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November 2016

New England Farmers Union Convention Welcomes Agriculture Leaders

Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky will be one of many agricultural leaders to be addressing the seventh annual convention of the New England Farmers Union, Harvesting Solutions, on Dec. 2-3 at the  Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport Hotel in Windsor, Connecticut.

Commissioner Reviczky is well known and well respected in Connecticut’s agriculture community. He has focused on opportunities to create jobs and strengthen the state’s agricultural economy.  He also directed one of the most successful agricultural legislative agendas in the agency’s history. He will speak the morning of Saturday, Dec. 3.

New England Farmers Union will also welcome National Farmers Union (NFU) Senior Vice President of Public policy, Robert Larew. NFU, the nation’s second-largest general agriculture organization, with roughly 200,000 members, has been advocating for family farmers since 1902. Larew will give an update on federal agriculture policy during lunch Saturday, Dec. 3.

Other invited speakers include; Joe Courtney, United States Representative, Connecticut’s 2rd Congressional District; and Chris Murphy, United States Senator, Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.

A full agenda, includes a talk on New England farm economy, a presentation on antibiotic stewardship and health care practices for food animals, and a discussion about what to expect throughout the implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. As well, New England Farmers Union members will discuss, debate, and vote on a new 
policy book, which guides the work of the organization in the coming year.

The general public is invited to attend. For information and to register,
please visit the event page

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Farmers Union Convention Offers Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course

New England Farmers Union (NEFU) is collaborating with Cornell University to hold a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course on December 2, at the Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport Hotel in Windsor, Connecticut. The course will be led by Elizabeth A. Bihn, Ph.D, Director, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, as part of the seventh annual convention of the New England Farmers Union, Harvesting Solutions.

The Produce Safety Rule, which is now in effect, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has developed a standardized curriculum approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to satisfy the training requirements outlined in the rule. It is currently the only FDA recognized training, though more options are expected to emerge.

The course will provide a foundation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and co-management information, Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule requirements, and details on how to develop a farm food safety plan. After attending the course, participants will be eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) that verifies they have completed the training course.

Registration fee includes the training materials, lunch, refreshments, and a Certificate of Course Attendance issued by AFDO. Participation for the entire training is required for the certificate. Registration Deadline: November 25, 2016. 

The general public is invited to attend both the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course and New England Farmers Union Annual Convention. For information and to register, please visit:


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NEFU Urges Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to Aid New England’s Farmers in the Midst of Historic Drought

As farmers in New England wrap up the 2016 growing season having suffered from an unprecedented drought, New England Farmers Union (NEFU) is appealing to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to aid farmers in the region.

NEFU has released a letter to the Secretary highlighting the extensive losses to crop and pasture lands in New England, as well as the challenges facing farmers caused by water shortages in reservoirs, streams and wells. Dairy producers in the region have been hit particularly hard and are struggling to cope with the perfect storm of low milk prices and drought conditions that have reduced forage and feed yields. USDA Secretarial Disaster Designations are widespread in New England and the drought remains severe in many locations this autumn. 

The letter urges the Secretary to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take certain actions right away to help mitigate drought impacts and improve farm risk management in advance of the 2017 growing season. These actions include:

  • Directing the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to use its share of Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) funds to assist producers in purchasing crop insurance;
  • Directing applicable AMA funds to support water conservation and irrigation infrastructure projects; 
  • Targeting financial and technical assistance toward conservation practices that reduce the impact of drought through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); and 
  • Reducing the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Loan Program rate, which is currently higher than the rates for farm operating loans. 

These actions are largely within the Secretary’s existing authority, or only require minimal adjustments to that authority.

“Farmers in New England are immensely resilient,” said NEFU President Roger Noonan. “But, many of these producers have fallen through the safety net during the historic drought of 2016. NEFU stands committed to seeking meaningful support for farmers whose livelihoods are on the line. I urge the Secretary to act right away to protect New England’s hard working farmers.”

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Letter From A NEFU Farmer- Please Donate to the Education Foundation

Margaret, Karl, Joshua & Chansonetta (Photograph by Jose Azel / Aurora Photos)

My name is Margaret Hathaway and, as a Maine dairy and poultry farmer and member of New England Farmers Union, I am asking you to join me in supporting the important work they do through their Education Foundation.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Farmers Union Fly-In. My husband Karl and I had been cultivating Ten Apple Farm for a decade, but our diversified homestead in Southern Maine is just 18 acres. I worried that the scale on which we farm didn’t “count.” We were relatively new members of New England Farmers Union (NEFU), and we had joined because we knew that NEFU gives voice to those in our region who farm, fish, and care about the sources of their food.

Though our farm defines our lives, like so many in our position, it provides only a portion of our income. As I prepared to meet with legislators, I was convinced that the only voices that get any attention in Washington were the big guys, and that definitely was not us. At the Fly-In, I was paired with two other farmers, one of whom was a young woman from New Hampshire who had spent the past year participating in the NFU Beginning Farmer Institute. Imagine my amazement at the reception our trio got: Senators and Representatives from across the political spectrum made time to meet with us, to ask questions about how specific federal policies were affecting our farms, and to thank us for our stewardship of the land in their districts. They seemed genuinely committed to ensuring that their constituents had access to safe, sustainably produced local foods. I saw then the impact that the National Farmers Union has, and how, in its big tent, our dense corner of agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry is just as essential to the conversation as the broad swaths of farmland in the West.

As Karl and I have become more involved with NEFU, we’ve seen up close the important work that the organization does to educate decision makers, young farmers, and consumers about the sources of our food and the importance of supporting sustainable stewardship of our land. We’ve been impressed by the respect NEFU commands from both sides of the aisle, and the voice it gives to farmers and producers who are off the grid and out of the box.

In this year of divisive rhetoric and unpredictable politics, it has never been more important to make our voices heard. Looking forward, the direction that agricultural policy will take is unknown. What is abundantly clear is that we must stand together in supporting our fellow farmers and producers at all scales. We must continue to educate policy-makers and government officials about the concerns of our family farms, work to diversify NEFU membership and boost its benefits, nurture beginning farmers, support the fine work done by the Education Foundation, and foster co-operative development.

Please join me in supporting the New England Farmers Union Education Foundation. Your generous tax deductible donation will ensure that the diverse voices of New England’s farmers are heard.

With warmest regards,

Margaret Hathaway
New England Farmers Union Member

P.S. I hope to see you at the seventh annual convention of the New England Farmers Union in Windsor, Connecticut, December 2-3.

To join Margaret in supporting New England Farmers Union Education Foundation, please complete the donation form and enclose your check, made out to the New England Farmers Union Education Foundation, and mail it today; or donate securely online at www.newenglandfarmersunion.org

Thank you!

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Pumpkinfest Booth Cooked Up Member Farmers’ Ingredients

The Franklin County Pumpkinfest in Turners Falls has grown over the last 10 years to become a signature event leading up to Halloween, for those in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Roughly 10,000 residents turn up on Avenue A to see the lit-up jack-o-lanterns and the costumes. New England Farmers Union was proud to have a presence at the event for the second year in a row, and again teamed up with the West Gill Barbecue Company to sell delicious local food, sourced directly from our member farms.

We had a terrific response to our raffle of two $50 gift certificates to the farm store at member Diemand Farm of Wendell, MA and two candles from business member Kringle Candle of Bernardston, MA. Our gift certificate winners were Josh Hoffman and Mike Hastings and our candle winners were Ed Sulda and Marian Chapman. Congratulations Josh, Mike, Ed and Marian, and thank you to our member farms and to West Gill Barbecue Company! 

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Food Waste on Farms: Guide for Farmers to Manage Seconds and Organic Waste
Guest article by: NEFU Member Spoiler Alert

Of the 63 million tons of food that is wasted in the U.S. every year, 16% of waste occurs on the farm. This can be due to unpredictable market demand, cosmetically flawed produce, or lack of harvesting resources. Managing the inevitable seconds, surplus product, ugly produce, and food scraps is a reality for most farmers, but a lack of information about where to start can make the process seem overwhelming.

Farm to Food Bank Bills

Many states have Farm to Food Bank programs in place, which give farmers an opportunity to sell or donate their excess. Additionally, Farm to Food Bank bills, such as the New York legislation recently highlighted in the news, could allow “farmers to claim up to $5,000 annually through a refundable tax credit equal to 25% of the wholesale value of their donations to emergency food programs.” The Farm to Food bank legislation would supplement existing legislation about federal tax deductions for food donations that was passed in December 2015. Click here to read the full article

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Washington Corner

Read a roundup of November news from the capitol.
From National Farmers Union.

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Upcoming Events

Please check the calendar on the New England Farmers Union website. We will post information about events 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.

2016 Annual Convention of the New England Farmers Union December 2-3 • Windsor, CT

Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course December 2 • Windsor, CT

NFU Presents: Growing for the Future December, 5-8 • Interactive virtual conference

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