Archive for October, 2013

278 Groups Support Conservation Compliance and National Sodsaver

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

October 29, 2013

Dear Farm Bill Conferee,

As the House and Senate begins conferencing the final 2013 Farm Bill, the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you protect grasslands, wetlands, healthy soil and clean water by supporting a national sodsaver provision and re-coupling basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance. Both of these provisions, included in the Senate bill, ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to incentivize risky or environmentally destructive practices. Conservation compliance and sodsaver are among the top farm bill priorities for our groups, and both will be determining factors as we consider our support for a final bill.

For decades, in exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have committed to adopt land management practices that 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 minimal steps to protect the public good. Without these key protections, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on crop insurance over coming years will subsidize soil erosion that will choke 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. To keep these protections in place, it is critical that the final farm bill re-couple conservation compliance with crop insurance premium subsidies and does not weaken existing wetland conservation provisions.

Native grasslands across the country are disappearing at an alarming rate, threatening grassland-dependent wildlife species as well as the ranching and hunting industries dependent on those lands. From 2011 to 2012 alone, nearly 400,000 non-cropland acres were “broken out” for crop production. These acres are being lost across the entire country. In fact, over this period, more than 65 percent of these losses occurred outside of the Prairie Pothole Region states. A nationwide sodsaver provision will reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy these critical grassland resources. Most of the land that is being converted from native ecosystems to cropland is marginal, highly erodible, or prone to flooding. Bringing this marginally productive land into crop production provides little benefit to taxpayers, increases long-term costs due to erosion and nutrient loss, and ultimately leads to reduced water quality, less capacity to reduce flooding and the loss of valuable wildlife habitat. Sodsaver does not prohibit farmers from breaking out new land; it ensures that if they do, they do so at their own risk by partially reducing the cost to taxpayers. It is critical that sodsaver apply to the entire country. A regional approach, such as included in the House bill, is not adequate to protect our nation’s remaining native grasslands.

We thank you for your efforts to complete the 2013 Farm Bill, and we strongly urge you to support soil, water, and wildlife habitat conservation in the final bill by including a national sodsaver provision, re-linking basic conservation measures to eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies, and opposing efforts to weaken existing wetland protections. Doing so will save money and ensure long term farm productivity by protecting our nation’s vital natural resources.
Signed,

National Groups:

American Bird Conservancy
American Farmland Trust
Amphibian Survival Alliance
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Bridging The Gap
Caribou Ecological
Center for Rural Affairs
Chicago Botanic Garden
Clean Water Action
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Defenders of Wildlife
Delta Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited
Ecological Society of America
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Working Group
Farm Bill Primer
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
National Association of Clean Water Agencies
National Audubon Society
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
National Bobwhite Technical Committee
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National Parks Conservation Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nature Abounds
North American Falconers’ Association
Pesticide Action Network
Pheasants Forever
Pollinator Partnership
Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation
Quail Forever
SAVE THE FROGS!
Soil and Water Conservation Society
The Conservation Fund
The Izaak Walton League of America
The Nature Conservancy
The Tortoise Reserve
The Wildlife Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Watchable Wildlife, Inc.
Water Environment Federation
Wildlife Management Institute
World Wildlife Fund
Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Regional Groups:

Alliance for the Great Lakes
Appalachian Conservation Biology
Central Flyway Council
Chapped Rapids Audubon Society
Delmarva Ornithological Society
Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest
Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
Friends of the Upper Delaware River
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center
Gulf Restoration Network
Lake Champlain Committee
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northern Great Plains Working Group
Northern Prairies Land Trust
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Northwest Watershed Institute
Ohio River Foundation
Ozark Regional Land Trust
Quail & Upland Game Alliance
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
The Wetlands Initiative
The Wildlife Society-Central Mountains and Plains Section
Total Resource Management
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

State and Local Groups:

Arizona Wildlife Federation
Northern Arizona Audubon Society
Wild At Heart
Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Enviroscapes Ecological Consulting
Audubon California
California Climate and Agriculture Network
Endangered Habitats League
Roots of Change
Slow Food California
Wild Farm Alliance
Audubon Society of Greater Denver
Colorado Wildlife Federation
Grand Valley Audubon Society
Izaak Walton League of America, Pike’s Peak Chapter
Southern Plains Land Trust
Audubon Connecticut
Florida Wildlife Federation
Izaak Walton League of America, Cypress Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Florida
South Florida Audubon Society
South Florida Wildlands
St. Johns River Alliance
Georgia Wildlife Federation
Oconee Rivers Audubon Society
Friends of Camas NWR
Henrys Fork Chapter Idaho Master Naturalists
Intermountain Aquatics Inc.
Pend Oreille Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalists
Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc.
Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River
Garden Advisors
Illinois Ornithological Society
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation
Prairie Rivers Network
The Nature Institute
Geist Fall Creek Watershed Alliance
Hoosier Environmental Council
Indiana Assoc. of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Indiana Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Indiana Park & Recreation Association
Indiana Wildlife Federation
Save the Dunes
Sycamore Land Trust, Incorporated
Tippecanoe Audubon Society
Citizens for a Healthy Iowa
Des Moines Water Works
Driftless Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Decorah)
Iowa Bowhunters Association
Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Iowa Wildlife Federation
Izaak Walton League of America, Maquoketa Valley Chapter
North Bear Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Des Moines)
Quad City Audubon Society
Spring Creeks Chapter of Trout Unlimited (Iowa City)
Trout Unlimited, Iowa Council
Wagner Conservation Coalition
Audubon of Kansas
Kansas Rural Center
Kansas Wildlife Federation
Frankfort Audubon Society
Kentucky Conservation Committee
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
The Wildlife Society, Kentucky Chapter
America’s WETLAND Foundation
Atchafalaya Basinkeeper
Friends of Maine’s Seabird Islands
Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative
Western Foothills Land Trust
Fox Haven Farm and Learning Center
Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER
Izaak Walton League of America- Maryland Mid-shore Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Free State Chapter
Maryland Ornithological Society
Broad Brook Coalition
Massachusetts Audubon Society
Dwight Lydell Chapter, IWLA
Garden Project
Huron River Watershed Council
Lafayette Greens
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
Michigan Wildlife Conservancy & Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
Brainerd Lakes Area Audubon Society
Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Central Minnesota Audubon Society
Friends of the Mississippi River
Izaak Walton League of America, Cass County Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Jaques Chapter
Land Stewardship Project
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union
Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust
W. J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
Mississippi River Trust
Mississippi Wildlife Federation
Wildlife Mississippi
Conservation Federation of Missouri
EcoWorks Unlimited
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Parks Association
Missouri Prairie Foundation
Missouri Stream Team
Missouri Stream Team 3762
Ozark (Missouri) Council Trout Unlimited
Social Services/Rural Life, CCCNM
Montana Audubon
Montana Wildlife Federation
Audubon Society of Omaha
Izaak Walton League of America- Grand Island Chapter
Nebraska Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society INC-NSAS
Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Western Nebraska Resources Council
Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
New Jersey Wildlife Society
Church Women United of New York State
Buffalo Audubon Society
Eastern Long Island Audubon Society
Save The River, the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper
Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Justice & Peace & Global Environment Committees
The Wetland Trust
Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
North Carolina Trout Unlimited Council
North Carolina Wildlife Federation
Resource Institute, Inc.
Browns Ranch
Izaak Walton League of America, Buckeye All-State Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Headwaters Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Wayne County Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Western Reserve Chapter
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Council
Ohio Farmers Union
Ohio Spider Society
Ohio Wetlands Association
Shaker Lakes Garden Club
Silvertip Productions, Ltd
Izaak Walton League – Oregon Division
Izaak Walton League – Silverton Chapter
Izaak Walton League of America, Mary’s Peak Chapter
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society
Lane County Audubon Society
Oregon Tilth
Salem Audubon Society
Ecological Associates
Lake Erie Region Conservancy
Lehigh Valley Audubon Society
PennFuture
Pennsylvania Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs
East Greenwich Municipal Land Trust
Coastal Conservation League
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History
South Carolina Wildlife Federation
Black Hills Sportsmen Club
Delta Waterfowl, the Sioux Falls, SD Chapter
High Plains Wildlife Association
Huron(SD) Puddle Jumpers Chapter of Delta Waterfowl
Izaak Walton League of America, Rapid City Chapter
Living River Group- Sierra Club
Northern South Dakota Chapter of Pheasants Forever
South Dakota Agriculture Conservation Coalition
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club
South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society
South Dakota Farmers Union
South Dakota Grassland Coalition
South Dakota Wildlife Federation
Tennessee Clean Water Network
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Audubon Dallas
Houston Audubon Society
Texas Conservation Alliance
Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park
Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
Shenandoah Valley Network
U.S. Trail Riders
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Conservation Network
Virginia Food Works
North Cascades Audubon Society
Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network
Izaak Walton League of America, Mountaineer Chapter
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Inc.
Wisconsin Society for Ornithology
Wisconsin Soil and Water Conservation Society
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Wyoming Outdoor Council

Why Northeast Ohio farmers disagree about the latest farm technology

Monday, October 14th, 2013
 
WKSU Quick Bikes
10/11/13
By Vivian Goodman

On a breezy autumn morning in West Salem, Mike Haley pulls back leaves in his soybean field, admiring how the crop has outgrown the grass and weeds underneath.

“Right now we’re looking at soybeans that are about a foot taller than the grass. The soybeans were able to get above the canopy the grass was creating to the sunlight and absorb the full effect of the rainfall.”

These are soybeans that grew from genetically-modified organisms or GMO seeds.

Genes modified for higher crop yields
The seeds are genetically-altered to resist Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide, marketed since 1976 by the food giant Monsanto.

In the mid-90s when Monsanto first modified soybean seeds to stand up to Roundup, Haley bought the new seeds even though they were a little more expensive. He saw it as a way to increase his yield and stay competitive.

“Over in the corner field, there’s a little patch of giant ragweed. That’s where I missed spraying a spot. Don’t criticize me too much for that. But that weed was almost impossible to control in soybeans before Roundup. I remember growing up my Mom’s job was walking the fields and hand-spraying the giant ragweed with Roundup.”

Today, Haley says Roundup-ready seeds save him time, money and painstaking labor.

“We can go in there and we can spray the weeds in the field without hurting the soybeans.”

Haley says GMO seeds also helped him weather last year’s drought, and improve his soil quality.

“In order to control the weeds we’d have to do a lot more tillage which would mean more erosion. The way we’ve adapted our farm we feel it’s a lot better for our farm than it was 30 years ago.”

He’s heard others express concern about GMOs.

“Is there a reason for concern? It’s hard to say. I think that as the technology evolves we’re going to see a lot more benefits, not just to the farmer but also to the consumer.”

An organic farmer has another opinion
About 50 miles southeast of the Haley Farm, at  Creekview Ridge Farm in Minerva, organic farmer Kip Gardner couldn’t disagree more.

“GMOs help preserve a system of agriculture excessively dependent on chemicals. That is damaging to our soils and our environment. That system needs to change if we’re going to continue to feed our population.”

Compared with Haley’s 2,000–acre spread, Gardner’s farm is tiny, just 26 acres. He keeps 100 chickens, and grows fruit, vegetables and alfafa for hay.

Unlike Mike Haley, Gardner wasn’t born to farm. He’s an ecologist and molecular biologist teaching environmental science at Stark State College.

Three years ago he moved his family to a farm that dates back to 1875.

“When we bought the farm, it was a conventional corn and soybean farm. We are transitioning it to a diversified, certified-organic farm.”

His chickens lay about six dozen eggs a day and Gardner’s customers tell him they’re glad he feeds the hens only non-GMO grain.

“And they know that conventional chicken feed, because of the huge percentage of soybeans and corn that’s grown GMO, is going to contain GMO grain.”    

There’s a nutritional difference in the eggs Gardner’s hens lay compared to what you get in the supermarket. Research shows chickens raised without GMO feed lay eggs with higher omega-3 fatty acids.

No tests on humans
Gardner says the uncertain impact on human health is his biggest problem with GMOs.

“Here in the United States, we’ve pretty much allowed them to develop unregulated. There are currently roughly 100 crops approved for use in the United States, more in the pipeline, many we don’t know what the effects are going to be.”

Although GMO staple crops like soy and corn have become ubiquitous, there have been no human trials of GMO foods.

“In the United States,” says Gardner, “most of the research is done by the companies that develop the crops.”

A French study last year on rats showed those fed GMO grain developed tumors earlier than and twice as quickly as a control group.

“There’ve also been concerns about some anecdotal reports of allergic responses and other things,” says Gardener. “So we don’t know yet.”

Consumers can’t tell GMO from non-GMO
Most of the European Union outlaws GMOs and where they’re legal, they’re labeled.

Maine and Connecticut recently enacted labeling laws and 20 other states are considering it.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mark Udall last month urged the FDA to require labels on GMOs marketed as food.

But back in West Salem, Mike Haley remains confident that GMOs are good for his soil and his crops.

“We’re able to move forward way faster with using bio-technology than with traditional breeding because they’re able to evaluate the different genetics and work with them so much quicker instead of working years to isolate the genetics through traditional breeding techniques.”

He says the latest innovation is heart-healthy.

“Omega-3 soybeans. They’ve altered the oils in the soybeans so that it’s heart healthy. So when  French fries are deep-fried at McDonald’s, it’s going to be heart-healthy oils, very similar to an olive oil. So I’m kind of excited about being able to grow more nutritious crops because of the new technology that’s coming around.”

But research scientist-turned farmer Kip Gardner wonders at what cost to the environment.

Still uncertain: the long-term environmental impact
New weeds that even Roundup can’t kill have been popping up.

“So now they’re talking about creating GMO corn and soybeans that are resistant to more powerful herbicides like 2-4-D. Now we’re going to see that back in the environment, where the use of 2-4-D has been pretty severely limited in recent years.”

Gardner empathizes with farmers who think chemicals and GMOs are essential. He just thinks they’re wrong.

“For those folks who are in that system of agriculture, it is solving some immediate problems. But we’re saying we are working on a different model, hopefully one that we can demonstrate is as effective.”

Organic farming is growing stronger with consumers increasingly concerned about nutrition and food safety.

But with 7 billion of us on the planet now and another 2 billion expected by 2050, the higher yield potential of GMO’s attracts powerful support.

Last month, the editors of Scientific American came out against labeling GMO foods, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proved they’re neither toxic nor allergenic. The editors write: “In the growing battle over GMO foods, science is being used as a weapon.”

Letter to Congress In Support of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Friday, October 11th, 2013

October 10, 2013

Dear U.S. House and Senate Committee Leaders:

The agricultural sector of our economy continues to be vibrant and strong. In recent years, there has been an uptick in individuals and families interested in building careers in farming or ranching. Despite significant hurdles such as limited access to affordable land, high start-up costs, and lack of training, there are hard-working and talented people who want to start their own farm or ranch businesses.

With the appropriate policies in a 2013 Farm Bill, you can support successful new farmer start-ups and also mitigate some of the major obstacles new producers confront. By supporting new farmer opportunities with public policy we can strengthen the economic base and vitality of many of our rural and urban communities. As you begin conference negotiations on a new farm bill, we urge you to build upon the best provisions in existing bills to adopt the strongest possible measures for new and aspiring farmers. These include:

Supporting New Farmer Training Through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)

1. Sustain needed funding at no less than $20 million per year. Funding for this program has been absent since 2012 and without future investments we risk losing the focus and base of organizations and institutions assisting tens of thousands of beginning farmers across the country.

2. Refrain from creating a “state grants” subsection within the BFRDP focused solely on farm safety. While farm safety is an important training effort, it should be integrated into the existing purposes for which grants can be offered to groups, rather than prioritized in a block-grant that would divert funding away from the thirteen other critical program purposes.

3. Ensure a set-aside of 25 percent of yearly funds is available for socially disadvantaged producers, limited resource producers and military veterans. This set-aside has been a critical component of the program since its inception and is important in ensuring diverse and broad populations have access to this program.

Expanding Access to Farmland, Credit and Conservation Assistance

1. Provide $50 million for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program which allows new producers and retiring landowner to collaborate to make more farm and ranch land available.

2. Prioritize conservation easements at agricultural use value for beginning farmers through the Agricultural Land Easement Program in order to increase the availability of affordable land, especially in areas facing growing development pressure.

3. Authorize a microloan program, including intermediary lending, in order to expand credit options and simplify the Farm Service Agency loan application process for new farmers.

4. Increase the advance payment option within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which would make it easier and financially viable for a new farmer to adopt conservation practices on their operations.

Additionally, we encourage provisions that ensure outreach to our nation’s military veterans interested in starting farming as well as robust funding for outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

This farm bill process has already dragged on for far too long. Every day Congress fails to proceed forward with a bill is a day we miss the opportunity to make better investments in the next generation of American farmers and ranchers – this delay has both short-term on long-term consequences for our communities. We urge you to move deliberately and swiftly in finalizing a farm bill that incorporates these beginning farmer measures.

Sincerely,

Agribusiness Incubator Program
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association
Alden Economic Development Committee
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Beau Chemin Preservation Farm
Beginning Farmers LLC
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association
California Certified Organic Farmers
California FarmLink
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Catholic Charities of Louisville, Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Center for Rural Affairs
Chicago Botanic Garden
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community CROPS
Community Food & Agriculture Coalition
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Cultivate Kansas City
Cultivating Community
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship
Dakota Rural Action
Delta Land & Community
Earth Learning
Ecological Farming Association
Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm
Family Farm Defenders
Farley Center Farm Incubator Farm
Fresh Rhode Island
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc
FARRMS
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
Finger Lakes – Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training
Food & Water Watch
Food Democracy Now!
Food Field
Food Works
Georgia Organics
GoFarm Hawaii
Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming
Hawthorne Valley Farm
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Hope Farms/Bethany Christian Services
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Living Services of Northern California
Institute for Washington’s Future
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Just Food KAKOO OIWI
Kansas Rural Center
Kauai Community College Kerr Center Inc.
Land For Good
Land Stewardship Project
Leeward Community College
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Local Food Hub
Lowcountry
Local First Lutheran Social Services/New Lands Farm
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Rural Partners
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan Food and Farming Systems
Michigan Land Use Institute
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service
Minnesota Citizens Organized Acting Together
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Food Association
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Farmers Organization
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women In Agriculture Association
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society INC-NSAS
New England Farmers Union
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
New Farmers Network
New York Bee Wellness
North Country Sustainability Center
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New Hampshire
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New York
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Rhode Island
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Vermont
Northeast Pasture Consortium
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group
Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance
Okmulgee County Farmers and Ranchers
Onslow County Farmers Market, Inc
Oregon Tilth
Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success
PMJ Capital Corporation
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery
Pushing the Envelope Farm
Rogue Farm Corps
Root ‘N Roost Farm
Rural Advancement Foundation International School Food FOCUS National
Seattle Tilth
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Slow Food California
Slow Food Nebraska
Slow Food USA
Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership Inc.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Stoneyfield Farm
Sustainable Farming Association
SustainFloyd
Texas Mexico Border Coalition CBO
The Brice Institute
The Land Connection
Tilth Producers of Washington
Truly Living Well
United Farmers USA
Vermont Land Trust
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Viva Farms
Walk Farm, Incorporated
Washington Young Farmers Coalition
Wisconsin Farmers Union Women, Food and Agriculture Network
World Farmers Inc
Wren’s Nest Farm

Congress Fails Farmers Again

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Today’s Farm Bill Expiration Leaves Critical Conservation, Organic, and Beginning Farmer Programs Stranded without Funding

.
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Contact: MacKenzie Bailey, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, mackenzie@oeffa.org
.
Columbus, OH—While farmers wait to see if the U.S. House of Representatives will enter conference committee with the Senate to work out the details of a new Farm Bill, the current Farm Bill extension expired today.

Congress’ failure to pass a new Farm Bill will have a disproportionately negative impact on beginning, sustainable, and organic farmers. Unlike crop insurance subsidies which have continued funding, many organic, local food, and conservation programs are not permanently authorized and funded.

“As consumer demand for organics continues to grow, Congress needs to help organic farmers succeed,” said MacKenzie Bailey, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “Although organic programs are a very small part of the hundreds of billions of dollars that will be invested through this Farm Bill, they are critical programs that address unique needs. The failure to fund organic programs is counter-intuitive when consumers are demanding more sustainably grown food.”

Farmers have been without a full Farm Bill since October 1, 2012. In January 2013, Congress passed a partial one year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that excluded funding for nearly three dozen Farm Bill programs. The Senate has passed a Farm Bill twice, but disagreements about funding and eligibility for nutrition programs in the House have created roadblocks to passing a full Farm Bill reauthorization.

Dozens of programs that create jobs, invest in the next generation of farmers, and protect the environment are without funding. Some key programs without funding until Congress passes a full Farm Bill include:

  • The Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) provides funding to community supported agriculture programs, farmers’ markets, and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans; support innovative market ideas, and educate consumers. For example, the Toledo Farmers’ Market used FMPP funding to recruit new vendors, help establish and promote an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system for SNAP recipients, and build relationships with community partners to leverage additional funding and support. As a result, SNAP sales increased from $500 in 2008 to $50,000 in 2011, the market added 1,000 new EBT customers, overall market sales increased by 20 percent, and the number of vendors at the market grew by 38 percent.
  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program invests in the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs by helping them access land, credit, and crop insurance; launch and expand new farms and businesses, and receive training, mentoring, and education.
  • The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program reimburses participating organic producers and handlers for 75 percent (up to $750) of their certification fees. This program helps make organic certification affordable, enabling farmers and processors to meet the growing demand for organic food. In 2011, 251 Ohioans utilized cost-share funds, or about 40 percent of the state’s organic operations.
  • The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is a competitive grants program dedicated to the growing needs of the organic community.
  • The Organic Production Market and Data Initiative is a multi-agency organic data collection initiative that collects information vital to maintaining stable markets and tracking production trends.
  • Value-Added Producer Grants provide funding for feasibility studies and business plans, marketing value-added products, and farm-based renewable energy projects.

“Enough is enough. Farmers have been without a Farm Bill for a year. Congress needs to act now to pass a full and fair five year Farm Bill that will invest in the future, create economic opportunities for family farmers, protect precious natural resources, reform farm subsidies, and ultimately align farm policy with the good health of our families, friends, and neighbors,” said Bailey.

For more information about the Farm Bill or OEFFA’s work, go to http://policy.oeffa.org/farmbill.

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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build healthy food systems. 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.