2011 21.1 2011 Policy & Legislative Update Issues, Legislation, And Other Conundrums To Keep Your Eye On In The Coming Year!

Tilth Producers works closely with these non-profit policy organizations to stay up-to-date on policy issues affecting small farms. Visit their web sites frequently for the most recent information.

Calls, e-mail, and letters are important

We need your phone calls, e-mails and faxes to our elected officials to be heard, acknowledged, and considered.

November’s conference evaluations indicate that policy work is among your highest priorities for our organization. However, we don’t currently have staff hired to focus on policy work yet, (we’re working towards it!) and your individual communications with elected officials is critical to any effort we do.

Please follow up with the Action Alerts sent out. We really can and do make a difference!

Priorities at National Level

Here is our priority list along with a wee bit of good news. Our phone calls and letters have made a difference.
1. Food Safety Modernization Act

Our calls met with great success in the Senate as critical amendments (like the Tester Amendment) were included. As we go to press, the bill has been approved by both House and Senate.

This legislation impacts all of us and it is critical to stay vigilant as it moves from the House to Conference Committee to support those amendments that address the most egregious aspects of proposed legislation.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition published a report with detailed recommendations, A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety. You can find on their web site. There are other proposed amendments to address training, protecting wildlife habitat, and using a science based focus rather than perceived risk in the proposed requirements.

What’s the Tester-Hagen Amendment?

(a) The amendment says that farmers who direct market more than 50% of their product to the consumer at the farm or at a retail location such as a farm stand or farmer’s market need not register with FDA.
(b) It provides a size appropriate and less costly alternative to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plans (HACCP) for farmers who:

  • Market more than 50% of their products directly to consumers, stores or restaurants, and
  • Have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000, and
  • Sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 275 miles.

2. 2012 Farm Bill– We will continue to work with state and national partners to push for programs that support small and mid-size farms, including beginning farmer and rancher programs, organic certification cost-sharing, investing in research for organic farms and ranches, domestic marketing programs, limiting subsidies to large corporate agribusiness, promoting farm-to-school programs and healthy school meals, and provide services to rural communities.

We’ll be following up with small gains made in the last farm bill and will need your phone calls at critical junctures along the way.

3. GMOs – One recent success was the court injunction finding EPA negligent in evaluating the environmental impacts of GMOs off site. To this end, a November 2010 ruling required the physical destruction of all GMO sugar beet stecklings (overwintered plants set out in spring and used to grow seed in the biennial crop) by Dec. 6. An appeal by Monsanto brought about a stay of the destruction order until at least Feb. 28, 2011.

The stecklings had been planted despite an earlier ruling prohibiting the further planting of any GMO sugar beet seeds
pending completion of an Environmental Impact Statement by the USDA, a process expected to take two years. The crop had been deregulated under the Bush Administration, a decision overturned after environmental groups challenged it in court.

GMO sugar beets account for 95 percent of those being grown in the US, according to USDA figures, with beet sugar providing about half of the total US sugar supply.

This is an extremely controversial issue not only for sugar beet producers, but for anyone concerned about the proliferation of GMO seed stocks in the environment.

Priorities at the State Level

As you can see, there are so many critical issues being decided in Washington, we’re forced to list them in table form!

Take the time to learn what’s going on, and when you get an Action Alert e-mail, you’ll be able to respond quickly and knowledgeably.

We know from experience every single note, e-mail, call, etc. is noted by elected officials; and that you folks have been making a difference! Keep it up—we can change the world!

Tags: 2012 Farm Bill, Amendment, Conference, Food Policy, GMOs, Legislation, Policy, Senate, Tester-Hagen Amendment