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Do you want a sustainable food and farm future?

Love your local farmers market? The future of all farms that sell at farmers markets could be jeopardy thanks to the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

FSMA is the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety practices since 1938. It includes new regulations for produce farms and for facilities that process food for people to eat. Florida Organic Growers supports the efforts to create a safer food system however FSMA could be incredibly detrimental to small and sustainable and organic farms.

The new proposed rules were written to apply to large farms and processors. They are at risk of placing an unfair burden on small family farmers, targeting sustainable and organic farming, and reducing the availability of fresh, local food in our communities. This is unacceptable. New food safety rules make compliance so costly that the FDA itself predicts it will drive some farmers out of business. In the long run, that means fewer people will start to farm, and more farmers will have to seek off-farm jobs to keep farming.

Tell the FDA we need rules that work for farmers! The comment period ends next Friday, November 15!

Here is how YOU can help:

GET INFORMED!

  • Check out the National Coalition of Sustainable Agriculture’s FSMA website to get up to speed on just what these rules will mean for producers and processors.
  • Start asking questions – how might these rules impact me? The people I work with? The farmers I know?

TAKE ACTION!

  • Submit your own comments to FDA! Click here to begin! Reminder, the comment period ends next Friday, November 15!
  • Tell the FDA to align rules with current National Organic Program rules!
  • Ask why pesticides and GMO’s aren’t considered a possible risk to food safety!
  • Every comment helps, no matter how short. Don’t be intimidated by complexities of the law!
  • Encourage allies, stakeholders, and others to reach out and to submit comments! Anyone who is involved in any aspect of our food system needs to know about – and comment on – these rules. Especially small farmers!

If you want a sustainable food and farm future – one where sustainable and organic farms thrive, everyone has access to fresh, healthy food, and farming works hand-in-hand with protecting our natural resources – you need to take action NOW!

#fixFSMA today!

Farm Bill Goes to Washington

The Farm Bill was in the hot seat in Washington, D.C. this week. On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a five-year farm bill that would cut spending while also creating new subsidies for farmers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/2013-farm-bill-senate_n_3273838.html

  • The bill eliminates $5 billion in the direct payments to direct payments to farmers and farmland owners, who have traditionally been paid whether they grow crops or not.
  • The cut in payment would reduce the deficit and also create new programs and raise subsidies for the needed sector. These programs allow farmers to receive subsidies if price fall below a certain threshold.
  • The bills also increase federally subsidized crop insurance and create a new program that covers smaller losses on planted crops before crop insurance kicks in.
  • The Senate bill would cut $400 million out of almost $80 billion spent annually on food stamps, which known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It would rewrite the policy in some states that allows some people who already receive benefits to automatically receive food stamps.
  • The bill creates risk management tools that support farmers when they are negatively impacted by weather disaster or market events beyond their control.

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee voted to approve a $940 billion farm bill, setting the stage for Congress to finally begin work on a new five-year bill. The House bill cuts projected spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years. Among it, $20.5 million would come from the cuts to the SNAP, commonly known as food stamp.

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/house-agriculture-committee-approves-farm-bill/

The House bill would also eliminate direct payment to farmers and subsidize programs including crop insurance and new subsidies for peanut, cotton and rice farmers.

The Senate will take up the Farm Bill again this coming Monday. Stay tuned for more news!

Join FOG and WFA to discuss the FDA’s new proposed rules

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To all QCS Florida and Florida Organic growers,

You are invited to a meeting on Thursday, January 17th at 1:30 pm, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown Orlando with FOG and partner Wild Farm Alliance to discuss:
•     What is in the FDA’s proposed rules that relates to wild and domestic animals, compost and manure.
•     Your input on the attached illustration and descriptive key that will be part of a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical note about Co-managing for Food Safety and Conservation Objectives in Specialty Crops.

As you probably know, FDA released the proposed food safety rules last Friday. There are two parts, but the one most relevant to the co-management of food safety and conservation is Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. To see a summary, go to: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334114.htm To download the full rules, go to this link and scroll down to the FDA section:http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx#special

Some of you may have helped Wild Farm Alliance earlier with their survey and/or hosting a farm tour. They have now drafted a lengthy technical note, and rather than ask for your input on all of that during your busy season, they would like your feedback on the attached illustration and descriptive key. They have incorporated feedback on this illustration from some of our other project advisors, including FDA, and now need to check with growers like you to see if this makes sense.

If you are interested and would be available for the Thursday January 17th meeting in Orlando, please RSVP tomarty@foginfo.org. There is a $9.00 daily parking charge at the hotel and that parking charge can be reimbursed after the meeting.

If you are not available but would like to be part of a conference call at the end of the month, please let me know.

Best,

Marty Mesh

Attachments:
WFA-NRCS Illustration
WFA-NRCS Illustration Key

FDA Proposes New Food Safety Rules

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January 4, 2011 –  The Food and Drug Administration released a proposal that has the potential to be a major step in the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law two years ago.  These proposed rules detail the standards for produce safety and human food production standards, the first significant update to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.

When writing S.510 (111th), Congress needed to be sure that the bill’s regulations work for small businesses and mid sized farms alike to accommodate the diverse sectors of American agriculture. Congress assured, in the proposed standards, that the reporting requirements and prevention planning requirements could be accomplished without costly investments.

“With the aim of improving food safety through FSMA, Congress rejected a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to food safety regulations,” said Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “Which would put small and mid-sized farm operations out of business, consolidate agricultural markets, and eliminate opportunities for food and farm entrepreneurs in emerging sectors of agriculture – including organic and local and regional food systems. Ultimately, we want to ensure a safe food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms.” Read more on NSAC’s Blog>>

 

 

OSGTA et al. travel to Washington to argue in Monsanto case

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 9, 2013 – Dozens of family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations will travel to Washington, D.C. to represent over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms in the January 10th Oral Argument to be aired in front of the  US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The representatives aim to reverse a lower court’s decision to dismiss their protective legal action against agricultural giant Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed. The farmer’s appeal brief, filed last summer, cites legal and factual errors to this ruling.

The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 in the Southern District of New York and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto’s most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed. They were forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from Monsanto’s abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement.

“Monsanto is known for bullying farmers by making baseless accusations of patent infringement,” said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit legal services organization Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which represents the plaintiffs in the suit against Monsanto known as Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v Monsanto. “They’ve sued and harassed other farmers who wanted nothing to do with their genetically modified seed and now that organic and conventional farmers are fighting back, they claim they would never do such a thing without backing up their words with an enforceable promise.”

In an attempt to sidestep the challenge, Monsanto moved to have the case dismissed, saying that the plaintiffs’ concerns were unrealistic. In February 2012, the district court took Monsanto’s side and dismissed the case, ridiculing the farmers in the process. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs are at risk for being contaminated by genetically modified seed and then sued for patent infringement by Monsanto, Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case because she didn’t find a case worthy of adjudication, saying “it is clear that these circumstances do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants.”

“We remain hopeful that this legal decision is overturned on appeal. That would allow the trial to be heard, which is deserved certainly on ethical and moral grounds, ” said Marty Mesh Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc., a co-plaintiff in the suit.

“If there is justice in the system then the case will indeed be sent back to the lower court to be heard. However, injustice continues if this powerful corporation, which has sued farmers in the past, is allowed to continue to sue farmers in the future. Farmers who try as best they are able to avoid genetic pollution that they don’t want.”

Mesh continues, “Monsanto continues to pay very high priced attorneys to fight this case in order to protect their position that indeed they can sue farmers for their patented material trespassing onto farms. Isn’t that fact enough to convince the courts who the victim is here?”

Representatives attending the Oral Argument will argue the numerous errors in the district court decision that warrant reversal in hope that the appellate court will accept their case. Among them are the lower court’s failure to accept certain facts alleged by the plaintiffs that were undisputed by Monsanto, application of too harsh a legal standard on the plaintiffs to show the existence of a controversy, and neglect of public policy that encourages broad jurisdiction be available to those challenging bogus patents like Monsanto’s.

A Citizen’s Assembly in support of family farmers at 10am in Lafayette Square will coincide with the beginning of the Oral Argument inside the court room.

The brief filed by the plaintiffs with the Court of Appeals is available here.

More information about PUBPAT’s suit against Monsanto’s seed patents can be found at PUBPAT > Monsanto Seed Patents.

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Farm Bill Extension Deal Disaster

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NSAC Press Release: January 1, 2013

Washington, DC – The farm bill extension deal reached in negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden is a disaster for farmers and the American people. The nine month extension measure was attached to the bigger fiscal cliff bill and passed by the Senate early this morning and is coming up for a vote in the House later today.

The deal is blatantly anti-reform. The full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year agreed to permanently eliminate direct payment subsidies for commodity production regardless of price and income conditions, yet the deal would lock in those egregious subsidies for another full year at a $5 billion price tag. On the other hand, many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform and rural jobs, included in a weekend agreement between Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow and House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas, were left out completely. Also left out of the final deal is any workable dairy policy for the next year and any disaster aid for livestock and fruit producers. The deal also has the effect of keeping farmers from being able to improve soil and water conservation through enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program at the present time. We are extremely disappointed in the Republican leadership for proposing this deal and in the White House for accepting it. The message is unmistakable – direct commodity subsidies, despite high market prices, are sacrosanct, while the rest of agriculture and the rest of rural America can simply drop dead.

We commend the Agriculture Committee leadership for trying to pass a more responsible extension measure, and on behalf of our member organizations and the farmers they represent we recommit ourselves to getting a true farm and food bill reform measure passed in 2013.

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Posted in Blog, Policy | Comments Off on Farm Bill Extension Deal Disaster

Alert – Alachua County, Possible Mosquito Spray

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***** ALERT – Alachua County *****

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) has been informed that a possible mosquito spray is likely to occur in Alachua County soon.

Farmers and gardeners who are certified organic , in transition to organic, or use sustainable, pesticide-free techniques should contact FOG with your address and acreage or geographical coordinates. We are setting up a database that will be provided to the company spraying so that they can avoid your property.

Please provide this information ASAP if you want to get on the do not spray list. Call FOG at 352-377-6345 or email jose@foginfo.org.

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Gardens, Policy | Comments Off on Alert – Alachua County, Possible Mosquito Spray

OTA Town Hall Meeting in South Florida

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Join FOG and the OTA on October 12th in Homestead, Florida

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) cordially invite you to a Farmer Town Hall Meeting to take place on October 12, 2012 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at the Miami-Dade County Extension building in Homestead, Florida. FOG is looking for farmer input regarding a number of critical issues that can affect or benefit sustainable and organic agriculture in the state of Florida.  FOG’s Executive Director Marty Mesh and OTA’s Executive Vice-President Laura Batcha will be the there leading the discussion.

Meeting Agenda:

  1. Organic Research and Promotion Program. Marty and Laura will introduce you to a promising initiative for the organic sector, the Organic Research and Promotion Order. This initiative has the potential to provide support for organic research and marketing in the long term. After the presentation of the program, Marty and Laura will ask for your valuable input, so as to understand whether or not you are supportive of this initiative. As organic farmers and/or processors your input is crucial.
  2. Marty Mesh will provide an update on the Farm Bill and the potential consequences for conservation and agriculture.
  3. Marty Mesh will provide an update and lead discussion on Food Safety issues. He will also share info on FOG’s new food safety certification cost-share program.
  4. A listening session, where you will freely express your challenges and needs in terms of producing and marketing your crops. This information will be critical so that FOG can prioritize and identify the projects that are most relevant and beneficial to you.
  5. Other announcements and information, including how to use Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) programs to help your farm, and FOG’s new farmer’s market initiative that will equip about 20 markets across Florida with EBT Technology and incentives for specialty crops.

Your input is key to the success of this event, come ready to talk and share!

 

Refreshments will be provided.

Address: 18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL 33030-2309

 

While you’re in the area, don’t forget…

There will also be a Free Organic Workshop on October 11 in Homestead. Then, stick around for some fun at GrowFest! over the weekend! 

 

For more information call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org.

 

What Sequestration Could Mean for Agriculture

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On Friday, September 14, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a preliminary outline of how it would implement automatic budget cuts (known as sequestration) across government programs, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA).  Intended to reduce the national debt, the $1.2 trillion in cuts are scheduled to begin in 2013 and will be equally divided over the next nine years. The cuts are split evenly between defense spending and discretionary domestic spending on a pro rata basis relative to the underlying cost of each program. Exemptions exist for wars and entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, as the Bipartisan Policy Center explains here>>.

In the introduction to the report, the Obama Administration makes clear its dislike of sequestration as a budget enforcement tool, saying it is “bad policy” and “a blunt and indiscriminate instrument.” Defense spending cuts under the sequester are particularly contentious in a time when continued military strength is a hot-button topic. On the other side of the debate, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Friday that protecting the defense budget from cuts would further endanger agricultural programs, particularly if Congress doesn’t pass a new farm bill by the expiration of the current bill on Sept. 30.

The sequester can be avoided, but only if Congress passes another budget deal that would achieve at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Both Democrats and Republicans have offered proposals to do so, but there isn’t likely to be any progress on the deal  before Election Day. After Nov. 6, Congress will have just a few weeks to compromise on an alternative to the sequester.

Farm Bill

The sequestration report details automatic cuts of approximately $8 billion to Farm Bill programs over the next decade.  Cuts include $4.6 billion from commodity programs and $2.8 billion from conservation programs, with the remainder primarily in very small amounts from food purchasing and nutrition programs. Farm Bill programs that are exempt from cuts would include commodity loan programs, the Conservation Reserve Program, and nearly all crop insurance subsidies.

According to analysis by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the size of the automatic cuts under sequestration pales in comparison to those in the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed proposed Farm Bills.  Even after subtracting the cuts to exempt programs such as food stamps and the Conservation Reserve Program, and adding in the new spending proposed for crop insurance and other titles of the farm bill, both the Senate and House bills would cut $15 billion worth of spending – almost twice the level of the automatic sequestration cuts.

It has long been assumed that if a long-term farm bill were to pass and become law while sequestration was still the law of the land, the final farm bill would contain a provision to exempt farm bill accounts from sequestration, having gone further in terms of total savings than required by the automatic cuts. That doesn’t mean that Farm Bill programs would be unaffected by sequestration, however.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is still very concerned about the effects the sequester could have on agriculture. According to Vilsack, the real danger to the Farm Bill is steeper all-around cuts congress could make in an attempt to offset tax cuts or defense spending cuts the automatic sequestration process would trigger.

Agricultural Appropriations

All USDA discretionary line items would be cut by 8.2 percent each year.  The percentage and the absolute dollar amounts of the cuts assume that Congress keeps appropriations on autopilot at 2012 levels.  The numbers change if and when Congress adopts actual appropriations bills (adjusting accounts on an annual basis) rather than simple continuing resolutions (keeping current spending constant).

Overall, the approximately $22 billion a year agricultural appropriations bill — which covers all of USDA except for the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Farm Credit System — would be reduced by some $1.9 billion.

According to NSAC, sequestration would result in the following cuts:

  • WIC – $543 million
  • FDA (including both drug and food safety activities) – $318 million
  • Extension – $210 million
  • Rural development –  $196 million
  • International food aid – $150 million

Other major cuts would fall on Farm Service Agency credit programs, Natural Resource Conservation Service conservation operations, and Food Safety Inspection Service meat inspections. According to NSAC, due to the difficulty of keeping effective agencies functioning with steady attrition and reduced services, sequestration has the potential to shut down USDA functions over a fairly short period of time.

 

Posted in Blog, Policy | Comments Off on What Sequestration Could Mean for Agriculture

Continuing Resolution Passed

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Last week the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until March 27, 2013. The overall goal of the CR is to avoid a government shutdown, punt real decisions into early next year (well after the start of the new fiscal year on October 1), and allow Congress to hurry home to campaign for reelection.

The bill puts 2013 appropriations bills on hold, capping 2012 spending levels for the short-term. This “capping” effectively means that the Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Chesapeake Bay Conservation Program will not be able to afford new enrollments for FY 2013. Furthermore, since conservation spending will be essentially frozen at FY 2012 levels, the CR makes the job of finishing the new 5-year farm bill harder still by reducing the funding “baseline” that will be available for Conservation Titles.

Mandatory spending such as Nutrition Title programs, particularly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps, were left relatively unscathed for now. As for the rest of the Farm Bill legislation, you will not find it extended by the CR. You also will not find any new provisions for American farmers, who are drought-weary and stressed by the House’s refusal to call up a five-year farm bill.

For the text of the CR legislation, go here>>