Archive for September, 2012

Letter to OMB OIRA about Animal Disease Traceability Rule

Thursday, September 13th, 2012
September 2012

Dear Office of Management and Budget Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs staff and leadership:
The undersigned organizations, representing family farmers, 
ranchers, and consumers, urge you to return USDA’s final rule on Animal 
Disease Traceability (ADT) to the agency for a legally adequate, 
thorough, and complete cost analysis.

ADT has been criticized by thousands of individuals and organizations 
because of the undue burdens that it will impose on producers. The cost 
of tagging and the extensive recordkeeping requirements under the rule 
will impact farmers and ranchers, as well as related businesses such as 
sale barns and veterinarians, and will ripple through our rural economies.

As detailed in our letter of July 24, the USDA has significantly 
underestimated the costs of its rule to both cattle producers and 
poultry producers. While the agency claims that the costs are under $100 
million annually, independent studies indicate that the costs could be 
three to five times that high for cattle producers alone. Moreover, the 
USDA failed to even attempt to estimate the costs to small-scale poultry 
farmers, a failure that, by itself, is sufficient cause to reject the rule.

Ultimately, the cost will be more than dollars and cents. If producers 
cannot afford to meet the new requirements, they will be unable to 
purchase new animals or market their animals out of state, which could 
lead to more of them going out of business.

Farmers and ranchers nationwide are already struggling just to keep 
their cattle alive through the drought. Over 75 percent of the 
contiguous U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, and almost half the 
country is in severe or worse drought, including the major farming and 
ranching regions.

The impact on livestock and poultry producers has been devastating. The 
forage and feed situation is the worst this country has seen since the 
1930s Depression, as producers with parched pastures, rangelands, and 
crops face expensive hay, grain, and shipping costs. Increased feed 
costs have led to a reduction in profits per livestock animal by more 
than $100 just since June 1. One agricultural economist has estimated 
that 2013 feed prices could triple the 1990-2004 average. Rapidly 
depleting livestock water is forcing many producers to haul water, which 
is also expensive and time-consuming.

Families who have been the agricultural backbone of this nation are now 
at the breaking point. Many have already sold a large part of their 
herds, and the slaughter of many breeding age cows will mean that it 
will take a decade of normal rainfall to rebuild the cattle population 
in America.

Traceability programs, such as USDA’s ADT rule, also impose costs on 
livestock-related businesses, such as sale barns and veterinarians. It 
was recently reported that sale barns in New Zealand have added a new 
surcharge for cattle sales due to the additional equipment, staffing and 
administrative costs required for their NAIT (national animal 
identification and tracing) program It is likely that similar costs 
under ADT will be passed on to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Like the sale barns, those producers who are able to stay in business 
will have to find a way to pass on the costs, which will mean higher 
prices for consumers, who are already facing higher prices at the 
grocery store.

In contrast to the clear costs of the program, the benefits remain 
vague. The USDA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis focused almost entirely on 
the monetary benefits from exports, but this approach is fundamentally 
flawed for several reasons. First, the benefits are based on models of 
varying degrees of traceability, yet tagging is not synonymous with 
traceability: an animal with an ear tag attached prior to crossing state 
lines may become untraceable later through lost tags or poor 
recordkeeping by state agencies. Second, as has been shown repeatedly 
and acknowledged by USDA officials, market access often depends more on 
politics than on traceability or other measures. Finally, the financial 
benefits of exports accrue almost entirely to the companies who sell the 
exports. Since the costs of the program will rest almost entirely on 
livestock producers and related businesses, it is inappropriate to 
justify those costs on the basis of benefits to other entities.

We urge you not to impose new, unnecessary costs during these difficult 
times. The ADT rule should be sent back to the agency for a thorough and 
comprehensive review of the costs of the rule on American farmers and 
ranchers.

Sincerely,

Signatories as of 9/11/2012:

American Grassfed Association
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry
Central City Co-Op (WA)
Certified Naturally Grown
Citizens for Private Property Rights (MO)
The Cornucopia Institute
Dakota Rural Action
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Food and Water Watch
GardenShare (NY)
Idaho Rural Council
Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Local Harvest
Maine Alternative Agriculture Association
Michigan Land Trustees
Mississippi Livestock Markets Association
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Montana Farmers Union
National Family Farm Coalition
Natural Environmental Ecological Management
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
North Country Sustainability Center
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Massachusetts
Northeast Organic Farming Association - New Jersey
Northern Illinois Draft Horse and Mule Association
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oglala Sioux Livestock and Landowners Association
Organic Consumers Association
Organization for Competitive Markets
Powder River Basin Resource Council
R-CALF USA
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Sustainable Food Center (TX)
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Turner Farm (MA)
Western Colorado Congress
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Weston A. Price Foundation

Free Movie Screening: The Future of Food

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2012

Contact: MacKenzie Bailey, OEFFA Policy Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, mackenzie@oeffa.org

Media Advisory

Free Movie Screening: The Future of Food

Movie and Discussion to Explore the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods

Who:  The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) Capital Chapter presents a free public screening of the movie, The Future of Food. This movie screening is sponsored by Edible Columbus, Slow Food Columbus, Sierra Club Central Ohio Group, Food and Water Watch, Global Gallery, Luna Burger, Just This Farm, and Gerry’s Garden.

What: The Future of Food examines the dangers of unlabeled genetically engineered (GE) foods and how they have quietly filled the shelves in American grocery stores. The documentary film by Deborah Koons Garcia was released in 2004 and features interviews with some of the world’s foremost GE experts and activists.

For more information about the film, click here. To watch the movie trailer, click here.

Genetic engineering (GE) refers to a set of technologies used to change the genetic make-up of cells to produce novel organisms that exhibit a desired trait, such as pesticide resistance. Promised higher yields, labor savings, and lower weed pressure, GE seeds have been widely adopted by U.S. farmers. Today, more than 80 percent of soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola grown in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented genes.

 
The event will start with a short presentation by Dr. Andrew McCall, an expert in plant ecology. Following the film, attendees will learn how to stay involved with local GE labeling efforts. Local vendors will have a selection of GE-free snacks available for sale.

This film screening is part of OEFFA’s campaign to require GE labeling that protects a consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. For more information about OEFFA’s policy work, go to http://policy.oeffa.org/gelabeling.

When:   Sunday, September 23, 2012—2 p.m.

Where: Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, 3055 Indianola Ave., Columbus, OH

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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.

Support the National Organic Cost-Share Program in the 2012 Farm Bill

Friday, September 7th, 2012
 
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
Washington D.C.  20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

We, the undersigned organizations, thank you for your on-going leadership to advance and grow organic agriculture in Vermont and nationwide. Specifically, we want to express our thanks and gratitude for your strong support of organic certification cost share assistance for the nation’s organic farmers and handlers as part of the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization process.

The growing costs of annual organic certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially those of small to medium scale.   Yet third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the trusted USDA certified organic brand.  The modest certification cost share assistance provided to partially offset these costs has been instrumental in the decision by many farmers and handlers to seek initial organic certification and to remain certified as organic – in spite of the annual costs of doing so.  This has helped to foster diversity in the scale of operations certified as organic, and also helps to maintain jobs here in the U.S

We also appreciate your leadership and wisdom in advocating for the merging of the two federal organic certification cost share programs. Streamlining these two programs under the umbrella of the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program provides adequate cost share funding for organic farmers and handlers in all fifty states while minimizing program costs and maximizing efficiency. The inclusion of this provision in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill is largely due to your leadership and greatly appreciated by organic farmers, handlers, and consumers in Vermont and nationwide.

In contrast, the bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in July completely repeals the National Organic Certification Cost Share program. It retains minimal funding for organic certification cost share through the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) but only for farmers in 16 states, with NO cost share assistance for organic handlers at all. The House approach not only creates unnecessary division within the organic community, but it also threatens the growth in certified organic production in this nation at a time when the organic sector is already struggling to keep up with record-breaking consumer demand for organic foods and beverages.

Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. With an estimated 527,000 jobs created in 2010 alone, it is the fastest growing sector of agriculture. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand. Your leadership on behalf of organic certification cost share assistance through an expanded AMA program plays a critical role in that effort.

We thank you for your excellent work and that of your excellent staff member, Adrienne Wojciechowski. We look forward to working with you to support the Senate position on this matter and to ensure that it is included in the final farm bill.

Sincerely,

National Organic Coalition
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Other sustainable agriculture organizations