Category Archives: OEFFA Testimony, Comments, and Sign On Letters

Farm Bill Letter to Congress

November 8, 2012

Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Whip Hoyer:

The undersigned organizations, representing the farming, livestock, specialty crop, feed, rural development, nutrition, health, conservation, woodland owners, municipalities, trade, agricultural research, crop insurance and renewable energy communities, respectfully request passage of a new five-year farm bill to be signed into law before the end of the legislative session in December 2012.

This legislation is of paramount importance to the diverse, bipartisan constituencies our organizations represent. Failure to pass a new five-year farm bill before the year’s end will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector, including the rural businesses and lenders whose livelihoods are dependent upon farmers’ and livestock producers’ economic viability.

Additionally, our country is recovering from the largest drought since the 1930s, with most of the counties across the nation being declared agricultural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at some point during 2012, and 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland rated in poor to very poor condition. This year alone, several states have ranked in the driest third percentile on record. These historic conditions and their damaging economic effects cannot be ignored.

For these reasons, we stand united in our strong support for a new five-year bill; any temporary extension would be a short-sighted, inadequate solution that would leave our constituencies crippled by uncertainty. Both the Senate and the House Committee on Agriculture passed versions of a five-year farm bill with strong bipartisan support. We urge you to lead your colleagues in passing a new 2012 Farm Bill this year. We thank you for your consideration.

 
Sincerely,

25x’25 Alliance
Advanced Biofuels USA
American Association of Crop Insurers
American Beekeeping Federation
American Biogas Council
American Corn Growers Institute for Public Policy
American Farmland Trust
American Feed Industry Association
American Forests
American Horse Council
American Nursery & Landscape Association
American Sheep Industry Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Associated Milk Producers, Inc.
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
Biomass Power Association
California Cherry Export Association
California Fresh Tomato Growers
California Grape and Tree Fruit League
California Pear Growers
California Table Grape Commission
Center for Rural Affairs
Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage
Ecological Farming Association
Fair Food Network
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc.
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
Growth Energy
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
International Biochar Initiative
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Land O’Lakes
Livestock Marketing Association
Michigan Apple Association
Midwest Dairy Coalition
National Aquaculture Association
National Association of Clean Water Agencies
National Association of Conservation Districts
National Association of Counties
National Association of Farmer Elected Committees
National Association of State Conservation Agencies
National Biodiesel Board
National Cooperative Business Association
National Farm to School Network
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Grange
National Potato Council
National Watermelon Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
National Woodland Owners Association
Nature Abounds
ND Association of Soil Conservation Districts
New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture and Forestry
Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association
Northwest Horticultural Council
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oregon Association of Nurseries
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Pollinator Partnership
Produce Marketing Association
Renewable Fuels Association
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Society of American Florists
Soil and Water Conservation Society
Spartanburg Water
Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance
State Agriculture and Rural Leaders
Sun-Maid Growers of California
The Nature Conservancy
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
U.S. Apple Association
United Dairymen of Arizona
United Egg Producers
United Fresh Produce Association
US Composting Council
Washington State Potato Commission
Western Growers
Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine

 
cc: U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives

Letter to OMB OIRA about Animal Disease Traceability Rule

September 2012

Dear Office of Management and Budget Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs staff and leadership:
The undersigned organizations, representing family farmers, 
ranchers, and consumers, urge you to return USDA’s final rule on Animal 
Disease Traceability (ADT) to the agency for a legally adequate, 
thorough, and complete cost analysis.

ADT has been criticized by thousands of individuals and organizations 
because of the undue burdens that it will impose on producers. The cost 
of tagging and the extensive recordkeeping requirements under the rule 
will impact farmers and ranchers, as well as related businesses such as 
sale barns and veterinarians, and will ripple through our rural economies.

As detailed in our letter of July 24, the USDA has significantly 
underestimated the costs of its rule to both cattle producers and 
poultry producers. While the agency claims that the costs are under $100 
million annually, independent studies indicate that the costs could be 
three to five times that high for cattle producers alone. Moreover, the 
USDA failed to even attempt to estimate the costs to small-scale poultry 
farmers, a failure that, by itself, is sufficient cause to reject the rule.

Ultimately, the cost will be more than dollars and cents. If producers 
cannot afford to meet the new requirements, they will be unable to 
purchase new animals or market their animals out of state, which could 
lead to more of them going out of business.

Farmers and ranchers nationwide are already struggling just to keep 
their cattle alive through the drought. Over 75 percent of the 
contiguous U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, and almost half the 
country is in severe or worse drought, including the major farming and 
ranching regions.

The impact on livestock and poultry producers has been devastating. The 
forage and feed situation is the worst this country has seen since the 
1930s Depression, as producers with parched pastures, rangelands, and 
crops face expensive hay, grain, and shipping costs. Increased feed 
costs have led to a reduction in profits per livestock animal by more 
than $100 just since June 1. One agricultural economist has estimated 
that 2013 feed prices could triple the 1990-2004 average. Rapidly 
depleting livestock water is forcing many producers to haul water, which 
is also expensive and time-consuming.

Families who have been the agricultural backbone of this nation are now 
at the breaking point. Many have already sold a large part of their 
herds, and the slaughter of many breeding age cows will mean that it 
will take a decade of normal rainfall to rebuild the cattle population 
in America.

Traceability programs, such as USDA’s ADT rule, also impose costs on 
livestock-related businesses, such as sale barns and veterinarians. It 
was recently reported that sale barns in New Zealand have added a new 
surcharge for cattle sales due to the additional equipment, staffing and 
administrative costs required for their NAIT (national animal 
identification and tracing) program It is likely that similar costs 
under ADT will be passed on to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Like the sale barns, those producers who are able to stay in business 
will have to find a way to pass on the costs, which will mean higher 
prices for consumers, who are already facing higher prices at the 
grocery store.

In contrast to the clear costs of the program, the benefits remain 
vague. The USDA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis focused almost entirely on 
the monetary benefits from exports, but this approach is fundamentally 
flawed for several reasons. First, the benefits are based on models of 
varying degrees of traceability, yet tagging is not synonymous with 
traceability: an animal with an ear tag attached prior to crossing state 
lines may become untraceable later through lost tags or poor 
recordkeeping by state agencies. Second, as has been shown repeatedly 
and acknowledged by USDA officials, market access often depends more on 
politics than on traceability or other measures. Finally, the financial 
benefits of exports accrue almost entirely to the companies who sell the 
exports. Since the costs of the program will rest almost entirely on 
livestock producers and related businesses, it is inappropriate to 
justify those costs on the basis of benefits to other entities.

We urge you not to impose new, unnecessary costs during these difficult 
times. The ADT rule should be sent back to the agency for a thorough and 
comprehensive review of the costs of the rule on American farmers and 
ranchers.

Sincerely,

Signatories as of 9/11/2012:

American Grassfed Association
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry
Central City Co-Op (WA)
Certified Naturally Grown
Citizens for Private Property Rights (MO)
The Cornucopia Institute
Dakota Rural Action
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Food and Water Watch
GardenShare (NY)
Idaho Rural Council
Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Local Harvest
Maine Alternative Agriculture Association
Michigan Land Trustees
Mississippi Livestock Markets Association
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Montana Farmers Union
National Family Farm Coalition
Natural Environmental Ecological Management
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
North Country Sustainability Center
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Massachusetts
Northeast Organic Farming Association - New Jersey
Northern Illinois Draft Horse and Mule Association
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oglala Sioux Livestock and Landowners Association
Organic Consumers Association
Organization for Competitive Markets
Powder River Basin Resource Council
R-CALF USA
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Sustainable Food Center (TX)
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Turner Farm (MA)
Western Colorado Congress
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Weston A. Price Foundation

Support the National Organic Cost-Share Program in the 2012 Farm Bill

 
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
Washington D.C.  20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

We, the undersigned organizations, thank you for your on-going leadership to advance and grow organic agriculture in Vermont and nationwide. Specifically, we want to express our thanks and gratitude for your strong support of organic certification cost share assistance for the nation’s organic farmers and handlers as part of the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization process.

The growing costs of annual organic certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially those of small to medium scale.   Yet third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the trusted USDA certified organic brand.  The modest certification cost share assistance provided to partially offset these costs has been instrumental in the decision by many farmers and handlers to seek initial organic certification and to remain certified as organic – in spite of the annual costs of doing so.  This has helped to foster diversity in the scale of operations certified as organic, and also helps to maintain jobs here in the U.S

We also appreciate your leadership and wisdom in advocating for the merging of the two federal organic certification cost share programs. Streamlining these two programs under the umbrella of the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program provides adequate cost share funding for organic farmers and handlers in all fifty states while minimizing program costs and maximizing efficiency. The inclusion of this provision in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill is largely due to your leadership and greatly appreciated by organic farmers, handlers, and consumers in Vermont and nationwide.

In contrast, the bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in July completely repeals the National Organic Certification Cost Share program. It retains minimal funding for organic certification cost share through the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) but only for farmers in 16 states, with NO cost share assistance for organic handlers at all. The House approach not only creates unnecessary division within the organic community, but it also threatens the growth in certified organic production in this nation at a time when the organic sector is already struggling to keep up with record-breaking consumer demand for organic foods and beverages.

Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. With an estimated 527,000 jobs created in 2010 alone, it is the fastest growing sector of agriculture. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand. Your leadership on behalf of organic certification cost share assistance through an expanded AMA program plays a critical role in that effort.

We thank you for your excellent work and that of your excellent staff member, Adrienne Wojciechowski. We look forward to working with you to support the Senate position on this matter and to ensure that it is included in the final farm bill.

Sincerely,

National Organic Coalition
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Other sustainable agriculture organizations

ATT: Farm Bill Markup Amendments

July 11, 2012

Dear Representative,

As you prepare to markup the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) provides the following updated list of amendments that we urge you to support, and one amendment that we urge you to oppose. On behalf of our forty farm, conservation, and rural member organizations, NSAC supports policies that expand opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant rural communities.

We urge you to vote for amendments that support these opportunities, and against the Conaway-Costa GIPSA repeal amendment, as listed below.

We commend Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson for their commitment to advancing comprehensive farm bill legislation this year. We believe, however, that there are important amendments to the committee bill that would improve the bill for family farmers, beginning farmers, and small businesses.

Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,

Ferd Hoefner
NSAC Policy Director

 

AMENDMENT TO OPPOSE

Conaway-Costa – #034 – Repeal GIPSA Livestock and Poultry Producer Rules

This amendment would repeal livestock and poultry farmer protections that Congress included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The amendment would also undo the current broadly supported compromise that was agreed to in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations conference agreement, after broader proposed GIPSA rules were blocked. A vote for this amendment is a vote for market distortion in livestock and poultry markets, and against livestock and poultry farmers.

 

AMENDMENTS TO SUPPORT

Ellmers-Pingree-Gibson – #003 – Farm to School

This no-cost amendment would give more control to the States and local communities by authorizing schools with low annual commodity entitlement values (small rural schools) to start making their own food purchases, provided USDA determines this would yield reduced administrative costs. The amendment would also create demonstration projects in at least 10 schools to test alternative farm to school procurement models to USDA food distribution.

Walz-Noem-Fortenberry – #055 – Sodsaver and Beginning Farmers

This amendment would authorize a national Sodsaver provision and use the savings for deficit reduction and for reinvestment into beginning farmer training. The national Sodsaver provision would conserve critical natural and economic resources by reducing premium subsidies on native prairie acres that are planted to crops. Roughly half of the nearly $66 million in savings from the national Sodsaver provision would be reinvested into the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a successful competitive grants program to train the next generation of farmers. The rest of the savings would go to deficit reduction.

Fortenberry-Walz – #097 – Beginning Producer Training

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers through competitive grants to land-grant institutions, community organizations, and other farm organizations. This amendment would establish a grant priority on agricultural rehabilitation programs that serve veteran-farmers, and would restore critical matching funds provisions within the program that foster partnerships with community-based organizations that work directly with farmers.

Boswell-Gibson – #070 – Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison

This amendment would establish a position within USDA to assist returning veterans in accessing agricultural vocational and rehabilitation programs and to advocate on their behalf within the Department. This provision would ensure that veterans are knowledgeable about existing USDA programs they are eligible for so they are able to benefit from them. This position would also be empowered to work with Veterans Affairs to coordinate veteran benefits with enrolling in agricultural training programs.

Fudge-Fortenberry – #049 – Microloans to Beginning and Veteran Producers

Young, beginning, and veteran farmers face obstacles when trying to secure loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. This amendment would allow FSA to make small loans of up to $35,000 to meet the unique needs of those producers, streamline the application process, and provide discretionary authority to FSA to establish intermediary lender pilot projects.

McIntyre-Walz – #006 – Whole Farm Revenue Insurance Liability Limit

Currently there is not a risk management tool available on a nationwide basis for diversified farms, including specialty crops and mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations. The draft committee bill includes a Whole Farm Risk Management Insurance product to start to address this issue, but with a limit that makes it unappealing for many of the producers the product is designed to serve. This amendment would increase the per farm liability limit from $1 million to $1.5 million in the Whole Farm Risk Management Insurance product to make it relevant to more farmers.

Welch – #083 – Organic Crop Insurance Price Elections

Crop insurance is a critical part of the new farm safety net, but it does not work for organic farmers. Organic farmers pay a higher premium yet USDA does not pay organic farmers at the organic price after a loss for all but four crops. This added cost for less payout is one of the major reasons that organic farmers cite for not purchasing crop insurance. This amendment would direct USDA’s Risk Management Agency to complete the development of the organic price series.

Fortenberry – #094 – Payment Limits and Actively Engaged

The draft committee bill increases the commodity payment limit by 250 percent above the already generous Senate-passed levels, and unlike the Senate-passed bill, leaves wide-open the current loopholes that allow mega-farms and absentee landowners to collect farm payments. This amendment would close loopholes in commodity programs, and tighten payment limits by limiting subsidies to $125,000 per person or entity per year ($250,000 for married couples).

Pingree – #052 – Food Safety Technical Assistance to Small Livestock Producers

This amendment to the Miscellaneous Title of the bill would direct FSIS to (a) provide food safety technical assistance to small-scale livestock and poultry processing and slaughter establishments, (b) establish an electronic option for submitting meat and poultry labels for pre-approval and to develop a guidebook with user-friendly information on the label process, and (c) make recommendations to Congress on additional actions to assist small-scale processing facilities. The amendment would also establish a grant program at USDA Rural Development to assist small-scale facilities make adjustments to their facilities, processes, and operations to meet food safety regulatory standards.

Fortenberry – #093 – Farmers’ Market Policy Provisions

The Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) is USDA’s premier competitive grants program spurring economic growth through direct-marketing channels. This no cost amendment would prioritize capacity building, small and mid-sized farms, and underserved communities within FMLFPP. It would also raise the draft committee bill’s limit on administration funds from 3 to 5 percent (currently USDA uses about 7.5 percent).

Pingree – #019 – Business and Industry Loans/ RBOG

The Business and Industry (B&I) loan program includes a focus on renewing the infrastructure for local and regional food systems. This no-cost amendment would remove the cap in the mark for local and regional enterprise loan guarantees. The amendment would make other technical improvements to B&I Loans and would authorize local and regional food systems as a specific authority in Rural Business Opportunity Grants.

Sewell – #027 – Report on Specialty Crop Production by Certain Farmers

This amendment would require USDA to conduct a study on specialty crop production by small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The amendment 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. Data is a critical first step in bolstering production for these sectors of agriculture.

Sewell – #029 – Strategic Economic and Community Development Projects

This amendment would allow USDA Rural Development to give priority to eligible applications that support strategic economic and community development plans on a multijurisdictional basis. It would focus scarce grant and loan resources on local priorities that demonstrate broad support from multiple stakeholders, and would provide authority for a more locally driven, regional approach in Rural Development programs.

Coalition Letter Submitted In Response to USDA-APHIS Animal Disease Traceability Final Rule

July 10, 2012

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20503
Via facsimile: 202-395-7245 & 202-395-5806
Via email: OIRA_submission@omb.eop.gov

Re: USDA-APHIS Animal Disease Traceability Final Rule

RIN: 0579-AD24

Dear OMB OIRA staff and leadership:

The undersigned organizations urge you to return USDA’s final rule on Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) to the agency for a legally adequate, thorough and complete cost analysis. Contrary to assertions made by the USDA, the proposed rule exceeds the threshold to be recognized as economically significant. The cost of the proposed rule to the U.S. cattle industry alone is far in excess of $100 million, and there will be additional significant costs to ancillary cattle-related businesses (such as sale barns and veterinarians) in addition to small-scale poultry farmers and backyard poultry owners.

Below is an outline of some of the inaccurate assumptions made by USDA in its cost analysis.

I. USDA grossly underestimated the costs to cattle owners due to multiple inaccurate and inappropriate assumptions

As proposed, the ADT rule would ultimately require that every bovine that crosses state lines be tagged with official form of identification. The identification number would have to be recorded on a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI). Businesses such as livestock sale barns and veterinarians would have to keep records of the official identification for each animal for five years. The implementation of these requirements would occur in two phases, beginning with dairy cattle and cattle over the age of 18 months (commonly referred to as “breeder cattle”) and then covering cattle under that age (commonly referred to as “feeder cattle”). In estimating the costs, USDA made several deeply flawed assumptions, discussed below.

ASSUMPTION:

USDA assumed that it would cost only $0.18 per head for producers to comply with the new rule if they are already using some form of unofficial ID.

ISSUES:

1) It is incorrect to assume that the metal eartags and eartag applicators will cost nothing unless USDA has made an enforceable commitment that the rule’s requirements will be suspended if there is insufficient federal funding. Particularly in light of the expanding deficit problems, it is more likely than not that, whether this year or in coming years, producers will at some point be forced to shoulder the cost of the tags and applicators.

2) The estimate does not include the time and labor involved in obtaining the tags, nor the labor involved in administering the process and recordkeeping.

3) The estimate that it would cost only eighteen cents in labor costs to apply the tag is based on the claim that it takes only one person one minute to tag a cow. But cattle are living animals, not inanimate objects. Cattle do not always run quickly and quietly through chutes, nor do they stand perfectly still to have their ears tagged. It typically requires a team of multiple people to manage these large, powerful animals. The time and labor involved is not only the exact moment of placing the tag, but gathering the cattle, putting them through the chutes, restraining each animal individually, and placing the tag.

a. A more realistic estimate would be 10-15 minutes with a crew of three people, at a cost of $5.40 – $8.10 in labor.

b. A study from North Dakota, which involved tagging 14,432 calves, estimated the cost of labor at $7 for working the calves, tag placement, and documentation combined.

4) For producers who are already using unofficial forms of identification, the agency assumed that there was no cost due to shrinkage, stress and injury, based on an underlying assumption that the producer would tag the cattle while conducting other management practices and there would be no additional stress on the animal or potential for injury to both the cattle and the personnel involved.

a. Tagging an animal often involves more time and closer contact between the animal and people than management practices such as vaccination. The additional time imposes additional risk of injury to both people and animals, as well as creating additional stress that increases the amount of stress-related weight loss, also known as “shrink”, which creates economic losses.

b. Some management practices such as de-worming can be accomplished through feed and supplements, saving both equipment and labor costs as compared to tagging.

c. As USDA itself noted, it is easier to tag very young calves, which is what many small farmers and ranchers currently do when using unofficial forms of identification for internal management purposes. But tags applied to young calves often fall off before the animal is ready to be sold. Thus, some of the producers who currently tag young calves will be forced to tag them again just before sale, in order to comply with the new rule. The USDA’s $0.18 estimate does not account for the labor to monitor and work cattle for a second round of tagging. Proponents of microchipping for cattle have referred to surveys of U.S. ranchers indicating “loss rates for eartags ranging from 15% to 25% annually, depending upon the nature of the operation and the type of tag used.”

d. Similarly, in its estimate of how many producers already use a form of unofficial identification, the USDA included back tags. But it is far quicker and easier to apply a back tag than an ear tag; thus, the requirements of the new rule will cause significantly greater stress and risk of injury to both humans and animals for many of the animals that are currently unofficially identified.

5) USDA did not include any of the costs associated with record-keeping and retrieval, which is not required for unofficial identification but would be required under the new rule.

ASSUMPTION:

USDA assumed that only 20% percent of cattle are not being identified currently with either official or unofficial ID, and thus will face the highest costs of implementation.

ISSUES:

1) The USDA survey looked to how many adult cattle are already identified with official or unofficial ID, and found that 80% of cows had some form of individual identification. But, when fully implemented, the rule will cover not only adult cattle, but all cattle crossing state lines. Many producers do not tag their younger animals (commonly known as feeder cattle), so the percentage of cattle that are currently not tagged that will be required to be tagged under the rule is much higher than 20%.

2) The significant increase in the costs of the program due to the inclusion of feeder cattle was one of the reasons the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health recommended that the agency remove the provisions for feeder cattle from the rule.

ASSUMPTION:

For producers who do not currently use any form of individual identification on their animals, the USDA estimated that the rule’s requirements would cost only $1-$2.50 for the chutes (the equipment used to isolate and hold a cow to enable the tag to be attached to the ear) and only $0.18 for the labor to attach the ear tag for each animal.

ISSUES:

1) The equipment needed for tagging cattle can cost several thousand dollars. Purchasing chutes for a small herd will cost far more than a few dollars per head. If producers do not have the necessary chutes and are forced to take their animals to another property to be tagged, they will incur significant expense in the travel costs as well as the fees that would undoubtedly be charged by the tagging business.

2) As discussed above, the claim that it costs only 18 cents in labor to tag a cow is an extreme underestimate. The labor costs more likely range from $5.40 to $8.10 per animal.

3) The agency’s estimate also does not take into consideration the administrative oversight needed to assure accuracy of the procedure.

4) Even for those producers who are large enough to afford the necessary equipment, the USDA’s cost estimates severely underestimated the potential for shrink and injury. USDA estimated these cost as between $0.50 – $2.00, yet a study conducted at the North Dakota State University that estimated that the cost of shrink alone would range between $10 and $20 per head.

5) In total, the North Dakota study estimated that the cost of tagging animals, even excluding the cost of tags, would range from $17 to $27 per head, as compared to USDA’s estimate of $1.68 –to $4.68 per head.

Assuming that USDA is correct that 35% of the cattle that would be subject to the rule are already using official identification, that means that at least 19.5 million cattle will be subject to new regulatory requirements under the rule. Based on the North Dakota study, that would mean a cost of $331 million to $526 million for cattle owners, not including the cost of the tags or the tag applicator. The North Dakota study did not include the costs from the risk of injury to people, so the true costs would be even higher.

II. USDA did not account for the costs to ancillary businesses

ASSUMPTION:

The USDA assumed that there would be no costs imposed on sale barns from the new tagging requirements.

ISSUES:

Since many cattle owners do not have the equipment to tag cattle, sale barns will undoubtedly be placed in the position of having to offer this service prior to sales, as many already do for breeder cattle. In order to address the new requirements for the large number of feeder cattle that are currently not ear tagged, the sale barns will need to purchase more equipment and hire more staff. Because of the additional time spent working the animals, the sale barns will also have higher premiums for workers’ compensation. Some of these costs will be passed on to cattle owners, but the experience with existing programs in that the sale barns will be required to shoulder some of the cost in order to remain in business.

ASSUMPTION:

Sale barns will be subject to long-term record-keeping and retrieval requirements under the proposed rule, but the USDA did not even attempt to quantify the costs because it claimed that sale barns are already required to keep records on the cattle sold.

ISSUES:

1) The agency ignored the fact that many states have phased out, or are phasing out, the requirements from the existing programs. Indeed, the phase-out of these programs is a significant part of USDA’s justification for the new rule. Yet the agency then effectively pretends that these programs are continuing, and ignores the fact that sales barns in several states would no longer be subject to these recordkeeping requirement were it not for this new rule.

2) The agency ignored that the current record-keeping requirements do not require long-term separate documentation for feeder cattle, while the proposed rule would do so, vastly expanding the sheer quantity of paper or data that must be maintained by the sale barns.

ASSUMPTION:

The USDA did not account for the costs that will be incurred by veterinarians because the agency “anticipated” that veterinarians will charge producers for the costs of issuing and keeping such records and then failed to address what those costs are likely to be.

ISSUES:

Whether vets pass on the costs to the producers or absorb it themselves, someone must pay those costs. In addition, the agency’s assumption about the costs for veterinary services failed to include the typical charges for having a vet come out to the farm (or, in the alternative, for hauling animals to the vet), which can range from $30 to over $100 for each visit.

III. USDA completely failed to address the costs to poultry owners

Under the proposed rule, poultry moving interstate must be official identified either through group identification or with a permanent sealed and numbered leg band. There are no exceptions to the ID requirement, and they apply to both the person who sends and the person who received the animals. “Group identification” is defined so that it only applies when a “unit of animals” is managed together as one group “throughout the preharvest chain.” This definition describes the management practices at large, vertically-integrated facilities, but does not apply to the majority of small-scale poultry owners who frequently commingle poultry of different ages and from different sources.

In part because of the issues discussed below, the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health recommended that no new regulatory requirements be imposed on poultry owners.

ASSUMPTION:

The agency made the false assumption that “incremental costs for most … poultry enterprises are expected to be minimal.” This assumption appears to be based on the claim that the new requirements would “not result in any additional costs for poultry enterprises that participate in NPIP”, the National Poultry Improvement Plan

ISSUES:

1) While the agency is probably correct that poultry businesses that are already participating in the NPIP will face few additional costs, most poultry owners are not part of the NPIP.

2) The primary businesses that participate in NPIP are commercial breeders. For example, the USDA lists only thirty-eight participants in the NPIP in the entire state of Texas, although the state has over 14,500 farms with laying hens.

3) The vast majority of people who own poultry have only a few birds, do not breed commercially, and are not part of the NPIP. According to the NASS 2007 Census of Agriculture, out of the 145,615 farms that have laying hens in this country, 125,195 have them have fewer than 50 hens. Thousands more people in both rural and urban settings own a few birds for food, show, or as pets, but were not included in the NASS survey.

4) Most of these small laying hen farms and personal operations buy day-old chicks from hatcheries scattered across the U.S., or from local businesses that have in turn purchased the chicks from these same few hatcheries. Because there are only a few hatcheries that are willing to sell to small, independent producers, tens of thousands of these farms buy day-old chicks from out-of-state operations.

5) These small-scale and pasture-based laying farms will often commingle multiple batches of birds from different locations over a period of many years, culling individuals in the flock only as needed.

6) In addition, many people have to cross state lines to process their birds because so few slaughterhouses accept poultry from independent producers.

7) The costs of raising poultry on a small-scale, from one bird to a few hundred, are very high, and there are no economies of scale. The profit margin is extremely slim, perhaps $1 on an entire bird or 25 cents on a dozen eggs.

8) Very few of these individuals have employees to care for the birds, and almost none have employees to handle administrative functions. Thus the paperwork involved in tracking groups, even “dynamic groups” as is done in the vertically integrated hog operations, would impose significant costs in time and effort. The farmers would have to develop database or paperwork systems capable of tracking the merging and divided groups, and then enter and maintain all of the information.

ASSUMPTION:

Although acknowledging that the new rule would impose costs on people selling birds at live bird markets, the USDA provided no estimate of such costs.

ISSUES:

The USDA has in fact done several studies on the costs that would be imposed if people are required to tag birds at live bird markets. At a meeting of the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health, a USDA official stated that the agency had conducted several studies on the issue of tagging poultry in the context of the live bird market system. Dr. Hegngi’s testimony indicates that there simply is no cost-effective, reliable way to individually tag poultry on this scale. Yet the USDA ignored the work conducted by its own staff in proposing the new requirements for poultry under the ADT rule.

Conclusion

The USDA has failed to conduct the required comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the ADT rule. At numerous points in its analysis, the agency failed to consider available data showing that the scope of the rule and its impact on the industry would be far broader, and its costs far more extensive, than the agency admitted. We urge the OMB to return the rule to USDA for a thorough and complete analysis, which must acknowledge that the rule is economically significant.

For more information, please contact Judith McGeary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, at 254-697-2661 or Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org.

Make the Farm Bill A Real Jobs Bill

Dear Senator:

As the floor debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act continues, the undersigned groups, representing millions of farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, businesses, and consumers, write to urge you to support key amendments that will spur rural economic development and invest in the next generation of family farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran and limited resource producers.

While the committee-passed bill does take some positive initial steps to address the specific needs of veteran farmers, the bill undermines future job growth in American agriculture and the vitality of rural communities by failing to make a significant investment in new, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers. More must be done to strengthen programs that provide critical support, training, and technical assistance to these groups to enable their long-term success in agriculture and participation in federal programs. Senators Brown (SA 2362), Harkin (SA 2239), and Tom Udall (SA 2417) have filed amendments that will restore critical funding for two important training programs aimed at beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers – the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the Section 2501 Program) which while being deeply cut, has now been expanded to serve veteran farmers and ranchers as well.

Additionally, the committee-passed bill fails to adequately invest in proven job-creating rural development programs by providing no funding at all for the Rural Development Title. Small business grant and loan programs such as the Value-Added Producer Grant and Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program have been funded in every previous farm bill and have established a proven track record of spurring economic development in rural America. Yet, they receive no funding at all in the committee-passed bill which claims to be a true “jobs” bill. Senators Sherrod Brown (SA 2362) and Harkin-Casey (SA 2245) have filed amendments that will spur job creation through investment in rural economic development and help small, beginning, and veteran farmers access the credit they need to get their operations off the ground.

We also urge you to oppose an amendment filed by Sen. Toomey (SA 2218) which removes long-standing protections pertaining to FSA farm loan deferrals and foreclosures, including civil rights protections, worked out carefully over the course of many farm bills. We urge you to oppose this amendment if offered.

Below is a list of specific amendments we urge you to support or oppose.

Rural Development and Beginning/Socially Disadvantaged/Veteran Farmer Amendments

• Brown (OH) (SA 2362) – Rural Economic Development and Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Producers – SUPPORT

Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national priorities, yet the committee-passed bill fails to make an adequate investment in rural economic development and in the future of American agriculture. This amendment would fund critical rural development and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher programs.

• Udall (NM) (SA 2417) – Disadvantaged 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 cuts funding for this program by 75 percent to $5 million per year. The amendment would restore funding in order to serve both the traditional and new producers now eligible for the program.

• Harkin (SA 2239) – Beginning Producer Training – SUPPORT

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers through competitive grants to land-grant institutions, community organizations, and other farm organizations. The committee-passed bill adds a new priority on veteran farmers, but cuts funding for this small but successful program by almost 50 percent to $10 million per year. This amendment would restore funding of $20 million per year.

• Harkin-Casey (SA 2245) – Microloans to Beginning and Veteran Producers – SUPPORT

Young, beginning, and veteran farmers face obstacles when trying to secure loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. This amendment would allow FSA to make small loans of up to $35,000 to meet the unique needs of those producers, streamline the application process, and provide discretionary authority to FSA to establish intermediary lender pilot projects.

• Toomey (SA 2218) – Termination of FSA and RD Foreclosure Policy – OPPOSE

This amendment would remove existing policies on deferrals and foreclosures, including civil rights protections, worked out carefully over the course of many farm bills, pertaining to FSA farm loans and rural development loans.

Sincerely,

AFGE LOCAL 3354 (St. Louis, MO)
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) (Salinas, CA)
AgriSystems International (Wind Gap, PA)
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives (Forkland, AL)
American Indian Mothers Inc. (Shannon, NC)
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (Kendall, WI)
Ashtabula Geauga Lake Counties Farmers Union (Windsor, OH)
Assn for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (Maplewood, MN)
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (Tillery, NC)
Black Workers For Justice (Rocky Mount, NC)
Bountiful Cities (Asheville, NC)
California Climate & Agriculture Network (Sacramento, CA)
California Farm Link (Santa Cruz, CA)
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (Pittsboro, NC)
Center for Rural Affairs (Lyons, NE)
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (Delano, CA)
The Center for Social Inclusion (New York, NY)
Church Women United in New York State (Rochester, NY)
Community Alliance for Global Justice (Seattle, WA)
Community Farm Alliance (Frankfort, KY)
Community Food Security Coalition (Portland, OR)
Concerned Citizens of Tillery (Tillery, NC)
Cultivating Community (Portland, ME)
Dakota Rural Action (Brookings, SD)
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (Milanville, PA)
Delaware Local Food Exchange (Wilmington, DE)
Educator in Public School System (Hendersonville, NC)
Family Farm Defenders (Madison, WI)
Farm Aid (Boston, MA)
Farms Not Arms (Petaluma, CA)
Farmworker Association of Florida (Apopka, FL)
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (Uniontown, PA)
Feast Down East (Wilmington, NC)
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (East Point, GA)
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Rural Training and Research Center (Epes, AL)
Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers (Gainesville, FL)
Food Field (Detroit, MI)
Food & Water Watch (Washington, DC)
Food System Economic Partnership (Ann Arbor, MI)
Friends of Batiquitos Lagoon (Encinitas, CA)
The Giving Garden (Ypsilanti, MI)
Grassroots International (Boston, MA)
Growing Potential (Groton, CT)
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (Springfield, IL)
Intertribal Agriculture Council (Billings, MT)
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Minneapolis, MN)
Just Food (New York, NY)
Kansas Rural Center (Whiting, KS)
Land Stewardship Project (Minneapolis, MN)
Local Food Hub (Charlottesville, VA)
Lower Shore Land Trust (Berlin, MD)
Maine Rural Partners (Orono, ME)
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (East Troy, WI)
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition (Detroit, MI)
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, MOSES (Spring Valley, WI)
Minnesota Food Association (Marine on St. Croix, MN)
Missouri Rural Crisis Center (Columbia, MO)
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)
National Wildlife Federation (Washington, DC)
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (Ceresco, NE)
New Mexico Acequia Association (Santa Fe, NM)
New York Small Scale Food Processors’ Association (NY)
North Carolina Assn of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project (Durham, NC)
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (Deerfield, MA)
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Interstate Council (Stevenson, CT)
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (Eugene, OR)
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group (Seattle, WA)
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (Columbus, OH)
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project (Oklahoma City, OK)
Partners for Rural America (Hollandale, WI)
PCC Farmland Trust (Seattle, WA)
Pesticide Action Network (San Francisco, CA)
Practical Farmers of Iowa (Ames, IA)
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (Pittsboro, NC)
Rural Advancement Fund (Orangeburg, SC)
Rural American Network (Washington, DC)
Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural (Washington, DC)
Rural Development Leadership Network (New York, NY)
Slow Food West Michigan (Belmont, MI)
Social Justice Task Force, Mount Sinai United Church of Christ (Mount Sinai, NY)
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Fayetteville, AR)
Taos County Economic Development Corporation (Taos, NM)
Texas/Mexico Border Coalition CBO (San Isidro, TX)
Tilth Producers of Washington (Seattle, WA)
United Farmers USA (Manning, SC)
University of Washington, Evans School of Public Affairs (Seattle, WA)
Virginia Association for Biological Farming (Lexington, VA)
Wild Orchard Farm (Essex, NY)
Winston County Self Help Cooperative (Louisville, MS)
World Farmers (Lancaster, MA)

 

Letter in Support of Soil and Wetlands Conservation

June 13, 2012

Dear Senator,

As the Senate begins debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240), the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment (S.A 2219) introduced by Senator Cardin. This amendment would renew the long-standing conservation compact with farmers by re-attaching basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance.

In exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have for decades committed to adopt land management practices that have 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 some minimal steps to protect the public good. This amendment would help protect what we already have from being lost due to the changes in the safety net.

The Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment closes that loophole and ensures that taxpayer funds are not rewarding agricultural producers who are draining wetlands or farming highly erodible land without conservation measures. Without these key protections, the estimated $95 billion to be spent on crop insurance over the next ten years under this bill will subsidize damaging soil erosion that chokes 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.

These soil and wetland conservation measures would be linked only to the taxpayer-funded premium subsidy for insurance and would not affect the ability of farmers to purchase crop insurance. The amendment does not in any way affect indemnity payments in the case of a disaster. Additionally, the measures retain the good faith exemptions, graduated penalty, and one-year grace period provisions from current law, ensuring that farmers would not be penalized for natural disasters such as flooding. The amendment also provides that producers who would be subject to these basic conservation requirements for the first time due to this provision would be granted five years to develop and implement their conservation plan.

As you work to reauthorize the Farm Bill over the coming days, we strongly urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment. Doing so will save money but more importantly ensure long term farm productivity by protecting vital natural resources.

Sincerely,

1000 Friends of Iowa
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
Alliance for the Great Lakes
American Farmland Trust
American Indian Mothers Inc.
American Public Works Association
American Rivers
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
Association of Northwest Steelheaders
Audubon Society of New Hampshire
Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Center for Rural Affairs
Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Network
Clean Wisconsin
Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River
Community Food Security Coalition
Conservation Council for Hawai’i
Defenders of Wildlife
Endangered Habitats League
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Environmental Law and Policy Center
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Environmental Working Group
Farmworker Association of Florida
Friends of Blackwater
Friends of the Upper Delaware River
FSC Rural Training and Research Center, Epes, AL
Great Lakes Committee of the Izaak Walton League
Gulf of Maine Restoration Coalition
Gulf Restoration Network
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa Wildlife Federation
Iowa’s County Conservation System
Izaak Walton League of America
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Kansas Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Kansas Rural Center
Kansas Wildlife Federation
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc
Land Stewardship Project
Mid South Fly Fishers
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
MN Division – Izaak Walton League of America
National Association of Clean Water Agencies
National Audubon Society
National Committee for the New River
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Wildlife Federation
Nature Abounds
Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Northern Great Plains Working Group
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Council
Ohio Farmers Union
Ohio River Foundation
Passaic River Coalition
Pollinator Partnership
Potomac River Association
Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture
Rural Advancement Fund
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
SC VOF
Sierra Club
Sierra Club Delta Chaper
Slow Food Columbus
Soil and Water Conservation Society
South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society
South Dakota Grasslands Coalition
South Dakota Wildlife Federation
Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Inc.
Trout Unlimited
Union of Concerned Scientists
Virgin Islands Conservation Society
Water Advocates
Water Environment Federation
Wege Foundation
WhyHunger
Wildlife Forever
Wisconsin Wetlands Association
World Wildlife Fund

Statement of Support for Harkin-Casey Microloan Amendment

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned organizations, endorse Senator Harkin and Senator Casey’s microloan amendment (SA 2245) to the Farm Bill. The amendment would authorize micro-lending opportunities within the Department of Agriculture.

If adopted, this amendment would allow USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make small loans up to $35,000 tailored to meet the needs of small, young, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The new loan program would be funded out of the existing direct and guaranteed operating loan portfolios, and would streamline the application process to facilitate participation. This amendment would also give FSA discretionary authority to establish intermediary lender pilot projects in collaboration with non-governmental or community-based organizations.

Capital is the number one need of young and beginning farmers in the United States. The microloan program would enable small and beginning farmers to access capital that meets their needs and reflects the scale of their operations. These farmers are often looking for smaller loans when they’re first getting started in agriculture and have faced significant hurdles in obtaining loans through existing federal credit programs. We strongly encourage members to support this amendment and to include this provision in its entirety in the final Senate bill.

Sincerely,

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Land Stewardship Project
National Young Farmers’ Coalition
Friends of Family Farmers
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Center for Rural Affairs
Iowa Environmental Council
Just Food Center for Land-Based Learning
California FarmLink
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Land For Good
Organic Valley
Zipparo Associates
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Food Works
Rogue Farm Corps
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
R. Constantine Family Farm
Root ‘n Roost Farm
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Fayette Broadcasting Corporation
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA)
New England Farmers Union
The Food Trust
Farm Business Development Center/Liberty Prairie Foundation
Food Democracy Now!
Oregon Rural Action
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Community Food Security Coalition
Oregon Farmers’ Market Association
Adelante Mujeres
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Seacoast Eat Local
Tilth Producers of Washington
Sustainable Living Systems
Leopold Group, S.E. Iowa Chapter, Iowa Sierra Club
Sustainable Living Project / Local Living Venture
Oregon Tilth
NuRelm Foodshed Alliance
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Sundhill Farm
Local Food Hub
New CT Farmers Alliance
New Farmers of the Central Coast
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
BeeWench Farm
Food System Economic Partnership nCASE
New Farmers of the Central Coast
Ramah Farmers’ Market
Jardine Meadows
With The Grain
CAMEO – California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association
Windrose Farm
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Southeastern Young & Beginning Farmers Alliance
Good 4U Inc.
Georgia Organics
Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance
The Greenhorns

U.S. Senate Open Letter In Support of Rural Development and Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Dear Senator,
Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national
priorities. Earlier this spring, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bipartisan Agriculture Reform,
Food and Jobs Act of 2012. We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and members
of the Committee for moving ahead with reauthorizing this wide-ranging and critical piece of legislation.
While the Committee-passed bill takes modest steps to fulfill these priorities, the bill fails to make an
adequate investment in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers.
One of the proven job-creating titles of the farm bill is the Rural Development title, which authorizes
essential grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in
rural areas. Since 1996, Congress has provided an average of $413 million per farm bill for the Rural
Development title, while the new bill as reported by the Committee includes no funding at all.
We urge you to correct this deficiency by providing robust funding for the following successful Rural
Development programs: Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance
Program (RMAP), Rural Energy Savings Program, and Water/Wastewater Backlog.
In addition to investing in the future of rural America, we must invest in the future of American agriculture.
The average age of an American agricultural producer today is 57, and if we let current trends go unchecked,
that number will only increase. Providing training and technical assistance to the next generation of farmers
can help buck the trend and ensure future food security.
The Committee-passed bill falls far short of maintaining current investment in the training tools that new
and diverse farmers need to succeed. We urge you to provide robust mandatory funding for the Beginning
Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and Outreach and Assistance for Socially
Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program (Section 2501 – OASDFR).
We recognize the severity of our country’s fiscal situation. During the Committee mark-up, it was unclear
without a Congressional Budget Office score whether there was funding available for these programs, and
Senators agreed to continue the conversation about funding these key priorities before the floor debate.
The final CBO score indicates that the Senate Agriculture Committee exceeded its commitment of $23
billion in savings. We urge you to take advantage of this important opportunity to reinstate mandatory rural
development funding and to improve investments in the future of American agriculture.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We strongly encourage you to reach out to and
work with Senator Brown of Ohio, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, and other interested colleagues prior to the
floor farm bill debate. These Senators are working on a possible amendment to fund these priorities.
By ensuring continued investments in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers,
we can ensure that the Farm Bill is a “jobs bill” that underpins and enables economic growth in
communities throughout America. We look forward to working together on this important matter for American agriculture and America’s rural communities.
Sincerely,
National
American Planning Association
American Public Works Association
American Sustainable Business Council
Center for Rural Affairs
ChangeLab Solutions
Community Food Security Coalition
Corporation for Enterprise Development
Environmental Working Group
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
FoodCorps
Food Democracy Now!
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
ISED Solutions
National Association of Counties
National Association of Development
Organizations
National Association of Resource Conservation
and Development Councils
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National League of Cities
National Rural Development Council
National Rural Housing Coalition
National Rural Health Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Partners for Rural America
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Senior Entrepreneurs
Slow Food USA
WhyHunger
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Alabama
University of Alabama Environmental Council
Arkansas
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
California
California FarmLink
ChangeLab Solutions
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Pesticide Action Network
Connecticut
Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council

District of Columbia

ISED Solutions
Environmental Working Group
Iowa
Iowa Environmental Council
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Quad Cities Food Hub
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Illinois
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
The Land Connection
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Kansas
Kansas Rural Center
Maine
Senior Entrepreneurs
Maryland
Future Harvest CASA
Massachusetts
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Michigan
Lansing Urban Farm Project
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Minnesota
Growing Our Own Naturally
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Land Stewardship Project
Montana
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Community Food and Agriculture Coalition
FoodCorps
National Center for Appropriate Technology

New York
Catskill Mountainkeeper
GardenShare
North Carolina
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Silver Lining Institute
Nebraska
Center for Rural Affairs
Nevada
The Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
New York
Field Goods
Hunger Action Network of NYS
Just Food
Slow Food Hamilton College
The Sustainable Restaurant Corps
West Side Campaign Against Hunger
WhyHunger
Ohio
ACEnet, Inc
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture
Oregon
Adelante Mujeres
Central Oregon Locavore
Friends of Family Farmers
North Coast Food Web
Oregon Rural Action
Rouge Farm Corps
Think Local Umpqua
Pennsylvania
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
The Reinvestment Fund
Texas
CASA del Llano
Virginia
Appalachian Sustainable Development

Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Washington
PCC Farmland Trust
Tilth Producers of Washington
WA Sustainable Food & Farming Network

Letter to Ohio House Public Utilities Committee, Substitute Senate Bill 315

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chairman Stautberg and Committee Members
House Public Utilities Committee
Ohio House of Representatives

Re: Substitute Senate Bill 315

Dear Chairman Stautberg and Members the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee:

I write to you today on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) in regards to oil and gas regulations in substitute Senate Bill 315. For more than 30 years, OEFFA has worked to build a healthy, sustainable food and farming system. Today, OEFFA represents more than 3,000 organic and sustainable farmers, small business owners, and consumers.

There are nearly 600 certified organic farm operations in Ohio and much of the organic pasture and cropland is located in areas of the state containing shale deposits.  While the organic sector continues to grow—on average 7.5 percent annually—water and soil contamination resulting from fracking threatens to jeopardize farmers’ organic certification. If farmers lose certification due to contaminated land or water, that land will be taken out of organic production for at least three years, causing economic harm to the farmer who will lose market access while working to regain certification on the affected land.  Ohio legislators have a responsibility to put strong protections in place against the dangers of fracking in order to uphold the integrity of our food system and farmland, and ensure that this growing sector of Ohio’s agricultural economy continues to thrive.

Water contamination is the single greatest threat to our local food and farming systems. Farmers rely on their water supply to keep their produce and livestock healthy. Unconventional fracking requires up to 300 times more water than conventional hydro-fracturing. Each well can be fracked up to 18 times, using millions of gallons of water each time. Waste water, or “brine,” that contains chemicals used in the fracking process, as well as naturally occurring heavy metals and toxic gases, can contaminate ground and surface water supplies through underground fissures, surface spills, and blowouts.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked water contamination to chemicals used in fracking in Pavillion, WY.  Since 2008, Pennsylvania has identified more than 700 violations of state law related to water, with fines totaling $1.5 million.  Additionally, livestock are attracted to the toxic and salty brine used in fracking and therefore are particularly vulnerable if there is contamination of soil or water.

Air pollution near fracking sites can have a significant impact on a farm’s production. For instance, elevated levels of ground level ozone from an increase in traffic can lower soybean crop yields–one of Ohio’s largest agricultural commodities. Other crops that can be affected include spinach, tomatoes, beans, alfalfa and other forages.

On behalf of our members, I implore you to protect Ohio’s farming community, small business owners, and rural landowners by:

•           Requiring full public disclosure of chemicals by name used in fracking prior to injection. This is necessary to protect the health of Ohioans and help to establish clear lines of traceability if contamination were to occur. Without the release of the chemical names prior to injection, citizens will not know what to test for. Property owners, whether they live inside of the mandatory testing area or not, should have the ability to conduct independent baseline testing. Protecting company “trade secrets” should not come at the expense of the health and welfare of our communities.  Additionally, the “gag order” on physicians must be removed, so firefighters, public health agencies and first responders have the information they need in order to respond to emergency situations.

•           Providing more opportunities for citizen participation by establishing periods of public notice and comment, and a citizen appeals process. Although substitute Senate Bill 315 blocks a citizens’ right to appeal a permit that is granted to an oil and gas company, it allows a company to appeal a permit denial. Corporate interests should not be favored over an American citizens’ constitutional rights. Additionally, the bill provides little opportunity for members of the public to participate in the permitting process prior to the issuance of a permit. Overall the permitting and appeals processes must be transparent and the lines of accountability must be clear.

•           Increasing control at the local level. Ohio law currently gives “sole and exclusive” authority to the state for the permitting for oil and gas projects.  This clause is extreme and should be removed. It fundamentally undermines the rights of local government and property owners to determine the future of their communities. Given that a large amount of infrastructure must be built in order to support a fully operational drilling site, it is important that local entities have the ability to formally weigh in. Local municipalities will incur long-term costs, need to plan appropriately, and must have the authority to make meaningful decisions to protect the interests of their constituents.  A first step should be to ensure that no permit move forward without a road maintenance agreement with the local municipality.

Sustainable agriculture supports the long-term economic and environmental health of our rural communities.  We acknowledge the potential economic benefits fracking may bring to some members of our rural communities, but urge caution that short-term prosperity cannot come at the expense of a long-term commitment to stewardship of our natural resources, nor should economic benefit to a small group of people, come at the expense of an entire community. We must protect the integrity of our soil and water and ensure the general health and well-being of our communities and our ability to continue farming for generations.  Our priority cannot be to promote the interests of energy companies over the protection of our citizenry.

Thank you,

MacKenzie Bailey
Policy Program Coordinator
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 421-2022 Ext. 208