2014 24.1 Tilth Producers Policy update

Good Food and Farming Action Day: February 13

Have a say in state policy! Join us in Olympia on February 13, 2014 for the second annual Good Food and Farming Action Day. Meet your legislators and share which issues matter to you. Our top priority this year is restoring funding for the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (see following paragraph for details.) To RSVP or learn more, contact Policy Coordinator Ariana Taylor-Stanley:

Farm Policy in the Upcoming State Legislative Session

Funding Farmers Market Nutrition Programs

The WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs give low-income families and seniors money to spend at farmers’ markets, simultaneously feeding those in need and supporting local farmers. Our state has slowly cut the budget for this program over many years. This year, we are asking the state legislature to restore the programs’ original funding of $500,000. To endorse this campaign as a farm or organization, sign on at: bit.ly/endorsefmnp

Small Farm Internship Pilot Program

Tilth Producers continues to work toward passing a bill that would authorize the second phase of the small farm internship pilot program. This program would 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 who would perform farm work, benefit from a structured educational program administered by the farmer, and receive Workers’ Compensation coverage. Unpaid interns would not be allowed to replace paid, skilled labor and would not be considered employees under state law. This is an extension of a successful pilot program that took place in 2010 and 2011 but was only available in two counties. For the last two legislative sessions, the pilot program has been authorized in the Senate but not gotten to a vote in the House, and so has not been enacted.

Farmland Preservation

Tilth Producers will support American Farmland Trust on two advocacy goals this session:

  1. An effort to fund a dormant funding authority established in 2002 through the Conservation Commission, which would fund a competitive program to buy conservation easements for land used by beginning farmers.
  2. A request that the governor order a model mitigation policy which would require developers working on state-owned land to disclose impacts to farms, avoid them where possible, and compensate for them when necessary (this model can then be replicated in county comprehensive plans).

Cottage Food Law

Conversations have begun on introducing changes to Washington State’s Cottage Food law so that it includes opportunities for farmers. The current law primarily allows baked goods and standardized jams, jellies, and fruit butters. The fee is $230. Farmers have expressed concerns over the cost, the amount of paperwork required, and delays in the inspection and permitting cycle.

Farm Bill

Farm Bill negotiators have officially given up on passing a Farm Bill in 2013. A bill extending the expired extension of the 2008 Farm Bill until the end of January has been filed, but may not come to a vote if the negotiating committee believes it can reach a deal early in January. Either way, the committee expects a final Farm Bill to pass in January 2014. We hope the final bill will include support for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic farming, nutrition programs, and commodity subsidy reform.

GE Labeling

Initiative 522 received 49% of the vote in November, so Washington State will continue to wait for labels on genetically engineered food. Trudy Bialic and David Bronner of the Yes on 522 campaign write, “2013 general election turnout is the lowest ever recorded, skewing older and more conservative, and away from younger, more progressive voters driving the GE labeling movement. These ‘off-year’ election results depict how viable a Washington State GMO labeling ballot measure would be in a presidential election cycle with much higher, younger, and more progressive voter turnout. While it is unfortunate I-522 did not pass, it has set the stage for victory in 2016.”

Tilth Producers extends a special thank you to Trudi Bialic of PCC Natural Markets who was instrumental in building a broad coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals, pooling resources and engaging citizens across the state. A sincere thank you also to Steve Crider of Amy’s Kitchen, Steve Hallstrom of Let Us Farm, and the many others who wrote letters to the editor, talked to their neighbors, and educated themselves about the issue. This coalition of engaged citizenry will inform similar campaigns in other states and will further our state’s efforts to improve transparency in food production in Washington.

Food Safety

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Thank you to the many people who submitted official comments on the proposed FSMA Rules—at the Tilth Conference and otherwise. Our comments have made an impact. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that major changes will be made to the rules due to the large volume of feedback from farmers, researchers, and consumers. Key areas to be revised include the provisions for manure and compost (our top priority issue) and those for farms which engage in value-added processing. FDA has also announced that there will be an additional comment period on the revised rules next summer.

National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA)

We are pleased to announce that the US Department of Agriculture has terminated the process of developing a national leafy greens marketing agreement. The NLGMA, modeled after leafy greens marketing agreements in California and Arizona, would have set up national opt-in food safety rules which wholesale buyers could choose to require farmers from whom they purchase to follow. The NLGMA was terminated due to potential overlap and conflict with FSMA. The NLGMA had threatened to discourage habitat and diversity on farms, so we are glad to see it laid to rest.
Ariana Taylor-Stanley is Policy Coordinator for Tilth Producers of Washington and also farms with City Grown Seattle.

Tags: Farm Bill, Farm Policy, Farmers Markets, Farmland Preservation, FSMA, GE Labeling, Good Food and Farming Action Day, Internship Pilot Program