Last Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released long-awaited revisions to their draft food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. While I’m digging in to the rules, here is a condensed summary of what to expect in the coming weeks, offered by our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:
This is the “second draft” we’ve been waiting for since last year, and it signals another opportunity to weigh in with FDA and ensure the rules will help us have safe and sustainable food.
We are researching the revised proposed rules to ensure in particular that they:
- allow farmers to use sustainable farming practices, particularly on contentious issues related to water, including irrigation water, and soil amendments like compost;
- allow local food and farms to grow and thrive, by not subjecting them to inappropriate or excessive regulation; and
- will treat family farms fairly, by having clear and fair procedures in place.
Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to plate, and fair rules will help New England farmers continue producing safe, affordable, and healthy food. The rules will be officially published in the Federal Register on September 29, at which time the public comment period will begin. The comment period will last for 75 days, and there will be a mid-December deadline for submitting comments.
New England Farmers Union members were part of a big push for fair regulations last time around. We’ll need all of you to submit comments again this fall. Stay tuned for analysis, talking points and instructions on how to comment.
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NEFU Attends Annual Legislative Fly-In
On September 8-10, members of New England Farmers Union joined farmers from across the nation for National Farmers Union’s Legislative Fly-In.
While in Washington, D.C., fly-in participants met with members of Congress to talk about how federal legislation impacts their farms. They also met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other USDA officials briefed participants and took questions on pending agriculture issues.
New England Delegates Receive Golden Triangle Awards
During the Fly-In, National Farmers Union (NFU) announced its recipients of the Golden Triangle Award, the organization’s highest legislative honor. The annual award is presented to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership and support policies that benefit America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural communities.
|Rep. Chellie Pingree with NEFU staff member Ned Porter and Margaret Hathaway Schatz
This year’s Golden Triangle recipients were selected for their leadership on a variety of issues, including votes on the farm bill and related amendments.
The Golden Triangle Award is based on NFU’s founding principles, symbolized by a triangle with “legislation” and “cooperation” forming the sides and “education” the base. The Golden Triangle Awards have been presented to legislators since 1988.
NEFU congratulates the New England recipients: Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH), Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), and Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME).
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NEFU Alliance will Provide Insurance Benefit
New England Farmers Union works diligently on behalf of its farmer members on issues that impact their bottom line. Through our advocacy on policy, support of co-operative enterprise development and education initiatives, we engage with members to protect and enhance the economic viability of the region’s family farmers, who face more risks than other business owners.
There are many reasons to join NEFU, including support of this work. There are member benefits—from discounts on car rentals and hotels to design services and office supplies. We are also pleased to provide our members with a competitively priced insurance product.
Acadia Insurance has been winning over New England’s producers because of its high quality coverage of farm businesses and superior customer service. Get a free quote today and compare it to your current plan. We are confident you will want to join NEFU and make the switch.
Ask a NEFU representative or your favorite insurance agent for the insurance quote for NEFU members!
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Maine Coalition Tests Sustainable Year-Round Crop Production
Profitable year-round crop production in Maine may sound far-fetched given the state’s cold winters and high heating costs, but advances in greenhouse design and renewable energy technologies are changing that.
Now, as demand for locally-sourced food continues to grow, a coalition of Maine agriculture, energy, and composite industry representatives have partnered with academic institutions to demonstrate the potential for financially and environmentally sustainable year-round crop production in Maine.
The project, called the Maine Sustainable Year-Round Agriculture Cluster Initiative, is led by the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) — a NEFU member — and MaineAsia LLC. Read more here.
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Farm Safety Should be a Front-Burner Issue
By Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President
When most Americans are asked what they worry about the most, answers like the economy, jobs, terrorism and education are usually at the top of the list. But if you are a farmer or a rancher, I’d submit that in addition to those issues – which are certainly worthy of your attention – another front-burner issue should be work safety.
Agriculture is consistently among the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In any given year, 516 workers die while doing farm work, and each day about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries. Farm accidents and other work-related health problems claim as many as 1,300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries annually, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Interestingly, fruit farms have the highest worker-injury rates among the various agricultural operations, and sadly about 300 children lose their lives annually on America’s farms and ranches. These losses are unacceptable. We can do better.
As a nation founded on agriculture, we should strive for a hazard-free and healthy work environment for people engaged in various agricultural pursuits across the U.S. The path to safer farms and ranches is through proactively addressing ongoing and emerging occupational safety and health issues affecting U.S. agriculture.
When a farmer or rancher walks out his or her kitchen door in the morning, he or she should be thinking safety. We must work together to make farm safety a front-burner issue and encourage farmers, producers and agribusiness owners to integrate safety into everyday practice so that it becomes part of their DNA, not just a program or a slogan. Safety is an approach to life and the workplace.
To that end, National Farmers Union is implementing an education and outreach plan to help bring the safety mindset to farmers and ranchers where they live. The initiative will be unveiled later this year, and will help NFU make its mark on this important issue.
Additionally, the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA) – of which NFU is a board member – helps make for a coordinated and effective approach to bringing state-of-the-art safety information and programs to address the most pressing farm and ranch occupational hazards associated with various commodities, new technologies and changing profiles of workers.
We’ve all heard stories about why farm safety is important to someone, and it usually starts with the tale of a horrendous farm accident that changed, or ended, the life of a family member or a loved one. Let’s all promise to put farm safety on our radar each and every day, and prevent that injury before it happens.
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NEFU Member Receives VAPG Grant
Congratulations to New England Farmers Union member Carole Soule of Loudon, N.H. Miles Smith Farm, which Carole runs with her husband Bruce Dawson, was awarded a Value-Added Producer Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program. The program helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products.
Read more here.
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Beginning Farmer Institute Kicks Off in D.C.
Chelsea Kruse of Keene, NH, joined several other beginning farmers at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI), which kicked off in Washington, D.C., on Spetember 8, 2014. Participants will learn financial, marketing, public speaking and planning skills.
“It has become increasingly difficult for beginning farmers to succeed,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “That is why programs like BFI are so important, because they give beginning farmers an opportunity to learn important leadership and farm-management skills that benefit not only themselves, but also the communities and economies they support.
BFI participants include Nicole Vojtech of Ohio; Tracey Zink of Nebraska; Courtney Krueger of North Dakota; Chris Holman and Kriss Marion of Wisconsin; Harrison Topp of Colorado; Glen Hughes of Indiana; Erin Bailey of Washington; Rick Duvall of Illinois; Chelsea Kruse of New Hampshire; Troy Hunoff of South Dakota; Nicholas Levendofsky, Matt and Leah Ubel of Kansas.
The selected individuals from across the nation range from cattle ranchers and grain farmers to those growing for farmers markets and urban farmers. The institute is a yearlong program and is sponsored in part by Farm Credit, CoBank, DuPont Pioneer, CHS Foundation, FUI Foundation and the NFU Foundation. More information can be found at www.NFU.org/education.
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UNH Study Shows Milk Prices Top Concerns of Northeastern Organic Dairy Farmers
Northeastern organic dairy farms say their top concern is receiving steady, fair prices for their milk from milk processors, according to a new survey that is the first to assess the research and educational needs of organic dairy farmers in the region. The research is funded by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.
While this finding won’t come as news to dairy farmers, it may surprise organic milk consumers who pay considerably more for organic milk than conventional milk at the grocery. Read more about the survey here.
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Member Profile: Land For Good
A Three-Pronged Approach to the Future of Farming
“Access to farmland is one of the top challenges for beginning as well as established farmers,” says Kathy Ruhf, executive director of Land For Good (LFG). At the same time, she points out, communities strive to keep productive land in active farming. They value the benefits that agriculture offers—food security, environmental stewardship, and aesthetic amenities to mention a few.LFG (landforgood.org), founded in 2001 and a member of NEFU since 2013, is working to keep New England farmland in agricultural use. It focuses on three aspects: farmland access; farm transfer; and working lands management.
“We take a comprehensive approach. We work with farm seekers and also with landowners—farmers and non-farmers. It takes a community to solve the challenges of maintaining farmland and accessing land. We need innovative—as well as traditional—solutions these days,” says Ruhf.
|Jim Hafner, Deputy Director, Land For Good
“We started in 2004 to address the problems of farm succession by offering ongoing support for succession planning,” adds Jim Hafner, deputy director. “Then we started working with private and public landowners, and then widened our focus to the other side of the coin, which is the farm seekers.”
Connecting Farmers and Land
According to one estimate, 70 percent of farms will change hands in the next 20 years. Up to 90 percent of farm families have no clear exit plan. Much farmland is irretrievably lost in that period of transition. LFG’s Farm Legacy program helps families who are contemplating farmland transition to develop and implement farm transfer and succession plans that address their family and business goals. The Farm Seekers program provides coaching, technical assistance, and ongoing support to folks interested in acquiring land on which to farm. Ruhf is quick to point out that with solid information and planning, many farm seekers choose to lease land, rather than buying, at least as a first phase.
“Farm ownership is a great vision for many farmers but it’s not the only strategy and it may not be the best strategy to start out,” says Ruhf. “There are options. Farmers should understand their financial readiness and their choices, and do their homework. You don’t want to buy a piece of property until you are absolutely sure about the kind of enterprise, the location, and the scale of the farming that you want to do,” says Ruhf. Helping navigate agreements between farmers who want to lease, with the owners of suitable land is one objective of LFG’s Working Lands program.
“We provide farm seekers with individual support for their farm acquisition, making sure they understand and are aware of all their various options, creating a farm-search plan, understanding financing and leases,” explains Hafner. “Sometimes we’ll facilitate transactions between farmers and landlords. We specialize in farm leasing—educating, looking over leases and helping people get lease agreements into place.”
As families explore land transfer, LFG offers helpful educational resources. Successful Farm Transfer Planning is a manual for farmers without identified successors. Every situation is unique. A manual often helps farmers realize that there are questions and opportunities they may not even have considered. And consultants can help, once those questions arise.
“Bringing in experts to help with the process early—even as much as 10 to 15 years before the planned transfer, is critical,” says Ruhf.
“It’s important to assemble the right team that can be supportive, so that the family isn’t doing this alone,” says Ruhf. “The goal when considering transferring a farm should focus on legacy and the future, not death and taxes.”
In addition to individual consulting, LFG helps communities make land available for farming through projects and educational resources related to farm access, transfer and tenure. But information and education are just a part of in ensuring a vibrant agricultural landscape.
LFG raises awareness about the issues involved in land access, transfer and tenure, working with local municipalities to help towns shape agriculture-friendly zoning policies and encouraging property owners to lease land to farmers. They are training educators and engaging with private individuals and foundations to support their work. “It takes a network of advisors,” says Hafner, “along with advocates and policymakers, to improve farmland access and transfer.”
LFG and NEFU share a passion for preserving the region’s agricultural heritage. LFG’s education and services play a crucial role in protecting New England’s agricultural landscape, preserving our farming culture and ensuring the viability of our local and regional food system.
Both organizations also share a belief that the challenges faced by individual farmers can best be addressed by systemic change.
“Working with multiple stakeholders at multiple levels within an changing land access system is core to our strategy,” says Hafner.
“To create a viable farming future for New England, we need services to support our current farmers, but we also need real innovation,” said Ruhf. “NEFU is an important voice advocating for the kinds of policy changes that are needed at a federal level, while LFG is helping communities understand the kinds of policies that will address farmland access, affordability and ownership challenges.”
LFG’s three-pronged approach has met with a lot of success. They’ve helped hundreds of New Englanders become farmers and kept thousands of acres in active farming. And their work in New England has made them a national leader on land access, transfer and tenure issues—issues that are increasingly recognized as central to the future of farming.Learn more about Land For Good at their website: www.landforgood.org or call 603-357-1600 to inquire about their consulting services.
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NEFU Member Publishes Book on NH Agriculture
|Photo by Julian Russell
NEFU Member and UNH Professor John Carroll has published an e-book entitled “Live Free and Farm: Food and Independence in the Granite State.” According to Carroll, the book “paints a picture of New Hampshire as it has been and as it can be: a more self-sufficient and independent state fed more by its own farmers, gardeners and fishers, and thus a healthier state – physically, economically and politically.”
You can download the book for free here.
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AMS Announces New Directories to Connect Farms and Consumers
Are you a manager, operator, or owner of an on-farm market, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise, a food hub, or a farmers market? The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has added three new directories, which they say will make it easier for your organization or business to reach more customers. The agency now offers four directories that aim to help local food businesses connect with buyers:
- National Farmers Market Directory
- USDA’s National Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Enterprise Directory
- USDA’s National Food Hub Directory
- USDA’s National On-Farm Market Directory
More information can be found here.
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Read a roundup of September news from the capitol.
From National Farmers Union.
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Resources and Tools for Growth
Check out our resources page, full of programs and services to help producers in our region. Here are four upcoming educational programs that might interest you.
Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension online Fall and Winter courses to help farmers develop their businesses. These 5- to 7-week online courses cost $200 total for up to 4 members of the same farm to participate.Details on courses here.
Whole Farm Planning Series for Beginning Women Farmers in MA. Offered by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). Applications due September 30, 2014.
Farm Business Planning Courses offered this fall and winter by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. On-line and classroom-based options. Application deadlines for fall courses are October 8.
If you have resources you’d like to see listed, please send us an email.
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Please check the calendar on the New England Farmers Union website. We will post information about events where that we will attend, and events that are of interest to our members. Please send along information if you have an event you would like us to post.
NRCS is offering a series of Healthy Soil Webinars throughout the year.
National Kale Day October 1, 2014. Join the celebration and be a “Kale Hero.”
2014 Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium. October 3-4, Cornell University Ithaca Campus.
Promoting Innovation in Agriculture: Energy; Conservation; Research and Development, NESAWG Webinar, October, 08 2014, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm.
Using Cover Crop Mixtures to Achieve Multiple Goals on the Farm. Webinar, October, 14 2014, 2:00 pm.
Growing the Region’s Farm and Food Workforce, NESAWG Webinar, October, 15 2014, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm.
2014 It Takes a Region Conference. Annual Gathering of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG). November 11-12, Saratoga Spings, NY.
Save the Date: NEFU Fifth Annual Convention December 11-13, Portland ME.
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