emphasis on lab-based and molecular breeding, seed choice has not kept up with demand, and the diversity of our plant genetic resources has narrowed. Farmers need access to seeds that are bred specifically for their regions and cropping systems. In particular, farmers lament limited cultivar options in major crops, especially publicly held cultivars released by land grant universities that are adapted to regional farming needs to satisfy the national market. By improving agricultural productivity and resilience, classical breeding also improves food security for our growing population.

Senator Tester’s amendment seeks to reinvigorate classical plant breeding in the public sector to better ensure farmers have the seeds and breeds they need to be successful.

Sincerely,

Arkansas Rice Growers Association (Arkansas)
California Farmers Union (California)
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (North and South Carolina)              
Center for a Livable Future Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Maryland)
Center for Rural Affairs (Nebraska)
Dakota Resource Council (North Dakota)
Dakota Rural Action (South Dakota)
Delta Land & Community (Arkansas)
Draper Family Farm (Iowa)
Family Farm Defenders (Wisconsin)
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (Texas)
Food For Maine’s Future (Maine)
Friends of Family Farmers (Oregon)
Grain Millers, Inc. (Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon)
Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative (Hawaii)
Idaho Rural Council (Idaho)
Kansas Farmers Union (Kansas)
Kansas Rural Center (Kansas)
Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota)
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (Mississippi)
Missouri Farmers Union (Missouri)
Missouri Rural Crisis Center (Missouri)
Montana Farmers Union (Montana)
National Cooperative Grocers Association (National)
National Family Farm Coalition (National)
National Farmers Union (National)
National Hmong American Farmers (National)            
National Organic Coalition (National)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Nebraska Farmers Union (Nebraska)
New England Farmers Union  (New England)
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (Ohio)
Oregon Rural Action (Oregon)
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, Inc. (National)
Organically Grown Company (Oregon)
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (National)
Organic Trade Association (National)
Organic Valley (Wisconsin)
Organization for Competitive Markets (Nebraska)
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (Pennsylvania)
Prairie Quest Farm (Iowa)
Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pennsylvania)
R-CALF (National)
Ranch Foods Direct (Colorado)
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (National)
Rural Vermont (Vermont)
Seed Matters (California)
South Agassiz Resource Council (North Dakota)
Steve’s Seed Conditioning (Illinois)
Stonebridge Ltd. (Iowa)
The Land Institute (Kansas)
The National Young Farmers’ Coalition (National)
Union of Concerned Scientists (National)           
United Natural Foods, Inc. (National)
Virginia Association for Biological Farming (Virginia)
Western Colorado Congress (Colorado)
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Women, Food and Agriculture Network (Iowa)                                         

Agricultural Scientists and Professionals

Catherine Badgley, Ph.D.
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan           
 
Zach Bouricius, Consultant
Plant, Soil and Insect Science from University of Massachusetts at Amherst
 
Liz Carlisle, Ph.D. Candidate
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
Center for Diversified Farming Systems
University of California – Berkeley
 
John E. Carroll, Ph.D.
College of Life Sciences and Agriculture                                                      
University of New Hampshire
 
Eric Casler, Ph.D. Candidate 
Conservation Biology Program
University of Minnesota
 
Martha L. Crouch, Ph.D.
Consultant on Agriculture and Technology    
 
Julie Dawson, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics      
Cornell University, New York
 
George M. Diggs, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor of Biology   
Austin College, Texas             
 
J. Franklin Egan, Ph.D.
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences     
Pennsylvania State University                    
 
David Ehrenfeld, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey                                      
 
Les Everett, Ph.D.
Agronomist Water Resources Center        
University of Minnesota                 
 
Jan Garrett, Ph.D.
Organic Vegetable Production Research        
Auburn University, Alabama              
 
Michael Glos
Department of Plant Breeding
Cornell University, New York
           
Walter Goldstein, Ph.D.      
Executive Director
Mandaamin Institute (Wisconsin)
 
Major Goodman, Ph.D.
William Neal Reynolds Professor and Distinguished University Professor of Crop Science, Genetics, and Statistics
Member of the National Academy of Sciences   
North Carolina State University
 
Julie Grossman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Soil Fertility Management in Organic Cropping Systems       
North Carolina State University
 
John Patrick Hart, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics (Vegetable Breeding)
Cornell University (New York)                  
 
Lori Hoagland, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Specialty Crop Production Systems
Purdue University (Indiana)
 
Philip H. Howard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Community Sustainability
Michigan State University
 
Alastair Iles, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Science, Technology & Environment
Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management
University of California – Berkeley    
 
Krista Isaacs, Ph.D. Candidate in Agroecology
Michigan State University
 
Allison L H Jack, Ph.D.
Professor of Agroecology
Prescott College (Arizona)
 
Sibella Kraus
Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)
David Brower Center (California)
 
Matt Liebman, Ph.D.
Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture
Professor of Agronomy           
Iowa State University 
 
Claire Luby, Graduate Student
Department of Horticulture           
University of Wisconsin – Madison           
           
Alexandra Lyon, Graduate Student
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies   
University of Wisconsin – Madison    
 
Jennifer MacAdam, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Plant Physiology and Forage Production
Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate
Utah State University                      
 
Michael Mazourek, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Calvin Noyes Keeney Professor of Plant Breeding
Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics      
Cornell University (New York)                  
           
Kathleen McAfee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, International Relations  
San Francisco State University, California
 
V. Ernesto Méndez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Agroecology & Environmental Studies
Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group    
Environmental Program and Plant & Soil Science Department
University of Vermont                        
 
Maywa Montenegro, Ph.D.
Student Environmental Science, Policy, and Management      
University of California – Berkeley
 
Kevin Murphy, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor/Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Washington State University
 
James Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics
Oregon State University
 
John Navazio, Ph.D.
Organic Seed Research & Extension Specialist
Washington State University/Organic Seed Alliance
 
Dan Nuckols, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Economics
Austin College, Texas
Founding Board Member, Council for Healthy Food Systems
           
Ivette Perfecto, Ph.D.
George W. Pack Professor of Natural Resources and Environment   
University of Michigan                       
           
Chris Picone, Ph.D.
Department of Biology       
Fitchburg State University (Massachusetts)                               
 
Gerald Presley
Research Assistant
Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
University of Minnesota
 
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.
Professor of Geography Director
Global Environmental Studies Clark University (Massachusetts)
 
Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Agroecology Education        
North Carolina State University         
 
Adrienne Shelton, Graduate Student
Department of Agronomy  
University of Wisconsin – Madison
 
Annie Shattuck
Department of Geography
University of California – Berkeley
 
Gerald R. Smith, Ph.D.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology    
University of Michigan
 
Richard G. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Agroecology
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment          
University of New Hampshire
 
Allison A. Snow, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
Ohio State University             
 
Doreen Stabinsky, Ph.D.
College of the Atlantic Bar Harbor (Maine)        
           
Seth Swanson
Montana State University Extension
Missoula County Extension Horticulturist
 
William F. Tracy, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Friday Chair of Vegetable Research
Department of Agronomy
University of Wisconsin – Madison           
 
Joel Wainwright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Geography
Ohio State University

Letter to Congress: Make Common Sense Reforms to Crop Insurance

Friday, May 17th, 2013

May 16, 2013

Dear Senators and Representatives:

Our organizations strongly support common sense crop insurance reforms and urge you to support amendments designed to provide farmers an equitable and fiscally responsible safety net.

Taxpayers pay for the majority of crop insurance premiums.  Unlike other farm supports, however, crop insurance is not subject to payment limits, means testing, or conservation requirements. As a result, some crop insurance policy holders annually receive more than $1 million in premium support and more than 10,000 annually receive more than $100,000 in premium support.  By contrast, 80 percent of farmers receive about $5,000 in premium support, tilting the playing field in favor of the largest and most profitable operations  and harming family farmers.

In addition, unlimited crop insurance subsidies encourage landowners to convert wetlands and grasslands they would not farm if they were simply responding to market forces. In recent years, farmers and farmland investment companies have plowed up millions of acres of wetlands and grasslands, which reduces habitat for wildlife, releases more carbon, and compounds our water quality challenges.

We believe that crop insurance is a critical component of the farm safety net and warrants support from taxpayers. However, we believe that reforms designed to require basic environmental protection, improve transparency, and place reasonable limits on the amount of premium subsidies for the largest and most profitable farm businesses would have no impact on program participation but would create a more equitable, sustainable, and fiscally responsible safety net.

We urge you to strengthen the federal crop insurance program by supporting common sense reforms, including proposals designed to strengthen America’s family farms while making crop insurance more equitable, transparent, and fiscally responsible.

Signed,

Center for Rural Affairs
Defenders of Wildlife 
Environmental Working Group
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Letter to Congress: We Want a Full and Fair Farm Bill

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

This letter is sent on behalf of the undersigned groups. For more information contact Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition at lpicciano@ruralco.org or 202-628-7160; Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition at kozer@nffc.net or 202-543-5675 and Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at fhoefner@sustainableagriculture.net, 202-547-5754.

 
The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Chairwoman
Senate Agriculture Committee
 
The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
 Senate Agriculture Committee
 
The Honorable Frank Lucas
Chairman
House Agriculture Committee
 
The Honorable Collin Peterson
Ranking Member
House Agriculture Committee

May 13, 2013

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members,

As Congress continues its work on a new farm bill, we write to express our support for the Agriculture Committee efforts to complete a full and fair 2013 Farm Bill that will increase economic opportunity for the nation’s diverse family farmers, farmworkers, rural and urban communities and Indian Tribes; protect the environment; and ensure proper nutrition for all families and communities.

We, the undersigned organizations, all have recommendations for the farm bill that extend well beyond the specific issues in this letter, but we focus here on specific equity considerations. We support a full and fair package that balances any reductions across all areas of the Farm Bill, mitigates disasters especially for the most vulnerable producers, protects natural resources, enhances equity and inclusion, constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities, and assures healthy food for all consumers.

For years we have struggled to achieve a fair share of federal farm spending for all the communities we serve. Working with you in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, we have made significant strides forward to allocate a small but growing portion of overall US farm and food policy 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. Unfortunately, the farm bill extension we are currently operating under has shut down many of these very programs, setting back the modest progress achieved earlier.

We urge you to provide long-term protection and continued funding to this critical subset of small programs and offices charged with serving the most chronically underserved segments of agriculture. These represent a fraction of the full agriculture budget but are the lifeblood of a sustainable agriculture, rural development and food policy, including Indian Tribes, socially disadvantaged, beginning, and veteran producers, and farmworkers.

As you continue to shape your policy and budget proposals, we urge you to assure strong farm bill mandatory funding support at no less than $20 million a year each for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and Value-Added Producer Grants, as well as at least $4 million a year for Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.

A fairer farm bill would also provide appropriate waiver, premium reduction, targeting, and advanced payment provisions for beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers within the farm bill conservation, credit, crop insurance, NAP, specialty crop, and rural development programs. In this light, we urge you to include all of the provisions of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the 2013 Farm Bill Equity and Access Priorities Package in the new five-year farm bill (summaries attached; noting that a number of priorities are included in both packages).

As you proceed with your farm policy deliberations, we urge you to make all funding and policy recommendations relative to farm bill programs with an eye toward the future, a concern for the next generations of our nation’s farmers and ranchers and healthy and nutritious for food for all, and great care to being inclusive of women, minority, tribal and limited resource farmers, farmworkers and rural and urban communities who are oftentimes in most need of these important programs.

Sincerely,
African American Farmers of California, Fresno, CA
Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI), New York, NY
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives, Forkland, AL
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354, St. Louis, MO
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (ARMPPA), Kendall, WI
Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Brinkley, AK
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union, Windsor, OH
Atrisco Grant-Merced, Albuquerque, NM
BioRegional Strategies, Albuquerque, NM
California Climate and Agriculture Network, Sacramento, CA
California FarmLink, Sacramento, CA
Cape Cod Community Supported Fishery, Chatham, MA
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Pittsboro, NC
Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Indians, Inc., Waldorf, MD
Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE
Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy, Honolulu, HI
Center for Social Inclusion, New York, NY
Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CeSoSS), Albuquerque, NM
Colorado Hispanic Ranchers & Farmers, Antonito, CO
Community Alliance for Global Justice, Seattle, WA
Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland, CA
Community Servings, Boston, MA
Connections Unlimited, LLC, Yachats, OR
Cultivating Community, Portland, ME
Dakota Rural Action, Brooking, SD
Dixon Farmers Market, Dixon, NM
Dockery Group, LLC, Elm City, NC
Ecological Farming Association, Soquel, CA
Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater, MA
Family Farm Defenders, Madison, WI
Farm Aid, Cambridge, MA
Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Providence, RI
Farm to Table, Santa Fe, NM
Farms Not Arms, Petaluma, CA
Farms to Grow, Oakland, CA
Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Epes, AL
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, East Point, GA
Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
Food Chain Workers Alliance, Los Angeles, CA
Food First, Oakland, CA
Foodshed Alliance, Blairstown, NJ
Franciscan Fraternity Espiritu Santo, Albuquerque, NM
Grassroots International, Boston, MA
Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition, Washington, DC
Hmong National Development, Inc., Washington, DC
Hunger Action Network of New York State, New York, NY
Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Springfield, IL
Indian Country Agriculture and Resource Development Corporation (ICARD),
Anadarko, OK
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Baltimore, MD
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., Frankfort, KY
La Minga Cooperative Farm, Prospect, KY
La Plazita Farm, Albuquerque, NM
La Semilla Food Center, Anthony, NM
Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, MN
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Hereford, TX
Lideres Campesinas, Oxnard, CA
Live Real, Oakland, CA
Local Food Hub, Charlottesville, VA
Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute), Albuquerque, NM
Maine Rural Partners, Orono, ME
Matthews Family Farm, Eighty-Four, PA
Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers, Detroit, MI
Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS), East Lansing, MI
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Jackson, MS
National Council of La Raza, Washington, DC
National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, DC
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc., Fresno, CA
National Immigrant Farming Initiative, Washington, DC
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, DC
National Women In Agriculture Association, Oklahoma City, OK
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Ceresco, NE
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Lowell, MA
New Mexico Acequia Association, Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Santa Fe, NM
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham,
NC
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA
Northeast Organic Farming Association- Interstate Council, Stevenson, CT
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), New Paltz, NY
Northern New Mexico Stockmens Association, Espanola, NM
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Gloucester, MA
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Eugene, OR
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group, Seattle, WA
Northwest Forest Worker Center, Albany, CA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, OH
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project Inc., Oklahoma City, OK
Panola Land Buyers Association Housing Development Corporation, Eutaw, AL
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Millheim, PA
Pesticide Action Network, Oakland, CA
Positive Action Now, Inc., Richmond, VA
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington, DC
Progressive Agriculture Organization, LaFargeville, NY
Pululu Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM
Root ‘N Roost Farm, Livingston Manor, NY
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Pittsboro, NC
Rural Advancement Fund, Orangeburg, SC
Rural American Network, Estancia, NM
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, Washington, DC
Rural Vermont, Montpelier, AL
School Food FOCUS National Office, New York, NY
Shoreline Study Center, Carlsbad, CA
Silas H Hunt CDC, Texarkana, AR
Slow Food USA, Brooklyn, NY
South Valley Economic Development Center, Atrisco, NM
South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRAA), Albuquerque, NM
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG), Fayetteville, AR
Sustainable Farming Association, Princeton, MN
Taos County Economic Development Corporation, Taos, NM
The Border Agricultural Workers Project, El Paso , TX
The Cornucopia Institute, Cornucopia, WI
The Eye of Heru Study Group, Detroit, MI
The Second Chance Foundation, New York, NY
Tilth Producers of Washington, Seattle, WA
Torrez Farm, Arroyo Seco, NM
United Farmers USA, Manning, SC
Valencia County Older American Program, Belen, NM
Verley Family, LLC, Annandale, VA
Vian Peace Center, Vian, OK
Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Lexington, VA
Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, Mount Vernon, WA
WhyHunger, New York, NY
Winston County Self Help Cooperative, Louisville, MS
World Farmers, Inc., Lancaster, MA
Youngsville Livestock Association, Espanola, NM
Attachments:
2013 Farm Bill Equity and Access Priorities Package
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act Summary

This letter was prepared and circulated by the signatories who regularly participate in the “Getting Our Act Together (GOAT) on the Farm Bill” Collaboration, which promotes a fair farm bill with equity and sustainability.

2013 Farm Bill Equity and Access Priorities Package

The 2013 Farm Bill Equity and Access Priorities Package will promote balanced rural development and job opportunities in all rural communities across the nation and will expand opportunities for the nation’s diverse producers, including socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers.

• Disadvantaged Producer Training – The Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Rancher (also known as the 2501 Program) is a historic program that provides competitive grants to educational institutions, Extension, and community-based organizations to assist African-American, American-Indian, Asian- American and Latino farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms and participating in USDA programs. Language to expand program eligibility requirements to include veteran farmers and ranchers as approved in both the House and Senate in 2012 should be including and adequate funding of not less than $20 million per year included in order to serve both the traditional and new producers now eligible for the program.

• Establishment of a USDA Office of Tribal Relations – Language to permanently establish an Office of Tribal Relations within the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, as included in 2012 versions of the Farm Bill, will ensure Tribal Consultation and Tribal Access to USDA programs and spurring job creation and economic development in rural communities across America.

• Expansion of the Substantially Underserved Trust Area Initiative with USDA Rural Development – Retaining the 2012 language to expand the Substantially Underserved Trust Area (SUTA) Initiative in USDA Rural Development Rural Utilities Service to all programs under Rural Development would improve access to family housing and community facilities financing and business and economic development funding, and provide RD with added flexibility to invest in individuals, businesses, and organizations developing private sector jobs and local economies in rural trust land communities.

• Expansion of the Highly Fractionated Land Loan Program – Legislative changes are necessary to make the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Highly Fractionated Land Loan Program practicable. Today, many land parcels on Indian lands have multiple owners – due to the historical lack of legal services and estate administration, residual owners can range into the hundreds or thousands of owners – resulting in situations which make it virtually impossible for such land to be economically viable. As ownership of tribal land passes from one generation to another, the owners’ ability to derive economic benefits from the land decreases as fractionation increases. Language included in 2012 would ensure implementation of the Highly Fractionated Land Loan Program within the Farm Service Agency by disconnecting that program from Bureau of Indian Affairs processes, to spur productive land use and job-creating development in Indian Country.

• Crop Insurance for Socially Disadvantaged Producers – Crop insurance is the center of the new farm safety net, but current programs do not work well for small scale producers of multiple fresh crops, or for organic producers. It is a priority to assure that socially disadvantaged producers as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers all receive the same premium waivers. Also necessary is an expansion of authority for the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to develop flexible new insurance products that better serve diverse producers of multiple fresh products on small-scale operations.

• Non Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) – Many small scale producers find the cost of NAP coverage for noninsurable crops prohibitive for small scale diverse operations (the cost for 1-3 commodities is the same for a 5 acre farm as for a much larger farm). As such, their income remains at great risk in times of natural disasters. Disaster coverage should be increased by expanding the current NAP premium waiver for Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers to Socially Disadvantaged and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.

• Improving the Farm Labor Workforce – The farm labor force faces a growing number of obstacles in obtaining training and services in methodology, technology, and environmental concerns. Previous statutory and funding authority of 10 million annually in authorizations for Grants to Improve the Agricultural Labor Workforce Program to provide training and other services to Farmworkers should be continued.

• USDA Coordination Activities for Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers – Statutory and funding authority of $2 million annually to continue the work of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach to coordinate activities within the department to advance participation of socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran and other small farmers and ranchers and farmworkers in the programs of the department should be continued and a USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison Position charged with facilitating the process of educating returning veterans about and connecting them with training and/or agriculture vocational and rehabilitation programs should be added.

• Resource and Marketing Management Coordination – Additional authority would help producers improve resource management by allowing FSA, NRCS and FS to provide funding for loans, projects and practices serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers that require the participation of multiple farmers and ranchers to be successful directly to entities directly managed and governed by farmers and ranchers who meet the definition of socially disadvantaged, including cooperatives, acequias and land grants (include definitions). A waiver of restrictions on the funding of governmental units should be provided for entities which meet the above definitions and which do not have independent tax collection authority.

• Strengthen Farm Service Agency Micro Loan and Youth Loan Program Authority – Term limits should be waived for youth loans and for socially disadvantaged, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers in direct loans, including the new micro loan program. Authority should also be provided to expand eligibility for youth loans to youth in urban areas.

• Receipt for Service – Authority should be added to require the issuance of a written receipt for service or denial of service to any current or prospective participant programs serving farmers and ranchers as operated by the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources and Conservation Service and any other program directly serving producers.

• Conservation and Forestry Access – The following policies would expand conservation and forestry access including:
• Continue and expand the existing set asides for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers and ranchers in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from 5 percent to 10 percent of the total EQIP funds and to 10 percent of total CSP acres and extends these set asides to all conservation and forestry programs serving farmers and ranchers.
• Expand the existing EQIP increased cost shares for SDFR and BFR to all Conservation and Forestry Programs serving farmers and ranchers which include a cost share, including community forestry and the Forest Stewardship Program.
• Extends and expands the advance payment authority for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers from 30% to 50% in all conservation and forestry programs with cost shares.
• Add protection of the land of owned and operated by socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as a purpose for the use of Farm and Ranch Land Protection funds and to authorizes payment of up to 90 percent of the value of development rights in areas with high loss of land owned by socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
• Add a 10% set aside for BFRs and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the Conservation Innovation Grant subprogram.                                                                                   • Whole Farm Conservation and Forestry Planning: Farm bill authority for special incentives for beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers should be continued and authority added that Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Forest Service to provide these farmers and ranchers with technical and financial assistance (through EQIP, CSP, Conservation Technical Assistance or other programs) to develop whole farm resource management system plans.

• Treatment of Farms With Limited Base Acres – The Farm Bill 2008 exemption for limited resource, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers from the base-acreage minimum should be extended for producers receiving any direct, counter-cyclical, or average crop revenue election payments provided in the 2013 Farm Bill.

• Enhanced Access to Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program – Previous setasides for projects serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the BFRDP should be continued and the matching requirements for these projects reduced to 10%.

• Enhanced Opportunities in Value-Added Producer Grants – Priority for Value-Added Producer grant projects benefitting beginning farmers and ranchers should be expanded include socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, as well as the set-aside of program funding for these projects, and the match requirement reduced to 10% for projects benefitting socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

• Rural Cooperative Development Access – Set-asides for projects serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers should be continued.

• Assistance with Transitioning to Bioenergy Crops – Access to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program should be expanded by adding programs serving more than 51% beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as a selection criteria for projects.

• Access to Rural Energy for America Program – Matching requirements for project serving tribes and socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and communities in the REAP program should be reduced to 10% for Feasibility Studies and for Projects and an annual report required on amount and percentage of funds provided to these groups in each program.

• Report on Specialty Crop Production by Certain Farmers – Language should be included as passed in the House 2012 Committee bill to require USDA to conduct a study on specialty crop production by small, women, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, who are significantly represented in specialty crop production. This provision would also require USDA to assess the public and private sector tools available to help expand, improve, and add value to the agricultural operations of these producers which are also an important source of varieties of products for preferred by expanding markets of growing diverse cultures. Data is a critical first step in bolstering production for these sectors of agriculture.

• Specialty Crop Block Grants – The requirement in the conference report in the 2008 farm bill that requires states to stipulate a plan for reaching and meeting the needs of small-scale, women, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, who are significantly represented in specialty crop production, in their applications for Specialty Crop Block Grants should be continued.

• Emergency Disaster Relief Program for Farmworkers– The current program authority for emergency disaster relieve for farmworkers should be expanded to add a $2 million replenishable standing disaster fund and authority provided to the Secretary to require Farm Service Agency to assess conditions among farmworkers when assessing any disaster and to address the needs of farmworkers in any disaster declaration or response.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013
Sponsored by Representative Tim Walz and Senator Tom Harkin
H.R. 1727 / S. 837
Section by Section Summary

Title I — Conservation
(Title III of the Farm Bill)

Sections 101, 102 & 131 — Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP) – Amend Sections 1231 and 1235 of the Food Security Act to to reauthorize CRP-TIP through 2018 and provide $50 million in mandatory funding over the life of the farm bill. Additionally, include provisions to strengthen the conservation language, create a comprehensive conservation plan option, create an easement option through the Grassland Reserve Program or the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, and allow transition between family members who meet the eligibility criteria but only in the case of land sales to the younger generation

Section 111 — Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) – Amend Section 1238I of the Food Security Act of 1985 to make preserving farm viability for future generations a part of the purpose of the program, and to give funding priority to easements with an option to purchase at the agricultural use value, to deals that transfer the land to beginning and farmers and ranchers, to applicants with detailed farm succession plans, and other similar mechanisms to maintain the affordability of protected farm and ranch land, keep it as working land, and foster new farming opportunities.

Sections 121 & 132 — Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Amend Sections 1240B of the Food Security Act of 1985 to continue the existing cost share differential for beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers within EQIP), and reaffirm the advance payment option allowing beginning and socially
disadvantaged producers to receive an advance payment for the project’s costs for purchasing materials or contracting services, but increase the limit on the advance payment from 30 percent to 50 percent of costs. Also, increase the rate at which USDA can provide conservation technical assistance to beginning farmers, and include a
priority on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers within the Conservation Innovation Grants subprogram.

Section 133 — Whole Farm Conservation Planning – Amend Sections 1244(a) of the Food Security Act of 1985 to strengthen special incentives to beginning farmers and ranchers and limited resource producers to participate in federal agricultural conservation programs by authorizing NRCS to provide these farmers and ranchers with technical and financial assistance through EQIP, CSP, or other programs to develop whole farm resource management system plans.

Title II — Credit
(Title V of the Farm Bill)

Sections 201 & 203 — Direct Farm Ownership Experience Requirement – Amend Section 302(b)(1) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to provide the Secretary with greater discretion in determining the number of years of farm management experience required for “qualified beginning farmers and ranchers” to be eligible for direct farm ownership loans. Also raise the cap on these loans by indexing the loan cap to farmland inflation rates.

Section 202 — Conservation Loans – Amend Section 304 of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to raise the guarantee amount under USDA Conservation Loans from 75 to 90 percent, create a 50 percent target participation rate for beginning farmers and ranchers similar to the targets for other loan programs, and delete the existing provision that waives the family farm eligibility requirement which is required for all other FSA loan programs.

Section 205 — Down Payment Loan Limits – Amend Section 310E(b)(1)(C) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to increase the limit on the size of the land value that can be FSA-financed from $500,000 to $677,000, consistent with other FSA direct loan programs.

Section 211 — Microloan Authorization – Amend Section 313 of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to create a new simplified loan category within USDA’s direct operating loan portfolio to provide flexible capital through microloans (not to exceed a balance of $35,000) that shall be available to any eligible borrower, but
will have special incentives for young, beginning and veteran farmers, including a lower interest rate and exempting microloans to these borrowers from counting towards their loan history term limits. Also establish a cooperative lending program to allow USDA-selected intermediaries to make microloans to eligible borrowers.

Section 221 — Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts Pilot Program – Amend Section 333B of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to reauthorize this matched savings program per the 2008 Farm Bill but with $5 million per year in mandatory funding to jump start the program. IDAs will be administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) through pilot programs in at least 15 states.

Section 222 — Graduation to Commercial Credit – Amend Sections 311(c) and 319of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to modify the FSA loan term limits provisions to not more than 15 consecutive years for guaranteed loans and not more than 9 consecutive years for direct loans.

Sections 204 & 223 — Priority for Participation Loans – Amend Section 346(b)(2)(A) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to give priority within direct farm ownership loans to joint financing participation loans and down payment loans that involve private lenders. Also, decrease the unreasonably high minimum interest rates on these loans to make them more relevant in the current low-interest rate climate.

Section 206 — Limited Resource Interest Rate – Amend Section 316(a)(2) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to adjust the minimum interest rate on direct loans to low-income borrowers so that it reflects the current low-interest rate climate.

Section 207 — Definition of Qualified Beginning Farmer – Amend Section 343(a)(11)(F) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to modify the definition of “qualified beginning farmer and ranchers” so that the average, not median, farm size is used to determine FSA loan eligibility.

Title III — Rural Development
(Title VI of the Farm Bill)

Section 301 — Value-Added Producer Grants – Amend Section 231 of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 to retain the priority and set-aside for projects benefitting beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, but clarify the language to make both individual farmer grants and farm business and coop grants practical and effective. Direct USDA to develop an outreach and technical assistance strategy to reach underserved states and regions. Renew mandatory farm bill funding at $20 million a year.

Title IV — Research, Extension, and Related Matters
(Title VII of the Farm Bill)

Section 401 — Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program – Amend Section 7405(c) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to reauthorize this highly successful flagship training program through 2018 and provide with $20 million per year in mandatory funding. Also, include a new priority on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for military veterans, and food safety training. Include a 10 percent cooperative agreement alternative to higher negotiated administrative reimbursement rates.

Section 402 — Beginning Farmer and Rancher Research Priority – Amend Section 2(b) of the Competitive, Special, and Facilities Research Act of 1965 to include a new program area to support research, education, and extension projects related to beginning, socially-disadvantaged and immigrant farmers and ranchers, farm transition and entry, new marketing and farm viability alternatives, and related issues. Also clarify the authorizing legislation to ensure that all AFRI programs (including integrated) are fully competitive and open to all eligible entities.

Title V — Crop Insurance
(Title XI of the Farm Bill)

Section 501 — Risk Management Partnership Programs – Amend Section 522 of the Federal Crop Insurance Act to add a strong emphasis on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers within this partnership grant program that funds projects to inform farmers about crop insurance products and broader risk management topics.

Title VI — Miscellaneous
(Title XIV of the Farm Bill)

Section 601 — Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison – Add a new section in Subtitle A of the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 to create a new Veterans Agricultural Liaison position at USDA charged with facilitating the process of educating returning veterans about and connecting them with beginning farmer and rancher training and agriculture vocational and rehabilitation programs.