Monthly Archives: April 2012

Farm Advocacy Organization: Fracking Provisions Needs to Be Stronger

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 18 2012

Contact: MacKenzie Bailey, 203-545-3909, mackenzie@oeffa.org

As the Ohio legislature discusses proposals that address the controversial practice of “fracking” today, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) argues that the state needs strong regulations to protect the health and well-being of our rural communities.

Currently the legislature is considering Senate Bill 315, which modifies Ohio’s current shale gas drilling regulations. While the bill does make some changes, there is a need for improvement.  For example, the bill now requires a company to disclose chemicals; however, it is only required to report after the completion of a drilling operation and the company can withhold the names of proprietary components in the drilling fluid.

OEFFA, a 3,000 member food and farm advocacy organization, urges Governor Kasich and Ohio legislators to protect our growing sustainable farming communities, small business owners, and rural landowners by incorporating these three specific areas as it looks to regulate the industry:

  • Requiring full public disclosure of chemicals by name used in fracking prior to injection in order to protect the health of Ohioans and help to establish clear lines of traceability if contamination were to occur;
  • Establishing opportunities for citizen participation by making the permitting process transparent and giving landowners more advance notice and adequate opportunities to comment or appeal a decision; and
  • Increasing control at the local level. Ohio law currently gives “sole and exclusive” authority to the state over permitting for oil and gas projects.  This undermines the rights of local government and property owners to determine the future of their communities.

“Sustainable agriculture supports the long-term economic health of our rural communities.  Opportunities for short-term economic prosperity should not and cannot come at the expense of our natural resources,” said MacKenzie Bailey, policy coordinator for OEFFA, “Ohio needs stronger regulations to protect our air, soil, and water and our communities to preserve the integrity of our food and farming systems for generations to come.”

Fracking is a process that uses water, sand, and toxic chemicals injected at high pressure into deep underground shale formations to create explosions that crack the rock and release natural gas.  It poses a potential risk of contamination to our natural resources, which are essential to a thriving food and farming community. Little is known about the long-term impacts of fracking.

Air pollution, and in particular increased levels of ozone, can result in lower crop yields in soybeans, spinach, tomatoes, beans, alfalfa, and other forages. Livestock are attracted to the toxic and salty brine used in fracking and are particularly vulnerable if there is contamination of soil or water.

There are nearly 600 certified organic operations in Ohio and much of the organic pasture and cropland is located in areas of the state containing shale deposits. Water and soil contamination resulting from fracking could jeopardize a farmer or rancher’s organic certification.

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About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 and is a coalition of farmers, gardeners, consumers, retailers, researchers, and educators who share a desire to build a healthy, sustainable food system. For more than 30 years, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at a time. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Local young farmers point out trials of starting out

Newark Advocate

Drew Bracken

April 12, 2012

It’s not easy to start a farm, especially if you’re young and money is tight.

On Monday night, Granville High School Environmental classes, in conjunction with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Heart of Ohio Chapter, presented a meal, a movie called “GROW!” and a panel discussion of half a dozen local young farmers to showcase the challenges young farmers face in getting started in the business.

Shopping at local farmers markets, joining community-supported agriculture food subscription suppliers and urging local and national legislators to support policies and programs supporting beginning farmers were suggested as ways to help them.

“Also, if people have land they aren’t using, there are farm programs they can lease or property out to young farmers,” said Bryn Bird, of Bird’s Haven Farm near Granville.

The movie “GROW!” showed the rewards and the challenges of farming. It was a look at the new generation of sustainable farming though the eyes of 20 “passionate, idealistic and fiercely independent young growers.”

In the movie, young farmers from various parts of the country made comments like, “I feel like it’s doing something real” and “Real jobs are hard to come by these days, and I feel like this is the realest job of all.”

Another concluded: “I can only imagine a world where farmers are upheld like doctors and where every fourth person is a farmer again.”

Jim Reding, the environmental science teacher at GHS and the person in charge of the school’s organic garden, echoed that thought afterward.

“One of the things we discuss in class is if we’re going to feed the world, we need to get more people involved,” he said. “Whether that means you’re a farmer or you’re gardening in your backyard, both of those are going to be necessary.”

“We need to go back to where most of the population grows food,” Reding said. “Whether it’s something they consume themselves or put out there on the market, it doesn’t really matter.”

The panel members all were local young farmers. When asked about the biggest challenge to young farmers, Anton Sarossy-Christon, owner of Terravita Farm, said, “A lack of mentors. We read a lot of books, we read a lot of blogs, and we make a lot of mistakes.”

Ches Stewart, an apprentice at Bird’s Haven Farm, said, “I’m broke. I think that’s the best way to describe a young farmer.”

Bird described how she dealt with a corporate food supplier who was reluctant to start a local food line, calling it a “trend.” Bird, recalling that her mother remembered a day when grocery stores were not the dominant food source in society, said, “This isn’t a trend. The trend is the grocery store.”

The Birds, she said, just were accepted into the National Farmer’s Union Beginning Farmer’s Institute, one of 10 chosen nationally to travel around country to learn from other farmers.

Monday night’s event was attended by about 100 people in the high school cafeteria area.

“We wanted to interest young people to farm,” said Chuck Dilbone, the business manager for Granville schools and, most recently, a farmer. He and his family started Sunbeam Family Farm in Alexandria.

“I think also one of my main reasons is to get the community to support young farmers, maybe open up somebody’s land where people can farm, or to mentor young people. I think that’s my number one goal,” Dilbone said.

To view the trailer of the movie “GROW!”, visit www.videoproject.com/ grow.html.

Battle Over Farmers’ Rights Against Monsanto Continues to Brew: Farmers File Appeal

Contact:
Carol Goland, OEFFA, Executive Director, cgoland@oeffa.org, (614) 421-2022,
Daniel Ravicher, PUBPAT, ravicher@pubpat.org, 212-461-1902

Battle Over Farmers’ Rights Against Monsanto Continues to Brew: Farmers File Appeal

On March 28, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, family farmers filed their Notice of Appeal to Judge Naomi Buchwald’s February 24th ruling dismissing Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear the farmers’ appeal, seeking to reinstate the case, which has received worldwide attention.

The farmers and organizations involved, including the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), are determined to move forward with their lawsuit challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed technologies in order to continue their pursuit of Declaratory Judgment Act court protection from Monsanto’s claims of patent infringement should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s seed.

“Farmers have the right to protect themselves from being falsely accused of patent infringement by Monsanto before they are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed,” said Dan Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a not-for-profit legal services organization based at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law that represents the plaintiffs. “Judge Buchwald erred by denying plaintiffs that right and they have now initiated the process of having her decision reversed.”

The original complaint in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto was filed on March 29, 2011. In July, Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff lawyers at PUBPAT then filed a rebuttal brief on August 11, 2011. Judge Buchwald called for oral argument on the motion to dismiss, which was held in Manhattan on January 31, 2012.  The judge’s dismissal ruling was issued February 24th and plaintiffs were given thirty days in which to file their Notice of Appeal.

The plaintiff/appellant group is comprised of individual family farmers, small and family-owned seed companies, and agricultural organizations. They are all organic or committed to farming without using genetically engineered seeds, and have no desire to ever farm with Monsanto’s patented GMO technology.  However, they are fearful that Monsanto seed will trespass onto their farms and that the resulting contamination of their crops will be viewed by Monsanto as illegal ‘possession’ resulting in patent infringement allegations.

Monsanto’s harassment of family farmers is well known in farm country, the biotech seed and chemical giant has one of the most aggressive patent assertion records in U.S. history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 cases out of court for undisclosed amounts and imposing gag orders on farmers. The farmers’ fears were heightened when Monsanto refused to provide a legally binding covenant not to sue, signaling Monsanto’s intention to maintain their option to sue innocent family farmers in the future.

The appellants in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); Food Democracy Now!; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; Weston A. Price Foundation; Center for Food Safety; Beyond Pesticides; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York; Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin); Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Florida Organic Growers; Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia); FEDCO Seeds, Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co. LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Seed We Need (Montana), Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms, LLC (New Mexico); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature’s Way Farm, Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia); Common Good Farm; LLC (Nebraska); American Buffalo Company (Nebraska; Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont); Radiance Dairy (Iowa); Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin); Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin); and Murray Bast (Ontario).

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The Ohio Ecological Food and 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, visit www.oeffa.org.