• 06Aug

    USDA News from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 1st week of August, 2013

    New Appointments at USDA: Last week, the Senate confirmed Krysta Harden as the new Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Robert Bonnie as the new USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment.  Harden previously served as Chief of Staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack and previously held posts with the National Association of Conservation Districts, the American Soybean Association, and the House Agriculture Committee, among others.  Earlier, NSAC organized a letter of support for her nomination.  Read more…

    Rural Business Enterprise Grants Awarded to Farmers’ Markets, Food Hubs, Microlending: Late last weel, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program to support small and emerging rural businesses in the context of a broader effort to strengthen the rural economy.  The awards totaled over $6.5 million dollars for 134 projects in thirty states and Puerto Rico.  Earlier this summer, USDA awarded $4.7 million in RBEG grants to 54 recipients.  Like the earlier round of awards, the new awards also include funding for local food enterprise projects.  Read more…

  • 02Aug

    Farm Bill Updates from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, August 2nd, 2013

    Moving toward the Brink as They Head out of Town: Just when you think things cannot get any worse for the farm bill and for agricultural and other domestic appropriations bills, it does in fact get worse.  This week, both the House and the Senate were unable to proceed to a final vote on the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a bill known in Hill-speak as the THUD bill.   The acronym proved prescient this year, falling with a very resounding thud.  Read more…

    Conservation, Rural Development, and Fair Markets & Contracts – Groups Weigh In on Farm Bill: This week NSAC signed onto letters to Congress concerning conservation, rural development, and fair competition provisions of the House and Senate farm bills, ahead of what could still possibly be an August replete with Agriculture Committee staff meetings to begin to work out the details of a final farm bill.  NSAC was one of 20 national conservation organizations delivering a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, urging the two chambers to begin conference negotiations on a farm bill as soon as possible.  Read more…

  • 02Aug

    FDA’s Proposed Produce Safety Rules—An Interactive Discussion: Wednesday, August 28, 2013;2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time

     The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) invites you to take part in a free, interactive webinar on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed produce safety rules.  While USDA has no formal role in the development or implementation of the proposed rules for FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fruit and Vegetable Program is hosting the webinar as a service to the produce industry.

    Michael Taylor, J.D., FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, will deliver brief remarks on two groundbreaking proposed rules for produce safety and preventive controls for human food under FSMA, with an emphasis on the proposed Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.  The proposed rules were published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2013; the comment period has been extended until September 16, 2013.

    Brief formal remarks will be followed by a real-time, interactive question-and-answer session featuring Mr. Taylor and members of FDA’s produce safety staff.

    This informative session is part of AMS’ ongoing webinar series designed for fruit and vegetable growers, packers, shippers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers of all sizes.  The webinar is free and available to anyone with Internet access.  Registration is required and space is limited. 

    Visit (http://bit.ly/17TR8yu) to register today! 

    We’ll see you online!

    If you have any questions about our webinar series or the  AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program, please contact Christopher Purdy at (202) 720-3209 or christopher.purdy@ams.usda.gov.

  • 31Jul

    PRESS RELEASE (July 31, 2013) - Time is running out for lawmakers in Washington to pass a national Farm Bill before the current bill, a one-year extension of the previous measure, expires at the end of September.

    The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has rounded up hundreds of signatures from groups representing farm, food and conservation interests, urging legislators to act quickly and fairly to get the bill passed. NSAC policy director Ferd Hoefner is asking the House and Senate to work together to pass a Farm Bill that includes funding for farm, food and nutrition programs, commodity and crop insurance reforms, and conservation and rural economic development programs.

    “Whether that’s creating jobs in rural communities, or making sure that minority farmers get treated fairly by the Department of Agriculture, or that beginning farmers can get access to credit so they can into agriculture and start as new farmers,” those are all important, he said.

    The groups also want provisions removed from the bill they say would weaken protections for consumers and small farmers.

    According to Diane Conners, senior policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, a group which is one of the letter’s signers, small-scale farm operators and young farmers rely on programs offered in the Farm Bill.

    These include “things like micro-loans, and training and marketing plans, because a lot of the local food economy is built on a different kind of relationship than selling into the commodity markets.”

    Conners said the Farm Bill also helps support Michigan’s robust tourism economy.

    That’s “both in the sense that people like to visit the farms and taste the flavors of this area, but it also is something that is a signature part of our landscape,” she said.

    The U.S. House and Senate are expected to start their summer recess at the end of this week.

    More information is at MLUI.org and at SustainableAgriculture.net.

  • 27Jul

    Latest News from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: End of July, 2013

    Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations – Clear as Mud: The congressional month-long August recess is just a week away.  In more normal times, as those types of deadlines loom, deals get done on Capitol Hill.  Not so this year.  The path forward on a new five-year farm bill and on the set of appropriations bills to fund the government for the coming fiscal year are clear as mud.  With the federal debt ceiling to be hit this fall, it promises, sadly, to be another season of manufactured, interlocking crises in the nation’s Capitol.  Read more…

    Food Safety Comment Deadline Extended; NSAC Releases FSMA Issue Analysis for Farmers: Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new proposed regulations detailing standards for food safety on produce farms and in facilities that process food for people to eat.  The rules are not yet final, and FDA is seeking comments from producers, processors, and stakeholders to help shape the final rules before they become law.  All of these rules are part of FDA’s implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law in 2011.  Read more…

    Conservation Reserve Program Sign-Up Results: On Monday, July 22, USDA announced it is awarding new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts for 1.7 million acres starting on October 1.  There are currently 26.9 million acres enrolled in the program, but on October 1, 3.3 million acres are scheduled to leave the reserve.  Hence with today’s additions, it brings the total to about 25.3 million acres, the lowest total since 1988 when the program was in its infancy and the farm crisis loomed large.  Read more…

    Organic Research and Outreach in the North Central Region: The Ceres Trust recently released a report, Organic Research and Outreach in the North Central Region, that documents the growth in organic research, extension and teaching in the 12-state north central region, and includes state-specific details about student organic farms, certified organic research land and animals, sources of organic research funding, dissemination of organic research results through field days and peer-reviewed journals, organic education efforts of nonprofit organizations, and other relevant information.  Read more…

  • 24Jul
    chicken picture

    The question EVERYONE on the farm is asking…

  • 14Jul

    Smithfield Merger Scrutinized in Senate Hearing: Raises Concerns About Purchase by Chinese Company

    According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: The Senate Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing entitled, “Smithfield and Beyond: Examining Foreign Purchases of American Food Companies” to evaluate the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods by the Shuanghui Group, a Chinese based conglomerate.  If finalized, this acquisition would be the largest purchase of a U.S. corporation by a Chinese company.  Read more from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

    National Farmers Union has also raised grave concerns:

    “Smithfield already controls 15 percent of domestic pork production and 26 percent of pork processing. It is already the dominant player in the market. If this acquisition is finalized, other American companies won’t just be competing against Smithfield – they’ll be competing with the Chinese government. The state-owned bank that finances Shuanghui, close connections between Shuanghui management and government officials, and the history of benefits provided to Chinese enterprises by their government indicate that a Chinese-owned Smithfield will continue to further dominate the market.”
    They also pointed out that:
    “Technologies and genetics developed in the United States – often funded by taxpayer dollars – and used by Smithfield will now be made freely available to our Chinese competitors. Given the already low production costs in China, these improvements will only help to allow Chinese interests to undercut U.S. pork export markets.
  • 12Jul

    House of Representatives Passes a Farm Bill, which Excludes Nutrition Assistance

    The House of Representatives passed a farm bill Thursday, but with food stamp provisions removed. This is the first time a farm bill passed without the nutrition title since 1973. The nutrition title constituted about 80 percent of the cost of the House bill that had previously failed. Except for the removal of the nutrition title, as just noted, the bill that passed keeps changes from the version that failed last month.

    The bill passed by a slim margin, 216-208. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 12 Republicans also voted no; six Republicans and five Democrats were not present to vote.

    What does this mean for beginning farmers, or aspiring beginning farmers? It was potentially disadvantageous for beginning farmers that the bill had been hung up in the House. We reported on beginningfarmers.org on June 22, following the initial failure of the 2013 House bill, that “this is bad news, since the beginning farmer program is one of the many that has been unfunded since the 2007 bill expired last September.” Thus, passage of the House bill increases the likelihood a new farm bill will pass before expiration September 30, which may be good news for beginning farmers.

    Read more »

  • 09Jul

    Alternative Analysis of Farm Bill Failure: A Decline in Ag Lobby Power?

    While some agriculture groups blame partisanship in Congress for failure of farm bill passage, Ron Nixon reports that some analysts do not think this is clearly so, writing for the New York Times in “Farm Bill Defeat Shows Agriculture’s Waning Power.”

    There are clearly disagreements on the cause(s) of the farm bill failure in the House. For example, according to Vincent H. Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University (cited by Nixon): “There are a small number of Congressional districts where farming continues to carry much sway … [but] Especially in the House, the farm lobby has been substantially weakened.”

    In stark contrast to Smith, Barry L. Bequette, dean of the School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss., (also being cited by Nixon), said waning power or a lack of power is not the issue. Rather: “Farmers just haven’t learned how to utilize the power they have … All the groups are fractured and focused on their own narrow issues.”

    We want to know what you think. Is there a monolithic farm lobby whose power is waning in the face of an urbanized and suburbanized society? Is there fracturing of the farm lobby? Why did the House farm bill meet with failure, two years in a row?

  • 04Jul

    Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Proposed Rules (and Exemptions) For Farmers, an Easy to Understand Guide; And How to Comment on the Rules*

    The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the federal food safety law that applies to farms growing fruits and vegetables that may be eaten raw. FSMA is intended to reduce the risk of microbial contamination of fresh produce. It will be administered by the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The law was passed two years ago, but proposed regulations were released in January 2013 for public comment (due by September 16, 2013). The Following is an “easy to understand” guide to the proposed rules, regulations, and exemptions. It is presented here to help farmers understand what impact these rules could have on their farm business and share their comments with FDA (learn how to comment on the proposed rules). This guide presents a basic overview of the lengthy and complicated proposed FSMA rules presented by FDA and should not be considered a legal document or a substitute for official FDA rules.

    There are Two Parts to FSMA: 1) The Produce Safety Rule applies to “farms” or those who grow, harvest, pack or hold covered produce. The rules apply to produce generally eaten raw, i.e. greens, melons, tomatoes, apples, etc. (aka “covered produce” or raw agricultural commodities “RAC’s”). They do NOT apply to produce not eaten raw, i.e. sweet corn, potatoes, pumpkins, etc. Also NOT covered is produce grown for personal consumption, on farm consumption, or on another farm under the same ownership. 2) The Preventive Controls Rule applies to “facilities” that manufacture, process, pack or hold human food and to operations that buy and resell products grown on other farms. These facilities will need to register with the federal government and comply with regulations outlined in the preventive controls portion of the rule. Facilities are defined in the rules and cover operations that modify or process produce from its original state.

    There are Exemptions to the Act that May Apply to Farmers. (To Continue Reading this Guide Click “Read More”) Read more »

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