Category Archives: Farm Policy

A Q&A on Fracking with MacKenzie Bailey of OEFFA

June 20 2012

Edible Columbus

By  Colleen Leonardi & MacKenzie Bailey

 

With the natural gas industry moving into parts of Ohio with the aim of drilling for natural gas using a process known as fracking, we wanted to learn more about the relationship between fracking and farmland. Policy Program Director at the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, MacKenzie Bailey answered some of our questions.

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Colleen Leonardi: What is fracking and what’s its history here in the U.S.?

MacKenzie Bailey: High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking,” is a method of oil and gas extraction that injects a mixture of water, toxic chemicals and sand at high pressure deep underground to break apart rock formations such as shale, limestone, sandstone or coal beds.

Various forms of fracking have been around for decades, first used commercially by Halliburton in 1949. But, fracking today looks very different than it did back then. Today’s technology allows companies to drill much deeper and in tighter rock formations. Horizontal wells, which can extend up to a mile underground, use more toxic chemicals and millions of gallons of water.

CL: Why has the natural gas industry moved into parts of Ohio to begin to drill?

MB: Due to new technological advances, the fracking industry has been able to tap into shale rock formations that contain oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (propane, butane and ethane), that were previously not economically feasible to exploit. The eastern half of Ohio rests upon the Devonian, Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

The Ohio Geological Survey reports that northeast Ohio has the most oil and gas potential, including parts of Ashtabula, Trumbull, Portage, Stark, Mahoning, Columbiana, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties. In central Ohio, the Utica Shale underlies parts of Marion, Delaware, Union and Morrow counties.

CL: How does the natural gas industry gain permission from a farmer to use their land to drill?

MB: Oil and gas companies need to obtain signed leases from the property owners in a drilling unit in order to operate on the land or collect the mineral resources below the surface. Once 65 percent of the land is leased the company may move forward with applying for a drilling permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

These leases are legally binding documents. Landowners that are approached about signing a lease should seek advice from an experienced lawyer, who ideally has a background in oil and gas law as well as contract negotiations. Some lawyers will claim a percentage of the sign on bonus and/or royalty payments, meaning they benefit only if their client signs a lease. For landowners that prefer not to sign a lease, it may be worthwhile to seek a lawyer that charges a flat fee.

Ohio recently passed an energy bill that falls short in some significant ways, including the ability to protect the rights of private property owners when negotiating an oil and gas lease.

CL: What effect does fracking have on the land and the natural resources of that farmland?

MB: Fracking can potentially have a huge impact on land, air and water resources. These new drilling operations are resource-intensive and can use up to 300 times more water than conventional fracking. This water is combined with sand and a mixture of toxic chemicals creating a brine known as frack fluid.

According to new Ohio laws, the exact formula used in frack fluid does not need to be disclosed by the companies, protected as a “trade secret,” however, this fluid can contain hundreds of dangerous chemicals including: benzene; methane; radioactive materials, such as strontium, uranium and radon, and heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, barium and arsenic. After this fluid is injected underground, some of it comes back up as wastewater, where it may have picked up other naturally-occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials.

Both the frack fluid and wastewater need to be transported to and from the site. At every step of the fracking process, from injection and recovery to storage and transport, there is the potential for contamination of water and soil through underground fissures, spills, leaks and blowouts. Well failures are fairly common at drilling sites. In 2011, Pennsylvania levied 141 violations against Chesapeake Energy alone. Of those, 24 involved failures of well integrity or underground leaks.

Scientists at Duke University published the first rigorous, peer-reviewed study of water pollution at drilling and fracking operations. Examining 60 sites in New York and Pennsylvania, they found “systematic evidence for methane contamination” in household drinking water. Water wells half a mile from drilling operations were contaminated by methane at 17 times the rate of those farther from gas development.

Land use and air pollution are also of concern. Semi-truck trailers transport frack fluid, wastewater and drilling equipment to and from the fracking site. In addition to the drill pads and compressor stations, which can take up acres of land themselves, roads and pipeline may need to be built. The increased development has been known to elevate air pollution, particularly ozone levels, in rural areas.

CL: How might those effects influence the quality and sustainability of the food from Ohio farms?

MB: Farmers’ livelihoods depend on the integrity of the soil, clean water and pollution-free air. If there is a spill, leak or blowout, food could become contaminated by fracking fluid or wastewater. If contamination occurs on land that is certified organic, that land will be taken out of organic production for at least three years, and the farmer will lose that income.

Livestock are attracted to the salty toxic brine used in fracking and, therefore, are particularly vulnerable if there is contamination to soil and water. According to a Food and Water Watch report, in 2009, 16 cattle in Louisiana died after drinking spilled frack fluids. Other similar reports have been made.

Air pollution near fracking sites can have an impact on a farm’s production. For instance, elevated levels of ground level ozone due to natural gas drilling, as has been seen in southwestern Wyoming, can lower soybean crop yields – Ohio’s largest agricultural commodity. Other crops that can be affected by ozone include spinach, tomatoes, beans, alfalfa and other forages.

Although burning conventional natural gas is known to have a lower greenhouse gas effect than burning coal or oil, a 2011 Cornell University study showed that gas obtained from shale rock could actually have a greater footprint. This is because the release of methane, which is very potent greenhouse gas, from shale rock can escape into the atmosphere. This could contribute to climate disruption, which leads to unpredictable growing seasons.

CL: Does fracking have any effect on the farmers and people surrounding the farmland?

MB: Although fracking can have positive short-term economic impacts for lease signers and local businesses, the long-term health and environmental impacts cannot be ignored.

Contact with the toxic chemicals used in fracking or air pollutants can affect more than just farmland productivity; it can have serious public health implications. Chemicals used in fracking have been linked to a wide range of health impacts affecting the endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, nervous and respiratory systems. Of course, that depends on which specific chemicals a person is exposed to and in Ohio, oil and gas companies can keep certain chemicals secret from the public. Ohio law allows, only after a person has been affected by chemical exposure, medical professionals to request a full chemical disclosure list from the company.

Additionally, the large amount of industrial infrastructure that is needed in order to support a drilling site causes land fragmentation, putting land out of agricultural production. In Pennsylvania, organic farmers have surrendered their certification because they are losing too much land to be able to have enough feed for their animals and meet access to pasture requirements for their livestock.

Finally, gas development can also lower land and property values that make resale difficult. This can happen for a few reasons. First, once a lease is signed, it is legally binding and stays attached to the land; potential home buyers may be more reluctant to purchase such a property. Second, fracking sites are noisy and unsightly and most buyers do not want this in their backyard. Finally, if contamination were to occur, it could immediately lower property values.

CL: According to Don’t Frack Ohio, “Governor John Kasich has stated a goal of expanding the number of fracking wells in Ohio to over 4,000 within 4 years.” What does the future of sustainable agriculture in Ohio look like, in your mind, if Governor Kasich meets these goals?

MB: That is a good question and there are still many unknowns. On one hand, we could see an economic boom in rural communities from natural gas development. On the other, we could experience land fragmentation and contamination of soil, water and air that puts small farmers out of business or leaves them sitting on land with little or no value.

What I do know is that the Governor recently signed an energy bill that provides oil and gas companies with a lot of leeway and very little accountability. Companies do not have enough incentive to prevent contamination of our water, protect the health of our communities or even employ workers from the state of Ohio. At the same time, there is almost no opportunity for local governments to interject or Ohio residents to publicly comment or appeal a drilling permit decision.

With such an extreme expansion of natural gas and oil extraction in this state, we need to proceed cautiously rather than allowing big corporations to have free reign over our land.

CL: What can people do to learn more about fracking and take action?

MB: To learn more about OEFFA, fracking or to take action, please visit our website at policy.oeffa.org/fracking.

Fix our broken food system

BY ALISON AUCIELLO
June 3, 2012

The congressional wrangling over this year’s farm bill is even more tortured than usual. The legislation will guide U.S. agricultural, food, and nutrition policy for five years, and will spend hundreds of billions of dollars.

Yet the 900-page bill was kept secret until only a week before the Senate Agriculture Committee spent a few hours debating it. The full Senate is scheduled to consider the measure this week.

The farm bill is always a controversial balancing act of regional agricultural interests, vital funding for nutrition initiatives such as the food stamp program, and a host of projects and earmarks. The Senate version cuts support for programs that needy families depend on, fails to provide an adequate safety net to protect farmers when prices are too low, and does nothing to address the increasing power of big agribusiness over farmers, consumers, and the food system.

Many of the problems in our system stem from agribusiness having too much control over our food. A few big firms control everything from seed to supermarket.

These companies limit the choices farmers can make, can gouge them in the prices they pay for seeds and fertilizer, can shortchange them when they sell crops or livestock, and significantly reduce choices while raising the prices consumers pay at the grocery store.

Consolidation and lack of competition are especially acute problems in the livestock market. About four out of five cattle and two out of three hogs are slaughtered by just four companies in each sector.

With few national buyers, farmers rarely get a competitive price for their livestock. Locally, there are often only one or two meat packers buying livestock. Packers frequently won’t buy from independent producers.

Big meatpackers have the power to drive down the prices farmers get for hogs and cattle. Meatpackers often control and feed their own livestock, exerting unfair market power over farmers.

These companies can buy cattle and hogs when prices are low, and slaughter their own livestock when prices rise. In the long term, this lowers the prices farmers get for livestock, allowing meatpackers to manipulate prices.

Low livestock prices push farmers out of business. Between 1993 and 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio lost 8,300 hog farms — three-fourths of its total — and 1,600 beef cattle operations, or one in 10.

Such losses hurt the rural economy. Fewer farms support fewer feed stores, equipment dealers, and local small businesses.

Consolidation in the meatpacking industry has pushed other firms out of business as well. In Ohio, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of slaughterhouses fell by 15 percent between 2001 and 2010. The number of slaughterhouse workers and their total wages fell by nearly half.

Lower livestock prices are not passed on to consumers. Prices of bacon and ground beef continue to rise, even as farmers and workers are paid less. With so few processors in the market, there is no incentive for big meatpackers to share savings with consumers.

U. S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) is a champion of livestock fairness issues. He has defended the country-of-origin labeling law from attack by our trade partners. He supported livestock market fairness rules that the meatpacker lobby derailed.

Senator Brown can help move the 2012 farm bill in the right direction by supporting a proposed amendment to the legislation that would ban meatpackers from owning livestock. That proposal enjoys broad support among independent livestock producers.

The Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Farmers’ Union, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, and other state groups endorse the packer ban. Senator Brown can stand up for Ohio farmers and consumers by committing to cosponsor and vote yes on the packer-ban amendment.

Alison Auciello is the Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer group that works to ensure clean water and safe food.

Ohio Farmers Feeling the Effects of Fracking Boom

March 15, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – is expanding in Ohio, and debate is heating up over the process. A lot is at stake for farmers, especially those who use sustainable practices.

Oil and gas companies are approaching landowners across Ohio and asking them to sign leases to permit drilling for natural gas in shale formations.

Matthew Starline, whose organic farm near Athens is surrounded by leased land, says the potential for air, soil and water contamination could threaten his organic label and business.

“That could be soil contamination that would result in loss of my organic certification. If I water the ground with contaminated water, there’s a possibility that my certification would be in jeopardy.”

During fracking, experts say, wastewater returned to the surface can contain radioactive materials. They add that heavy metals, such as lead or mercury, can contaminate the soil through spills, leaks, or during venting and airing.

Supporters say fracking could create hundreds of thousands of much-needed jobs and increase revenue in the state.

Ohio has nearly 53,000 acres of certified organic pasture and cropland, much of it in areas containing shale deposits.

Starline is a member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which represents 3,000 farmers, businesses and individuals. MacKenzie Bailey, the group’s policy program coordinator, says they support a moratorium on the process because so little is known about fracking’s long-term effects.

“Ohio needs strong regulations to protect our farmers and consumers from the risks associated with hydrofracking, including the disclosure of chemicals prior to injection and significantly increasing transparency in the permitting process.”

Local governments have little opportunity to speak up, Bailey says, adding that promoting local control of fracking is critical.

A few months ago, Starline says, many farmers in his area didn’t believe fracking would become an issue for them. Now, he says, they’re being bombarded with information about the gas industry and fracking.

“All of a sudden now, we have over 140,000 acres that are being leased off by three different land groups. So, it came in with amazing speed and everyone wanting to jump right into it.”

Starline says state leaders need to take a step back and evaluate environmental concerns before allowing any more drilling.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

Video from outside NY Monsanto Motion to Dismiss Oral Arguments

On Tuesday, January 31, family farmers from around North America filled Federal Court Judge Naomi Buchwald’s courtroom in Manhattan. The topic was the landmark organic community lawsuit OSGATA et al v. Monsanto and the oral argument for Monsanto’s pre-trial motion to dismiss which it filed last July. Plaintiffs from at least 21 states and provinces were in the courtroom including Oregon, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Saskatchewan, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.

The session lasted over an hour and the judge indicated she will issue her ruling within two months.

Check out this video from outside the courtroom, where crowds gathered in support of family farmers:

For more information about Monsanto, GMOs, and the case, go to
http://www.oeffa.org/farmpolicy_gef.php

Ohio produce growers and marketers urged to join food safety program

Farm and Dairy

By Chris Kick

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Food recalls and food poisoning often are some of the most expensive costs to a produce farmer and can be enough to put him or her out of business.

On a national level, sources say millions of people are sickened each year by the top sources of foodborne illness, costing tens of billions of dollars in medical expenses and time off work.

But with some foresight and good planning, produce growers can ensure themselves and their customers that what they produce is as safe as possible.

On Jan. 16, the opening day of the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association annual congress, internationally recognized “retail guru” John Stanley delivered a common sense message on food safety called Making Food Safety Work for You and Your Wallet.

Food safety has been a major topic in all major news media the past few years and many types of legislation have been introduced to ensure food is produced and marketed safely. They include names like the Food Safety Modernization Act, the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

“We’ve got enough legislation, everywhere you go there’s legislation,” Stanley said.

Building trust

The challenge producers need to face, he said, is gaining consumer confidence and trust. While legislation can sometimes help, he echoed sentiments shared by Ohio growers who say that a one-size-fits-all government program is not best for Ohio or other individual states.

The leafy greens program, for example, got its start in California and was suited for large California-style produce operations, Stanley said. Ohio is the opposite in many ways, with a combination of large growers, but also many small-scale producers.

“There is a lot of difference in California — the thinking process in California and the lifestyle process in California compared to the lifestyle and thinking process in Ohio,” he said.

He pointed to a map of Ohio and insisted that any food safety plan for Ohio “has to be designed for that state.”

Lots of support

The leading farm and produce organizations in Ohio are in fact supporting a food safety program of their own called Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement. It has been in the works at least the past three years, but is gaining momentum as an accredited food safety program.

Stanley, and other speakers on the opening day, went as far as to say that a food safety program will be a requirement if you wish to sell produce in the future.

“Retailers will not buy from you if you are not certified in the future,” he said.

Karl Kolb, one of the lead organizers of the agreement, said 25 or so producers already are signed up and participating. But he expects that number to grow exponentially over the coming months and years.

Part of the process is petitioning the Ohio Department of Agriculture to give final approval of the program as a certified marketing agreement. Some 200 petition signatures are needed and the program must demonstrate its effectiveness and commitment to strong standards. OPMA currently operates on a de facto status, with its leaders confident full approval will granted in the near future.

At that point, “we will have our own plan and that will have the force of law,” Kolb said.

Many different plans

The Ohio plan will not necessarily replace other marketing plans or federal requirements, but is expected to replace third-party audit fees with a more affordable inspection option for smaller-size producers. The agreement shares universal standards, but is implemented in a scale-appropriate, three-tier approach.

“You need (a food safety plan) for one principal reason and that is to protect your investment,” Kolb said. “It’s not if you’re going to get a recall, it’s when and when it’s going to come. It’s (your certification) your first and best and only line of investment at protecting your investment.”

Stanley said consumers want to be assured of the quality and safety of the foods for sale, but currently, consumer confidence is very low. Only 47 percent of Americans are confident their food is safe, according to survey information from the International Food Information Council.

The Ohio plan, he said, is one that is developed by Ohioans, provides access to new markets and “peace of mind to the consumer.”

The Ohio plan is supported by organizations like OPGMA, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Looking ahead

In previous interviews, Kolb has said the plan has the potential to reach markets further than Ohio and could become a model for other states wishing to make marketing plans that fit their growers.

“I applaud the government for wanting to do great things (nationally) but I think we’re ahead of the power curb,” he said.

Lisa Schacht, president of OPGMA, said the plan was one of the biggest projects of the year, and continues to be a popular topic.

“OPMA is definitely a project we worked to see come to cooperative fruition,” she said. “It is designed to address those circumstances associated with size and scale.”

Additional signatures supporting the Ohio plan were gathered at the conference. The number of signatures and the review of the program by the ag department will be reported as that information becomes available.

To learn more about OPGMA or the Ohio marketing agreement, visit www.opgma.org, or www.opma.us.

Ohio Farmers Fly-In to DC to Talk About Protecting Local Farms

November 3, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some Ohio farmers are flying to Washington today to talk to policymakers about the importance of protecting local and organic family farms.

Congressional agriculture committee members are drafting language for the 2012 Farm Bill to send to the so-called “super committee” this week. MacKenzie Bailey, policy coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, says the bill typically takes an entire year to write, but legislators are crafting it in just two weeks.

“This is the fastest food and farm bill decision-making process in history. And here in Ohio it’s essential that we protect programs that contribute to the success of local and organic family farmers.”

In the past few weeks, advocacy groups have been submitting their suggestions to lawmakers for the farm bill, and Bailey says her association is supportive of a bill introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, this week. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would prioritize consumer access to healthy, fresh food and help Ohio farmers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing and distribution needs.

Local and organic farmers rely on programs funded through the farm bill, such as the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. Ron Meyer, from Strawberry Hill Farm in Coshocton County, says that program eases the financial burden organic farmers annually incur to maintain certification.

“Organic certification is expensive, so it’s very helpful to us to get some of that money back. And it encourages us to continue producing food organically, which helps to produce a healthy environment.”

Meyer supports Brown’s legislation because it strengthens Ohio’s local farming economy.

“Those are systems that promote food that is good for us, that’s good for the planet and is good for farmers to produce. The bill also will help to strengthen local and regional food systems.”

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

ODA and Organic Trade Association reach agreement over milk labeling

By Kristy Foster
Farm and Dairy
11/7/11

COLUMBUS — A three-year court battle over milk labeling has ended in an agreement between the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Organic Trade Association.

Agreement

The agreement means that Ohio milk produced without the use of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) no longer needs to carry a disclaimer along with the label advertising its absence.

According to Ohio Department of Agriculture Communications Director Andy Ware, the department agreed to withdraw the 2008 labeling rule if opponents dropped a claim seeking $1.3 million in legal fees garnered from the court proceedings.

“The department felt it was best to come to an agreement. It was in the best interest of agriculture and taxpayers,” said Ware.

Ends the rule

The agreement ends the rule that required milk marketed as “rbST-free” include a label disclaimer stating that the Food and Drug Administration says there’s no significant difference between milk produced by cows given the hormone and cows that aren’t.

RbST, or recombinant bovine somatatropin, is a synthetic growth hormone used to stimulate milk production in dairy cattle. The bovine somatotropin hormone is also present naturally in cattle. Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) is sometimes also called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH).

Expensive

The Organic Trade Association contended the rule made it costly to produce labels and market the milk.

“This agreement is a victory for consumer choice and transparency,” said Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Executive Director Carol Goland. “Now, farmers and processors in Ohio will be able to accurately label their milk rbGH-free, and consumers will be able to use this information when they purchase dairy products.”

Goes beyond Ohio

Goland said the ramifications of the case go beyond Ohio. She thinks that a precedent has been set nationally and it will stop cases like this from moving forward in other states.

The agreement follows a Sept. 30, 2010, U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit decision striking down significant parts of the pending rule created by the ODA to prohibit labeling dairy products as “rbGH-free.”

USDA Waives Regulatory Authority for GE Crops

10-23-2011
By Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA

This summer, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials announced their decision not to regulate a Roundup Ready strain of Kentucky bluegrass, genetically engineered (GE) to withstand the herbicide glyphosate, commonly sold as Roundup. The decision allows Scotts Miracle Gro, the developer of the grass, to market the product without any review of how it might affect the environment.

The announcement and documents released by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signal a significant change in how the USDA is likely to address new GE crops in the future.

Previously, the USDA had regulated GE crops using the Plant Pest Act, which gives the agency the power to restrict the introduction of organisms that might harm plants. GE crops technically qualified as “plant pests” because natural plant pathogen promoters and plant pest substances are used in the genetic modification process.

By qualifying as plant pests, the USDA was required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess the environmental impacts of GE crops and by the Endangered Species Act to gauge potential impact on endangered species and habitat. In recent years, the Center for Food Safety and other organizations have successfully sued the agency for failing to conduct these assessments before removing crops from the plant pest list.

In 2000, Congress passed the Plant Protection Act, which broadened the Plant Pest Act to include a “noxious weed” provision, giving the USDA the authority to regulate any GE crop with the potential to spread or become hard-to-control.

As biotechnology companies have begun using non-pest material to develop GE crops, the plant pest provision has become a less useful tool for the regulation of GE technology. Scotts Miracle Gro’s GE bluegrass, for example, was modified using no plant pest components, allowing the company to successfully argue that their product should not be regulated as a plant pest.

The USDA eliminated its other tool for regulating GE bluegrass—the noxious weed provision—when they released a statement this summer declaring that the weed risks posed by GE and conventional bluegrass are “essentially the same.” That is, the USDA maintains that GE bluegrass poses no greater risk for spreading uncontrollably than conventional grass, despite being engineered to withstand herbicide applications.

By determining that the GE bluegrass was neither a plant pest nor a noxious weed, the USDA is under no obligation to perform environmental impact or endangered species analyses, allowing the grass to enter the market with virtually no independent review.

Given that Kentucky bluegrass is expected to become available for use on home lawns throughout the country, we can anticipate a corresponding increase in the use of Roundup. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, endocrine disruption, multiple myoeloma, DNA damage, immune suppression, and miscarriage.

Even more concerning, the USDA’s bluegrass decision signals a hands-off approach to regulating GE technology which will make it even easier for unlabeled GE ingredients to become part of our food supply. Moreover, by calling GE and non-GE crops “essentially the same,” it is unclear if any GE crop will now qualify as a noxious weed, giving environmental and consumer advocates fewer options for challenging GE products in court.

October Marks First Farm to School Month

By Charles Dilbone and Carol Goland
Newark Advocate/Granville Sentinel
10/21/11

Fish sticks, tater tots and sloppy Joes. Does this sound like your child’s school lunch? Not if you live in Licking County, or in a growing number of school systems across the state, who are ditching frozen and processed foods in favor of fresh and local meals.

There are now more than 2,300 Farm to School programs across the country serving healthy meals in school cafeterias and providing educational opportunities to students about agriculture, health and nutrition.

This October is the first National Farm to School Month, giving us an opportunity to celebrate the connections that are happening in Ohio and all over the country between schools and farmers.

Because of these partnerships, in the Granville school district, beef and pork come from farms in Granville and Zanesville, a baker in Pataskala supplies fresh-made bread, and apples come from a farm 15 miles away. Granola, cookies and tea come from farms and bakeries only 2 miles away. The turkey sandwiches are made from fresh turkey breast carved in the school kitchen, and the pasta dough is made fresh daily. This year, Granville expects to source 45 percent of their food from farms and dairies within 50 miles of the school.

Farm to School programs are based on the idea that students will choose healthier foods, including more fruits and vegetables, if they are fresh, picked at the peak of their flavor and if those choices are reinforced with educational activities.

This idea has borne fruit in Granville. After contracting with AVI Food Systems, the percentage of students purchasing school lunches grew from 22 to 67 percent. Nationally, the choice of healthier options in Farm to School cafeterias has increased daily fruit and vegetable consumption, both at school and at home. Increased access to nutritious meals and food education help students develop healthy eating habits and reduce their risk for obesity and other health issues.

In addition to serving up healthier food choices, the school has incorporated gardening into their curriculum to help teach students about where their food comes from. Granville High School started an organic garden eight years ago, which is part of the curriculum for two science classes and a summer school class in sustainability. The garden produces vegetables for the school lunch program and for a summer farm market.

Because of this integrative approach, Farm to School programs benefit the entire community: children, farmers, parents and teachers. Farm to School programs open up new markets for farmers, and increase demand for local and sustainably-produced food. Such initiatives help keep food dollars in the local economy, and create a generation of informed food consumers, who understand not only the nutritional significance of their food choices, but also the economic, environmental and social impacts as well.

Dilbone is the director of business operations with Granville Exempted Village Schools. Goland is the executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which will hold its 33rd annual sustainable agriculture conference in Granville in February. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org. For more information about National Farm to School Month, go to www.farm toschoolmonth.org.

New livestock rules don’t address all the issues

By Carol Goland, OEFFA Executive Director

Appeared in the Columbus Dispatch 9/24/11

There has been much recent media attention focused on the “sweeping” new Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board regulations affecting farm animals (“All sides hail new livestock-care rules,” Dispatch, Aug. 29).

With all sides declaring victory, Ohioans may think all the problems of industrial agriculture have been resolved. Unfortunately, as usual, the devil is in the details.

The new standards do require some significant changes, including banning tail-docking in dairy cattle and prohibiting veal-calf tethering, except under very limited circumstances. And, thanks to the commitment of the board and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to welcome all sides to the table, the new standards protect the interests of small-scale, organic and sustainable farmers.

These are important achievements, which required stakeholders with divergent viewpoints to find common ground on polarizing issues.

However, the standards do not address numerous issues at the heart of many consumer concerns with today’s animal agriculture industry.

The routine use of antibiotics and indoor confinement are examples of standard practices associated with industrial agriculture not addressed by the new standards. These practices will remain commonplace.

Additionally, some of the reforms in the standards have been mischaracterized or overstated by the media and by proponents.

The Dispatch reported that veal crates would be eliminated in 2018. However, individual pens still may be used for the first 10 weeks of life.

Since bob veal are generally marketed at 3 weeks of age, calves may still spend most, if not all, of their lives in individual pens.

And, although animal-welfare representatives claim the regulations “prohibit new egg operations from confining laying hens in cages” and place a “moratorium on the construction of new battery-cage facilities,” the standards grandfather in existing poultry farms in perpetuity, allowing them to expand the use of conventional battery-cage systems.

For new facilities, cages still are permitted, but they must be “enriched” with some feature, such as a perch. In either case, these cages must provide only 67 square inches per bird, two-thirds the size of a standard sheet of notebook paper.

Although the new standards help establish a minimum bar for the treatment of livestock, Ohioans who want confinement-free meat, dairy and eggs still must seek them out from alternative sources.

Those options are available. Certified organic products require farmers to emphasize preventive health care and accommodate an animal’s natural nutritional and behavioral requirements, which include documented, inspected access to pasture for a minimum of 120 days a year.

Select restaurants and grocery stores offer organic and pasture-raised products. Consumers also may shop at farmers’ markets and other direct-market outlets, allowing them to get to know the farmers who raise their food.