2014 24.2 Tilth Producers Policy Update

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 lowincome 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: ariana@ tilthproducers.org or (206) 632-7506.

Cottage Food Law

Washington’s Cottage Food Law allows 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.

Farm Bill

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

Lobby Days

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. Forty-two 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.

Ariana Taylor-Stanley is Policy Coordinator for Tilth Producers of Washington and also farms with City Grown Seattle. [email protected]

Tags: Advocacy, Farm Bill, Farm Policy, Food Policy