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.

FDA Revises Food Safety Rules in Response to Small Farmers

Farmers-market_406x250The FDA has announced four revised food safety rules included in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), after farmers complained that the regulations could hurt business.

Their new proposals include relaxing water quality standards, allowing farmers to harvest crops sooner after using raw manure as fertilizer, and exempting small farms from some produce safety rules. Additionally, these new rules will benefit the members of the brewing community who sell the leftover grain from beer making to ranchers and dairy farmers as animal feed. View the new proposals and make a comment.

White House Unveils Plan to Curb Antibiotic Resistance

Intensive pig farmPresident Obama released a plan to address the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria. This plan is targeting larger livestock producers who habitually feed their animals antibiotics for growth promotion. According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant infections are linked to 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States annually.

Critics of the plan argue that this is merely advice to companies to lower their antibiotic use for growth purposes  while not addressing disease prevention strategies. In addition, the FDA has plans in place, to take effect over the next three years, that will effectively make it illegal for farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics to make animals grow bigger. The FDA asked drug companies in 2013 to phase out antibiotics used to promote growth and has directed farmers to obtain a prescription before using drugs to fight disease. Learn more.

California Officials Delay Major Bay Delta Tunnel Project

11hwfG.St.4In response to public comments submitted during the draft report, the $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan is being delayed. Critics warn that the new intakes could harm endangered fish species and that such a massive construction project will transform the Delta permanently, potentially jeopardizing its agricultural economy.

In theory, the plan would ensure that more fresh water would arrive to the 3 million acres of farmland in the Central Valley, however, water quality and availability could worsen for farmers who divert directly from the Delta. Learn more about the plan and see how it might affect your farm.

USDA Awards Over $52 Million in Grants to Grow Organic and Local Food Economies

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the award of over $52 million in support of the growing organic industry and local and regional food systems through five U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant programs.

buy_localMost of the grants announced were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS)  Farmers Market Promotion Program and  Local Foods Promotion Program, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA)  Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and  Community Food Projects (CFP) grant program. Also announced were grants from AMS’s  Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).

Together, these investments represent USDA’s commitment to strengthening organic and local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy food.

Learn more about these grant awards.

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