Category Archives: Farm Policy

Monsanto: A Corporate Profile

New report sheds light on the GE seed giant that is major force behind keeping GE food unlabeled

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cincinnati, Ohio—Today, as consumer demand and grassroots efforts grow in support of mandatory labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods, the consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch released Monsanto: A Corporate Profile.

Food & Water Watch released the report in Ohio in conjunction with their campaign to ask regulators and lawmakers to mandate GE labeling nationally. Food & Water Watch is working to pass a resolution in the Cleveland calling on Congress, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give consumers the right to know if their foods have been genetically engineered. The resolution is similar to one passed in Cincinnati last November.

The new report provides a thorough overview of the biotechnology giant that now holds 1,676 patents on seeds, plants and other agricultural applications. Monsanto’s products are grown on over 282 million acres worldwide, including 40 percent of all U.S. crop acreage. The report outlines Monsanto’s history and its undue influence over lawmakers, regulators, academic research and consumers.

“Even though you won’t find the Monsanto brand on a food or beverage container at your local grocery store, the company holds vast power over our food supply,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the book Foodopoly. “This power is largely responsible for something else we cannot find on our grocery store shelves – labels on genetically engineered food. Not only has Monsanto’s and other agribusinesses’ efforts prevented the labeling of GE foods, but they spend millions to block grassroots efforts like California’s Prop 37 in order to keep consumers in the dark.”

Monsanto: A Corporate Profile provides a deep-dive into Monsanto’s history as a heavy industrial chemical manufacturer; a reality at odds with the environmentally friendly, feed-the-world image that the company spends millions trying to convey. The report offers a timeline of milestones in the company’s history including chemical disasters, mergers and acquisitions, and the first genetically engineered plant cell.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable agriculture, applauds the new report.

“This report exposes the tremendous influence companies like Monsanto have over our food system and the need for independent research on the impacts genetically engineered crops’ have on the environment, farmland, and consumer health,” said MacKenzie Bailey, OEFFA’s policy program coordinator. “Additionally, policy makers need to respond to overwhelming public demand and require the labeling of genetically engineered foods, which will give consumers the ability to know what’s in their food.”

The report concludes with recommended actions for the federal government to take to rein in Monsanto’s anticompetitive practices and control over agricultural research and government policies. It also suggests steps that regulators should take to better protect consumers and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of GE crops.

Monsanto: A Corporate Profile can be downloaded here:

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

Contact: Alison Auciello, Food & Water Watch,, (513) 394-6257

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Risky consumption of genetically modified organisms continues

By Laura Scheer

Though Athens offers an abundance of all-natural, locally grown food options, it is hard to avoid consuming potentially dangerous genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs.

There is a national debate surrounding the labeling of foods that contain GMOs, and as an agricultural state, Ohio would be greatly affected by genetic engineering legislation.

Some of the dangers of genetically engineered foods include seed and crop contamination, the risk of contaminating organic farms, reduced consumer choice, the rise of “super weeds,” and negative health effects on humans, said MacKenzie Bailey, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, in an email.

Though the industry claims genetic engineering is harmless, Jeffrey Smith, spokesperson for the Institute for Responsible Technology, a non-profit based out of Iowa that works to educate policy makers and the public about genetically modified foods and crops, said the toxins that genetically modified crops acquire have been found to damage human cells.

Genetic engineering was first used in 1996 when Monsanto engineered plants to be resistant to their weed killer Roundup, Bailey said in an email. This allowed farmers to spray Roundup on their fields during the growing season without harming the crop.

“Today, more than 80 percent of the soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola grown in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented genes,” she added.

Although most genetically engineered crops, like corn and soy, are used for feed for livestock, some food that humans consume still contain GMOs, said Smith.

Bailey said genetically engineered ingredients are commonly found in substitute meat and dairy products, frozen meals, canned foods, baking products, soft drinks, infant formulas and baby foods.

“At least 35 countries have laws in place that impose labeling or import restrictions on (genetically engineered) food, including the European Union, China, Australia, Russia and Japan, which receives 20 percent of U.S. food exports,” Bailey said.

She added that within the first few years genetically modified crops were introduced, almost the entire $300 million in annual U.S. corn exports to the European Union disappeared and the U.S. share of the world soy market decreased.

David Rosenthal, assistant professor in the department of environmental and plant biology, said that though he has not conducted research on GMOs’ effect on people, he has not read any studies that indicate GMOs are dangerous for humans to consume.

Smith said Roundup itself is known to be linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, tumors, organ damage and reproductive disorders. He added that pregnant women, young children and sick individuals are more at risk of effects from consuming GMOs.

Though Smith said the Institute for Responsible Technology would support legislation requiring GMO labeling, the organization would like to see a complete removal of all GMO foods until the research and studies have been done to prove they are safe.

After studies came out in 2009 that revealed the potential dangers of consuming GMOs, researchers urged doctors to prescribe patients with reproductive issues or immunity problems with non-GMO diets, Smith said. He added that thousands of doctors said that patients prescribed non-GMO diets have a “dramatic and quick recovery.”

Both Smith and Bailey said that the best way to avoid eating genetically modified foods is to buy certified organic products.

Farmers in Ohio divided on ‘fracking’

By Mary Vanac
The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday, February 2, 2013

The growing amount of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” being performed in Ohio as part of a booming oil and gas industry is causing a split in opinion among the state’s farmers.Some see the movement as an economic opportunity, while others see the practice as a threat to their livelihoods.

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is being heralded as an economic engine in Ohio because it can exploit deeply buried reserves of natural gas and other petroleum products.

Fracking could generate 65,680 jobs and $4.9 billion of investment in Ohio by 2014, according to a 2012 report by researchers at three Ohio universities and sponsored by the Ohio Shale Coalition, a pro-fracking group aimed at maximizing the economic impact of shale-gas production in the state.

Some farmers foresee financial windfalls from leases with oil and gas companies, which according to the economic impact report averaged $2,500 an acre, as well as royalties — continuing income of 15 percent of the value of gas extracted on their properties.

But other farmers see fracking as a threat to their way of life because it injects millions of gallons of water, toxic chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart shale formations and release the gas. These chemicals could put their land off limits for organic farming, which has strict certification standards.

Although the state’s two general farming associations, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio Farmers Union, are concerned that fracking could contaminate farming soil and water, neither has a current position on the growing natural gas drilling practice in the state.

“We do not have a stance on hydraulic fracturing,” said Dale Arnold, director of energy services at the Ohio Farm Bureau. But Arnold has traveled the state for years to educate the farm bureau’s 60,000 members about the right things to do and the questions to ask before leasing mineral rights to oil and gas companies.

Last year, the farmers union called for a moratorium on fracking until a long-expected report on the drilling practice by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was published. The union has 5,000 members, many small, family owned farms.

The union backed off its call for a moratorium this year not because the EPA report has been issued — it hasn’t — but because income from oil and gas leases is the only thing keeping some of its members on their family farms, said Ron Sylvester, external relations director.

“We are realizing the inevitability that fracking is going to happen, it’s going to become a part of the rural fabric in many counties,” Sylvester said. “Do you want to sit on the outside throwing rocks, or do you want to be inside the tent, working with Gov. Kasich, the General Assembly and the industry to make things better?”

Only the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, a grass-roots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers and others, continues the call for a fracking moratorium until the EPA report is released, said MacKenzie Bailey, the association’s policy program coordinator.

“Fracking comes with real risks to public health, our food shed, and the water, soil and air resources that we all share,” Bailey said. “Ohio’s current fracking regulations give the green light to gas and oil companies, and leave farmers and consumers vulnerable to the potential dangers of fracking.”

Farmers depend on clean soil, water and air for their livelihoods, so they are among those who could suffer most from the negative impacts of fracking. “Ohio policymakers need to re-examine these risks and take action to require full public disclosure of chemicals, and give local governments and property owners meaningful opportunities for involvement and the right to determine the future of their communities,” Bailey said.

Fracking and Farmland: Stories from Ohio’s Fields

January 29, 2013
By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As the oil and gas fracking industry grows in Ohio, farmers’ concerns are mounting about the possible effects on public health, the food supply and the land.

Kip Gardner of Creekview Ridge Farm in Carroll County is in the process of becoming organically certified. He says the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing have the potential to contaminate the water and soil, endanger livestock and threaten the food supply. He says nearly all of his neighbors have signed fracking leases, and he’s concerned that a process known as “mandatory pooling” will force him into a lease.

“We’ve been approached, I think, four times now by Chesapeake and BP about signing leases,” he said, “and so far they have not offered any terms that we consider adequate to protect what we are doing on the farm.”

Mandatory pooling allows the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to authorize access to non-leased land once oil and gas companies have acquired leases for 65 percent of the land in a drilling unit.

Gardner says it’s disappointing that private interests can trump his rights as a landowner.

“It feels as if the land is ours until somebody else wants to do something with it,” he declared. “And you know it’s not even public domain; it’s a private company.”

Gardner is one of several producers sharing their personal story from the field about how the fracking boom is affecting their land and operations. The profiles are featured in a new online series offered by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. The stories can be found at

The web pages feature several stories, including a cattle producer from Windsor, Ohio, concerned about contamination from nearby injection well sites, and a poultry producer in Stark County worried about the negative effect of fracking on the connection between successful farming and the health of the soil, water and air.

2 key programs die as farm bill expires

October 9, 2012
The Columbus Dispatch

The U.S. House of Representatives failed to reauthorize the 2008 Farm Bill, choosing inaction instead. This important legislation officially expired as of Oct. 1 and will have significant impact on small and mid-sized farms.

Allowing certain programs to expire will create unnecessary hardships for farmers and their efforts toward a more sustainable food system. Two bills set to expire are the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Organic farmers are required to pay an annual fee for certification. The cost-share program gives farmers the opportunity to offset those costs by up to $750 a year. Without this low-cost program we are likely to see the number of certified organic farmers drop. Organic certification helps consumers know that their food is held to the standards set by the National Organic Program.

To address the aging population of agricultural workers, the development program helps to provide essential training to America’s next generation of farmers and ranchers. New farmers have many obstacles to overcome; with resources and training available under this program we are able to put a little more wind in their sails.

These programs need their funding to be reauthorized. It is vital for Congress to pass the 2012 Farm Bill in the upcoming lame-duck session in November.

Granville, OH

Shane is a policy intern at OEFFA

Why We Need to Save the Farm Bill

The Huffington Post
September 6, 2012
By Helen Dombalis, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

This is my first time working in Washington on a Farm Bill, and did I ever pick a good one to start with! Seasoned Farm Bill advocates keep reminding newbies like me that this Farm Bill debate is anything but normal, which is refreshing to hear considering how chaotic the process has been.

In June, the full Senate passed its version of the new Farm Bill, which is a great starting point. On the House side, however, the process is delayed. The House Agriculture Committee did its share of the work in July, but the House leadership will not bring the bill before the full House of Representatives for a vote, meaning, in short, that the bill is stalled.

Why does this matter?  For starters, despite what may be implied by its name, the Farm Bill affects much more than farm country U.S.A. (It’s real name is the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012.0 The massive piece of legislation, renewed roughly every five years, has a lot to do with our entire food system.

Here are six (of the many) ways the Farm Bill affects you. It dictates…

    • Which foods are grown and raised in the U.S.
    • Which American farmers and ranchers produce our food
    • In what quantities our foods are produced
    • What kinds of food ends up on grocery store and food bank shelves
    • Food prices
    • Who can have access to the food.

It’s expected to cost just under 1 trillion dollars over 10 years.  It’s a big deal.

The current Farm Bill, passed back in 2008, is set to expire on September 30. That leaves Congress with just 16 business days to act!

The chances of fully renewing the Farm Bill by the deadline are looking slimmer by the day. It is therefore possible that Congress will pass an extension bill and then return to debate at a later point. But any extension should continue to fund the food and farm programs that are set to expire on September 30th.

Which programs? The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), and National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), just to name a few. Not to mention all of the USDA Rural Development programs, such as the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), which fund farmer projects to increase their income through smart marketing and other tools.  These programs ensure the success of local and organic food systems and are the future of American agriculture.

Here’s what you can do to help keep these and other important programs alive: Send a message to Congress.

Don’t put rural America, organic and local food, and the next generation of farmers on hold. Find a way to continue these important programs. Visit, type in your zip code, and contact your representatives about food and farm programs and policies that matter to you.  You can also check to see if your congressmen are part of the Senate or House Agriculture Committee, since those members are especially involved in the process. Finally, sign up for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition action alerts to get the latest information on how you can shape the future of our food and agriculture policy!


Helen Dombalis holds a Master of Public Health and a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She has researched the role of local and regional food systems in community economic development and advocated at the grassroots and federal levels.   Helen staffs NSAC’s Marketing, Food Systems, & Rural Development Committee and leads NSAC’s local food and economic development advocacy, which includes farm to school and child nutrition.  She also serves as a Policy Co-Chair for the American Public Health Association’s Food and Environment Working Group.

Farm bill’s expiration lamented

The Toledo Blade

By Jon Chavez


Without fanfare, the 2008 farm bill expired Sunday night and while the effects of not having a farm bill won’t be devastating immediately to Ohio’s farmers, it could get to that point if one isn’t passed before year’s end, experts said.

“We’re at a really critical point without one now. We’re going to be at a dire point if we don’t get a new bill by the end of the year,” said Yvonne Lesicko, senior director of legislative and regulatory policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau in Columbus.

The great fear, said Roger Wise, a Fremont-area farmer and president of the Ohio Farmers Union, is that any new farm bill before year’s end will undoubtedly be passed by a lame-duck session of Congress, meaning there will be no great incentive to pass a bill that truly meets farmers’ needs.

“I don’t think it will be as good as it can be had we got it before the Sept. 30 expiration just because of the nature of lame-duck Congresses. But if we don’t get it soon, there could be dramatic effects on farmers, nutrition programs, and even national security issues,” Mr. Wise said.

Congress adjourned Sept. 19 without renewing the existing farm bill. Both houses of Congress had proposed a replacement bill, but they were far apart on unifying legislation with the House proposing a bill with $35 billion in cuts to meet budget deficit restrictions and the Senate proposing cuts of $23 million.

Either way, cuts were going to happen, Ms. Lesicko said, but Ohio farmers were hopeful a bill could be crafted that still met the needs of farmers without making drastic reductions. But Congress adjourned without passing an extension and with it now in recess until after the Nov. 8 election, there is no telling when the matter will be taken up again.

In the meantime, several programs paid for by farm bill funding are expiring.

First on the list is MILC, or the Milk Income Loss Contract program, which compensates dairy producers when domestic milk prices — which can be volatile — fall below a specified level. MILC payments will be made through November, but after that, dairy producers are out of luck.

Next to go is the Specialty Crops program, which could affect all northwest Ohio fruit and vegetable growers and specialty nurseries. The program provides block grants to help organizations and individuals pay for research, assistance, and marketing for specialty crops and floriculture businesses.

Also to expire shortly due to lack of funding is the Conservation Reserve program, which encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as grasslands or shade trees.

The CRP program has been particularly effective in northwest Ohio to control flooding and promote wildlife.

“It’s all kind of starting now as these programs start to expire and we’ll get progressively worse as we continue to go,” Ms. Lesicko said.

At an undetermined point, theU.S. Department of Agriculture won’t be able to enter into new trade contracts, which will hit Ohio farmers particularly hard and hurt programs designed to promote trade of commodities such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, Ms. Lesicko said. “It’s any person’s guess as to what might happen,” she added.

For now, monies to help offset this summer’s drought disaster are covered, and payments to several northwest Ohio counties listed as disaster area will go to farmers as scheduled. And overall, the 2008 law that expired on Sunday covers all of 2012’s crops.

“It’s next year that we’re worried about,” Mr. Wise said.

The Farmers Union president said he believes funding levels in existing programs in the 2008 farm bill are likely to be reduced in whatever replacement bill gets passed either this year or early next year by the new Congress.

“I see consequences of not getting this done early and it’s difficult to tell how they’ll manifest themselves. I think a lot of programs will be cut or consolidated,” Mr. Wise said.

“The thing about farm legislation is it’s generally an investment. It’s money that creates a return,” he said. “For example, it’s said that you reap $7 for every $1 that will be spent in the nutrition program.

“Generally, a farm bill is a safety net for farmers so that in poor years those farms can remain in business. Farmers only plant and harvest once a year, yet they have to provide for 12 months a year,” Mr. Wise said.

Contact Jon Chavez at or 419-724-6128.

Farm Bill Expiration Puts Forward-Thinking Food Policy at Risk

Civil Eats
October 2, 2012  
By Ferd Hoefner

As of this week, our nation’s food and farm policy in the form of the 2008 Farm Bill has officially expired, with no workable replacement. There are many who see this as a better course of events than the passage of one of the new, admittedly imperfect, bills passed by the Senate and proposed in the House.  Others view congressional inaction as no big deal.

We beg to differ.

The farm bill is the nation’s major food and agricultural policy vehicle and is about much more than the big ticket items: food stamps, crop insurance, and commodity support.  The farm bill is also about conservation and environmental protection, rural economic and community development, food system reform and agricultural research.  Here’s what’s at stake:

With no new farm bill or extension, the programs that address rural and urban job creation, natural resource conservation, renewable energy, and improved production and access to healthy food are in big trouble.

With the expiration of the farm bill, farmers will not be enrolling sensitive land in ecological restoration projects.  Training opportunities for the next generation of beginning farmers will dry up.  Microloans to the very small businesses that drive economic recovery in rural America will cease.  Emerging farmers markets in rural and urban food deserts will not have access to startup grants.  Organic farming researchers will not be able to compete for any dedicated research funds.

Grants to encourage on-farm energy conservation, to fund fruit and vegetable research, to assist minority and tribal farmers, to rebuild local and regional food systems, to invest in emerging farmer and community owned food businesses with high consumer demand, and to transfer land to young farmers will also be put on hold.

These are casualties of Congressional inaction. Many commentators note that SNAP (food stamp) benefits and federal crop insurance subsidies, the two largest categories of farm bill spending, continue unabated, and that is true. But they’re missing the fact that these lesser-known programs have no funding starting on Monday.

These lesser-known farm bill programs have an outsized impact.  They drive innovation.  They create jobs.  They help solve environmental problems and boost energy independence.  They support the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs.

When the Senate passed a new five-year farm bill in June, it was difficult to imagine we would find ourselves in this situation. The House Agriculture Committee passed its version in July with bi-partisan support, but the House left town last week to go home and campaign without House Republican leaders ever bringing the new farm bill to the floor for amendment and approval.   Now Congress is tasked with passing a new farm bill during the short, busy lame duck session after the election.

Many House members are trying to reassure their constituents that because food stamps and crop insurance are taken care of, and because there is a little bit of time before commodity subsidy programs implode, it was all really no big deal to kick the can down the road.

Don’t try telling that to young farmers enrolling in training programs, to landowners trying to restore wetlands, or to researchers working to make a healthier and more sustainable food system.  They know they have been left in the lurch and they are looking to Congress to do the right thing and return after the election to get a new farm bill finished and signed into law.

As a nation, we need to keep food stamps working and we need a better, less costly and fairer farm safety net. But as important as those goals are, the farm bill is about much more than that.  Congressional dithering has put movement toward achieving a 21st century food and farm policy at risk.  The first programs to be shut down starting October 1 are precisely the ones that invest in a more equitable, sustainable, opportunity-generating farm and food system.  Despite the words of assurance to the contrary, this really is a big deal.

Ferd Hoefner is the Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Fast Action Needed to Keep Some Ohio Growers in Business

Ohio Public News Service
By Mary Kuhlman
August 22, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Without fast action by Congress, programs that help keep small and specialty farmers in Ohio afloat are at risk.

The current farm bill will soon expire, and with it go dollars to fund certain programs that benefit local, sustainable and small- to mid-sized family farms. Among them is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provided the training for Linde Collingwood of Solon to launch her small-market garden. She says these programs help her and other growers provide healthy food options for Ohioans.

“There’s going to be more demand and more interest as people learn where their food is coming from, so we’re going to need more local farmers and beginning farmers to provide these things. If the funding is cut, there’s going to be a huge gap.”

The Senate passed a farm bill in June, but the House Agriculture Committee passed a different version of the bill in July. Unless the House takes action, the current farm bill from 2008 will expire Sept. 30.

Another program that could lose funding is the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which Ron Meyer of Strawberry Hill Farm near Coshocton says has been a tremendous help to him. He fears losing the program, particularly after he’s already lost nearly one-third of his yield this year, because of the heat and drought that have devastated farms across the Midwest.

“We’ve seen insects – insects that we’ve never seen before. We’ve had some disease problems we’ve never had before – and both of those are due to the weather this year.”

While the House passed a disaster assistance bill for farmers earlier this month, the Farm Bill that outlines short-term and long-term farm policies remains stalled. Meyer is a member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which advocates for policies that protect and benefit sustainable agriculture.

Federal oversight of organic food at risk

Tuesday August 21, 2012
The Columbus Dispatch

Farmers are right to demand legislators take swift action on the 2012 farm bill (“Farmers vent over farm bill,” New York Times article, Aug. 13 Dispatch).

Because of inaction by the U.S. House of Representatives, important farm-bill programs stand to lose funding on Sept. 30, including the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. This very valuable program covers up to 75 percent of annual organic-certification costs.

Without the program, many farmers say they would not be able to afford organic certification, which requires an operation to comply with strict production standards.

Consumer demand for organic certified meat and produce has risen steadily for several years. This is largely because the organic label is a trusted indicator that a product was raised with care for the health of consumers, animals and the environment.

The 2008 Farm Bill funded the program at $22 million over five years, a small fraction of the farm bill itself, which costs around $300 billion.

This is a small investment that will help our economy to grow and keep American farmers in the business of growing good food for the rest of us.

Those interested should call their U.S. representatives and tell them to preserve funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program in the 2012 farm bill.