Category Archives: Farm Policy

A Call To Boost Local Foods in 2018 Farm Bill

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal lawmakers are ramping up their work on the 2018 Farm Bill, and some Ohio farm groups and producers say measures to boost local foods should be included.

Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown says the Local FARMS Act he introduced in the Senate can help family farmers and local growers reach new markets and improve access to fresh foods for Ohioans.

That was the exact mission of Betsy Anderson and others in Wooster when they created Local Roots Market and Café eight years ago.

“The connection to the food is just so different when you grow it yourself,” she says. “And our market gives people an opportunity to meet with the farmers and really see exactly where their food’s coming from. People just seem really happy.”

The Local FARMS Act includes investments in programs such as the Local Food Promotion Program, which Local Roots have utilized to enhance the cooperative over the years. The House Committee on Agriculture is holding a hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill today.

Anderson says Local Roots and the area economy have both benefited thanks to funding from the program. She explains the market was able to expand its advertising, and bring in more local shoppers and sellers.

“The producers are from our communities,” she notes. “We had about 200 already selling products, and then we got up to about 284. And sales continue to increase. We saw a bit over half a million dollars a year in local product.”

According to USDA data, more than 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food through farmers markets and other similar channels in 2015, generating nearly $9 billion in earnings for local producers. The 2018 Farm Bill could move to the full House by mid-March and be in the Senate in May.

OEFFA releases food safety planning guide

Farm and Dairy, 11/2/17

COLUMBUS — A publication released by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.

Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.

OEFFA Education Program Director Renee Hunt said they hope these case studies will help produce growers be less intimidated by food safety planning.

FSMA. Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in covered produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.

The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk.

“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator Eric Pawlowski. “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”

The new report, along with additional resources, are available at

New report helps farmers with food safety planning

OCJ, 10/27/17

A publication released by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.

Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms” features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.

“Our hope is that farmers, whether or not they are certified organic, will see themselves in these profiles,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA Education Program Director. “We want these case studies to give produce growers ideas of what they can do and make food safety planning less intimidating.”

Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in Covered Produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.

“Food safety is everyone’s concern,” Hunt said. “But it shouldn’t mean farmers have to quit raising fruits and vegetables because they find the compliance process confusing or think it will be too costly to meet the standards.”

The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk. For example, Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, Ohio, had built its packing area prior to FSMA. The open sides of the packing area — where produce is made ready for restaurants or to take to the farmers’ market — posed a contamination risk. The farm addressed the situation by enclosing the area with half-inch hardware cloth sides and doors.

“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said Eric Pawlowski, OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator. “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”

The new report, along with additional resources, are available at OEFFA’s food safety web page.

New Bill Could Help Ohio Farmers Sprout New Business

Public News Service, Mary Kuhlman, 10/10/2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio lawmaker is leading the charge on new legislation that could help sprout new business opportunities for local farmers. Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the Local FARMS Act – FARM standing for Food and Regional Market Supply. It would enhance three current grant programs that help expand business opportunities and build sustainability for local farmers.

One of the programs is the Value-Added Producer Grant, which Ann’s Raspberry Farm in Central Ohio was awarded in 2014. Co-owner Daniel Trudel says it provided funding that enabled their business to establish a presence in other states and propel online sales.

“I cannot speak enough of how much this has helped us,” he says. “We were able to write a grant ourselves, and put a plan together and it was accepted. So it really, really has helped us enter new markets that otherwise would have been impossible or very difficult.”

The legislation also funds and modifies the Local Food Promotion Program, which invests in local food production, and the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which helps farmers sell products to local consumers. A companion bill was introduced in the House.

Trudel says these are programs that are essential to building sustainable local food systems. And he notes they are also helping to create micro-economies in rural communities.

“We have a print shop that we now use for all our labeling,” he adds. “We have a local supplier for our jars, local ingredients. We partner with a local farmer to grow some of our agricultural commodities, namely peppers for us. Not to mention the staff that we had to hire.”

Sen. Brown said the legislation can help Ohio farmers grow their bottom lines and sell more product at home. According to the USDA, in 2015 over 167,000 farms in the U.S. produced and sold food through farmers markets, food hubs, and other direct market channels resulting in over $8.7 billion in revenue.

Local farmers express concerns, wishes for next farm bill

Newark Advocate, Sydney Murray, 9/5/2017

NEWARK – Representatives from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office have been traveling the state to talk to Ohioans about the 2018 Farm Bill.

Last Wednesday, the group stopped in Licking County and about 15 people showed up to The Ohio State University Newark Extension office to discuss the bill and their thoughts and concerns about the future of agriculture.

Jon McCracken, with Brown’s Washington office, said it is expected the bill will pass out of committee in late winter or early spring.

He said conservation remains a top priority and there is a continued interest in helping smaller producers reach different markets.

According to a release from Brown’s office, one in seven Ohioans is employed in agriculture and food production.

Those at the table brought up a myriad of concerns.

Knox County resident Jazz Glastra said her organization received a rural business development grant to do a feasibility study for a food hub.

The hub will be aggregating local produce and redistributing it to restaurants and institutions.

“It’s a great program that has really benefited this organization,” Glastra said.

She said she feels good about the project, but is concerned about the small pot of money available to people in the state.

“There’s more than six or seven people in the state of Ohio who have cool ideas that will, like, spark small businesses and development in rural areas,” Glastra said.

Glastra said rural communities need small businesses and economic development.

Mike Laughlin, with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said he believes there needs to be more research on transition farming from one generation to the next..

He said he would also like to see more help for new farmers to deal with problems they encounter and developing new farming skills.

McCracken said this issue has come up a lot at other roundtable discussions.

“It’s a hard business even in good times,” McCracken said.

He said with high land prices, it can be hard for people to get their foot in the door unless they inherit, or marry into, land.

Franklin County resident Matt Hildreth said a few different things concerned him, including how energy is produced and used locally, healthcare in rural areas, and opioids.

McCracken said the bill touches all three in various ways.

McCracken said because opiods are a problem in both rural and urban communities, there is a real role for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be more proactive in terms of opioids.

Hildreth said he was also concerned about connections between communities.

He said he knows people who are part-time farmers who use a side job as another source of income, but he said some small towns have changed so much that getting people to live in those communities and the opportunity for the “side hustle” has gone away.

As another source of connectivity, many in the meeting expressed the need and importance of getting broadband internet to rural communities.

“Broadband is kind of a necessity of modern life, I think,” McCracken said.

McCracken said helping connect small communities can also help make sure the rural communities can attract the next generation and get people to come back home.

Crop insurance reforms must protect farm safety net while also supporting new farmers: Amalie Lipstreu

The Plain Dealer, Amalie Lipstreu 6/28/2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In case you were living under a rock, the Trump administration has released its 2018 budget proposal.

According to President Donald Trump’s plan, farmers in the crop insurance program would still be able to count on the federal government to pay up to $40,000 of their crop insurance bill — after which they would be cut off.

This would save taxpayers $16.2 billion over a decade.

This is a difficult time for Ohio farmers. Farm products are selling low while the cost of inputs and property taxes are on the rise. Farming is never easy and is just shy of impossible when dealing with the vagaries of weather and wildly fluctuating market uncertainties. But we have deemed farming a pretty critical endeavor — as we depend on it for our survival.

Northeast Ohio farmers markets in Tremont and Shaker Square are featuring wine samples this year. The region’s farmers market population is holding strong.

For some farmers, crop insurance provides the stability to “weather” not just the weather but also the economic challenges they face.

As we head into negotiations for the next Farm Bill, crop insurance will loom large, as the historical average cost of the program is more than $6 billion per year.

According to a 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service, the mix of policies translated into the government paying an average 62 percent of the insurance policy on each farm in 2014 — no matter how large or profitable.

But as we look at changes necessary for the program, it is critically important that we think about the farmers that will be impacted, including beginning farmers.

We face a crisis and opportunity ahead.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, nearly 100 million acres of farmland is expected to change hands as the next farm bill is implemented.

How do we want to see that land utilized? Is the “highest and best use” another strip mall or subdivision, or is there value in ensuring our food security by making sure that young farmers are able to grow food for their communities?

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association surveyed its farmers in 2016 and found that access to land and credit are the biggest business challenges. This is especially true for beginning farmers.

While land costs can fluctuate year to year, the long-term trend is one of increasing prices. As they seek to access farmland, these next-generation farmers face competition from not just real estate developers but also from existing farmers with history, capital and assets.

Because the crop insurance program provides subsidies to the biggest producers, these large commodity farms can outcompete younger farmers for land purchase or rent, making it nearly impossible for them to access land.

Quite often, these “new” farmers are interested in farming sustainably, protecting clean water and building healthy soil so they are less reliant on outside chemical inputs. Utilizing techniques such as long-term and diverse crop rotations, they build soil organic matter and reduce the potential for runoff.

These are the kind of practices we are incentivizing  to prevent the algal blooms that turn the water toxic.

As we minimize the unintended effects on beginning farmers, we also have an opportunity to link crop insurance subsidies to good conservation practices such as those mentioned above. It is common sense that linking financial support for crop insurance to reducing risk (and, potentially, crop insurance payouts) and improved environmental sustainability is a win-win for farmers, taxpayers and our communities.

We can protect the critical farm safety net — and at least some of the 100 million acres that will change hands in the next five to six years — while at the same time getting out of the way of beginning farmers and protecting our land and water.

Now is the time to improve the crop insurance program to better serve all farmers, and all citizens.

Guide Highlights Food, Farm Issues for Ohio Candidates

By Mary Kuhlman, 10/6/16, Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The future of food and farming in America affects every Ohioan, and it’s an issue that advocates of sustainable agriculture maintain should be a higher priority for those running for office in November.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) says state and federal policies shape local food systems, and sustainable farming policies benefit public health, economies and the environment.

She contends it would be wise for candidates to pay attention.

“Clearly, food and farming issues have not risen to the top of the presidential race,” she concedes. “But we’re working to make sure state and federal candidates know what Ohioans think.

“It is an important issue. It’s kind of an ultimate sustainability issue.”

OEFFA’s “Food and Farming Questions for Candidates” guide contains key policy points and background information for voters as they attend debates, forums and other pre-election events.

The guide, along with responses from candidates who answered the group’s online survey, are available at

Lipstreu says the guide covers major issues related to sustainable agriculture and farming in Ohio.

“Whether it’s investment in local and regional food systems, whether it’s looking at the impact of fracking and wastewater injection wells, climate change, federal crop insurance, or even the issue of algal blooms and water quality,” she explains.

Lipstreu hopes elected leaders learn to see the potential for sustainable agriculture, and she encourages Ohioans to be informed and engaged.

“This election is a real window of opportunity for voters to ask questions, make informed decisions and get to know the candidates who may be their future leaders,” she states.

Besides a new president, Ohio voters will select 16 U.S. House seats and one U.S. senator. At the state level, there are 99 House seats and 16 Senate seats up for grabs.

Ohio Group: Food Labeling Shouldn’t be Controversial

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio News Service, 3/7/16

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While the issue of genetic engineering is controversial, some Ohio groups say giving people honest information about the foods they consume should not be.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version of what opponents call the DARK Act, which stands for Deny Americans the Right to Know.

It essentially would block any mandatory labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, argues the bill denies consumers information about the food they eat and feed their families.

“Any legislation that codifies voluntary labeling fails to respond to the will of the American people, who reiterated in numerous surveys that they want this information,” she states.

Those in favor of the measure say mandatory food labeling would be expensive for both businesses and consumers.

The legislation introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) also would call for the Department of Agriculture to promote the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.

Lipstreu contends that would create an uneven playing field that would hinder organic farming practices.

Lipstreu explains that consumers are concerned about the use of pesticides, and want to know more about the nutritional value of the food they purchase. She says these opinions are reflected by changes in the marketplace.

“As they become more educated, they can see some of the negative effects of the corporate industrial food system and have been increasing their purchase of food that is organic, local, and sustainably grown,” she points out.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is among food and farm policy groups pledging to fight the DARK Act. And Lipstreu is hopeful Ohio’s congressional leaders do not succumb to pressure.

“We hope as this bill advances to the full Senate, Sens. (Sherrod) Brown and (Rob) Portman do not support that bill,” she says. “There are options to find common ground and to advance some legislation that truly reflects the will of the American people. ”

Brown is on the Senate Agriculture Committee and did not support the bill in committee.

Ohio activists planning National Day of Action on Tuesday

Akron Beacon Journal


By Bob Downing

From a Friday press release:

Groups Join Together to Call for a Halt of Toxic Fracking Waste and Man-made Earthquakes in a National Day of Action on Tuesday, November 17, 2015
      Youngstown, Ohio, November 12, 2015 – Groups of concerned citizens from several states are joining together to call for a halt of toxic fracking waste and related man-made earthquakes in a November 17, 2015 event titled, “Freedom From Toxic Fracking Waste and Earthquakes: A National Day of Action.”
     On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, a national coalition of local coordinators and groups will hold rallies or actions throughout the day to shine light on the numerous problems associated with toxic, radioactive fracking waste and its “disposal,” including its links to earthquakes, spills, and leaks. Groups have been communicating with each other to raise public awareness and to call for positive public action to protect their family’s health, safety, and well-being from the onslaught of fracking waste injection and disposal wells or other fracking-related infrastructure or processes, including dumping fracking waste on landfills.The high risks to water, air, and land and pollution due to toxic fracking waste are unacceptable.
     The coalition says there is no good or safe solution to the ever growing problem of the constant production of millions of gallons or tons of toxic fracking waste. Where will it all go? They say that injection or disposal wells are being drilled next to homes or in rural or residential areas that should not be heavy industrial toxic waste sites. As evidenced by numerous news reports and other documentation, there is damage to family homes or other structures because of fracking or injection well-related earthquakes. One Oklahoma woman is suing due to injuries she said she experienced during an injection well-related earthquake. The man-made earthquake situation is getting worse, not better.
      “The truth about fracking waste, injection wells, and earthquakes is showing itself everywhere. The unfolding of this truth can’t be stopped even if the oil and gas industry, some officials, and their allies want to put their heads in the sand or try to deny or minimize the real unacceptable impacts to people and their air, water, land, and property values and their quality and way of life.  There is no good solution to what to do with, or where to put, unprecedented, massive amounts of toxic fracking waste fluids or solids. There is no safe way to dispose of it. Since the public is suffering and being negatively impacted by current practices, the creation of the waste must stop,” said Teresa Mills of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), founded by Lois Gibbs of Love Canal renown.
      The November 17th National Day of Action is being coordinated by Buckeye Forest Council (BFC), The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future (FaCT), Frackfree America National Coalition (FANC), Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection, (NEOGAP) and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
     Coordinators say there is still time for more individuals or groups to get involved in the events planned for November 17, 2015, by contacting Frackfree America National Coalition at: 234-201-8007 or by e-mail at

Ohioans Join Call to End Waste, Quakes Tied to Fracking

Public News Service


By Mary Kuhlman

Organic farmer Mardy Townsend of Ashtabula County is worried about the effects of fracking waste on the environment, as well as her crops. Courtesy: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Organic farmer Mardy Townsend of Ashtabula County is worried about the effects of fracking waste on the environment, as well as her crops. Courtesy: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

WINDSOR, Ohio – From spills to earthquakes, environmental and agriculture groups say hydraulic fracturing poses serious threats to land, water and public health.

Ohio is one of several states taking part in a National Day of Action today, calling for an end to fracking waste and fracking-related earthquakes.

Mardy Townsend owns Marshy Meadows Farm in Ashtabula County, where there are 15 active fracking waste injection wells. A board member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, she says a similar well was behind a series of earthquakes in the area in 1986.

“That is a real concern for us, because the Perry Nuclear Power Plant is less than 20 miles away from my home and my farm,” she says. “It is one of the few areas in Ohio that has been known to already have seismic activity.”

There are over 180 injection wells in Ohio receiving fracking waste from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and state officials linked a string of quakes near Youngstown in 2011 to a wastewater injection well. Industry groups, such as Energy from Shale, argue that hydraulic fracturing is safe, and a boon to the economy – if regulated properly.

To coincide with the national event, Ashtabula County Water Watch is launching a campaign to increase awareness among residents about the dangers of fracking waste. Townsend says what is known as “brine” is toxic, radioactive and largely unregulated.

“The concerns have to do with the possible environmental contamination,” she says. “The other concerns that the people in this county have about brine is that it is being spread as dust control on the dirt roads.”

Townsend adds that very few people benefit from the claimed benefits of fracking, while the rest are left exposed to environmental problems, including possible water and soil contamination.

“I do know of an organic farmer who is surrounded by both frack pads and compressor stations, and I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to hold on,” she says. “Stewardship of the earth is one of the reasons we’re organic farmers, and fracking does not lead to good stewardship of the earth.”

Rallies are being held in over a dozen Ohio counties, as well as in Cincinnati and Columbus.