Archive for September, 2010

OEFFA Applauds the USDA’s Commitment to Improve the National Organic Program

Friday, September 24th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2010

Contact: Lexie Stoia Pierce, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 221, lexie@oeffa.org

OEFFA Applauds the USDA’s Commitment to Improve the National Organic Program

Columbus, Ohio—On March 18, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its much-anticipated review of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP), which was created to administer federal organic standards and to require mandatory certification of organic products. The report presents data from several years of audit and review of the NOP and outlines seven key findings and fourteen recommendations needed to ensure the integrity of the organic program.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which is charged with establishing national standards for the production and handling of organic products, has accepted the OIG’s critique and has already begun the process of addressing the problems identified in the report.

“Organic certification agencies are the frontline in ensuring that consumers can trust that organic foods are produced sustainably and humanely. We support the OIG’s findings and are pleased that the NOP and AMS are embracing the changes called for in this report, which will increase the effectiveness of the program,” said OEFFA Organic Certification Program Manager Lexie Stoia Pierce.

In general, the report outlines specific ideas for improving administration and management of the NOP, strengthening enforcement of organic requirements, and increasing oversight of accredited certifying agents and organic operations.

Specifically, the report documented the need for NOP officials to improve enforcement, tracking, review, and monitoring of businesses when serious violations have been found, such as products labeled as “organic” when farm practices are under investigation or found in violation.

“The USDA has are already taken steps to bolster public confidence in the organic label through issuance of a long overdue pasture rule for organic ruminants and increased staffing and funding for the NOP,” said Stoia Pierce.  President Obama has requested $10.1 million for the NOP, a $3.1 million increase over Fiscal Year 2010 and the AMS plans to expand NOP staffing to 31 positions by the end of the year.

“Consumers and farmers can continue to be assured that the organic label ensures the highest level of integrity and will continue to live up to its standards,” concluded Stoia Pierce.

To read the OIG’s report, go to http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/01601-03-HY.pdf.

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The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. OEFFA has operated a Certification Program since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Good Earth Guide Moves Local Food from Field to Fork

Friday, September 24th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2010

Contact: Renee Hunt, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org

Good Earth Guide Moves Local Food from Field to Fork

Directory lists more than 300 farms in Ohio and surrounding states

Columbus, OH – Ohio summers are a time to enjoy the bounty of fresh garden vegetables, ripe off-the vine berries, and orchard harvests bursting with juicy flavor.  The Good Earth Guide to Organic and Ecological Farms and Gardens by the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA), can help bring these delicious tastes of summer to any kitchen.

The Good Earth Guide includes information on more than 300 farms and businesses that sell directly to the public. It includes sources for locally grown vegetables; fruits; herbs; honey; maple syrup; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; flour and grains; cut flowers; bedding plants; hay and straw; seed and feed, and other local farm products.

“Since we started publishing the Good Earth Guide in 1990, it’s grown from a list of a dozen or so farms to more than 310, reflecting the tremendous growth in demand for locally-sourced and sustainably-produced foods,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.

The Good Earth Guide aids consumers interested in buying wholesome, local, ecologically-produced food, and helps ensure the future of Ohio’s farmers by helping to increase public awareness of the food being grown in their community.

“You can find just about anything you’d want being made right here in Ohio. By offering this guide, we hope to help Ohioans make the connections they need to find quality local foods, and to help ensure the future of a vibrant sustainable food system,” said Goland.

Each farm listing includes name and contact information, products sold, a farm description, whether the farm is certified organic, and where their products are sold. Both the print and online versions include tools that make it easy to search the listings for a specific product, farm, or farmer, by county, or by sales method.

“The Good Earth Guide helps provide a blueprint for consumers interested in eating locally and in-season. Eating locally allows consumers to get to know who raises the food they eat, and to find out how it was produced.  It keeps produce from traveling far distances, allowing it to be picked and sold ripe and full of flavor and nutrition.  Buying locally and directly from the farmer also helps keep our “food dollars” in the local economy, which in turn helps to preserve Ohio’s vanishing small farm families, farmland, and traditions,” concluded Goland.

The Good Earth Guide is available free to the public in an easy to use online searchable database at http://www.oeffa.org/search-geg.php.

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The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

For more information about OEFFA or the Good Earth Guide, go to www.oeffa.org or contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org.

Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board Implementing Legislation and Board Appointments Fail to Protect Small Family Farmers

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Press Release

For Immediate Release:                                                          Contact:

April 8, 2010                                                                           Carol Goland, Ph.D.

(614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org.

Columbus, OH—A picture of how the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will function is starting to develop, following the passage of implementing legislation and this week’s appointment announcements from Governor Ted Strickland.

On March 31, Governor Strickland signed into law implementing legislation, authorizing the creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

After legislators balked at the idea of a fifteen cent per ton tax on animal feed to fund the Board’s operating costs, Senate Bill (SB) 233 was amended to require that the Board’s initial costs be funded using the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) existing budget. Starting in 2011, however, SB 233 allows the ODA to fund the board using private donations, grants, and any civil penalties the Board collects against farmers found to be violating its regulations.

“Funding this board, at least partially, with private donations creates a conflict of interest; the very agricultural interests that the Board is created to regulate could fund its operations,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland. “Imagine what would happen if the Ohio Coal Association funded the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.  Creating a situation where conventional agriculture special interests can fund their own oversight, puts small farms and family farmers at risk.”

Just one week later, on April 6, Governor Strickland named his appointments to the Board, further cementing its ideological leanings.

“OEFFA, along with our partners, recommended to the Governor a list of qualified individuals who could represent organic farmers, small family farmers, and farmers’ market managers. None of these recommendations were accepted,” said Goland. “Instead, the appointments monolithically represent one form of agricultural practice.  Nowhere are the interests and expertise of those who represent organic farmers, small family farmers, and farmers’ market managers reflected. This is a discouraging start for those of us who were told that the board would represent and consider a diversity of perspectives.”

“Taken together, these actions should deeply concern small farmers and those of us who are working to rebuild local food systems,” concluded Goland.

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The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

New USDA Pasture Rule Will Give Consumers More Confidence in Organic Meat and Dairy

Friday, September 24th, 2010

For Immediate Release: February 17, 2010

Contact: Lexie Stoia Pierce, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 221, lexie@oeffa.org

New USDA Pasture Rule Will Give Consumers More Confidence in Organic Meat and Dairy

Statement by Lexie Stoia Pierce, OEFFA Certification Program Manager

“On February 12, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) published a long anticipated final rule establishing pasture standards for organic livestock. The new rule gives teeth to the existing NOP policy, allowing us to better ensure that organic milk and meat products come from animals that are actively grazed on pasture and have daily access to fresh air and sunshine.

The new pasture rule provides the clear and specific language needed to enforce one of the central requirements of organic livestock production—that organic cows are raised on natural pasture and eat fresh, green, growing plants. The rule sets specific guidelines that require dairy cows and other ruminants to be on pasture for the entire grazing season of not less than 120 days and that at least 30 percent of their feed comes from pasture during the season.

The publication of the final rule will enable us to consistently and fairly enforce the requirements for access to pasture and provides greater clarity for farmers, so they know exactly what is expected of them if they want to label their milk as “organic.”

Although most organic farms in Ohio have long exceeded these requirements, the clarity provided in this new rule will ensure that organic mega-dairies elsewhere in the country will bring their practices in line with not just the spirit of organics but what is now the letter of the law. The organic farmers that we represent are celebrating this rule because it will help to protect the integrity of the organic label.

For the public, this rule helps ensure that consumers get what they pay for. In publishing this rule, the USDA is recognizing overwhelming public support for access to pasture. For consumers who care about the humane treatment of livestock, the organic standards ensure that animals are raised in living conditions that allow them to exhibit their natural behaviors, graze, and move freely.”

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To access the USDA’s Access to Pasture Rule, go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5082652&acct=noprulemaking.

To read a USDA factsheet on the new rule, go to

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5082660&acct=noprulemaking.

To read the USDA’s press release, go to

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal?contentidonly=true&contentid=2010/02/0059.xml.

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. OEFFA has operated a Certification Program since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

OEFFA Comments to the Livestock Care Standards Board

Friday, September 24th, 2010

August 9, 2010

Dear Director Boggs and Livestock Care Standards Board committee members,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) for your consideration.

Our comments largely pertain to the draft civil penalties document presented to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) on July 27 and the draft euthanasia standards (901:12-X) discussed by the Technical Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) on August 3 and to be considered by the LCSB on August 10. We urge you to consider and act on the following:

Euthanasia Training
The OLCSB should suggest and offer euthanasia training, but not mandate training and/or certification as a prerequisite for owning livestock in the state of Ohio. By mandating training, these standards would assume farmers do not have these skills and create a potentially costly and time consuming process to train the thousands of livestock farmers in Ohio.

The OLCSB will be establishing euthanasia standards and allowable practices that must be met; it is up to the farmer to comply with those standards. The farmer can determine, after review of the standards and practices, whether they require training in order to be in compliance with the standards or whether they already have the skills to comply. If a farmer can perform the acceptable euthanasia method effectively and appropriately, it should not matter if they have attended a training or not. In other words, the euthanasia standards should be result-based, not process-based. If a farmer is found to be not complying with the standards, then OEFFA would support required trainings, as well as any appropriate penalties, if warranted.

As an organization that has offered more than 30 years of educational events, we know how effective educational opportunities can be in creating positive change. Whether Extension offers trainings through its county offices, webinars are offered, or existing events are utilized to bring in appropriate personnel to hold trainings (such as the OEFFA’s annual conference, or summer workshop and farm tour series), there are effective and efficient ways to get out the information.

Civil Penalties

The burden of the penalty should be proportional to the size of the infraction and be scale-appropriate to act as a deterrent. The reality is that it is difficult to draft a civil penalty document that is one-size-fits all, given the range of livestock models practiced in Ohio. For example, a $100 penalty for an infraction would be a deterrent for small farmers, but may simply be a cost of doing business for a large laying operation that could more easily absorb the cost than invest in the farm’s infrastructure to comply with the regulations.

As the OLCSB discussed at the July 27 meeting, there is not clarity in the current draft document on how these penalties could stack up, or whether penalties would be assessed per animal or per facility.  If penalties are based per animal, then it could be inappropriately costly if there was a $1,000 assessment against a 350,000 bird facility.  However, if penalties are based per facility, a $1,000 assessment is relatively meaningless for a 350,000 bird facility, but extreme and disproportionate to the small farmer with 20 chickens.

In cases where a minor violation has been found and the livestock producer is actively willing to work to correct the problem, we would support modification to the language in the draft document that would give the department the flexibility to work with the producer to remediate the situation and/or to require education and training, in lieu of, or in addition to, monetary penalties.

Additionally, while it may be useful to have civil penalties to address any major violations of standards generated by this board, there is the potential that these types of acts will also fall under Chapter 959 of the Ohio Revised Codes.  Offering language to the effect that “Violators may also be subject to cruelty charges if applicable,” may also be productive to encourage compliance and clarify potential consequences.

Process

At the July 27 LCSB, board members discussed a tentative timeline for finalizing the euthanasia standards, which could involve a vote by the OLCSB on August 24 and a public hearing at the meeting on September 21.

We think that holding a public hearing on the euthanasia standards after the board votes is putting the cart before the horse. We acknowledge and appreciate that the OLCSB and TRAC both offer opportunities for the public to provide comment at each meeting throughout the process, but so far the substance for comments has been a moving target. Unless individuals attend meetings or specifically request draft documents from the board, the documents are not made available publicly, and the content of these documents changes frequently and dramatically. To truly gain substantive feedback from the public and livestock producers, the standards under consideration should be made public, then the board should hold a hearing, and finally, the board should vote whether to approve or modify the standards.

In conclusion, any animal care standards need to protect alternative production, processing, and distribution models. Consumer demand is at an all-time high for grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and pastured pork.  Small, diversified, and organic farms are meeting this demand while strengthening our local economies, increasing our food security, and protecting our vanishing farmland and rural traditions. Ohio needs to be creating a climate which encourages beginning farmers to raise livestock and creates pathways for the next generation of farmers to see a future in farming and to take over the family farm. We should not discourage new farmers by putting unnecessary and impractical obstacles in their way, and create a situation in which small-scale and diversified farming is not practical or profitable.

Sincerely,

Renee Hunt

Program Director

About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a 31-year-old membership based organization of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers and others who share the desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities. OEFFA also offers organic certification.  We are one of the 99 USDA accredited certification agencies, all which certify to the same standard, the National Organic Program (NOP).

OEFFA Comments to the Livestock Care Standards Board

Friday, September 24th, 2010

28 May 2010

Dear Director Boggs and Livestock Care Standards Board committee members,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments for your consideration.  The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a 31-year-old membership based organization of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers and others who share the desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities. OEFFA also offers organic certification.  We are one of the 99 USDA accredited certification agencies, all which certify to the same standard, the National Organic Program (NOP).

It is with great concern that these comments are submitted to this board.  We urge you to consider and act on the following:

  1. Unintended consequences for small farmers: The Livestock Care Standards Board (LCSB) was established as a pre-emptive strike against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ballot initiative, in which certain confinement practices found in large scale livestock operations would be banned.  The target never was small scale livestock farms or diversified farms, nor organic livestock production, which has its own set of humane practice standards.  OEFFA is concerned that attempts to avoid more restrictive regulations of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) (as promoted by HSUS) will have the unintended consequence of requiring additional paperwork, fees, and government intrusion on non-CAFO farms. Small, diversified, and organic farms are not just a niche or fringe market. They are small businesses, creating jobs, strengthening our local economies, and serving a growing consumer market for locally and sustainably-raised food. To let small farmers get caught up in the middle of what is really a battle between CAFOs and HSUS would be a reckless use of this board’s constitutional authority.  This will have a substantial negative impact on several fronts:
  • The livestock producer, who will see his or her costs unjustly increase due to time spent filling out forms, fees for any audit (a $500 annual audit fee is nothing to a 100,000 poultry confinement facility, but is a heavy burden to the farm that sells two dozen eggs a week), and inspector visits;
  • The Department of Agriculture, which will be saddled with the increased inspection demands and paperwork process (as a certifying agency offering a third party verification process, we appreciate what kind of demand this is);
  • The Ohio taxpayer, who will have to pay for the costs of maintaining this board and the auditing and enforcement expenses; and
  • The consumer, who will see less choice at the marketplace (as smaller producers decide to quit production) if procedures are put in place that are financially or otherwise too onerous. This is clearly not what voters thought they would be getting when they passed Issue 2 last fall.

Further, just as farms are of different sizes, they also have different practices.  There is no one right way to raise beef, for instance.  In an integrated farming system, how cattle are managed is much different than in a feedlot.  Standards that require a prescriptive use of drugs or a blanket method to house livestock would be overreaching and detrimental to the diversity of Ohio livestock agriculture.

Recommendation: Whatever direction the LCSB takes in establishing animal welfare standards, it is imperative that if it is necessary to have annual audits and to file paperwork with the State of Ohio, this effort should focus on certain sized operations.  Our suggestion is that any operation smaller than the threshold size for the EPA’s definition of a medium-sized CAFO be excluded from the requirement of an annual audit.  Instead, farms below this threshold size would be subject to inspection only when triggered by a complaint.

2.      A reasoned timeline to allow for good policy making: While it is admirable that board members have committed so much time to gathering public feedback and meeting to work out details to furnish initial standards and rules, OEFFA must point out that the timeline in which the board is working prohibits true participation by all those producers potentially affected by this board’s actions.  Indeed, with this timing, many of the livestock producers we talked to question the sincerity of the board, and in effect feel that going to a listening session to voice their concerns and offer feedback is a waste of time because of the fast track that this board has established.  Further, it is nearly impossible for most livestock farmers to find the time to serve on any Technical Advisory Committees (TACS) or subcommittees at this time of year.  Farmers who grow grain for their livestock are tending to their fields; diversified farms are working from sun up to sun down growing and harvesting their produce for their CSAs and to get to market.

The pressure to get something in place now is not coming from the public or the farmers themselves.  This is again a reaction to the HSUS ballot initiative.  The board is tasked with making very important decisions that will affect the livelihood of tens of thousands livestock producers, their families, and the consumers who count on them. This rule-making process should be thoughtful, deliberate, thorough, and respectful of the impacts it could have on these farmers, not rushed to serve a narrow political interest. In short, this is not the foundation for good policy making.  Insisting that this rule-making be completed in the next few months would prevent all but big operators, industry representatives, and academics who are paid to be there from participating. If the subcommittees fail to include the voices of small farmers, their recommendations to the board will present an incomplete picture of livestock farming and could set the board up to create regulations written by and for the big guys.

Recommendation: Slow down the process.  If the board truly wants input from the public and to have diverse representation on the subcommittees, especially from those who will be impacted by this board’s decisions, then it will hold off establishing any kind of regulations until there is adequate time for participation and input.  In addition to holding listening sessions at the beginning of the process—where participants are only able to make general comments and not respond to specific standards and procedures—the board should develop draft recommendations, gather public input, and then repeat this process (prior to review by JCARR).  Late fall through the winter offers ample opportunity for this work. In this way, the board can avoid any unintended impacts on farmers and ensure that these standards and regulations are thought through.

  1. Ensure a transparent process: Related to the previous point, a transparent process needs to be established in order to offer a fair and balanced process and instill confidence in the public.  Information about this board and its activities is currently not easily accessible and is not communicated to the public in a timely manner.  Note that the LCSB webpage itself only has the statement: “State Issue 2 was recently approved by Ohio voters, creating the 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.”  Much has happened since then, but information on the board’s makeup, contact information for board and staff, as well as any meeting notes are not being made available at this time.

Recommendation: Allow public comment at the meetings, including subcommittee meetings, and provide an easy online form where members of the public can submit comment electronically. The board’s website should include meeting agendas and thorough minutes, meeting announcements, disclosures about finances, names, contact information and biographies for each board member, each subcommittee member and the LCSB staff, as well as other information which makes the board’s activities accessible to the public. In the future, the board should provide more advanced notice for meetings, ensuring that members of the public who want to attend have that opportunity.

  1. Consumers’ right to choose:  Regulations need to protect alternative production, processing, and distribution models and ensure that consumers continue to have a choice about how their food is produced. Consumer demand is at an all-time high for grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and pastured pork.  For example, in 2009, while total U.S. food sales grew by only 1.6 percent, organic product sales grew by 5.1 percent.  Moreover, the organic meat sector is currently one of the fastest growing in the organic industry, with total retail sales increasing by a factor of 46 between 1997 and 2007.  We know that small farmers are especially likely to adopt organic practices as a way to improve farm income. Any regulation must not be inhibit them from raising livestock that supplies these growing markets.

Recommendation: The board needs to take special care that the regulations enacted do not squelch the growing local and alternative food movement by overburdening smaller operations or eliminating options to raise animals afforded access to the outdoors or with minimal use of synthetic inputs.  The board should strive to enact regulations which will be flexible enough to allow entrepreneurial producers to respond to market demand for local and sustainably-raised products, recognizing that these are often smaller producers for whom economies of scale are not achievable when it comes to regulatory burdens.

  1. Organic livestock production: Certified organic livestock producers already meet stringent standards for animal care that are designed to provide the conditions that prevent disease and illness by use of preventive measures, by fostering the natural behaviors of livestock, and by reducing stress on the animals.

The National Organic Program (NOP) standards specifically address livestock living conditions, which must accommodate the health and natural behavior of the animals.  Animals must be provided access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate, and the environment.  Organic producers must report of the size of housing units and the number of animals housed in each, the types of bedding used, the frequency of cleaning and the products used, and how many hours each day the animals are indoors.

The National Organic Program standards specifically address livestock health care, which emphasizes preventive practices, including the selection of species with regards to their suitability for local conditions and resistance to disease.  In the face of illness, organic livestock health care relies on botanical treatments.  Only when these are inadequate are synthetic medications used, and then, only those that have been specifically approved for use in organic systems.

The National Organic Program standards specifically address physical alterations of livestock, and requires that physical alteration—which may only be done to promote the animal’s welfare—is done using procedures and materials that minimize pain and stress.

We are concerned that regulations and proof of compliance enacted by the LCSB may doubly-burden organic livestock producers, who are already subject to a comprehensive set of animal welfare standards that are verified through a rigorous  process annually.  Further, we are concerned about the expertise of existing ODA personnel to inspect organic farms, and the mechanisms in place to assure coordination with certifying agents.

Recommendation: Although the board’s implementing legislation provides some protection for farmers (if the board creates standards that directly conflict with the National Organic Program, the NOP standards prevail, as would be the case in any instance where federal and state law conflict), given the nature of the certified organic verification standards and process, we believe that certified organic livestock producers should be exempt from any regulations passed by the board.

In the event that the board’s regulations do apply to organic producers, and the board will be inspecting complaints waged against organic livestock producers, they will need inspectors with organic expertise.  This can be accomplished through state inspectors completing training and being qualified by the International Organic Inspectors Association.  Any complaint against an organic livestock producer also needs to be registered with the farm’s certifying agency; there is currently no provision to ensure coordination between the certifying agency and the board.

  1. Meaningful Reform: This board was created with the promise to provide safe, local food while at the same time assuring the public that current animal production practices in Ohio represent quality care.  If this premise prevails, then the board is likely to do little more than embark on a public relations campaign to “educate” the consumer about animal agriculture in Ohio.  But consumers who supported the passage of Issue 2 believe that the board will establish true animal welfare standards that improve upon existing practices, and not just be a body that acts as a rubber stamp for industry.

Recommendation: The board should not simply write standards to assure the public that current industry practices happening behind closed doors are acceptable, thereby legitimizing some factory farm practices which many consumers find questionable.  Consumers are asking important questions about how their food is grown and trying to make conscientious choices about what they feed their families.  The board should be mindful of their needs and move in the direction of more citizen control, more public input, more information, and more transparency about our food and farm system.

Finally, we commend Director Boggs for pledging to go to the Ohio Legislature to remove language in HB 414 which would allow the board to accept private donations.  This will instill a sense of confidence by the public, and avoid any potential of influence by outside interests.

OEFFA represents a myriad of types of livestock producers and systems—many on the small end of the scale.  In submitting these comments, we are working to protect the interests of the livestock farmers and consumers we represent.  OEFFA supports the humane treatment of farm animals. The livestock producers we speak for welcome consumers to visit their operations. They want their customers to understand how they raise their food, because they know with that connection, they will garner their customer base.

Sincerely,

Carol Goland

Executive Director

Guide Connects Ohioans to Fresh, Local Foods

Friday, September 24th, 2010
August 18, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Farmers’ markets are in full swing in the Buckeye State, but locally-sourced foods are available year-round in Ohio. Anyone in the state can find growers in their area in the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s “Good Earth Guide,” a directory of organic and sustainable farms that sell directly to the public.

OEFFA spokesperson Lauren Ketcham says shoppers can find almost anything produced locally, from vegetables to honey.

“Dairy products, maple syrup, grass-fed meats, free-range chicken and eggs, flour and grains, as well as value-added products and preserved foods, are available year-round.”

Ketcham cites other benefits to “eating local,” including keeping food dollars in the local economy and preserving Ohio’s farmland and agricultural traditions. In addition, buying organic products from small farms can have health and food safety benefits, particularly given the environmental concerns in the state. Of recent note are toxic algae problems in Lake Erie and Grand Lake Saint Marys, she says.

“According to the Ohio EPA, fertilizers and manure that wash off farm fields and into our waterways are the most significant sources of these toxic algae blooms. But organic and sustainable growers use practices that really protect the soil, our air and our water.”

Organic farmers avoid pesticides and use processes like crop rotation and cover crops, which reduce soil erosion and runoff, explains Ketcham.

Since the guide was first published in 1990, the list of producers has grown from about a dozen to more than 300. Ketcham calls it a reflection of the tremendous growth in demand for locally-grown, sustainably-produced foods. The database can be searched by product, county, farm owner or farm name. It is available at www.oeffa.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

This article appeared in the Public News Service:  http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/15509-1

Farmers markets take root across U.S.

Friday, September 24th, 2010

If you own garden fails, you can still get fresh

By Lisa Abraham
Beacon Journal food writer

Published on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

I bought some zucchini and yellow squash the other day.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this is the first summer I have actually purchased those items in about nine years.

I proudly grow my own squash each year, and no matter how many come, there never seems to be enough to satisfy the eating habits of my family and friends and the baking habits of my sister, who relies on me as her zucchini supplier.

I wish people would leave them on my doorstep.

Things started out well enough with a late May planting. Everything was progressing nicely. Then, just as all of the blossoms were arriving and tiny squash starting to form, we went away for the July 4 weekend and the garden didn’t get watered for several days of scorching heat. I figured it would rain and didn’t arrange for anyone to water for us.

It didn’t.

We arrived home to some crispy leaves, but I was confident in a comeback. They did, sort of. But after that, something seemed to happen to the zucchini, yellow squash, and even a few of the cucumber plants. I suspect some type of blight took hold when the plants were stressed from no water. It didn’t help that the heat made me less inclined to weed regularly.

After producing two zucchini and one yellow squash, the plants literally withered. My husband made the official pronouncement of death and yanked what was left of them from the ground.

”Who can’t grow zucchini?” I wailed one evening, lamenting their fate.

My feelings were assuaged a bit by the fact that other parts of the garden were doing all right, even better than all right. The green beans have gone wild. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were taking steroids.

The patch of basil is larger than it’s ever been and the tomatoes are doing fine. The peppers, which had a strong showing early on and then faded, are experiencing a resurgence, and I think we’ll be eating peppers into October.

But no zucchini. No yellow
squash. And only a smattering of cucumbers where basketsful typically grew.

The upside of my failed squash crop is that I actually have a reason to go to farmers markets. Much as I love farmers markets, I usually leave with corn and bread, secretly priding myself that much of what’s on sale I can find in my own backyard.

Things are different this year. I have more to shop for. The good news is, I have more places to shop for my zucchini and yellow squash, too.

As someone who types the long list of local farmers markets for the paper each May, I don’t have to be told that more and more of them are opening up. But now, I have a government report to back me up.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 National Farmers Market Directory lists more than 6,100 farmers markets operating in the United States this year. That’s an increase of 16 percent over 2009, when there were just under 5,300.

What’s more, Ohio is helping to lead the way.

Ohio ranks seventh in the nation with 213 operating farmers markets. And Ohio’s ninth in the nation in percentage increase in number of markets over 2009.

Nationally, 886 farmers markets are open in the off season, between November and March, and since the Countryside Conservancy operates its Cuyahoga Valley markets in the winter at the Happy Days Lodge, we can be pleased to be part of that trend as well.

But when the markets come to an end, there’s a whole group of local farmers out there who will continue to sell products directly to consumers. You can find a list of them at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Web site, http://www.oeffa.org. Click on the link for the Good Earth Guide and you can search by product or by location. Many of the farms in the association are certified organic or follow organic practices.

Our vibrant farms and farmers markets are a great reason to be proud Ohioans. Which is good, because this summer, I’m certainly not a proud gardener.

Until next week, have fun in the kitchen, cooking some zucchini, no matter where it came from.


Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.

This article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal:  http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/food/101461734.html

More Ohio Farmers Seek “Organic” Label

Friday, September 24th, 2010
April 12, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio – More and more organic products are appearing on grocers’ shelves, leaving many Ohio farmers to wonder how they can go green. Organic growers produce food without manufactured chemicals, and use practices that emphasize renewable resources and protect the soil, air and water.

Lexie Stoia Pierce is the organic certification program manager at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. She says that despite hard economic times there is solid consumer demand for organic products, which makes organic certification a smart move for many Ohio producers.

“The market is there and it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of that, while you’re doing something that’s beneficial to the environment and to people.”

Stoia Pierce says there has been a steady interest in organic farming in Ohio, especially from small operations. To become organically certified, farmers must follow strict production standards and submit a detailed application to an accredited certification organization.

Stoia Pierce says since the certification process is a bit daunting and can be time-consuming, they offer workshops, organic certification guides, and a staff organic educator to help answer questions.

“You want to do research ahead of time and you want to have all these tools available, but at the same time, you almost just have to dive in and have an agency that will support what you are trying to do.”

There’s more information on the resources of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association available online at
www.oeffa.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

This article appeared in the Public News Service:  http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/13348-1

Diverse Farm Tour Crosses the State

Friday, September 24th, 2010

June 16, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Consumers are getting a peek inside the operations of some of Ohio’s most sustainable farms this summer. This is the 29th year the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has hosted its Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop series, giving people the opportunity to learn about techniques used by organic and ecological farms and gardens.

OEFFA spokesperson Lauren Ketcham says the farmers will share their extensive experience in producing and marketing with anyone interested in learning more.

“The series features a diverse array of farms, including livestock producers, specialty crop and vegetable producers, poultry processors, farms that incorporate renewable energy and green building techniques, and farmers using a wide range of direct-to-consumer marketing strategies.”

Ketcham says the tour is a great opportunity for consumers to see firsthand how their food is being grown.

“Consumers are growing increasingly savvy about their food buying decisions, and the transparency and personal relationships that these tours encourage are something shoppers don’t get at the grocery store.”

Last year, more than 600 people attended the farm tours; on this year’s tour, 11 farms are featured. More information is online at www.oeffa.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

This article appeared in the Public News Service:   http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/14494-1