Last week 500 ranchers, farmers, scientists and advocates convened in Albuquerque, NM for the 12th annual Quivira Conference “Inspiring Adaptation.” The theme was apt following yet another year of extreme drought in the West and unprecedented floods in Colorado’s Front Range. It would be easy, given all this, to be all doom-and-gloom. But one of the many ways in which the Quivira Coalition excels is in its ability to offer tangible solutions to seemingly-unsolvable problems.
Our dear friends at Wilder Quarterly are launching a project, Wilder Field Art: An Art subscription service for those enthralled with the natural world.
Wilder is a beautiful print magazine where you’ll find rooftop gardeners, scientists and artists, hobby farmers, horticulturists, nature’s innovators, amateurs, experts and outdoor enthusiasts. The Field Art project goes beyond print to deliver subscribers 4 art works a year in tandem with the seasons.
Wilder will be visiting one city a season in which they will select 3 artists who are working across various media – from photography to print to sound. Each artist will create a work based on their season and their interpretation of the environment that surrounds them. In each city, they’ll partner with a gallery to host the opening event. At the end of the year will culminate with a group show featuring all the Field Artworks in New York City.
Click here to help Wilder to kickstart the project! Just 8 more days to go!
And don’t forget: Wilder offers 40% off magazine subscriptions to NYFC members!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18th, 2013
PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms will bring together farmers, consumers to change proposed FDA food safety rules that threaten farm viability
HUDSON, NY – On Sunday, October 20th farmers and consumers from across the country will take action to change the FDA’s draft food safety rules. Activists will gather at farms, schools and grange halls to educate each other on the impact of the proposed rules and write comments to the agency. Dozens of events are happening in 28 states between now and early November. The Day of Action is sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Select Events and Organizer Quotes:
Action in Eyota, Minnesota at private home (10/21/13)
“We’re always looking to make sure our food is healthy and safe, and we believe that small farms are part of the solution to healthy, safe food–not part of the problem!” – Hannah Breckbill, Organizer and Farmer at Humble Hands Harvest
Action in Paonia, Colorado at Downtown Public Library (10/20/13)
“Because food safety issues are uniquely different for small farms, FSMA’s current one size fits all approach poses a threat to small-scale agriculture,” says Kacey Kropp, Farmer at First Fruits Organic Farms and Organizer. “The goal of writing these letters to the FDA is to illuminate the worth of sustainable, already safe and locally sourced foods from small farms.”
Action in Albuquerque, NM at the Rio Grande Community Farm (10/24/13)
“As an economically challenged state, with a number of exceptional challenges to farmers like erratic and limited water supplies, writing to the FDA to comment on FSMA is particularly important to the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition. What may seem like a financial drop in the bucket for large, industrial farm and food operations can sink a small family farm, an artisan food producer, or a food hub.” - Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Organizer
Action in Lansing, Michigan at private home (10/25/13)
“I’m utilizing my birthday to entice friends with food and drink to have them write comment letters to the FDA on how it will affect their farming operations or farms that they patron regularly,” says Alex Bryan, Farmer at Food Field and Organizer.
“FSMA has the potential, as written, to derail most everything I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life working for…Not only will this impact my livelihood and way of life, but it threatens the very nature of regional food sovereignty. I care about my community’s future and cannot sit idly by while these rules are put in place. I just hope that the FDA will continue listening, adapting and changing to the needs of smaller, younger, beginning farmers.”
Action in East Berlin, Pennsylvania at Everblossom Farm (10/26/13)
“These proposed rules stand to change how we farm and run our businesses, so it is imperative that we make time to tell our stories to the FDA. I hope this Day of Action will rally together farmers and consumers to make change with our collective voices!” –Emily Best, Farmer at New Morning Farm and Organizer
Action in Sonoma, California at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall (10/27/13)
“The issues facing young farmers today are too daunting to grapple with alone, so we’re uniting our communities to inform and empower them to take a stance with us on these rules that could gravely effect their future success doing what most needs done: feeding us.” –Evan Wiig, Farmer at True Grass Farms and Organizer
Action in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Wells School (11/9/13)
“By submitting comments to the FDA we take a proactive stance toward shaping the landscape that we will have to work within down the road,” says Ray Connor of Evandale Farm and Organizer. “If we miss this opportunity to take action now, we will spend the rest of our careers reacting to whatever rules are imposed on us.”
In 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — mandating the first overhaul to U.S. food safety laws since 1938. The USDA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 3,500 page of rules in the spring, covering all aspects of a produce farm operation – everything from water testing to soil amendments and worker training. In the words of former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the new rules have the potential to “destroy some operations.” In fact, for many diversified farms, the average annual cost to comply with the proposed rules is about half or more of what many farmers might, in a good year, expect in profits.
For more information, map with actions nationwide and details: youngfarmers.org/fsma
Lindsey Lusher Shute, lindsey[at]youngfarmers[dot]org
“Essentially if we didn’t have this river and this water, we wouldn’t have agriculture in this state [of Colorado],” says Brad Webb, a local farmer and business owner of Mesa Park Vineyards in western Colorado. Brad spoke on behalf of beginning farmers for Colorado River Day in Grand Junction, one of five events held yesterday across the west.
July 25th marked the 2nd annual Colorado River Day, the day 92 years ago the Colorado River was renamed from the “Grand”. National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with Nuestro Rio and Save the Colorado to host events in Denver, Grand Junction, Santa Fe, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Urban and rural elected officials joined local farmers in support of urban and agricultural conservation as the first and best option to reducing the growing gap between water supply and demand in the west.
Catch NYFC on KKCO here.
In addition, we launched a month-long campaign to recruit elected officials west-wide to sign a support letter encouraging state and federal leaders to develop and implement actionable proposals through conservation to help reduce dwindling water supply. The pledge comes on the heels of the Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin study which shows that we can generate 3 million acre feet of water through urban and agricultural conservation and reuse alone. That’s enough to supply 3 million households for a year.
Signing onto this support letter so far are Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman, Santa Fe Mayor David Cross, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, among others.
“If we work together we can solve a lot of these problems,” said Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia at the Grand Junction event. Mayor Schwieterman represents one of the most diverse and thriving agricultural valleys in Colorado and knows the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and way of life. The Mayor also represents recreational interests on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, a group of leaders who meet regularly to tackle regional water issues.
In addition Councilmembers Boeschenstien and Doody of Grand Junction spoke on the importance of riparian health and water quality to the overall health of the river.
“Conservation is the lowest hanging fruit,” said Mayor Schwieterman. As young and beginning farmers, we are working to ensure we do everything possible with conservation first. If we do nothing, we will surely see our farms and our rivers continue to run dry.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee held a hearing to review findings from the Colorado River Basin Study, which NYFC has been tracking closely. Speakers representing the Bureau of Reclamation, Basin states, and municipal, agricultural, and healthy flows interests presented important Study follow-up items to the Subcommittee, moderated by CO Senator Mark Udall. (See a recording of the meeting here).
4 million irrigated acres of farmland in the Colorado River Basin are at risk as pressures on western waters rise. At the same time, agriculture is the single largest water user in the west, which means as urban demand continues to grow more interests will be turning to rural water users. But no one wants to return to the days of western water wars. Instead, farmers are proactively engaging across borders to develop win-win solutions to a tenuous water future.
Dr. Reagan Waskom, Director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, spoke on behalf of western farmers as the co-chair of the Agricultural Conservation and Transfers work-group, one of three work groups created to carry out next steps from the Basin Study. In Waskom’s written testimony to the Subcommittee, he writes, “Local food and fiber production, protecting open space and wildlife habitat, maintaining agricultural jobs and businesses, and preserving western heritage are among the reasons for ensuring there are adequate land and water resources for agriculture production.”
We want to see the future of western agriculture thrive and we know that we need healthy resources to do that. Farmers are willing to do our part to ensure healthy farms and healthy rivers. (Want to show your support? Sign the Colorado River Farmers Pledge today!) According to Waskom, 77% of farmers surveyed by the Colorado Water Institute and its research partners prefer conservation and efficiency as the first and best options to address future water shortages. While barriers to conservation exist, it is in all of our best interest to work on behalf of farmers as stewards of our precious resources. As Senator Udall remarked, “We need to make every drop count.”
Though the Farm Bill has been front-and-center as of late, the farmers of NYFC are not forgetting to have a good time! April was full of young farmer mixers, from Fort Collins to Albuquerque, Texas to Rhode Island.
In Fort Collins, farmers from Colorado’s Front Range celebrated their second mixer potluck-style, packing the Empire Grange and dancing to the banjo-picking tunes of Blue Grama Bluegrass. Seasonal brews from New Belgium and Odell Brewing were enjoyed the night-long.
The Texas Young Farmers’ Coalition hosted a Texas BBQ fundraiser at Green Gate Farms complete with a pig roast, cornbread, and gallons of ales and cider—these farmers sure know how to eat! Not to mention raise money for a great cause: all proceeds went Cardo’s Farm Project, a community farm and education center serving the community of Denton, TX.
Young Farmer Night hosted the New Urban Farmers/Urban Food Lab event in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. YFN began as an informal gathering of farmers to share food and company. It continues the tradition of potlucks, farm tours and fun activities (music, cards, bonfire anyone?) and now includes educational workshops and farmer advocacy events as YFN continues to grow.
Later in the month, over 200 farmers and farm-supporters joined NYFC and the Rio Grande Farmers’ Coalition to kick-off the start of the new Albuquerque-based chapter. Local food was prepared by volunteer farmers and beer brought in from Marble Brewery. We were honored to have NM Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham share a few words in support of beginning farmers. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful beneath the old cottonwoods of Old Town Farm.
This is just a small taste of the many awesome farmer gatherings taking place this spring. Is there something going on in your neck of the woods? Let us know what you’re up to!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2013Contact: lindsey(at)youngfarmers(dot)org
Republicans and Democrats Introduce New Bill To Aid Beginning Farmers
“Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013” addresses major barriers to starting a farming career
TIVOLI, NY – Today, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota announced the introduction of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two identical bills expand opportunities and remove barriers for beginning farmers and those who wish to pursue a career in agriculture.
In addition to the bill’s lead sponsors, the following members have signed on as original co-sponsors: Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) in the House, and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate.
“Short of jumping on a tractor, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 is the best way that members of Congress can help the nation’s young growers,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director at the National Young Farmers Coalition. “The bill tackles the significant barriers to starting a farm in the US, including access to credit, land and training opportunities. NYFC urges Congress to include all of its provisions in the Farm Bill, and to pass a Farm Bill this year.”
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act is a comprehensive legislative package that invests in critical federal conservation, credit, research, and rural development programs that support opportunities for new farmers and ranchers. The bill reduces barriers, such as credit and land access issues, that new agriculture entrepreneurs face, and invests in successful new-farmer training programs and grants to help farmers capture more of the retail food dollar through value-added enterprises.
“With the average age of the U.S. farmer at 57, ensuring that the next generation of American farmers is able to provide the world with a safe, abundant supply of food should be a top priority,” said Congressman Walz, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry. “To accomplish this goal, we must provide our youth with the training and tools they need to seize opportunity and take up farms of their own. By easing access to lines of credit and land, and creating training programs for new producers, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act works to do just that.”
“As the House considers a five year Farm Bill this year, it is important we include provisions to encourage a new generation of New Yorkers to take up farming. This is both critical to maintaining the rural nature of our communities and ultimately is a national security issue as we need to have a robust domestic food supply. This bipartisan legislation will expand opportunities for those looking to take up farming and facilitate their entrance into the field. I applaud the National Young Farmers Coalition for bringing this issue to my attention originally, and look forward to continuing to work with my constituents to ensure we can get these initiatives included in the Farm Bill,” said Congressman Chris Gibson.
Some of the specific proposals in the bill include:
Expanded Credit Options
The bill would create a new microloan program that would make loans of up to $35,000 to young, beginning, and veteran farmers seeking capital to help cover start-up costs, such as purchasing seeds or building a greenhouse. The bill would also give new farmers increased flexibility in meeting loan eligibility requirements for FSA loans to purchase farmland. Finally, the bill would provide funding to jump start an Individual Development Account pilot program aimed at helping beginning farmers with limited financial resources to establish savings accounts that could later be used to cover capital expenditures for a farm or ranch operation, including purchases of land, buildings, equipment, or livestock.
Access to Farmland
The legislation would help new and aspiring farmers access land to start or expand their farming operations by continuing and improving the successful Down Payment Loan Program, which provides much needed capital to new farmers seeking to purchase property. The bill would also modify the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program to give priority to preserving farmland that is accessible and affordable to new farmers.
New Farmer Training Programs
The bill would renew funding for the successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides grants to organizations and institutions to establish new farmer training programs. This program is the only federal initiative that is exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
This legislation invests in critical economic development programs, including the popular Value-Added Producer Grants program, which provides grants to farmers to scale up their businesses and add value to their products in order to meet surging consumer demand for high quality, farm-based, value-added food products such as farmstead cheese, salsa, and grass-fed beef.
Agricultural Opportunities for Veterans
The bill would also expand resources and create economic opportunities for military veterans interested in pursuing a career in agriculture by establishing a funding priority for new farmer training and agricultural rehabilitation programs specifically geared at returning veterans, and creating a new Veterans Agricultural Liaison within the USDA to help connect returning veterans with beginning farmer resources and assist them with program eligibility requirements for participation in farm bill programs.
National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) is national network of young and sustainable farmers organizing for our collective success: we’re defining the issues that beginning farmers face, fighting for the policy change that we need, and bringing farmers together in person and online to learn, share and build a stronger community. NYFC is a farmer-led partnership between young farmers and innovative beginning farmer service providers and is fiscally sponsored by the Open Space Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Farmers across the country have plenty of challenges before them, such as access to land and capital and low-interest loans. Farmers in the Colorado River Basin–the western states of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California–face an additional challenge: water.
In this second of two blog posts on America’s Most Endangered River–the Colorado River–beginning farmer Alison Gannett speaks of the need to understand that healthy rivers are essential to healthy farms.
When I heard that the Colorado River would be named #1 on the 2013 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® by American Rivers, I was saddened, but not surprised.
As farmers in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, my husband Jason and I know full well that the waters of the Colorado River are the lifeblood of agriculture for us as well as many Western farmers in the seven basin states. Outdated water management requires us to “use it or lose it”, which does not make sense in this century.
I did not hesitate to be a part of the Las Vegas press conference announcing the news on April 17.
Growers in our area have consistently found new crops to grow and new ways to make our crops more productive. The booming wine industry here that produces high-quality wines is one example, and organic farming is another.
At Holy Terror Farm, we raise all kinds of chemical-free vegetables, beans and herbs, grow fruits, nuts, and berries, raise chickens, cows, and pigs, and even have a thriving apiary. But as innovative as we can get, one thing we can’t do without is good, clean water from the river. Without a flowing and healthy Colorado River, nothing grows and our farms perish.
The way we as a nation treat our natural resources scares me. To sit back and watch the Colorado River dry up and get polluted for lack of adequate care and protection is something I cannot do. I will do my part to be a good steward of the land and water, both on my farm and as an advocate for sensible, sustainable conservation policies throughout the Colorado River System.
Tell Congress we can’t afford to “use it or lose it” anymore! Don’t let the Colorado be sucked dry!
On Wednesday the national conservation organization American Rivers released the Colorado River as this year’s Most Endangered River. Why does this matter to NYFC? The majority of western farming is irrigated, and most of that water comes in one way or another from the Colorado River. If you want to farm successfully in the west, you need a healthy river system to do so.
In this first of two blog postings, NYFC supporter and grape grower Brooke Webb, of Mesa Park Vineyards in Palisade, CO, speaks in her own words about the importance of a healthy Colorado River to agriculture:
My family lived in Denver for many years and one day on a trip to Grand Junction in 2008 we fell in love with and then bought the Mesa Park Vineyards in Palisade, Colorado. Our operation is a small, family-owned and run business. The farm is 10 acres total, and we focus on creating superior wines— over a 1000 cases per year. To produce the plump grapes we need for our winemaking, we rely heavily on a healthy flowing Colorado River.
Farmers throughout the West depend on the Colorado River’s waters to grow the food that feeds our nation, and we are all understandably concerned about the condition of the river. The Colorado is so over-burdened— supplying 36 million people with water for growing and drinking— and managed with inefficient technologies.
Without the river we would have no business and no grapes. It’s extremely important not only to us, but to other vineyards, orchards, and farms in the area.
To make a difference, we joined a group last year called the National Young Farmers’ Coalition to help improve agricultural usage of water. Simple measures like upgrading to more efficient irrigation technology go a long way to protecting the health of the Colorado River and the viability of rural communities.
Mesa Park Vineyards, and all of the Palisade fruit and wine businesses, are part of a multibillion dollar recreation and tourism industry, which is a pillar of our Western economy. To ensure that this economic engine thrives, we must pay attention to manage our water resources well and reinvigorate the mighty Colorado River System.
Lend your voice to this effort to protect the Colorado! Tell Congress to support funding for conservation programs that will protect the Colorado River for future generations!
MAY 2013 NEWS UPDATE
On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Monsanto in the Monsanto v. Bowman case.
The Court sided with the seed company, writing that Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman violated patent laws when he purchased soy from a local grain elevator and planted it as a secondary crop without paying fees to Monsanto.
Bowman tried to argue that because he was planting the second-generation and beyond of the genetically modified seed, the patent on the soy had been exhausted.
The justices also rejected Bowman’s “blame-the-bean defense,” in which he argued that it was the soybeans themselves that created the new patent-infringing seeds by sprouting.
“Bowman was not a passive observer of his soybeans’ multiplication,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan for the Court. “Put another way, the seeds he purchased (miraculous though they might be in other respects) did not spontaneously create eight successive soybean crops.”
Farmers weren’t the only ones tracking the case. The case also piqued the interest of the software and pharmaceutical industries for its potential wider impact on patent law and other products that self-replicate like seeds. But in the opinion, Kagan was clear the Court’s ruling was narrow.
“Our holding today is limited — addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product,” she wrote.
The seed and pesticide giant Monsanto has been in the news a lot lately. While court-watchers await the Supreme Court’s ruling in Monsanto v. Bowman, a patent-law case that pits an Indiana soybean farmer against the company, a new controversy involving the behemoth sprouted up earlier this month.
Last month President Obama signed HR 933, a spending bill to stave off a government shutdown, which included a pesky rider that largely went unnoticed.
The rider, section 735, is called the “Farmer Assurance Provision” but opponents, like advocacy group Food Democracy Now, have renamed the “Monsanto Protection Act” in a petition circulating on social media sites.
The provision prevents federal courts from blocking the sale or planting of genetically-modified or engineered seed. Critics worry that the rider will limit the court’s ability to respond if researchers later prove GMO varieties are harmful to consumers’ health or the environment.
Food Democracy Now gathered more than 250,000 signatures to its petition asking Obama to veto the bill. Since Obama signed the bill, the group has launched a new campaign calling for the labeling of GMO foods.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Monsanto v. Bowman case last February and is expected to issue a ruling in June.
The case is being watched closely by many who wouldn’t know a soybean from a squash because of its potential larger implications concerning software and medicine patents. That is why many unlikely companies and universities have united behind Monsanto and filed briefs in support of the seed company.
The case resolves around the question of whether patents on seeds (or software) apply past the first generation of the material.
The Supreme Court seem to be favoring Monsanto’s argument for patent protections during the oral arguments last February over Vernon Hugh Bowman, the 75-year-old farmer of soy, corn and wheat.
Beginning in 1999, Bowman purchased the more expensive Roundup Ready seed for his main soybean crop, but decided to economize and plant second-generation seed from the local grain elevator, which typically used for animal feed, for a second late-season planting.
In 2007, Monsanto sued Bowman for patent infringement and an Indiana court ordered Bowman to pay $87,000. An appeals court also upheld the judgement before the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.