“Generation Rx” and a “Sick” Food System

Robyn O’Brien with the AllergyKids Foundation says it's time to heal the nation's "sick" food system. (OEFFA)
By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service, January 12. 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Food allergies, diabetes and cancer are among the growing health concerns for Ohio families, and a best selling author and mother says the nation’s “sick” food system is partly to blame.

Robyn O’Brien, director of the AllergyKids Foundation, is scheduled to speak about the issue at an upcoming event in Ohio. She says rising rates of diseases are increasing health care costs and giving today’s children the reputation of “Generation Rx.”

O’Brien believes it’s all connected to the use of genetically-engineered ingredients in food.

“People are really struggling in a way that we weren’t 50 years ago,” she stresses. “And all families are being impacted – regardless of what side of the aisle we’re on, regardless of where we live – and it’s becoming one of the biggest issues we face as a country.”

One in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy; nearly 1 in 4 people under age 20 are estimated to have diabetes; and cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death under age 15.

O’Brien contends that healing the food supply can protect the nation’s health.

She’ll deliver the keynote address Feb. 11 at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference in Dayton.

Genetically-engineered ingredients are said to be found in 80 percent of processed foods sold in the U.S. And O’Brien says other parts of the world have placed a higher value on people’s dietary health.

“Other countries tend to exercise precautions,” she states. “They do not allow things into the food system until they have been proven safe where we take an approach and we say, you know, ‘It’s not yet been proven dangerous, so we’ll allow it.'”

O’Brien notes that with growing demand for organic products, many food companies are stepping up and working to eliminate artificial ingredients. But she says the farmer’s role in creating a healthier food system needs to be elevated.

“Our biggest constraint is that about 1 percent of our farmland in the United States is organic, and we have a bottleneck,” she points out. “So, what can we do, how can we have these conversations, how can the farmers’ voices be heard? What can companies do to support the farmers? Because our federal policy is sort of stuck in 1995.”

In-Depth Workshops to Explore Vital Farm Business and Production Practices

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2017

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director, (614) 421-2022, renee@oeffa.org
  
Four full-day pre-conference intensive workshops designed to help farmers develop their production and business skills will be featured as part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.
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The conference will be held Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“These day-long workshops allow farmers to delve deep into these topics with experienced presenters who have direct, hands-on experience,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.
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The four pre-conference intensive sessions are:
  • Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune Up Your Farm Business and Increase Your Net Profit—This full-day session, led by Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm in Vermont and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, will help farmers plan to increase their net profit, market their products strategically, and meet their long-term business goals. Participants will learn how to efficiently determine the profitability of different enterprises, and about farm office administration, key financial statements, employee management, and more.
  • Growing Bionutrient Rich Food: Applying the Principles of Biological Systems—Dan Kittredge, founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association, will take an in-depth look at soil, crop, and human nutrition and how farmers can improve crop quality by applying the principles of biological systems to their land. With a strong focus on management practices and techniques, this intensive session will cover pest and disease control, soil testing, mineral balancing, cover crops and minimal tillage, plant visual analysis, seed quality, Brix, and other topics.
  • Respect Your Elderberries: Growing and Selling Niche Fruit Crops from Aronia to Service BerriesJim Riddle of Blue Fruit Farm in Minnesota will explore how to grow high value specialty perennial berries, like black currants, elderberries, aronia berries, josta berries, service berries, and honeyberries. He will describe nursery sources, site selection and preparation, fertility, irrigation, pollination, pest management, and marketing challenges and strategies for effectively selling these niche berries.
  • Building a Profitable Pastured Broiler Business—Mike and Christie Badger of Badger’s Millside Farm will take an in-depth look at developing a profitable pastured broiler business. Topics will include breed selection, designing shelters, nutrition, management, marketing, and pricing.
All pre-conference intensive workshops will be held on Thursday, February 9 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Dayton, which is attached to the Dayton Convention Center. Pre-registration is required. The cost is $75 for members and $90 for non-members, and includes lunch.
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Beyond the pre-conference sessions, other Thursday activities include:
  • The Contrary Farmers’ Social from 7-9 p.m. at the nearby 2nd Street Market featuring food, drinks, and a remembrance of Ohio’s Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon, led by David Kline of Farming Magazine;
  • Free, public admission to OEFFA’s Exhibit Hall from 4-7 p.m.;
  • A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception from 5-6:30 designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers with land and farming opportunities;
  • An Old MacGyver Had a Farm meet-up from 5-6:30 where farmers can share on-farm innovations they’ve developed to solve problems on the farm; and
  • An oral history presentation from 5-6:30 p.m. featuring stories, multimedia shorts, and interviews with the founders of Ohio’s organic movement.

In addition, on Friday and Saturday, the conference will feature:

For more information, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration is open until January 23.
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Our Sponsors
    
   
     
 
AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
   .
Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
   .
Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Rhinegeist Brewing | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Beginning Farmers the Focus of Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference: Workshops, Scholarships, and Farmland Access Networking Featured

For Immediate Release: January 3, 2017

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
Kelly Henderson, OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, kelly@oeffa.org
  
Helping beginning farmers start and grow their operations is the focus of a six-part workshop track, which is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow. The event will be held Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“Our goal is to help early career and aspiring farmers increase their knowledge and skills, find leads on farmland, and make business and professional connections,” said OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator Kelly Henderson.
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Six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of education, will cover a range of topics from choosing the right equipment to developing a successful business:
  • Start with the Soil: Establishing a First-Year Fertility Program—Raymond Yoder, Jr., Green Field Farms (Friday, February 10, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • Starting Your Own Farm Business from Scratch—Richard Wiswall, Cate Farm (Friday, February 10, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)
  • Farming the Farm Bill: FSA Programs and How They Can Support Your Farm—Matt Kleski and David Drake, USDA Farm Service Agency (Friday, February 10, 2-3:30 p.m.)
  • Farmland Access 101: Options for Landowners and Growers—Krista McGaw, Tecumseh Land Trust (Saturday, February 11, 8:30-10 a.m.)
  • The Path to Organic Certification: Lessons from Farmers—Julia Barton and Patrick Turner, Octagon Acres (Saturday, February 11, 1:30-3 p.m.)
  • Walk-Behind Tractors for Small Farms—Michael O’Donnell, Purdue University Extension (Saturday, February 11, 3:30-5 p.m.)
In addition to the begin farming workshop track, the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will offer other opportunities geared specifically toward beginning farmers, including:
  • A full-day pre-conference intensive workshop on Thursday, February 9, “Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune Up Your Farm Business and Increase Your Net Profit.” Long-time organic farmer and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, will explore ways farmers can plan to increase their farms’ net profit, market their products strategically, and meet their long-term business goals.
  • A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception on Thursday, February 9 designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers looking for employees, retiring farmers interested in a transition plan, and landowners with land to sell or lease.

To help budding farmers access these educational opportunities, OEFFA is offering a limited number of full scholarships for early career farmers. The application deadline is January 7.

In addition, the conference will also feature:

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration will be open until January 23.
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Begin farming workshops and scholarships are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program. For more information about OEFFA’s other beginning farmer work, go to www.oeffa.org/q/beginfarming.

Our Sponsors
   
     
 
AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
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Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Best-Selling Author Robyn O’Brien to Address Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2016

Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

How we can heal a sick food system will be the focus of a keynote address by concerned mother, author, and activist Robyn O’Brien at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
 

In her February 11 keynote address, “Building the 21st Century Food System: Capitalizing on the New Food Economy,” presented by Horizon Organic, O’Brien will describe her journey from Wall Street to the farmers’ market aisle and call for change in the food industry to protect the health of our families.

After her youngest child was diagnosed with a life-threatening food allergy, O’Brien created an allergic reaction in the food industry when she asked “Are we allergic to food or to what’s been done to it?” and exposed the skyrocketing rate of food allergies and other diet-related and environmental health issues.

“This generation of kids has earned the reputation of “Generation Rx” because of the rates of food allergies,” O’Brien said at the 2016 Environmental Media Association Awards, where she was honored. “Those kids have done nothing to deserve that and we have every opportunity to fix it.”

A former financial and food industry analyst, O’Brien has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich.”

O’Brien analyzed the impact that our food system has on the health of our families, companies, and our economy in her bestselling book, The Unhealthy Truth, and became recognized around the world after her TEDx talk in 2011, which has been viewed by millions.

Her work has drawn the connection between the rising rate of food allergies and cancer, ballooning U.S. health care costs, and the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients—now found in 80 percent of U.S. processed foods—into the American food supply.

“Governments around the world said we’re going to exercise precaution and we’re not going to allow [GE technology] into our food supply because it hasn’t yet been proven safe, and yet here we said, it hasn’t yet been proven dangerous, and we allowed it,” O’Brien said in her TEDx talk. “[Companies] need to place the same value on the lives of American eaters that they’ve already placed on the lives of eaters in other countries,” she continued.

O’Brien has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, the Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, CBS, and countless media outlets, and she wrote a popular column for Prevention while serving as the Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, which she founded, and doing strategic advisory work for companies making changes in the food industry. O’Brien also produces a weekly podcast, Take Out with Ashley and Robyn.

She has been named by SHAPE Magazine as a “Women to Shape the World,” by Forbes Woman as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter,” and by The Discovery Channel as one of its 15 Top Visionaries.

“Robyn has made the personal political. She is giving voice to other mothers and to the children and families who are burdened with health problems as a result of the corporate manipulation of our food,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.

O’Brien will speak as part of Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.

In addition to O’Brien, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Jim Riddle on February 10; nearly 80 educational workshops; four pre-conference intensive workshops on February 9; a three-day trade show; networking events; activities for children and teens; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.

Our Sponsors

   

     

Dickinson Wright PLLC | Five Rivers MetroParks | Greenacres Foundation | Morning Ag Clips | Natural Awakenings Central Ohio, Cincinnati, and Toledo | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Sustane Natural Fertilizer

  AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
  
Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
  

Bexley Natural Market | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Carriage House Farm | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Organic Advocate and Farmer Jim Riddle to Address Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

For Immediate Release: December 13, 2016Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

The need for personal, societal, and political transformation in our food and farm system and the challenge of growing organic agriculture with integrity to meet consumer demand will be the focus of a keynote address by farmer and activist Jim Riddle at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
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In his February 10 keynote address, “Transform Organic Today, Grow with Integrity Tomorrow,” Riddle will explore the environmental and health problems associated with our current food system, the need for farmers and citizens to engage in organic policy issues, and solutions for change.
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“I would like to see organic agriculture elevated to a high priority, fully integrated into long-term U.S. agricultural policy, recognizing the multiple benefits of environmental protection, climate change mitigation, food security, nutrition, health, biodiversity, and sustainable farm income,” Riddle told Natural Foods Merchandiser.For more than 30 years, Riddle has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, and activist.

From 2001 to 2006, Riddle served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board, chairing the board from 2004 to 2005. In the years since, he has remained engaged on organic issues and GMO labeling, calling for attention to process, transparency, and integrity.

He is founding chair of the thriving Winona Farmers’ Market and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), and has served on the leadership team for eOrganic and on the boards of the International Organic Accreditation Service, Beyond Pesticides, and the Organic Processing Institute.

He served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force from 1991 to 2009, and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark organic certification cost-share program in 1998 and a national organic certification cost-share program in 2002. From 2006 to 2013, he worked for the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center as Organic Outreach Coordinator.

From 2013 to 2016, Riddle coordinated organic research grant programs for the Ceres Trust. He has recently been appointed to chair the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force, which provides advice to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota. He and his wife also own and operate Blue Fruit Farm, a five acre fruit farm in southeastern Minnesota growing certified organic blueberries, elderberries, aronia berries, black currants, blue plums, honeyberries, and juneberries. The farm is part of a 360 acre organically-managed land cooperative.

“We’ve always tried to produce good, healthy food, educate and empower others to do the same, make sure that the word “organic” has meaning, and protect the beautiful planet that we’re lucky to live on,” Riddle told the Houston County News in 2013.

On February 9, Riddle will facilitate a full-day, pre-conference intensive workshop, titled, “Respect Your Elderberries: Growing and Selling Niche Fruit Crops from Aronia to Service Berries.”

He will also lead two 90 minute workshops as part of the conference: “Getting Started with Blue Fruits” on February 10 and “An Agenda for Organic America” on February 11.
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“We’re excited to welcome Jim to this year’s conference, now in our new home in Dayton. He has been a leader in the organic movement and a knowledgeable, vocal advocate for strong and transparent standards for decades,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt.
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Riddle will speak as part of the Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.
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In addition to Riddle, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Robyn O’Brien on February 11; nearly 80 educational workshops; four pre-conference intensive workshops on February 9; a three-day trade show; networking events; activities for children and teens; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.
  . 
For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.
  . 

Our Sponsors

   

     

Dickinson Wright PLLC | Five Rivers MetroParks | Greenacres Foundation | Morning Ag Clips | Natural Awakenings Central Ohio, Cincinnati, and Toledo | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Sustane Natural Fertilizer

  AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
 . 
Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
   . 

Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Casa Nueva | D&S Farm & Garden Supply | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

 

OEFFA Comments to the National Organic Standards Board

October 26, 2016

National Organic Standards Board  
USDA – AMS
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250
RE: AMS-NOP-16-0049

National Organic Standards Board members:

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a grassroots coalition of over 4,000 farmers, gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, and others who since 1979 have worked to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, safeguards the environment, and provides safe, local food to consumers.  OEFFA employs education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic foods, helping farmers and consumers connect to build a sustainable food system.  OEFFA’s Certification program has been in operation since 1981.  OEFFA certifies over 1,100 organic producers and food processors, ensuring that these operations meet the high standards established for organic products.

We thank you for your service to the organic community, and we respectfully offer the following comments.

COMPLIANCE, ACCREDITATION, AND CERTIFICATION SUBCOMMITTEE

Discussion document: Personnel Performance Evaluations of Inspectors (NOP 2027)

We thank the Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Subcommittee for considering the topic of Inspector Field Evaluations, for the information it summarized, and the questions it posed.  While we view inspector field evaluations as important to consistency and integrity in the inspection portion of organic certification, we see this requirement as overly prescriptive and inefficient.  In short, we disagree with the “every inspector, every year” requirement.

In response to NOSB’s questions on this topic, we offer the following feedback:

For certifiers: To date, what have you observed about the benefits, costs and logistics of meeting this requirement?

OEFFA was initially excited about this idea, but has discovered that our understanding of the inspectors’ work has changed very little as a result of the “every inspector, every year” field evaluation requirement.  While we view inspector field evaluations as important to consistency and integrity in the inspection portion of organic certification, we have other ways of collecting information about inspectors from certified operators and staff feedback.  There are some returns on the investment in field evaluations to be sure, but the marginal benefit is greatly reduced after the highest priority inspectors in a risk-based approach are evaluated.

OEFFA currently works with about 40 contract inspectors, in addition to staff inspectors, to cover an 18 state region.  We estimate that it will cost $20,000 to conduct a field evaluation for every inspector this year.  Ultimately, this high cost must be passed on to certified operators through increased certification fees.

The logistics of meeting this requirement are burdensome beyond our expectations. Scheduling between the three parties of inspector, evaluator, and certified operation is several times more complex than scheduling between two parties.  Additionally, since travel is essential for one or more of the individuals involved, field evaluation inspections must be scheduled further in advance than is usually necessary, which does not fit well with the nature of life and work on the farm.

  1. For certifiers: If given an option to present alternative evaluation plans to the every inspector, every year, what would these look like? If a risk-based approach, how do you define risk?

Risk can be defined using multiple criteria, including:

  • the number of inspections conducted by the inspector each year;
  • the experience level of the inspector in the scope being inspected;
  • the feedback regarding the inspector provided by certified operators;
  • the feedback regarding the inspection report provided by certification staff; and
  • performance during prior field evaluations.

Before the NOP began issuing noncompliances for failing to conduct field evaluations of every inspector, every year, OEFFA created a risk-based approach to conducting field evaluations using such criteria as is listed above.   We prefer that the NOSB or NOP not dictate an overly prescriptive formula for determining which inspectors must be evaluated in a given year.  Instead, we request that we, as a certifier, understanding the general expectation, report on it as part of our annual update, and that it be addressed by the NOP during regular audits to make sure our inspector field evaluation approach is adequate.

  1. For certifiers and inspectors: What has been your experience sharing evaluation forms and processes? What have been the challenges associated with this sharing?

The sharing of evaluations has functioned adequately in order to meet the requirement. The sharing of evaluations between certifiers or among certifiers and IOIA should continue to be an option in meeting the requirement.

Rather than every certifier submitting an alternative proposal to this requirement, OEFFA recommends a model for field evaluations which is not overly prescriptive, risk-based, and which will allow assessment of all inspectors over a period of several years.  We believe such a model will accomplish the goal of accuracy and integrity in the inspection process, while maintaining a “sound and sensible” approach to field evaluations.

Conversion of Native Lands                                                

While we support the continued growth of the organic industry and expansion of organic acreage, we feel that it should not be at the cost of converting native ecosystems that have no cropping history. The NOSB has a track-record of working successfully to tackle difficult subjects related to organic production, and we have faith that the NOSB is equipped to find a viable solution in partnership with the organic community.

OEFFA looks forward to a discussion document on the important subject of eliminating the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic production.  We strongly encourage the Certification, Accreditation, and Compliance subcommittee to prioritize this topic, so that this discussion document will be presented to the public for comments in advance of the spring 2017 NOSB meeting.

MATERIALS SUBCOMMITTEE

Proposal: Fall 2016 Research Priorities

Crops

Organic no-till

We agree with the NOSB statements that “Organic no-till preserves and builds soil organic matter, conserves soil moisture, reduces soil erosion, and requires less fuel and labor than standard organic row crop farming.”

We support research focusing on the benefits of organic no-till.  This has been viewed by many as the gold standard for sustainable production.  While we support this research, we also understand that continued focus and research on the multifunctional benefits of organic soil building and management systems must also be maintained.  Research examining tillage and soil carbon sequestration has raised questions about the value of no-till for carbon sequestration, calling for more in-depth research and analysis[1] [2]. While there are other benefits to no-till and reduced tillage systems, additional research should focus not just on this practice, but as the NOSB has stated, with consideration of the whole farm system.

Fate of genetically engineered plant material in compost

We support the NOSB advocating for additional research on the fate of genetically engineered plant material in compost.  This is an issue that been cited as a weakness in the organic standards.  The NOSB cannot make informed recommendations without research indicating the ultimate breakdown of GE plant material in compost.

Integrity of breeding lines and ways to mitigate small amounts of genetic presence

There are many questions about the viability of public germplasm collections. Understanding inadvertent presence of GMO’s in those collections is critical.  Maintaining pure breeding lines is a foundation for a strong organic agriculture system and should be prioritized.

Prevention of GMO contamination: Evaluation of effectiveness

We support a better understanding of how prevention strategies are working to maintain the integrity of organic crop production systems.  Advocating best practices for both organic and conventional farmers is important for organic farmers who are required to take preventative measures, and for conventional farmers that chose to be good stewards and good neighbors.  In those instances where organic producers cannot rely on the best practices of good neighbors, policy research is needed to develop a mechanism that will not just provide conventional growers incentives to take their own prevention measures,  but will also focus on policy research that includes mandatory compensation mechanisms paid by patent holders to farmers that experience contamination.

Livestock

Holistic, Systems-based measures for reducing and eliminating the use of synthetic methionine in poultry diets

Recently, in reviewing ingredient lists for livestock minerals, we noticed an increased use of metal methionine hydroxy analogue chelates, or, in common language, synthetic methionine stuck to copper, manganese, or zinc.  We have allowed the use of such chelates under §205.603(d)(2), “Trace minerals, used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved,” because these substances are AAFCO approved as sources of these minerals. Typically, however, synthetic methionine use would be regulated under §205.603(d)(1), which specifically addresses DL-Methionine.  This work-around underscores the urgent need for natural methionine sources within an holistic, systems-based approach to poultry production.

Substantial research has already been conducted investigating isolated strategies for raising chickens organically and humanely without synthetic amino acid supplementation. Please see the summary presented in comments by our colleagues at the Center for Food Safety.  In researching systems approaches to eliminating the need for DL-Methionine in organic poultry feeds, studies should assess multiple strategies that investigate the impacts of natural methionine feed sources, breed, and high-welfare management strategies simultaneously.  If we don’t spend time investigating natural methionine sources in a systems-based approach, creative ways of including synthetic methionine in poultry diets will likely proliferate.

Proposal: Excluded Methods Terminology

We commend the NOSB and ad hoc group members for their efforts in developing the draft Excluded Methods definitions. We strongly support adoption of the Excluded Methods terminology and the incorporation of a Classical/Traditional plant breeding definition to provide clarity and a strong basis for decision-making.  We also support the inclusion of multiple definitions to ensure that the guidance is as comprehensive as possible.

The Principles and Criteria section provides a strong foundation consistent with the process-based system of organic agriculture. This section clearly explains how techniques are to be evaluated in determining whether they should be permitted for use in organic agriculture.  We agree with this section as proposed.

We also support the Terminology Chart which shows which techniques, defined in Appendix A, are excluded from or allowed in organic production, and the criteria that were used to make that determination.  Additionally, we concur with the comments submitted by the Center for Food Safety this fall,  that specify four additional terms in the Discussion Document’s Terminology Chart — transposons, cisgenesis, intragenesis and agro-infiltration — should be considered excluded methods.

We urge the NOSB to add these terms to the proposal’s Terminology Chart before approving the proposal.

In sum, we strongly urge the adoption of this proposal, with the inclusion of the four technologies cited above.  We hope it will serve as guidance while supporting a long-term proposal to move through the regulatory process with the new administration.

Discussion Document: Excluded Methods Terminology

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the discussion document which addresses areas for additional work around Excluded Methods. We will comment specifically on:

  1. Additional criteria for evaluating technologies which need to be considered
  1. How to detect those technologies that are excluded but may not provide detectable genetically engineered DNA when tested

We put forth the following suggestions for dealing with these difficult questions:

Additional Criteria

We support the NOSB including the research institute of organic agriculture from Switzerland’s recommendation on Excluded methods stating that:  A variety must be usable for further crop improvement and seed propagation. This means that the breeders’ exemption and the farmers’ right are legally granted and patenting is refrained from, and that the crossing ability is not restricted by technical means.

Detection and testing

The NOP should begin gathering data on the presence of GMO materials in seeds and crops. We ask that the NOSB recommend a national pilot study with proper sampling methodology. ACA members could conduct a percentage of their required sampling for GE presence and voluntarily report anonymous data to the NOP.  An analysis and report of those findings could help the NOSB in future discussions about the presence of excluded methods and any threshold establishment.

New methods of biotechnology, for which testing methods are costly or non-existent, present particular difficulties. Given the current testing limitations, we recommend:

  1. An affidavit system for ACAs to use for varieties identified as being derived from these new excluded methods. This is a system with which ACAs, producers, and seed dealers are familiar. While it has limitations, it is, at present, the most suitable alternative.
  1. A national reporting system for genetically manipulated crop and animal material. If statutory authority is required for the establishment of such a system, we urge you to request that support from the Secretary. As GE technology rapidly evolves and outpaces the U.S. regulatory structure, measures must be put in place to allow for protection of the organic industry.

In summary, OEFFA supports the following suggestions for additional criteria, detection, and testing:

  • Ensure crop varieties are usable for further crop improvement and propagation;
  • Consider a national pilot study for GE presence in seeds;
  • Of the options presented, the affidavit system for ACAs to use for varieties derived from excluded methods should be explored further; and
  • Consider a national reporting system for genetically manipulated crop and animal material.

Report to the USDA Secretary on progress to prevent GMO incursion into organic

We appreciate the ongoing work of the NOSB on GE contamination and we support the action of the NOSB to update the Secretary of Agriculture regarding its progress in preventing GMO incursion into organic production. We are thankful that those efforts start with seed by securing research funding and data collection for testing of organic and non-GMO seed, as well as emphasizing the need for more data.  Now the data needs must broaden beyond avenues of contamination to include the comprehensive costs of contamination prevention and product rejection, as well as an assessment of the barriers to reporting farm contamination.

While USDA and AC21 continue to focus on coexistence, organic, non-GE, and even GE farmers have experienced the failure of this strategy as is evidenced by the recent and unauthorized use of Dicamba. Now is the time to expedite the issue of holding GE technology developers responsible for trespass.  The NOSB has a significant window of opportunity to emphasize the importance of USDA leadership in this area.

The body of work that has been completed by the NOSB materials/GMO subcommittee on GE contamination issues is substantial.  We believe that the proposed letter is a fair representation of NOSB activities. We request your leadership in developing mandatory policies around shared responsibility.  OEFFA views it as important that the cost of avoiding GMO contamination of organic farms and products be borne by those who profit most from the use of GMOs-the patent holders for GMO seeds.  We ask NOSB to prioritize the development of policies around shared responsibility in your report to the Secretary. Prevention and contamination costs should be borne by GE patent holders.

CROPS SUBCOMMITTEE

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride is a 2018 sunset review material listed at §205.602(c) with the annotation “brine process is natural and prohibited for use except as a foliar spray to treat a physiological disorder associated with calcium uptake.”

In addition to the twenty registered OMRI products and the ten WSDA products noted in the NOSB materials, OEFFA has seven products on our Approved Products List containing calcium chloride.

While we support the re-listing of this material, and appreciate the spirit of the listing, we find the annotation difficult to understand and explain to producers.  The example we use with producers is often blossom end rot on tomatoes.  In a situation where a tomato crop shows early signs of or first fruits with blossom end rot, the foliar application of calcium can help prevent the development of blossom end rot on developing fruit.  We would allow the use of calcium chloride in this circumstance.[3]

We request the continued listing of calcium chloride, clarification about the interpretation of the calcium chloride annotation, and that NOSB consider re-wording the annotation for better clarity and broader understanding by producers. 

Discussion document: Strengthen and clarify the requirements for use of organic seed (NOP 5029)

We support many of the points in the Organic Seed Alliance’s comments.  In particular, we support the concept of continuous improvement with regard to organic seed sourcing and use, however, we have identified some additional issues regarding organic seed for further discussion.

  • Uncertified seed dealers– Seed dealers that are not breaking packages, because they are not required to be certified organic, are held one step away from accountability with regard to completing and documenting seed searches on behalf of the producer. While producers often request and are willing to pay for organic seed, they are often shipped untreated, non-GMO varieties.  Frequently, seed searches, if performed by the dealer, are not documented, and producers are issued noncompliances, despite their intention and willingness to pay for and use organic seed.  In this way, we may be penalizing the wrong actor, as we have no formal method of feedback for an uncertified seed dealer.
  • Regional variations in organic seed availability– The Organic Seed Alliance has worked hard to collect and summarize data regarding organic seed use and availability. It has noted that the largest farms use less organic seed (by percentage of seed used) than smaller farms.  As previously mentioned, many organic producers are willing to purchase organic seed, but such seed is much easier to obtain in some regions than others.  Quantity of seed may also impact this equation, as smaller volumes of organic seeds may be easier to obtain, or less costly to ship, than larger volumes.  Organic producers in regions where organic is not prominent already face significant challenges.  They may need to maintain more buffers, clean equipment more frequently, and cannot benefit in the same way as high-density organic regional producers can in terms of group orders, work sharing, and mentorship. In moving forward with stronger requirements for organic seed, we want to be sure not to further disadvantage farmers who are acting, in some cases, as regional organic pioneers.
  • Seed search documentation– Related to the two, aforementioned topics is the idea of requiring organic producers to document a search for five, rather than three sources of organic seed per crop before purchasing an untreated, non-GMO variety. OEFFA is not convinced that this additional burden, placed on the producer, will affect the desired outcome of increased use of organic seed.  In our minds, different tools, rather than bigger versions of the same tools are needed to meet the organic seed requirement.  We support the concept of continuous improvement, and we support an industry-wide effort to move toward more organic seed use, balancing that effort among requirements for producers, handlers, variety developers, seed producers, and seed dealers.

OEFFA supports many of the Organic Seed Alliance’s recommendations, and asks that these additional considerations foster further dialogue on the topic so that undue burdens are not placed on organic producers.

Proposal: Aluminum Sulfate

OEFFA supports the Crop Subcommittee’s preliminary vote NOT to add aluminum sulfate to the National List at §205.601.

LIVESTOCK SUBCOMMITTEE

Proposals: Aluminum Sulfate, Sodium bisulfate, Acid-activated bentonite

OEFFA supports the Livestock Subcommittee’s preliminary vote NOT to add the three proposed materials, aluminum sulfate, sodium bisulfate, and acid-activated bentonite to the National List at §205.603.  We do not view these synthetic substances as compatible with a system of organic production.

OTHER ISSUES

Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans to Address Fracking and Related Activities        

For some time now, producers have faced oil and gas industry activities on organic farms.  These activities range from seismic testing (the releasing of charges under the earth to determine if oil or gas is present for removal), to traditional gas and oil wells, to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of hard to access fossil fuels, and pipelines for transportation of these the fossil fuels.  We also know that the water used in hydraulic fracturing (produced water) is, in some cases, being applied as irrigation water on certified organic land.  We recognize this as a tough and complicated issue, which is precisely why we are soliciting your help to address it.

The issue of oil and gas extraction on or in close proximity to organic farms is complex and multifaceted and as such, would require effort over a long-term. We ask the NOSB to begin work on this topic.  While farmers and certifiers are being told this topic is outside of NOSB jurisdiction, organic farmers are regularly being impacted by these activities. The farmers look to organic educators and certifiers for guidance or for standards to support them, and educators and certifiers are left similarly under-equipped to address these issues, often working in isolation with little guidance.  The lack of discussion of this topic is not preventing its impacts on organic farms.  OEFFA and other certification agencies are already dealing with these issues in the absence of guidance, so your leadership on this topic cannot come soon enough.  There must be consistency under the National Organic Program in both the US and abroad regarding the impacts of oil and gas infrastructure construction (wells, pads, and pipelines), fracking water, and related impacts on organic land.

One tool currently in use to address the aforementioned activities on organic farms is an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan.  Such a plan was developed and employed in the well-known decision in favor of Gardens of Eagen in Minnesota, which defeated a Koch Industries pipeline that threatened to traverse the organic farm via eminent domain.  The farmer, author, and policy advocate Atina Diffley has shared and spoken about the plan widely. OEFFA has edited this Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan to incorporate livestock concerns, specifically those related to dairy operations.

Please review the attached Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan and consider its ability to be tailored to the contextual situation of the farm, its surroundings, its organic system plan, and the day-to-day needs of the operation.  Imagine how it might be used to protect organic farms from the impacts of oil and gas industry exploration, extraction, transport, and waste disposal.

In the absence of sufficient federal regulatory oversight, the organic industry has of necessity taken it upon itself to attempt to shield organic farmers from the negative impacts of energy extraction.  For example, OEFFA, working directly with farmers impacted by the oil and gas industry, has advocated for the use of the agricultural impact mitigation plan to protect them with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and companies involved in pipeline projects in Ohio. FERC has adopted language explicitly stating that the company should “…file with the Secretary, for review and written approval of the Director of OEP, an impact avoidance, minimization, or mitigation plan for the organic farm….”, additionally the company “…should include documentation that the plan was developed in consultation with the landowner.”, “…coordinate with the landowner to develop site-specific mitigation measures…” as well as “mitigate and compensate for potential impacts on these lands.”

We urge the NOSB add the topic of Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans with respect to oil and gas Industry activities on organic farms to its Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Subcommittee and Crop Subcommittee work plan, as applicable.  We ask you to consider the utility of Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans in conjunction with the certification process to help protect organic producers’ operations, make clear to oil and gas industry representatives the requirements of organic systems and organic certification, and to provide guidance to producers and certifiers in thinking through and mitigating impacts of these activities on organic farms.

Additionally, we request that the NOSB share a draft Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan with both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA,) including a recommendation that organic farmers and oil and gas companies utilize such a plan, tailored to site-specific and operational needs, prior to engaging in oil and gas activities on organic farms.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

On behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and OEFFA Certification,

Carol Goland, Ph.D.
Executive Director

[1] Tillage and soil carbon sequestration-What do we really know? Baker,J., Ochser,T., Venterea, R. Griffis, T., Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 118 (2007) 1-5.

[2] PLOS One: Soil Water Holding Capacity Mitigates Downside Risk and Volatility in US Rainfed Maize: Time to Invest in Soil Organic Matter?  A. Williams, M. Hunter, M. Kammerer, D. Kane, N. Jordan, D. Mortensen, R. Smith, S. Snapp and A. Davis., August 25th, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.137/journal.pone.0160974

[3] http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/thomas/anr/documents/Blossom_End_Rot_H-98-036.pdf

Things to Love About the 2017 OEFFA Conference

By Claire Hoppens, Edible Columbus
Illustrations by Kevin Morgan

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association has been hosting their annual conference for the farming community for over 35 years. This year they celebrate their 38th gathering in Dayton from February 9 – 11. Read more about highlights for this year’s conference, and purchase tickets at oeffa.org.

From Granville to Dayton

This year’s move to the Dayton Conference Center allows for growth and added amenities, but won’t sacrifice any of the charm or programming that have become synonymous with the conference. “We’re excited to have new partners and reach a new part of the state,” says OEFFA Communications Coordinator Lauren Ketcham. The conference, previously held in Granville, will celebrate its 38th year with the theme “Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.”

Convenience and Comfort

Even a late winter optimist can appreciate the tunnel connecting the Dayton Conference Center and all OEFFA activities to the on-site hotel, the Crown Plaza Dayton. Parking is complimentary, and be sure to ask for the special OEFFA rate when booking.

For Farmers and Advocates

Workshops cover a wide range of topics including organic and sustainable agriculture, food policy, home cooking, business tactics and certification. Whether you’re a farmer seeking organic certification or a local food advocate, there are topics suited for all interests and occupations. All workshops are 1½ hours long and feature prominent leaders, teachers, authors or instructors.

Family Friendly

The OEFFA Conference offers unique programming for kids ages 6–12 and teens ages 12–15, in addition to on-site childcare for children 5 and under. Teens may adhere to customized programming or overlap with the main sessions as they wish, and kids will have opportunities to get their hands dirty, take on a project and learn on a level that best suits them.

Three Days of Trade

Exhibitors participate in a trade show from Thursday to Saturday, offering a chance for attendees to connect and research sustainable businesses, products and farms. Explore the trade show during schedule breaks or between sessions to learn about innovative new products and tools of the trade, sample food and beverages and meet individuals from all over the state.

Foods’ Erin Brockovich

This year’s keynote speakers are Robyn O’Brien, former financial and food industry analyst and author of The Unhealthy Truth, and Jim Riddle, an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst and activist. Robyn founded and served as the Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, and advises companies making changes in the food industry. She’s been called “foods’ Erin Brockovich.” Jim served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board from 2001 to 2006. He remains engaged in organic issues and operates Blue Fruit Farm, a five-acre farm in southeastern Minnesota.

Local Meals Made with Love

Conference attendees have the choice to include lunch and dinner options on their ticket. Meals are made from scratch and feature as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible, some from the farms of conference sponsors or attendees. The meals offer a chance to mingle and connect over food prepared lovingly and in the spirit of the conference.

Dayton is Worth the Trip

Dayton is home to vibrant neighborhoods, historical explorations and family activities in every season. The 2nd Street Market is a year-round farmers market open Thursday–Saturday in close proximity to the Dayton Conference Center, RiverScape MetroPark opens a seasonal ice rink to the public and microbreweries, like Warped Wing Brewery, are scattered across the city.

Community Connections

Gathering diverse and passionate people for a food and farming conference makes for abundant networking opportunities. Newfound farmers can garner wisdom from their more experienced counterparts. Interns might connect with future employers. And throughout the conference, OEFFA will host designated networking sessions and a reception.

Registration Now Open for Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference: New Location for 38th Annual Event Features More Space, Expanded Schedule

For Immediate Release: November 29, 2016

Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org
  
Registration is now open for the largest sustainable agriculture conference in Ohio, which is relocating in 2017 to a larger venue in order to offer an expanded program and more networking opportunities for farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, businesses, and others interested in sustainable and organic agriculture.
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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, will run Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio.
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“We are thrilled with this new location, and excited about this year’s line up,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “There certainly is something for everyone interested in food and farming.”

Online registration is now open at www.oeffa.org/conference2017. As a special “Move With Us” incentive, OEFFA is offering a reduced registration rate for members who register by December 15. A limited number of beginning farmer scholarships and reduced volunteer spaces are also available. Online registration will be open until January 23.

The state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will feature:
  
Keynote Speakers 
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Friday keynote speaker Jim Riddle has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, and activist for more than 30 years. From 2001 to 2006, Riddle served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board, chairing the board from 2004 to 2005. He is founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association and owns Blue Fruit Farm in Minnesota.A former financial and food industry analyst, Saturday keynote speaker Robyn O’Brien, presented by Horizon Organic, has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich.” O’Brien analyzed the impact that our food system has on the health of our families, companies, and our economy in her bestselling book, The Unhealthy Truth, and became recognized around the world after her TEDx talk in 2011, which has been viewed by millions.

Intensive Workshops for Farmers, by Farmers
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Four full-day Thursday pre-conference intensive workshop options are designed to help farmers grow their businesses and hone their farm skills:
  • Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune Up Your Farm Business and Increase Your Net Profit, with Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook
  • Respect Your Elderberries: Growing and Selling Niche Fruit Crops from Aronia to Service Berries, with Jim Riddle of Blue Fruit Farm
  • Growing Bionutrient Rich Food: Applying the Principles of Ecological Systems, with Dan Kittredge of the Bionutrient Food Association
  • Building a Profitable Pastured Broiler Business, with Mike and Christie Badger of Badger’s Millside Farm and the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association
Workshops, Networking, and More

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.

Our Sponsors

   

     

 
AgCredit, Agricultural Cooperative Association | Albert Lea Seed Co. | Casa Nueva | Eban Bakehouse | Edible Cleveland | Edible Columbus | Great River Organics | Green BEAN Delivery | Green Field Farms | Hiland Supply Co. | Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | Lucky Cat Bakery | Organic Valley | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Curly Tail Organic Farm | DNO Produce | Eden Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Palamades Photography | Plant Talk Radio
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Bexley Natural Market | Carriage House Farm | Dale Filbrun and family, Morning Sun Farm | Great Lakes Organic Feed Mill | Hartzler Dairy Farm | IBA | Jorgensen Farm | Lucky Penny Farm | Lucky’s Market | Northridge Organic Farm | Nourse Farms | Stutzman Farm | Swainway Urban Farm | Tea Hills Farms

Guide Highlights Food, Farm Issues for Ohio Candidates

By Mary Kuhlman, 10/6/16, Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The future of food and farming in America affects every Ohioan, and it’s an issue that advocates of sustainable agriculture maintain should be a higher priority for those running for office in November.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) says state and federal policies shape local food systems, and sustainable farming policies benefit public health, economies and the environment.

She contends it would be wise for candidates to pay attention.

“Clearly, food and farming issues have not risen to the top of the presidential race,” she concedes. “But we’re working to make sure state and federal candidates know what Ohioans think.

“It is an important issue. It’s kind of an ultimate sustainability issue.”

OEFFA’s “Food and Farming Questions for Candidates” guide contains key policy points and background information for voters as they attend debates, forums and other pre-election events.

The guide, along with responses from candidates who answered the group’s online survey, are available at oeffa.org.

Lipstreu says the guide covers major issues related to sustainable agriculture and farming in Ohio.

“Whether it’s investment in local and regional food systems, whether it’s looking at the impact of fracking and wastewater injection wells, climate change, federal crop insurance, or even the issue of algal blooms and water quality,” she explains.

Lipstreu hopes elected leaders learn to see the potential for sustainable agriculture, and she encourages Ohioans to be informed and engaged.

“This election is a real window of opportunity for voters to ask questions, make informed decisions and get to know the candidates who may be their future leaders,” she states.

Besides a new president, Ohio voters will select 16 U.S. House seats and one U.S. senator. At the state level, there are 99 House seats and 16 Senate seats up for grabs.

Ag breakfast speaker notes sustained growth of organic certification

Growing vegetables and crops organically continues to grow in demand each year.

On Thursday, Eric Pawlowski, a sustainable agriculture educator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association was the featured speaker at the monthly Ag Business Breakfast Forum.

In addition to being an organic farmer himself, in his OEFFA role Pawlowski helps other growers enter into the organic growing circle and receive organic certification.

“We are a nonprofit organization by farmers for farmers,” he said of the organization.

Not all members of OEFFA are organically certified and of those who are, not all of them are 100 percent organic as many have some standard crops as well as their organics.

During his presentation, he often reminded those interested in achieving organic certification to pick up the phone and call with any questions.

“We want to help. It will save you time and money in the long run,” he said.

Pawlowski outlined the five steps necessary to become a certified organic operation. First, complete and submit an application. Second, undergo initial review. Third, have an inspection. Fourth, have the post-inspection review. And finally, get a decision on certification.

He said the certification is essential to assure the highest level of standards are being met. “Certified organic is the gold standard.”

During the program he ventured away from the OEFFA policy and expressed his personal frustration with growers who choose not to certify but claim their operation goes “beyond organic.”

“Personally that offends me,” he said. “How can you go beyond a standard if you are not willing to verify you meet that standard?”

He explained those who claim to be organic and are not diminish the power of the certification and the high standards they set for the organics. He suggested they develop their own name for it. This is necessary he said “to uphold the integrity of the label.”

He said those wishing to be organic not merely get in it for the premium price being paid for organics.

“I found that if you are in it for the price premium, you’re not going to make it. You have to be in it with your heart and that will show in your business,” Pawlowski said.

He offered descriptions of requirements such as buffer zones and the three-year time frame needed to transition a field to organic. He also stressed the importance of keeping detailed records of all action in the field and with the harvested crops.

By doing the right things and documenting what is being done most growers can avoid the dreaded “noncompliance.”

He also offered some of the top reasons people are deemed non-compliant. The reasons include problems with record keeping, use of prohibited substances, incomplete organic systems plan, incomplete or inaccurate organic system dates and statistics.

He stressed the need for proper communication, including being sure to read any correspondence from their office.

For more information, contact Pawlowski at 614-262-2022 or through www.oeffa.org

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