Independent meat producers and farmers everywhere need your help right now to defeat some terrible language that was included in the Senate’s Continuing Resolution.
As Wes reported earlier today, the Senate’s bill to fund government programs through the rest of 2013 (known as a Continuing Resolution) includes two provisions that support large meat industries and biotech giants, while disregarding the voices of family farmers, independent growers, and sustainable agriculture.
The first provision overrides the protections that ranchers have under the GIPSA rules (which help balance power between small ranches and farms and the giant purchasing companies that dictate prices,) and the second undercuts judicial review for biotechnology by allowing the USDA to permit continued planting of a genetically engineered crop even after a court has ruled that further studies need to be done on it. (How scary is that?!)
Luckily, we can do something to stop this. Senator Jon Tester of Montana is introducing two amendments – one for each of the awful provisions – that removes them from the Continuing Resolution, and he needs all of us to help him move the Senate in support.
Ask your Senator to support the Tester amendments to overturn these bad riders today!
With the defeat of Prop 37 in last week’s election, a long campaign battle in California has drawn to a close—for now.
According to Ballotpedia, the proposition’s outline is as follows:
“If Proposition 37 has been approved, it would have:
- Required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
- Prohibited labeling or advertising such food as “natural.”
- Exempted from this requirement foods that are “certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.” (Ballotpedia, Prop 37)
According to the same source, the proposition was voted down 53.1 percent against, to 46.9 percent in favor.
In addition to official platforms for the “Yes on Prop 37” campaign and “No on Prop 37” campaign (with Facebook and Twitter accompaniments) this proposition sparked a nationwide dialogue about whether or not a label for genetically modified foods is a basic consumer right. Proponents of the bill ranged from health food giant Whole Foods to the Center for Food Safety to the Organic Consumers Association. Opponents included the California Grain and Feed Association as well as agri-business giants Syngenta and Monsanto (www.carighttoknow.org). According to a campaign donation tracking site, donations aimed to defeat the proposition were 46 million, 8.1 million of which was from Monsanto. Donations in favor of the bill totaled 9.2 million (MapLight Voter’s Guide, Voter’s Edge).
Editorials about the value of such a bill were the subject of national debate in weeks leading up to the election. A few weeks before Election Day, sustainable food activist, environmental leader, and writer Michael Pollan weighed in on the implications of bill with his New York Times article “Vote for the Dinner Party”. In it, Pollan assigned the proposition the weighty task of proving the food movement’s political legitimacy. Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now, told Time magazine that despite its defeat, “[p]rop 37 is a really important and historic opportunity for an emerging food movement. It will fundamentally change the conversation about food and agriculture here in the U.S.”
If we as young farmers are to make his statement true, it is crucial that we continue the conversation that prop 37 has begun. The issues that prop 37 sought to address are the same that influence all aspiring farmers. A national engagement with food issues; a consumer demand for transparency and concern for health; public inquiry into the science of genetically modified food—all of these are gains that we as young farmers must seek to hold onto in the wake of what seems, to some, like a bitter defeat. Hopefully, this proposition is but the harbinger of politics to come—politics that engage deeply with our farms, farmers, eaters, and food. Politics that will shape our livelihoods for generations to come.
So fight, vote, and eat on.
Today, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) notified the National Young Farmers’ Coalition of changes in their loan handbook that will make it easier for the nation’s young farmers to qualify for farm loans. This is a major win for the coalition, as we’ve been advocating for more leniency in farm loan rules to accomodate the range of new training opportunities for today’s young farmers. According to NYFC’s 2011 survey, Access to capital is the number one challenge facing beginning farmers.
The new handbook language gives new flexibility to loan officers when deciding if a farmer has sufficient managerial ability to repay a loan, and adds specificity about the types of educational and on-the-job experiences that qualify. Managerial ability is a determining factor in operating loan applications. The handbook also adds a new example under the farm experience requirement for farm ownership loans, that may help young farmers who were previously denied financing.
Here’s the breakdown:
The handbook now says that the managerial requirement for all loans can be met through (1) Education, (2) On-the-job Training or (3) Experience — or one of the three:
“The applicant may satisfy the managerial ability requirement with any combination of education, on-the-job training and farm experience, or by meeting just 1 of these criteria.”
New education requirements:
The handbook now specifies examples of university and non-accredited programs that qualify as farm education.
- Successful completion of farm management curriculum offered by the Cooperative Extension Service, a community college, adult vocational agri program culture, or land grant university
- The Small Farm Program, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
- Specialty Crops Program, University of Colorado.
- Cultivating Success, University of Idaho Extension, Washington State
- University Small Farms and Rural Roots.
- successful completion of a community-based, nationally based, non-profit, or similar farm workshop programs
- Annie’s Project.
- Alcorn State University Small Farm Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program.
- Michigan State University Organic Farmer Program
New “On-the-job training” requirements:
The handbook is now exceptionally clear that apprenticeships ( holla! ) qualify as farm experience and it outlines example programs. The previous handbook had very little detail on what “on-the-job” training meant. Here’s the new language:
(2) On-the-job training. For example, the applicant is currently working on a farm as part of an apprenticeship program.
To meet the managerial ability requirement through on-the-job training alone, the applicant is currently:
- *–working, or has recently worked, as hired farm labor with management responsibilities
- Example: A hired hand or farm labor team leader who makes independent day-to-day farm management decisions.
- completing, or recently completed, a farm mentorship or internship program with an emphasis on management requirements and day-to-day farm decisions, such as those offerings found through:
- Rogue Farm Corps
- Cultivating Success
- Many Hands Farm Corps
- The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
- Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program
- Georgia Organics Mentoring Program–*
- *–participating, or recently participated, in urban or community-supported agriculture programs which incorporate basic agricultural training, such as:
- Agriculture Training Institute
- Refugee Agriculture Partnership Programs
- Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture
- Growing Power, Inc.
- Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens
- Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Inc., and the Viet Village Aquaponic Park Project.
FSA added new language to the Farm Experience language that’s inclusive of farm workers and young farmers who have previously received youth loans (new language in boldface):
To meet the managerial ability requirement through farming experience alone, the applicant *–may have:
- been an owner of a farm business with management and operator responsibilities for at least 1 entire production and marketing cycle
- been employed as a migrant farm worker and has been elevated to a leadership or foreperson position for at least 1 entire production and marketing cycle and whose responsibilities include crop and field management, livestock health, breeding supervision, labor management or hiring, or general farm management
- been employed as a farm manager or farm management consultant for at least 1 entire production and marketing cycle
- raised on a farm and held significant responsibility for day-to-day management decisions for at least 1 entire production and marketing cycle
- obtained and successfully repaid one FSA Youth-OL.
Experience Requirement for farm ownership loans
Unlike operating loans, farm ownership loans require that the applicant has managed a farm for 3 years. In the past, this requirement has been interpreted very narrowly and only farmers who had filed a Schedule-F could qualify. Although the rules were made more flexible before the recent change, the new handbook language is very clear that farm workers can meet the experience requirement for a farm ownership loan.
FSA added a new example of successful applicant “John Smith”, who’s been managing a farm, but was not the principal operator:
The applicant may document this experience through FSA farm records or similar
The real test of the new rules will be their application at local FSA offices, but we are very encouraged by FSA’s changes. NYFC is still advocating for new small loans and a reduced farm experience requirement (from 3 years to 2 years), as included in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011.
If you have experiences with FSA that you’d like to share, please consider signing up for NYFC’s new speaker’s bureau.