GMO Labeling Bill Heads to the President’s Desk – The tug-of-war over GMO labeling is nearly over as this week Congress has finally agreed upon and sent a bill to the President’s desk. On Thursday July 14, 2016, the House of Representatives passed, by a 306-117 margin, the GMO labeling bill (S. 764) crafted by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in consultation with industry groups. The Roberts-Stabenow bill had previously passed the Senate on July 7 by a vote of 63-30 and now heads to President’s Obama’s desk. The White House has indicated that the President will sign the bill.
Farmers Have Last Word Before Long Congressional Recess – Over the last few days, farmers from across the country have come to Washington to speak with their Senators and Representatives about the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that help them employ conservation measures on their farms, create business and financial plans, and much more. With Congress set to leave town today for a month-long recess we at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) wanted to make sure sustainable agriculture issues remained fresh in legislators’ minds.
Sustainable Agriculture Groups Call for Improved Organic Conservation Support – Through their Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offers important conservation support to organic farmers, but unfortunately the program has been severely underutilized in recent years. With enrollment in this important program declining as demand for organic products continues to skyrocket, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Organic Coalition, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation have recently sent a letter to NRCS recommending key areas for improvement in EQIP-OI in fiscal year 2017.
To Protect Native Grasslands, Sodsaver Provision Must Be Strengthened – In September 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an interim rule to guide implementation of the Sodsaver provision. NSAC submitted comments on the interim rule, and conducted follow up meetings with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), which administers the program. Last month, RMA published its final rule for Sodsaver, after taking public comments into consideration. The final rule includes two important changes in response to our comments, though it falls short on a number of other fronts.
USDA Awards $44.6 Million to Support Wetland Enhancements – On July 7, 2016 Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA had awarded $44.6 million in the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership funds in fiscal year (FY) 2016, supporting 10 wetland enhancement projects on private and tribal agricultural lands across 12 states. Award recipients are providing more than $4.3 million in matching funds for their projects, bringing the total FY 2016 investment in wetland enhancement close to $49 million.
FSMA Facility Registration Requirements Clarified for Local Food Producers – After years of ambiguity and confusion, farmers and small food enterprises primarily selling value-added products directly to consumers finally have some much-needed clarity on the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements for food facility registration. On July 14, 2016, FDA finally finalized its Preventive Controls Rule, clarifying that small farms and food business will remain exempt from burdensome regulations. The final rule contains a number of changes to food facility registration requirements, but most important for our readers is the clarification of the definition of what types of operations are exempt from registration as “retail food establishments”.