NSAC's Blog

Weekly Update November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009


Please Call Members of the Senate HELP Committee! The Senate Health,  Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to begin markup of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) on November 18.  The Act seeks to decrease foodborne illnesses by strengthening the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety oversight and enforcement–including provisions that would extend authority to on-farm production and processing.  In addition to important food safety advances, the bill unfortunately also poses a serious threat to family farm value added processing, local food systems, and sustainable and organic agriculture.

NSAC has issued this alert with five provisions essential to achieving badly needed reforms to our food safety regulatory system without taking away important markets for small and midsized sustainable and organic farms.  Please circulate the alert to your networks and urge calls Monday and Tuesday this week to HELP committee members.

To learn more on the issue, please see NSAC’s “Food Safety on the Farm” policy brief.


Stabenow Introduces Food Safety Training Bill:  Last Tuesday Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the Growing Safe Food Act (S. 2758) as a proposed supplement to the food safety legislation now under Senate consideration.  Co-sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Sanders (I-VT), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Merkley (D-OR) and in close consultation with NSAC, S. 2758 is designed to provide food safety training, education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance and create an information clearinghouse for farms, with a special emphasis on small and medium-sized farms and small-scale processors.  Training would include good agricultural, handling, and manufacturing practices, produce safety standards, risk analysis and preventive control mechanisms, safe packaging and storage, record-keeping, etc.  Run through USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (formerly CSREES), the new program would be coordinated with applied research under the existing National Integrated Food Safety Initiative.

NSAC is urging the Senate HELP Committee to include the Growing Safe Food Act as an addition to the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) it is marking up and voting on this Wednesday.  We hope it will be included in the markup vehicle to be introduced this week by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA).  If it is not, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) plans to introduce it as an amendment during markup.

Arkansas Farm to School Conference:  On Thursday, November 12, NSAC’s ED Aimee Witteman attended the Farm to School Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, organized by the National Farm to School Network and hosted by Heifer International.  The day-long event included several workshops on practical questions and advice about getting products grown by family farmers into their area schools, with helpful examples of success provided by the leaders of the New North Florida Cooperative and the Oklahoma Farm to School program.  Other workshops focused on the statewide and national movement to advance Farm to School Programs.

The event concluded with comments from the new Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Arkansas Senator, Blanche Lincoln, who said that the Child Nutrition Act would move early next year and that she promised she would be “a receptive audience on any proposals to expand farm to school efforts.”  She also touched on several of the Rural Development programs that NSAC championed in the 2008 Farm Bill, such as the Value-Added Producer Grant program and the B&I Loan Program, that can help with the production, aggregation, and distribution of good food for school meals.  These programs have also been featured in the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

NSAC Submits “Natural” Meat Label Comments:  NSAC sent summary comments to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) this week in response to their Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  The natural claim refers to processing, not animal raising, and indicates minimal processing and no artificial ingredients added.  The Bush Administration had issued an early advanced rulemaking in 2006, so this is a second time for the troublesome term.

NSAC urged FSIS to substitute “minimally processed” and “no artifical ingredients adding during processing” for the misnomer “natural” label.  The comments also reiterated our long-standing request to the Obama Administration that it revoke the last minute Bush rule creating a “naturally raised” label claim through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  That label claim has been put on hold by the new Administration, though it is not yet cancelled.  The comments also urged emphatically that conflicting policies on animal raising meat label claim standards between FSIS and AMS be brought into unity in support of strong standards that protect the markets created by pioneering sustainable livestock producers.


Food Safety Markup Wednesday:  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is taking a pause from health care legislation this week to take up the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), introduced early this year by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).  Since introduction, the HELP Committee lost its long-time chairman, Senator Ted Kennedy, with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) now taking over the reins.  This will be Harkin’s first bill to report out from his new Committee.

NSAC has submitted detailed and extensive draft amendments to S. 510 to deal with its unintended negative consequences for family farms, alternative food systems, and the environment.  At press time, we expect some of these proposals to be incorporated into the chairman’s “mark” that Harkin will introduce this week for committee consideration on Wednesday.  The mark will be built off of the original S. 510 but will include modifications.

We urge everyone to respond to the Action at the top of this week’s edition, and will provide a full report on the outcome next week.


B&I NOFA for Food System Loans:  NSAC learned last week that USDA’s Rural Development Agency is working on a special Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) to publicize the availability of Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans (B&I) for enterprises supporting the development of local and regional food systems.  This is very good news — NSAC has been encouraging the agency for months to do more outreach about the new food system emphasis in the program.  The NOFA should appear in the Federal Register before the end of the calendar year.  Any remaining funds that are not used to guarantee food system loans by April 1, 2010 (about $125 million), will be rolled into the general B&I lending pool. B&I local and regional food enterprise loans is one of the programs featured in USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort.

DOJ-USDA Listening Sessions on Ag Market Competition and Regulation Announced:  On Friday, Novmeber 13, USDA and the Department of Justice announced the schedule for 2010 joint workshops and listening sessions on agricultural market concentration and competition issues.  The schedule for the workshops is as follows:

March 12, 2010 – Issues of Concern to Farmers – Ankeny, Iowa – focus on seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power.

May 21, 2010 – Poultry Industry – Normal, Ala – focus on production contracts in the poultry industry, concentration and buyer power.

June 7, 2010 – Dairy Industry – Madison, Wisc. – focus on concentration, marketplace transparency and vertical integration in the dairy industry.

Aug.  26, 2010 – Livestock Industry – Fort Collins, Colo. – focus on beef, hog and other animal sectors and may include enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and concentration.

Dec. 8, 2010 – Margins – Washington, D.C. – focus on the discrepancies between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers.  As a concluding event, discussions from previous workshops will be incorporated into the analysis of agriculture markets nationally.

Each workshop may feature keynote speakers, general expert panels, and break-out panels that will address more narrowly-focused issues.  At each workshop, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.

In addition, USDA and the Department of Justice submit are accepting written comments on these issues until Dec. 31, 2009.  Two paper copies of comments should be addressed to the Legal Policy Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 50 5th Street, NW, Suite 11700, Washington, D.C. 20001.  The electronic version of each comment should be submitted to agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov.

USDA and South Dakota CREP Agreement:  On November 10, USDA Secretary Vilsack and South Dakota Governor Rounds signed a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement to improve water quality in the James River and enhance wildlife habitat in the area.  The CREP is in the prairie pothole region and focuses on restoring wetland hydrology and surrounding upland buffers on about 100,000 acres in the watershed.  Eligible producers must offer a minimum of 40 contiguous or nearly contiguous acres, which may consist of a combination of land offered for enrollment into CREP and adjacent non-CREP acres in order to meet the 40-acre minimum block-size requirement.  The 40-acre minimum requirement may be waived for beginning, limited resource or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.  Producers must also enroll applicable acres in the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Walk-In Area Program for hunting and fishing access.

The total cost of the South Dakota CRP is $161.4 million.  Producers will receive the current weighted-average rental rate for the three predominant soils on the eligible acreage.  Some conservation practices will qualify for additional incentives such as a 20 percent rental rate increase, a Practice Incentive Payment (PIP), and a Signing Incentive Payment (SIP) of $100 per acre.  South Dakota will provide an incentive equal to 40 percent of the weighted-average rental rate for acres enrolled under CREP.  Sign up will begin Nov. 23, 2009 at local country FSA offices.

Due Dates for CFGs, SCRI, IPM:  A reminder that grant applications for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program are due by November 19.  For more information, visit the CFP website here or contact the CFP Program Leader, Elizabeth Tuckermanty at etuckermanty@nifa.usda.gov.

Other deadlines for NIFA grants are also approaching, including the Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program which closes on December 17, 2009  and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative which closes on January 14th, 2010 .

Systems Grantwriting Workshop for SARE, OREI, and SCRI
:  The national program leaders of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), and the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) are hosting a one-day workshop on the preparation and management of systems-based grant applications, in partnership with Cornell University.  The workshop is scheduled for December 10, and will also be accessible via web.  The registration deadline is December 3, and there is no registration fee.  For more information, click here.

McEvoy NOSB Presentation Available:  USDA has posted the presentation that the National Organic Program’s (NOP) new Deputy Adminstrator Miles McEvoy made at the November meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in Washington, DC.  McEvoy’s presentation laid out his plan for how to grow NOP, ensure the organic label’s integrity, and implement NOSB recommendations.  The presentation also included rough budget figures, a projected increase in NOP staff from 16 to 31, and a priority on publishing the long-awaited access to pasture rule by early 2010.


Nominations Open for EPA Farm, Ranch & Rural Communities Advisory Committee:  EPA has issued a notice that it is taking nominations for membership on the EPA Farm, Ranch & Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC) until December 31, 2009.  The FRRCC provides independent advice to the EPA Administrator on a broad range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities.  Members serve as representatives from academia, industry (e.g., farm groups and allied industries), non-governmental organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments.  People who are actively engaged in farming or ranching are encouraged to apply.  Members will serve for a two-year term, 2010-2011, and will be expected to volunteer about 10-15 hours per month reviewing topics of interest to the EPA Administrator and participating in meetings and conference calls.

Candidates for membership may be nominated by organizations or may nominate themselves.  All nominations must be identified by name, occupation, organization, position, current business address, e-mail address, and daytime telephone number, and must include: (1) A resume detailing relevant experience and professional and educational qualifications of the nominee; and (2) a brief statement (one page or less) describing the nominee’s interest in serving on the Committee.   Nominations should be submitted to:  Alicia Kaiser, Designated Federal Officer, Office of the Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (MC 1101A), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460.  You may also e-mail nominations to: Kaiser.Alicia@epa.gov.

For further information contact Alicia Kaiser at her e-mail address or by phone at (202) 564-7273. Information about Committee actions in 2008-2009 is posted here.


“Building Sustainable Places” Now Available:  This week the ATTRA program announced publication of the new Building Sustainable Places book and made it available on their website.

The new publication is an updated version of Building Better Rural Places and is edited by Michael Field Agricultural Institute’s Margaret Krome.  The guide is a collaborative effort of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, National Center for Appropriate Technology, USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, and other USDA agencies.  NSAC also provided information for the publication.

The guide, written for farmers, entrepreneurs, and community based organizations, includes summaries and important information about federal programs that encourage community development, sustainable land management and production, and value-added and diversified agriculture and forestry.

Categories: General Interest

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