from the Spring 2014 Tilth Producers Quarterly “Policy Update”
Policy Party—Save the Date: July 27, 2014
Join Tilth Producers for our third annual Policy Party. Share appetizers and local beer and wine, hear updates on farm policy issues, and support our work advocating for sustainable food and farm policy on July 27 in Olympia, WA.
State-Level Farm Policy
Funding Farmers Market Nutrition Programs
Tilth Producers joined the Good Food Coalition in successfully securing an additional state investment of $200,000 in the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, which give low-income families and seniors money to spend at farmers’ markets, simultaneously feeding those in need and supporting local farmers. Despite being lower than our original request of $500,000 for the two programs, this was a significant victory in this year’s tight budget and the product of powerful coalition organizing, championed by the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network and the Washington State Farmers Market Association.
Small Farm Internship Pilot Program
Tilth Producers helped to pass a bill this session authorizing the second phase of a small farm internship pilot program. This program will allow small farms in San Juan, Skagit, King, Whatcom, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Spokane, Yakima, Chelan, Grant, Island, Snohomish, Kittitas, Lincoln, and Thurston counties to take up to three interns per season to perform farm work, benefit from a structured educational program administered by the farmer, and receive Workers’ Compensation coverage. This is an extension of a successful pilot program that took place in 2010 and 2011 but was only available in two counties. The bill failed to pass in 2012 and 2013. Thank you to the allies who helped it succeed this year, including the Washington Farm Bureau and Faith Action Network! Contact us to learn more about participating in the program: [email protected] or (206) 632-7506.
Cottage Food Law
Washington’s cottage food law allows the production of small amounts of certain low-risk food items in an inspected home kitchen. A bill was introduced this session to increase the amount of gross sales of these items under the law from $15,000/year to $25,000/year per producer, but did not pass.
Tax Fairness for Small Farms
Tilth Producers supports an effort to change property tax law so that farms under twenty acres receive the same tax benefits (having their land assessed at its agricultural value rather than full market value) as farms over twenty- acres. Currently “small farms” must pay full market value tax rates on the acre under the farmhouse. A bill was passed in the House this session to explore small-acreage farming and how it relates to the current-use program, but died in the Senate and so will not be enacted.
Congress at long last has passed a new farm bill, which was signed into law February 7, 2014. The bill passed has many wins for local food and sustainable agriculture including an expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, support for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and many beginning farmer programs. However, it also cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) by $8 billion over the next ten years. Additionally, the final bill failed to include important commodity subsidy payment limit reforms that had been included in all previous versions. Our work is not over: stay tuned for updates as we work on funding appropriations and implementation of the new bill.
Genetic Engineering: Agricultural Coexistence
Tilth Producers submitted a comment in response to a USDA request for comments on potential outreach and education efforts regarding “agricultural coexistence” between all growers: organic, sustainable, conventional and GE-farmers. We recommended that rather than focus on education efforts, USDA implement mandatory mechanisms to prevent contamination of organic and other non-GE crops. These could include labeling, mapping GE crops, and mandatory on-farm practices for contamination reduction. Read our full comment online: bit.ly/gecomment
Good Food and Farming Action Day was a success! Forty attendees came to Olympia in February for meetings with about 60 legislators, requesting that they support an additional investment in the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs. 42 legislators responded by endorsing our budget request, which was ultimately successful!
Tilth Producers also met with all twelve of the offices of our state’s Senators and Congresspeople in Washington, D.C. in January to discuss priorities for farm bill implementation, following the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition winter meeting.