Category Archives: Policy

FarmsReach Policy News Roundup

On the FarmsReach Newsroom page we post a variety of timely news stories from around the country, every day. 

For those who are too busy to track all the latest headlines, we’ve decided to give you a distilled roundup of the latest policy updates affecting farmers in California.

Feel free to visit our Newsroom to get the latest stories or if you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access even more great information. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of the latest updates!


Historic Groundwater Bill Passed in CA

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills to set in motion statewide regulation of CA’s underground water sources in response to the devastating effects GWcanal1000from this three-year drought. Since CA’s founding, water has been considered a property right and this is the first time that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. However, in spite of the new restrictions, it might take decades before CA’s most depleted basins recover.

Many agricultural interests are opposed to the Bill, including the CA Farm Bureau Federation, under the grounds that it will harm food production. However, other agricultural interests are pleased because the bill allows the water to be managed locally, which means individual counties can monitor water use. Learn more about this bill.

The Farm to Fork Movement in CA is Sprouting Office Space

la-me-pc-gov-brown-signs-farm-to-fork-measures-001Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven pieces of legislation referred to as the “Farm to Fork Bills”, including the creation of the Office of Farm to Fork within the CA Department of Food and Agriculture.

The bills have been collectively described as coordinating efforts to encourage fresh food access and identify under-served areas for new farmers markets, and other non-profit food delivery operations. Additionally, included in these bills is a state review of neonicotinoids, which may play a role in the decline of bee populations. There will be an evaluation period of these neonics and control measures will be taken if needed to ensure they do not harm bees, and affect the pollination of CA’s food crops. Learn more about this bill.

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House Approves Farm Bill, Ending a 2-Year Impasse

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The following article appeared on the New York Times (NYT) website on January 29, 2014. The NYT has been regularly reporting on the farm bill debate for the last two years. 

Written by Ron Nixon.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill authorizing nearly $1 trillion in spending on farm subsidies and nutrition programs, setting the stage for final passage of a new five-year farm bill that has been stalled for more than two years.

Negotiators from the House and Senate spent several weeks working out their differences on issues in the legislation, including cuts to food stamps, income caps on farm subsidies and a price support program for dairy farmers. The bill is expected to save about $16.6 billion over the next 10 years.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 251 to 166. The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this week.

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Farm Bill Fits & Starts ~ 2014 Update

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The following article appeared on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) blog on January 10, 2014. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocate for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC’s vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while also protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities.

Written by NSAC.

The New Year’s hopes for quick action on a new five-year farm bill in the first half of January are fading as negotiations on certain issues stall. At the beginning of January, the House and Senate lead negotiators were making progress on a compromise bill, and there were rumors of a possible meeting of the conference committee. As the week progressed, however, compromises on certain major issues eluded the negotiators, causing the completion of a new farm bill to be further delayed.

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In Solidarity ~ Farmers Against Fracking!

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This week we spoke with FarmsReach member and partner Adam Scow, the California Campaigns Director for Food & Water Watch.  They are coordinators of the Farmers Against Fracking coalition (among others) across the state.

Showing a unified farmer voice against fracking is a powerful force in convincing policy makers to put a hold on fracking until its negative effects on farmers, water and farmland can be researched.  As of today, only 30 more farmer signatures are needed to present farmers’ needs to fracking decision-makers. See below for a list of farmers who have already signed the petition, and please sign today!

If you’re a farmer or rancher in California who depends on quality land and water (yes, all farmers do!), fracking has many possible negative effects on the health of yourself as well as your business. Many agree that it will permanently change the face of agriculture as we know it.

Read on as we talk with Adam about what’s at stake, why this issue should matter to farmers, and what can be done to join other farmers in the fight against fracking our farmland! 

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Don’t Let the Food Safety Modernization Act Burden Family Farmers

The article below first appeared in Civil Eats on October 3, 2013.

Civil Eats is a valuable daily news source covering all topics around food and sustainable agriculture.  With over 100 contributors, the site has been a labor of love for the last four years.  Now with everyone’s help, Civil Eats would like to take their reporting and visually engaging content to the next level!  Please see their Kickstarter page to contribute to their continued coverage of our industry, and read on to learn about the very important issue of food safety policy!

Written by Dave Runsten (CAFF) & Brian Snyder (PASA).

Amidst the current furor over a government shutdown, the federal budget, debt ceiling, food stamps, immigration, and other programs that are either held up or being curtailed, another huge issue is quietly moving forward that could profoundly impact American agriculture and consumers.

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Organic Checkoff Program? The Debate Continues!

OrganicFoodHealth_m_0904You may be familiar with well-known slogans such as “The Incredible Edible Egg,” “Got Milk?” or “Pork. The Other White Meat.” All of these are examples of advertising campaigns funded by commodity research and promotion programs, otherwise known as “checkoff programs”.

How they work

These programs are administered by the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and run by commodity producers to promote specific commodities (beef, pork, soybeans, eggs, milk, blueberries, avocados), through agricultural research and consumer marketing campaigns. The money to pay for these programs comes from mandatory fees (taxes) placed on commodity producers. For example, for every $100 value of pork sold, pork producers pay $0.40 towards the pork checkoff program. For the government, the purpose of these programs is to stimulate demand for the commodities that benefit from federal price supports. Once consumer demand increases, the government can reduce tax-funded payments to the farmers producing the commodities. In theory, this seems mutually beneficial for all involved in the program.

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Farm Bill 101 & Action Needed Now

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The Farm Bill is a 1001-page proposal that covers food, farming, nutrition, and land use, and is one of the primary tools for the US government to address issues that affect public health, climate, land and water. It’s drafted and hopefully passed through the House and Senate, and on to the President to sign every 5 to 7 years.

However, the days are limited for Congress to enact a new farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of current programs. For those paying attention, that Sept. 30, 2013 deadline was originally Sept. 30, 2012. Congress failed to complete its task last year, passing an extension in the early hours of Jan 1. 2013.

So, here we are – two years later – with no reform to outdated farm subsidies and funding stripped from nearly a dozen critical programs that help farmers and communities.  Programs that create jobs, invest in our next generation of farmers, and help farmers and communities build a more sustainable future.

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Fracking & The Media – More Transparency Needed!

frack feudLast week we covered a panel discussion about hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’. Now that I’m aware of the issue, it seems to be popping up more frequently. However, the question still remains: how does fracking affect farmers? How does it affect the food on my plate?

This week, NPR’s show On the Media helped explain why answers seem so elusive.  In the piece Fracking Feud, host Brooke Gladstone interviewed Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica, who has been reporting about fracking since it first started getting media attention in 2008.

Fracking in the news is simply confusing.  In the past week alone, the Illinois governor passed what is considered one of the most stringent policies against fracking, while the EPA abandons its Wyoming research of fracking and groundwater, and – with a commissioned study by Congress in 2010 to test the impact of fracking on air and groundwater – they’ve decided to delay research until 2016.

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“Food, Farming, and Fracking” with Kitchen Table Talks

Hydraulic Fracking

I’m not a farmer. I’m what some might call an earth-minded food enthusiast or green foodie. Whether one is at the producing or consuming end of the food chain, it is important to know the relationships and issues that exist within our food systems.

Since I joined the FarmsReach team, I’ve learned a lot about the players within our food system and the issues that affect everyone from farmers to eaters. One such issue affecting every individual in the food system is fracking. Having just returned to San Francisco from China, I hadn’t heard of fracking, and as I learn quickly about this destructive process used to produce oil, it strikes me as imperative that others also become aware of this issue.

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