2014 24.4 Tilth Producers Policy Update

Thank you to those who responded to Tilth Producers’ 2014 Policy Priority Survey. We touch base with our members each year for guidance on our legislative session priorities. This year’s results show that our members’ top priority policy issue remains the same as last year: advocating for “beginning farmers and ranchers.”

The rest of the top five policy priorities also remain the same as last year, though rank in a different priority order. Most notably, “farmland preservation” climbed to second priority, nearly tying for first.

The top five ranked policy priorities identified by the 2014 survey:

  • Beginning farmers and ranchers
  • Farmland preservation
  • Local food system development
  • GMO regulation
  • Access to fresh food for children & seniors

“Direct advocacy [by Tilth Producers]” emerged as the highest ranked advocacy opportunity, followed by “in-person meetings with legislators,” then “local activities in my community.” Look forward to a focus on these types of opportunities in the coming year.

Farm Internship Pilot Project

A program Tilth Producers advocated for and won authorization of in the last state legislative session—the Farm Internship Project (FIP)—is now open for applications. Farms with annual gross sales under $250,000 in Chelan, Grant, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom, or Yakima counties can enroll.

FIP allows farms to purchase workers compensation coverage for up to three interns, paid or unpaid. The farm must provide a structured, curriculum-based educational experience. For more on the Farm Internship Project, see the facing page in this issue.

Farmers Market Nutrition Programs

Tilth Producers collaborated on a successful advocacy effort this past session to increase funding for the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, which provide vouchers for low-income mothers and seniors to spend on local produce at farmers markets. This year, as the state government prepares for the possibility of across-the-board cuts, significant cuts to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Farmers Market Program have been proposed. Prepare to join us next session, once again, in defending funding for this crucial program which supports both local farmers and hungry families!

GE Regulation “Round-Up”

Wondering about the status of the GE regulation movement in Washington and around the country? Here is a brief review:

  • Washington State came close to requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in 2013 with Initiative 522, which ultimately received 48.9% of the vote and did not pass.
  • San Juan County became the first county in Washington to ban the cultivation of all GE crops in November 2012.
  • Other state bills: In 2014, 35 state-level GE-labeling bills have been introduced in 20 states. Two states (Oregon, Colorado) have pending ballot initiatives. Arizona was a third but as of press time did not receive enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.
  • In May 2014, Vermont became the first state to pass a “no-strings-attached” law to mandate labeling of genetically engineered food. The law is set to take effect in 2016, but is also being challenged in court by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
  • A federal GE-labeling bill, H.R. 1699, was introduced in April 2013 by Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, but is not expected to reach a vote before the end of this congressional session. Neither is H.R. 4432, introduced April 2014, which would block states from passing GE labeling legislation.

Ariana Taylor-Stanley is Policy Coordinator for Tilth Producers of Washington and also farms with City Grown Seattle. [email protected]. Policy Intern Lana Jacobus studies biology at the University of Washington. [email protected].

Tags: Advocacy, Farm Policy, Food Policy, Policy Priority Survey