Monthly Archives: June 2012

Home> News> Press Releases Brown Announces Senate Passage of Farm Bill that Would Save Taxpayers $23 Billion While Creating Jobs and Boosting Rural Development

 

Press Release from the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown

Brown’s Provision – Based off His Bipartisan Bill “ARRM Bill” – Would Save Taxpayers’ Dollars by Replacing Direct Payments with Market-Based System Tied to Current Year Planting Data, Prices, and Actual Yields

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following Senate passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement:

“The bipartisan, Senate-passed farm bill is the most significant reform of U.S. agriculture in decades – saving taxpayers $23 billion while investing in Ohio’s number one industry,” Brown the first Ohioan on Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and serves as Chairman of its Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, said. “This farm bill is forward thinking, yet realistic. The centerpiece of the bill’s deficit reduction efforts is based on a bill I authored with my colleague Senator Thune that would end the era of paying farmers for crops that they don’t grow and replace direct payments with market-based supports that’s more responsive to farmers and taxpayers. This farm bill is a jobs and innovation bill, an economic relief and development bill, and it affects every American every day.”

One in seven Ohio jobs is related to the food and agriculture industry and provisions Brown authored would save taxpayers $23 billion, while creating jobs and boosting rural development. Yesterday, Brown’s amendment to support rural development cleared the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 55-44. Brown’s amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – or the 2012 farm bill – would fund critical U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs that help Ohio communities update wastewater and sewer infrastructure systems, provide access to capital for Ohio agricultural producers and small businesses, and provide technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

“Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates the Senator’s leadership role in passing a Farm Bill that saves taxpayers’ money; preserves a strong safety net for Ohio farmers; ensures a safe and abundant food supply and continues the very important crop insurance program,” said Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

“The Ohio Farmers Union appreciates Senator Brown’s commitment to Rural America through his service on the Senate Ag Committee.  His amendment to maintain critical rural development programs will ensure that young farmers, ranchers and fishers in Ohio will have resources available to build the next generation of family farms, while maintaining vibrant and economically strong rural communities,” Roger Wise, President Ohio Farmers Union.

“The Nature Conservancy considers the farm bill paramount for conserving public lands in America,” said Josh Knight, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “We applaud Senator Brown for his leadership in securing strong conservation and forestry titles in the bill.   They provide incentives to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners that will result in cleaner water, improved soil conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and increased flood control.  All of this means greater economic benefits and quality of life for the people of Ohio.”

“On behalf of Ohio’s sustainable family farmers and the consumers who support them, we are grateful to Senator Brown for his leadership, which has led to a farm bill that continues to invest in organic and sustainable agriculture and bolsters the future of community markets, local food businesses, and working lands conservation,” said Carol Goland, Executive Director of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

“Senator Brown’s work will ensure that farmers and businesses in Ohio have access to capital and development support to build our state’s rural economy.  The National Association of Counties deeply appreciates the Senator’s bipartisan work on these common-sense policy solutions in the Farm Bill,” said Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason, President of the National Association of Counties.

Below are some provisions Brown inserted in the farm bill.

Protecting Taxpayers while Ensuring a Strong Safety Net for Farmers: The centerpiece of the deficit reduction measures in the bill is the new Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program, which is based on the bipartisan Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management Act (ARRM) Brown authored with Sen. John Thune (R-SD).  This new approach to farm risk management ends the era of fixed payments.  These “direct payments” are replaced by a market-based system that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields, making payments to farmers only when the market fails.  The Senate’s bipartisan 2012 farm bill represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades. 

Brown has been working to reform the farm safety net since starting in the Senate in 2006.  In the 2008 farm bill he worked to include the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program after hearing from a Henry County farmer who attended a roundtable Brown convened.  ARRM builds on the ACRE program and continues this work towards a market-based safety net by eliminating fixed-price support programs, reducing overlap with crop insurance, simplifying application and administrative processes, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

With this bill, the era of direct payments –paying farmers for crops regardless of need or market conditions – is over. The legislation would save more than $23 billion by ending direct payments, eliminating more than 100 duplicative programs and authorizations, and cracking down on fraud and abuse. By eliminating direct payments and two other farm subsidy programs – steps first suggested in ARRM – the legislation would save taxpayers money and provide a more responsible risk management approach. Under the bill, farmers receive support only when they suffer a substantial loss through events beyond their control—and only for crops they have actually planted.

Grow it Here, Make it Here: The “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative would boost the manufacture of “biobased” products, made with agricultural materials. With more than 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products, “Grow it Here, Make it Here” would bolster Ohio’s leading industries: agriculture and manufacturing.

Earlier this year, Brown outlined how the “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of biobased products, and further the commercialization of new agricultural innovations to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create jobs.  Many portions of the “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative were included in the Farm Bill to support the nearly 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products.

Biobased products are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients—waste streams and renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials.  From natural pet foods and biobased paint, to soy ink and toner, these companies are creating jobs in Ohio’s small towns and rural communities, and generating a link between agriculture and manufacturing.

Expanding Markets for Farmers and Increasing Availability of Nutritious Locally-Grown Food: Brown also outlined how provisions of his Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, included in the 2012 farm bill, would help Ohio farmers and ranchers sell their products directly to consumers and creating jobs by addressing production, aggregation, and  marketing and distribution needs. It would also ensure that consumers have better access to nutritious, locally-grown food.

Many of these provisions were included in the farm bill, including: a stronger crop insurance program for specialty crops and organic agriculture; an improved farmers market program that would help boost infrastructure and aggregation facilities; as well as exploring the use of new technologies for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers markets and other direct retail outlets.

Expanding Access to Broadband for Rural Communities: Brown also introduced legislation, the Connecting Rural America Act, that would strengthen existing USDA programs that provide for the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to underserved, rural communities.  This legislation was included in the Senate farm bill which would reauthorize the existing Rural Broadband Loan Program and add a grant component to the program to target funds to the small towns and rural communities that need it most.

With new or increased broadband access, communities will be able to compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses; schools can create distance learning opportunities; medical professionals can provide cost-efficient remote diagnoses and care; and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy. The investments will create jobs in the short term and help establish a new foundation for long-term economic growth.

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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.

Make the Farm Bill A Real Jobs Bill

Dear Senator:

As the floor debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act continues, the undersigned groups, representing millions of farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, businesses, and consumers, write to urge you to support key amendments that will spur rural economic development and invest in the next generation of family farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran and limited resource producers.

While the committee-passed bill does take some positive initial steps to address the specific needs of veteran farmers, the bill undermines future job growth in American agriculture and the vitality of rural communities by failing to make a significant investment in new, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers. More must be done to strengthen programs that provide critical support, training, and technical assistance to these groups to enable their long-term success in agriculture and participation in federal programs. Senators Brown (SA 2362), Harkin (SA 2239), and Tom Udall (SA 2417) have filed amendments that will restore critical funding for two important training programs aimed at beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers – the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the Section 2501 Program) which while being deeply cut, has now been expanded to serve veteran farmers and ranchers as well.

Additionally, the committee-passed bill fails to adequately invest in proven job-creating rural development programs by providing no funding at all for the Rural Development Title. Small business grant and loan programs such as the Value-Added Producer Grant and Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program have been funded in every previous farm bill and have established a proven track record of spurring economic development in rural America. Yet, they receive no funding at all in the committee-passed bill which claims to be a true “jobs” bill. Senators Sherrod Brown (SA 2362) and Harkin-Casey (SA 2245) have filed amendments that will spur job creation through investment in rural economic development and help small, beginning, and veteran farmers access the credit they need to get their operations off the ground.

We also urge you to oppose an amendment filed by Sen. Toomey (SA 2218) which removes long-standing protections pertaining to FSA farm loan deferrals and foreclosures, including civil rights protections, worked out carefully over the course of many farm bills. We urge you to oppose this amendment if offered.

Below is a list of specific amendments we urge you to support or oppose.

Rural Development and Beginning/Socially Disadvantaged/Veteran Farmer Amendments

• Brown (OH) (SA 2362) – Rural Economic Development and Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Producers – SUPPORT

Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national priorities, yet the committee-passed bill fails to make an adequate investment in rural economic development and in the future of American agriculture. This amendment would fund critical rural development and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher programs.

• Udall (NM) (SA 2417) – Disadvantaged Producer Training – SUPPORT

The Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Rancher (also known as the 2501 Program) is a historic program that provides competitive grants to educational institutions, Extension, and community-based organizations to assist African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American and Latino farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms and participating in USDA programs. The committee-passed bill expands program eligibility requirements to include veteran farmers and ranchers and cuts funding for this program by 75 percent to $5 million per year. The amendment would restore funding in order to serve both the traditional and new producers now eligible for the program.

• Harkin (SA 2239) – Beginning Producer Training – SUPPORT

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers through competitive grants to land-grant institutions, community organizations, and other farm organizations. The committee-passed bill adds a new priority on veteran farmers, but cuts funding for this small but successful program by almost 50 percent to $10 million per year. This amendment would restore funding of $20 million per year.

• Harkin-Casey (SA 2245) – Microloans to Beginning and Veteran Producers – SUPPORT

Young, beginning, and veteran farmers face obstacles when trying to secure loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. This amendment would allow FSA to make small loans of up to $35,000 to meet the unique needs of those producers, streamline the application process, and provide discretionary authority to FSA to establish intermediary lender pilot projects.

• Toomey (SA 2218) – Termination of FSA and RD Foreclosure Policy – OPPOSE

This amendment would remove existing policies on deferrals and foreclosures, including civil rights protections, worked out carefully over the course of many farm bills, pertaining to FSA farm loans and rural development loans.

Sincerely,

AFGE LOCAL 3354 (St. Louis, MO)
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) (Salinas, CA)
AgriSystems International (Wind Gap, PA)
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives (Forkland, AL)
American Indian Mothers Inc. (Shannon, NC)
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (Kendall, WI)
Ashtabula Geauga Lake Counties Farmers Union (Windsor, OH)
Assn for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (Maplewood, MN)
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (Tillery, NC)
Black Workers For Justice (Rocky Mount, NC)
Bountiful Cities (Asheville, NC)
California Climate & Agriculture Network (Sacramento, CA)
California Farm Link (Santa Cruz, CA)
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (Pittsboro, NC)
Center for Rural Affairs (Lyons, NE)
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (Delano, CA)
The Center for Social Inclusion (New York, NY)
Church Women United in New York State (Rochester, NY)
Community Alliance for Global Justice (Seattle, WA)
Community Farm Alliance (Frankfort, KY)
Community Food Security Coalition (Portland, OR)
Concerned Citizens of Tillery (Tillery, NC)
Cultivating Community (Portland, ME)
Dakota Rural Action (Brookings, SD)
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (Milanville, PA)
Delaware Local Food Exchange (Wilmington, DE)
Educator in Public School System (Hendersonville, NC)
Family Farm Defenders (Madison, WI)
Farm Aid (Boston, MA)
Farms Not Arms (Petaluma, CA)
Farmworker Association of Florida (Apopka, FL)
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (Uniontown, PA)
Feast Down East (Wilmington, NC)
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (East Point, GA)
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Rural Training and Research Center (Epes, AL)
Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers (Gainesville, FL)
Food Field (Detroit, MI)
Food & Water Watch (Washington, DC)
Food System Economic Partnership (Ann Arbor, MI)
Friends of Batiquitos Lagoon (Encinitas, CA)
The Giving Garden (Ypsilanti, MI)
Grassroots International (Boston, MA)
Growing Potential (Groton, CT)
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (Springfield, IL)
Intertribal Agriculture Council (Billings, MT)
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Minneapolis, MN)
Just Food (New York, NY)
Kansas Rural Center (Whiting, KS)
Land Stewardship Project (Minneapolis, MN)
Local Food Hub (Charlottesville, VA)
Lower Shore Land Trust (Berlin, MD)
Maine Rural Partners (Orono, ME)
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (East Troy, WI)
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition (Detroit, MI)
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, MOSES (Spring Valley, WI)
Minnesota Food Association (Marine on St. Croix, MN)
Missouri Rural Crisis Center (Columbia, MO)
National Catholic Rural Life Conference (Des Moines, IA)
National Family Farm Coalition (Washington, DC)
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc. (Fresno, CA)
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association (Washington, DC)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Washington, DC)
National Young Farmers’ Coalition (Tivoli, NY)
National Wildlife Federation (Washington, DC)
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (Ceresco, NE)
New Mexico Acequia Association (Santa Fe, NM)
New York Small Scale Food Processors’ Association (NY)
North Carolina Assn of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project (Durham, NC)
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (Deerfield, MA)
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Interstate Council (Stevenson, CT)
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (Eugene, OR)
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group (Seattle, WA)
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (Columbus, OH)
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project (Oklahoma City, OK)
Partners for Rural America (Hollandale, WI)
PCC Farmland Trust (Seattle, WA)
Pesticide Action Network (San Francisco, CA)
Practical Farmers of Iowa (Ames, IA)
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (Pittsboro, NC)
Rural Advancement Fund (Orangeburg, SC)
Rural American Network (Washington, DC)
Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural (Washington, DC)
Rural Development Leadership Network (New York, NY)
Slow Food West Michigan (Belmont, MI)
Social Justice Task Force, Mount Sinai United Church of Christ (Mount Sinai, NY)
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Fayetteville, AR)
Taos County Economic Development Corporation (Taos, NM)
Texas/Mexico Border Coalition CBO (San Isidro, TX)
Tilth Producers of Washington (Seattle, WA)
United Farmers USA (Manning, SC)
University of Washington, Evans School of Public Affairs (Seattle, WA)
Virginia Association for Biological Farming (Lexington, VA)
Wild Orchard Farm (Essex, NY)
Winston County Self Help Cooperative (Louisville, MS)
World Farmers (Lancaster, MA)

 

Letter in Support of Soil and Wetlands Conservation

June 13, 2012

Dear Senator,

As the Senate begins debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240), the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment (S.A 2219) introduced by Senator Cardin. This amendment would renew the long-standing conservation compact with farmers by re-attaching basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance.

In exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have for decades committed to adopt land management practices that have successfully reduced soil erosion and protected wetlands. By shifting subsidies away from direct payments and towards a strong crop insurance safety net, this new farm bill creates a loophole in the longstanding requirements that those who receive subsidies take some minimal steps to protect the public good. This amendment would help protect what we already have from being lost due to the changes in the safety net.

The Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment closes that loophole and ensures that taxpayer funds are not rewarding agricultural producers who are draining wetlands or farming highly erodible land without conservation measures. Without these key protections, the estimated $95 billion to be spent on crop insurance over the next ten years under this bill will subsidize damaging soil erosion that chokes our waterways, increase the cost of water treatment and dredging, and reduce the long term productivity of farmland. It will also allow for the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding, loss of wildlife habitat and decreased water quality.

These soil and wetland conservation measures would be linked only to the taxpayer-funded premium subsidy for insurance and would not affect the ability of farmers to purchase crop insurance. The amendment does not in any way affect indemnity payments in the case of a disaster. Additionally, the measures retain the good faith exemptions, graduated penalty, and one-year grace period provisions from current law, ensuring that farmers would not be penalized for natural disasters such as flooding. The amendment also provides that producers who would be subject to these basic conservation requirements for the first time due to this provision would be granted five years to develop and implement their conservation plan.

As you work to reauthorize the Farm Bill over the coming days, we strongly urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment. Doing so will save money but more importantly ensure long term farm productivity by protecting vital natural resources.

Sincerely,

1000 Friends of Iowa
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
Alliance for the Great Lakes
American Farmland Trust
American Indian Mothers Inc.
American Public Works Association
American Rivers
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
Association of Northwest Steelheaders
Audubon Society of New Hampshire
Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Center for Rural Affairs
Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Network
Clean Wisconsin
Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River
Community Food Security Coalition
Conservation Council for Hawai’i
Defenders of Wildlife
Endangered Habitats League
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Environmental Law and Policy Center
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Environmental Working Group
Farmworker Association of Florida
Friends of Blackwater
Friends of the Upper Delaware River
FSC Rural Training and Research Center, Epes, AL
Great Lakes Committee of the Izaak Walton League
Gulf of Maine Restoration Coalition
Gulf Restoration Network
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa Wildlife Federation
Iowa’s County Conservation System
Izaak Walton League of America
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Kansas Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Kansas Rural Center
Kansas Wildlife Federation
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc
Land Stewardship Project
Mid South Fly Fishers
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
MN Division – Izaak Walton League of America
National Association of Clean Water Agencies
National Audubon Society
National Committee for the New River
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Wildlife Federation
Nature Abounds
Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Northern Great Plains Working Group
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Council
Ohio Farmers Union
Ohio River Foundation
Passaic River Coalition
Pollinator Partnership
Potomac River Association
Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture
Rural Advancement Fund
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
SC VOF
Sierra Club
Sierra Club Delta Chaper
Slow Food Columbus
Soil and Water Conservation Society
South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society
South Dakota Grasslands Coalition
South Dakota Wildlife Federation
Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Inc.
Trout Unlimited
Union of Concerned Scientists
Virgin Islands Conservation Society
Water Advocates
Water Environment Federation
Wege Foundation
WhyHunger
Wildlife Forever
Wisconsin Wetlands Association
World Wildlife Fund

Statement of Support for Harkin-Casey Microloan Amendment

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned organizations, endorse Senator Harkin and Senator Casey’s microloan amendment (SA 2245) to the Farm Bill. The amendment would authorize micro-lending opportunities within the Department of Agriculture.

If adopted, this amendment would allow USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make small loans up to $35,000 tailored to meet the needs of small, young, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The new loan program would be funded out of the existing direct and guaranteed operating loan portfolios, and would streamline the application process to facilitate participation. This amendment would also give FSA discretionary authority to establish intermediary lender pilot projects in collaboration with non-governmental or community-based organizations.

Capital is the number one need of young and beginning farmers in the United States. The microloan program would enable small and beginning farmers to access capital that meets their needs and reflects the scale of their operations. These farmers are often looking for smaller loans when they’re first getting started in agriculture and have faced significant hurdles in obtaining loans through existing federal credit programs. We strongly encourage members to support this amendment and to include this provision in its entirety in the final Senate bill.

Sincerely,

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Land Stewardship Project
National Young Farmers’ Coalition
Friends of Family Farmers
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Center for Rural Affairs
Iowa Environmental Council
Just Food Center for Land-Based Learning
California FarmLink
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Land For Good
Organic Valley
Zipparo Associates
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Food Works
Rogue Farm Corps
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
R. Constantine Family Farm
Root ‘n Roost Farm
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Fayette Broadcasting Corporation
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA)
New England Farmers Union
The Food Trust
Farm Business Development Center/Liberty Prairie Foundation
Food Democracy Now!
Oregon Rural Action
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Community Food Security Coalition
Oregon Farmers’ Market Association
Adelante Mujeres
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Seacoast Eat Local
Tilth Producers of Washington
Sustainable Living Systems
Leopold Group, S.E. Iowa Chapter, Iowa Sierra Club
Sustainable Living Project / Local Living Venture
Oregon Tilth
NuRelm Foodshed Alliance
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Sundhill Farm
Local Food Hub
New CT Farmers Alliance
New Farmers of the Central Coast
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
BeeWench Farm
Food System Economic Partnership nCASE
New Farmers of the Central Coast
Ramah Farmers’ Market
Jardine Meadows
With The Grain
CAMEO – California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association
Windrose Farm
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Southeastern Young & Beginning Farmers Alliance
Good 4U Inc.
Georgia Organics
Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance
The Greenhorns

Good Earth Guide lists sources for local food

By  Jacob Kanclerz
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

June 8, 2012

Shoppers looking to buy “local foods” now can refer to an updated guide to find those who sell Ohio-grown or -produced organic and natural products.

The Good Earth Guide lists more than 350 farms and businesses in Ohio that sell locally grown food, many directly to consumers. Compiled by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, it’s available in a print edition or at www.oeffa.org.

Farms and businesses in the guide sell vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meats, flowers and other products. Shoppers can find farms by county or products offered, with contact information for each listing. Information also is provided on which farms and businesses have been certified organic by the association.

The guide doesn’t include all Ohio growers because farmers provide their information voluntarily, said Renee Hunt, the education-program director for the association. But the guide has grown since it was first published in 1990 as more people have embraced the local-foods trend.

Buying local results in fresher and more-healthful products, and it helps the local economy.

“People are looking for local farms,” Hunt said. “Local chefs are looking for fresh ingredients.”

Growers said the list is great for discovering locally grown food sources and has helped bring in business.

“It’s a good resource for us as a business and for our customers,” said Kevin Murphy, assistant general manager of the Bexley Natural Market, 508 N. Cassady Ave. in Bexley. The store is a cooperative grocer that carries organic and natural products.

In addition to the Good Earth Guide, there are other guides to farmers markets and local growers provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said Christie Welch, a farmers-market specialist with Ohio State University.

Hunt said the Good Earth Guide serves as a starting point for people wanting to delve into local food.

The printed edition of the Good Earth Guide is free to members of the association or $10 for nonmembers. The online database is free to the public.

Information on local farmers markets also can be found at Dispatch.com.

Good Earth Guide Moves Local Food from Field to Fork

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2012                          

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

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, Gardens and Related Businesses by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) can help bring these delicious tastes of summer to any kitchen.

The Good Earth Guide includes information on farms and businesses that sell directly to the public, including 166 certified organic farms and businesses and more than 90 community supported agriculture (CSA) programs.

The directory identifies sources for locally grown vegetables; fruits; herbs; honey; maple syrup; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; fiber; flour and grains; cut flowers; 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 350 farms and related businesses, reflecting the tremendous growth in demand for locally-sourced and sustainably-produced foods, fibers, products and services,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. 

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

“The purpose of the Good Earth Guide is making connections—Connecting consumers to local farms and businesses so that their dollars support wholesome food and sustainable products. Connecting farmers with other farmers so they can network and develop business relationships that support a successful farming community. And, connecting businesses and farmers who are building the links in the local food system chain that brings food from the field to a finished product available to consumers,” said Hunt.

The Good Earth Guide is available free to the public in an easy to use online searchable database and as a downloadable pdf at http://www.oeffa.org/search-geg.php. Print copies are distributed free to OEFFA members and are available to non-members for $10 each at http://www.oeffa.org/oeffastore.php.

“You can find just about anything you’d want being grown or produced right here in Ohio. 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 our rural communities,” concluded Hunt.

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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, go to www.oeffa.org.

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

For more information about OEFFA or for media inquiries, contact Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

U.S. Senate Open Letter In Support of Rural Development and Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Dear Senator,
Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national
priorities. Earlier this spring, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bipartisan Agriculture Reform,
Food and Jobs Act of 2012. We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and members
of the Committee for moving ahead with reauthorizing this wide-ranging and critical piece of legislation.
While the Committee-passed bill takes modest steps to fulfill these priorities, the bill fails to make an
adequate investment in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers.
One of the proven job-creating titles of the farm bill is the Rural Development title, which authorizes
essential grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in
rural areas. Since 1996, Congress has provided an average of $413 million per farm bill for the Rural
Development title, while the new bill as reported by the Committee includes no funding at all.
We urge you to correct this deficiency by providing robust funding for the following successful Rural
Development programs: Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance
Program (RMAP), Rural Energy Savings Program, and Water/Wastewater Backlog.
In addition to investing in the future of rural America, we must invest in the future of American agriculture.
The average age of an American agricultural producer today is 57, and if we let current trends go unchecked,
that number will only increase. Providing training and technical assistance to the next generation of farmers
can help buck the trend and ensure future food security.
The Committee-passed bill falls far short of maintaining current investment in the training tools that new
and diverse farmers need to succeed. We urge you to provide robust mandatory funding for the Beginning
Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and Outreach and Assistance for Socially
Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program (Section 2501 – OASDFR).
We recognize the severity of our country’s fiscal situation. During the Committee mark-up, it was unclear
without a Congressional Budget Office score whether there was funding available for these programs, and
Senators agreed to continue the conversation about funding these key priorities before the floor debate.
The final CBO score indicates that the Senate Agriculture Committee exceeded its commitment of $23
billion in savings. We urge you to take advantage of this important opportunity to reinstate mandatory rural
development funding and to improve investments in the future of American agriculture.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We strongly encourage you to reach out to and
work with Senator Brown of Ohio, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, and other interested colleagues prior to the
floor farm bill debate. These Senators are working on a possible amendment to fund these priorities.
By ensuring continued investments in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers,
we can ensure that the Farm Bill is a “jobs bill” that underpins and enables economic growth in
communities throughout America. We look forward to working together on this important matter for American agriculture and America’s rural communities.
Sincerely,
National
American Planning Association
American Public Works Association
American Sustainable Business Council
Center for Rural Affairs
ChangeLab Solutions
Community Food Security Coalition
Corporation for Enterprise Development
Environmental Working Group
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
FoodCorps
Food Democracy Now!
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
ISED Solutions
National Association of Counties
National Association of Development
Organizations
National Association of Resource Conservation
and Development Councils
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National League of Cities
National Rural Development Council
National Rural Housing Coalition
National Rural Health Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Partners for Rural America
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Senior Entrepreneurs
Slow Food USA
WhyHunger
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Alabama
University of Alabama Environmental Council
Arkansas
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
California
California FarmLink
ChangeLab Solutions
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Pesticide Action Network
Connecticut
Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council

District of Columbia

ISED Solutions
Environmental Working Group
Iowa
Iowa Environmental Council
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Quad Cities Food Hub
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Illinois
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
The Land Connection
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Kansas
Kansas Rural Center
Maine
Senior Entrepreneurs
Maryland
Future Harvest CASA
Massachusetts
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Michigan
Lansing Urban Farm Project
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Minnesota
Growing Our Own Naturally
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Land Stewardship Project
Montana
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Community Food and Agriculture Coalition
FoodCorps
National Center for Appropriate Technology

New York
Catskill Mountainkeeper
GardenShare
North Carolina
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Silver Lining Institute
Nebraska
Center for Rural Affairs
Nevada
The Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
New York
Field Goods
Hunger Action Network of NYS
Just Food
Slow Food Hamilton College
The Sustainable Restaurant Corps
West Side Campaign Against Hunger
WhyHunger
Ohio
ACEnet, Inc
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture
Oregon
Adelante Mujeres
Central Oregon Locavore
Friends of Family Farmers
North Coast Food Web
Oregon Rural Action
Rouge Farm Corps
Think Local Umpqua
Pennsylvania
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
The Reinvestment Fund
Texas
CASA del Llano
Virginia
Appalachian Sustainable Development

Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Washington
PCC Farmland Trust
Tilth Producers of Washington
WA Sustainable Food & Farming Network

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.