Ag Justice Updates

  • Confused About Ethical Labels on Your Food? New Consumer Resource from Domestic Fair Trade Association

    Want to support small-scale farms producing organic food with fair wages and respectful working conditions for farmworkers? The Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA), a national coalition of farmers, farmworkers, retailers, manufacturers, and NGOs including NOFA, has released its first round of evaluations of fair trade and social justice certification claims in the marketplace. The evaluations measure Food Justice Certified, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance, Food Alliance, Fairtrade International, and Fairtrade USA against the principles of domestic fair trade.

    To view the evaluations and learn more about the Domestic Fair Trade Association, please visit www.fairfacts.thedfta.org

     
    • May, 2014
    • By Elizabeth Henderson
  • Ecological Farming Association honored Elizabeth Henderson with their "Advocate of Social Justice Award"

    (GAINESVILLE, Fla. - January 29, 2014) - At the 34th Annual Conference, the Ecological Farming Association honored Wayne County organic farmer Elizabeth Henderson with their "Advocate of Social Justice Award 'The Justie.'" The Eco-Farm Conference, the largest organic farming conference in California, attracts over 1800 organic farmers, business people, gardeners and food activists for a three days of workshops and celebrations at Asilomar, near Monterey. On January 24, 2014, at the awards banquet, Dru Rivers, one of the team of farmers at Full Belly Farm, presented the "Justie" to Henderson in recognition of her "long-term, significant contributions to improving the well-being of the people who work in food production and agriculture, ensuring broad access and affordability to healthy and sustainably grown food, and eliminating the inequities associated with the ill effects of the existing food system."

    Elizabeth Henderson Henderson helped establish the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in Western New York, Peacework Organic CSA (known for many years as the Genesee Valley Organic CSA) based at Peacework Farm in Newark, NY. Since its first year, 25 years ago, Peacework has charged on a sliding scale so that lower income families could afford to access the certified organic produce from the farm and also accepts SNAP payments. She has also worked with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) to provide subsidies to low income people who join CSAs. Since 1999, Henderson has been a member of the team that created the Agricultural Justice Project, a program to certify farms that have good labor practices, and food businesses that pay farmers enough to cover the full costs of production including living wages for the farmers themselves and the people who work for them.

    Below is Elizabeth Henderson's acceptance speech upon receiving the 'Justie":

    Thank you. This is a great honor. Not just for me, but for the Agricultural Justice Project team - working together since 1999 to give new energy to fairness in organic and sustainable agriculture. Leah Cohen, our director, and Michael Sligh of RAFI are here with me this evening, Marty Mesh of FOG and Nelson Carrasquillo of CATA, the other founding parents, are busy elsewhere.

    While some people come to a commitment to social justice through some crisis or transformative experience, I drank social justice with my mother's milk. My parents, Laura and Sydney Berliner, had a life-long commitment to peace and justice - and they were already the second generation in our family - my mother's uncles fought for freedom from oppression in the Revolution of 1905 in Poland, then fled to the US to avoid conscription into the tsarist army, and spent their lives as union activists. It gives me great satisfaction that the 4th generation carries on this work - my son Andy Henderson devotes his talents and energies to teaching youngsters here in CA in a double-emersion Spanish-English program, helping children grow up to be literate active citizens.

    The meaning of food justice is complex. The most widespread understanding is access to healthy food for low paid or unemployed people, and I have made a tiny contribution in this area working with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) to provide subsidies to CSA shares in the inner cities of Rochester and Buffalo, New York. But there are two other equally important aspects of food justice. There is the struggle for living wage, fairly remunerated work for everyone who labors in the food system. CSAs like mine (Peacework Organic CSA) can play a role. The direct relationship with our members gives us the opportunity to negotiate with them for better prices and to ask them to share with us the risks of growing their food. And this is where AJP comes in - our standards require that buyers pay farmers prices that cover the full costs of production and that all food system employers pay living wages, guarantee safe working conditions and recognize the right of working people to freedom of association. And finally, for food justice to become a long-lasting reality, there must be local, community control.

    If we hope to build a movement that will have the strength to replace the industrial food system, we farmers need to work as allies with all the other food workers from seed to table. Despite owning significant amounts of land and equipment, the earnings of farmers like me and many of you are more like those of industrial workers than captains of industry. The profits in the food system go to the other sectors - "… the agricultural family unit is only a subcontractor caught in the vise between upstream agroindustry… and finance… and downstream … the traders, processors and commercial supermarkets." (p. xii, Food Movements Unite!) Family scale "sustainable" farmers will only break this vise by taking our place alongside other working people in the food system in solidarity with their struggles which are really our struggles as well.

    Since I was a child, these words of Eugene v. Debs have had a special resonance for me. When he was sentenced on November 18, 1918, to ten years in prison, he said: "Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

    If we at least begin demanding that farmers, farm workers and all food workers make living wages with full benefits, (health care, compensation for injuries and unemployment, and retirement) from a 40 hour week, we may start moving towards an agriculture that will sustain us into a future worth living. And that is what the Agricultural Justice Project is all about - a set of tools to help build value chains, changing relationships to bring alive the Principle of Fairness that is basic to organic agriculture all over the world. Thank you again! For more information, contact Leah Cohen, 919.809.7332, agjusticeproject@gmail.com or visit www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org.

     
    • Feb, 2014
    • By Elizabeth Henderson
  • DFTA Evaluation of Fair Trade and Social Justice Certification Claims

    On Domestic Fair Trade, Inc website
    Follow this link. http://fairfacts.thedfta.org/simple-comparison/
     
    • Feb, 2014
    • By Elizabeth Henderson
  • Bringing New Life to the Fairness Principle in Organic Agriculture in the NE: Report on the Domestic Fair Trade Association and the Agricultural Justice Project:

    News from NOFA IC's Domestic Fair Trade Committee

    In both the work associated with NOFA's own fair trade committee and our associations with the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) and the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) our active members and colleagues have concentrated efforts in building a sustainable food movement by our work bridging the gap between farmers and farm workers to meet their joint needs for economic and social justice. We are concerned about migrants and interns, small-scale farmers and family farmers; our challenge is to overcome the artificial differences mostly created by the structure of our economy, all the while continually honoring and respecting and supporting their efforts at making a living and feeling pride in their life choices of being engaged in the work of agriculture.

    "As someone who has made my living as a farmer for over 30 years," writes Liz, "I know from experience how hard it is to get prices that fully cover the costs of running a farm which, if the farm is to be sustainable, must include living wages and decent benefits for the farmer and the farm workers. It was that experience that propelled me into working on domestic fair trade and AJP on behalf of my fellow organic farmers and NOFA. So much of the work that the NOFAs do in supporting the development of organic farming, with technical assistance, new farmer programs, and policy advocacy contributes to the unfolding of fairness in domestic trade."

    This past year the NOFA DFT committee developed and administered a survey of organic farmers in the NOFA and MOFGA region. Six hundred farmers - mostly certified organic - filled out some part of the survey and 350 completed it. PhD candidate Becca Berkey has crunched the numbers, and the results are now available and being shared publicly. We hope some of the results will be used to support and guide IC policy work and technical assistance. Louis Battalen, Liz Henderson, and Becca led a workshop on the results at the NOFA Summer Conference, and recruited a few new people to our committee. Since then, Becca has conducted interviews with farmers and workers at three farms and with a few members of the IC.

    Becca turned the workshop power point into a shareable Google Drive document- which you can access using this link:

    https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1kiXT0o8Ts-I3Yi2MjN_B5yD4E0I4fCdn5qtQzAYS7Jo/edit?usp=sharing

    The committee is working on getting articles about the survey published in the newsletters the NOFA chapters - so far, NOFA-NY has published a good one by Catherine Lea and Becca, and Portia Weiskel has written one for NOFA-MA. Lou intends to write an article for The Natural Farmer. Our committee includes members with organizational affiliations as disparate as the Brooklyn Food Coalition and Dean's Beans, and we hold about three conference calls annually. New members are welcome.

    Agriculture Justice Project

    The essential message of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) is that when we change relationships on farms towards respect and fairness, we move towards sustainability. Liz Henderson has been NOFA's representative to AJP for 14 years; this fair trade certification is finally available for farms and food businesses of all kinds in the NE and throughout the country.

    Without fair prices, our farms will continue to struggle and economic pressures will continue to wear good people out and undermine loving relationships. Farms and food businesses that adopt the Food Justice Certified label of AJP will be able to attract customers who care about the people who produce their food; loyal customers will help these businesses achieve financial viability. Clear and fair labor policies make employees more likely to stay, reducing costs for retraining. A stable motivated work force makes active contributions to improving operations. When North East organic and sustainable farms make a strong connection between environmental and social values, there will be real benefits for farmers, the people who work on their farms and their customers. This is basic to the work that NOFA has been doing for over 40 years. Many NOFA member farms meet the AJP standards - the Food Justice Certified label is a way to reward their good work in the marketplace.

    Even without an additional premium for the AJP label, its very presence on products changes the conversation about what true organic values are, educating consumers about their role in bringing about change in the structure of food and agriculture -- including agricultural pricing, labor practices and trade. Farms that use the label consider increased market share an important benefit. Surveys conducted by food coops and student studies show that a small but highly aware portion of the public (20 - 30%) will pay more for food from farms that can verify their claim of treating workers with respect.

    This year, AJP established a Social Justice Fund. Five percent of any funds raised by AJP go into this fund that will provide subsidies for farms that have trouble paying for AJP certification. If enough money can be raised, the fund will also contribute to farmer and farmworker health insurance on Food Justice Certified farms.

    AJP Training for certifiers and worker organizations: The project came east this fall as we conducted our first northeast Food Justice Certified Training, which took place in Binghamton and Ithaca, NY, Oct 30 - Nov 1, 2013. Thanks to energetic fundraising, the training was free to NOFA-NY LLC staff and farm worker representatives. The trainers were Jessica Culley from CATA, Liz Henderson from NOFA, and Denise Aguero from Quality Certification Services, the Florida Organic Growers' agency. Leah Cohen and Sally Lee did much of the design work for the training curriculum.

    So far, the only NOFA related certification program that has completed the training to implement AJP certification is NOFA-NY Certified LLC. Over the next months, that program will be making the decision whether to add this new scope to their work, a very big decision. Support from NOFA chapters and requests from farms and other food businesses for the Food Justice Certified label will encourage NOFA-NY to take this on - and then maybe NOFA-VT and Bay State and MOFGA too. Specifically, the AJP standards address these issues:

    1. - Fair pricing for farmers;
    2. - Workers' and farmers' rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining;
    3. - Fair wages and benefits for workers;
    4. - Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers;
    5. - Clear conflict resolution policies for farmers or food business owners/managers and workers;
    6. - Workplace health and safety;
    7. - Clean and safe farmworker housing;
    8. - Learning contracts for interns and apprentices;
    9. - No full-time child labor, but carefully supervised participation of children on farms.

    On the first day of the training there were 4 observers - Liana Hoodes, Director of NOC and Chair of the NOFA-NY LLC Management Committee, Lisa Engelbert, dairy farmer and senior staff person at the NOFA-NY LLC, Matthew Hoffman, a rural sociologist who volunteered to help in exchange for attending part of the training, and Amy Little, policy staff for NESAWG and former director of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

    11 people completed the training: four from certification programs and 7 from worker organizations. Trainees included two members of NOFA-NY's certification team; two staff organizers from CATA; two activists from Migrant Justice of Vermont; the internal inspector from Farmer Direct Coop based in Saskatchewan; and Louis Battalen of our committee. The results of the final exams range from very good to excellent and the training evaluations were positive with useful suggestions for future improvements. The first half of the training was spent in the classroom and then went on to three guided inspections: a farm, a retailer with two coop storefronts, and a retailer that also does processing and co-packing, thus covering a diversity of food enterprises. As a result, the first three entities in NY - West Haven Farm, Green Star Coop and The Piggery - will soon have use of the Food Justice Certified label. The certification process should be complete soon. All three sets of managers are eager to promote the label. Some of the funding from the training will also cover AJP outreach to more farms and food businesses in the NE.

    Elsewhere in the country, the first farms have received AJP certification in Florida and California, and recruiting continues in CA, the upper mid-west, Florida and the NE. The Farmer Direct Coop is distributing Food Justice Certified lentils and dry beans in Pacific NW coops and Whole Food stores across the country. Domestic Fair Trade Association: The evaluation of fair trade claims in the marketplace has been DFTA's main project over the past year. Louis Battalen is an active member of the Criteria Committee which has been analyzing the labels and claims of six different programs, including AJP, using criteria based on the DFTA's Principles to identify best practices and areas for improvement. DFTA will publish the evaluation results on an interactive website so that the public will be able to find out which claims have validity, what the claims really mean, and which claims are overstated.

    The Farmworker Association of Florida hosted the December 11 - 13 annual meeting in Gotha, Florida. Their mission is to organize farmworker communities to "realize their dignity and contributions to society and the economy, raise consciousness within and outside their communities, recognize their capacity to solve community problems and reduce the barriers which marginalize them." As a prelude to the meeting, they lead DFTA members on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour. This lake is a shocking example of the contamination from unregulated agricultural production and the terrible costs in human suffering and illnesses. The tour ended on a more positive note with a visit to the organic community gardens created by Association members to provide for the food security of their families and neighbors, and a dinner of Mexican style dishes from home grown ingredients with dancing and music.

    The DFTA Annual Meeting: Colette Cosner, DFTA Director, greeted the 40 or so people assembled at Camp Ithiel, on the shore of Lake Apopka, and facilitated introductions. Grace Cox of the Olympia Food Coop led a review of the consensus decision making process. We spent most of that first morning in a peer review process. There are four sectors of DFTA members: farmer organizations, farmworkers, ngos and for-profit food businesses. In joining, organizations agree to continual improvement guided by the DFTA principles. The membership committee paired participants across sector to review one another's applications and annual improvement.

    I spent a fascinating hour with Sue Kastenen of Dr. Bronner's. I learned that they will soon launch a line of toothpaste. She told me about their efforts to increase the supply of fair trade ingredients by organizing cooperatives of small-scale producers in far-flung corners of the world - coconut oil growers in Sri Lanka, a failed attempt to help Mexican indigenous producers of an obscure oil. I reciprocated by telling her about the NOFA chapters, drawing on their "chapter sharing" reports to the Interstate Council. Like Dr. Bronners, I could not point to much progress in making concrete our commitment to indigenous rights. But the chapters have an exciting list of social justice projects underway: increasing access to local, organic food through subsidies for CSA shares, training low-income families in organic gardening, internal reflection on racism in organic agriculture.

    After lunch, the evaluation committee described the work they have done assessing fair trade labels, and demonstrated the new website where consumers will be able to learn what labels stand for. There was a long discussion on next steps - how to find the resources to maintain and update the evaluations and add more labels; how to package the information so that people with different levels of interest can make best use of it. A produce broker or researcher will want more detail than a shopper who wants a quick guide to purchasing. Due to the complexity of this work (and very modest resources, the website will not be public until May 2014.

    The agenda included committee meetings - Liz is on membership that has developed new categories for associate members and individual supporters. Then the whole group voted on committee proposals and welcomed new members - the Brooklyn Food Coalition, Greenwillow Grains, a farm in WA, and the New Orleans Food Coop. Jason Freeman from the Farmer Direct Coop in Saskatchewan, a DFTA founding member, gave a presentation on their recent successes in marketing their lentils and beans under the organic and AJP labels through food coops in the Pacific NW and Whole Foods stores all across the company. AJP showed our new short film "Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South," by Shelley Rogers which tells the story of the Food Justice Certification of the Brown family farm, The Family Garden, near Gainesville, Florida. Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community in Bellingham, WA, reported back from the second national farmworker convocation on domestic fair trade. Attended by farmworker representatives from around the country and also by local farmworkers who analyzed and examined together the value fair trade would have for them if more farms implemented it. Ernesto Velez Busto, director of Centro Campesino, called for regional farmworker convocations, affirming that justice begins with care of the land but must encompass care of the people.

    On Friday morning there were two workshops - Agroecology and Food Sovereignty in Farmworker Communities and Triple Bottom Line Trust: Building Supply Chain Integrity Programs. Blanca Moreno of the Florida Farmworkers led the first, telling about her recent trip to Cuba to attend the international conference on agroecology. Blanca also told us about her tour of urban farms and the Cuban's impressive approach to spreading know-how through farmers teaching farmers.

    As usual at DFTA meetings, the four sectors have a space to convene separately to discuss the most pressing issues among peers. Each sector can recommend policies or resolutions to the organization as a whole. At previous meetings, the farmworkers initiated policy statements on immigration reform that members from other sectors took home to their organizations for endorsement. These positions then became policy for the DFTA as a whole. The DFTA farm sector is way too small; we planned outreach to more farming groups. DFTA membership offers organizations like NOFA a unique opportunity to work for greater mutual understanding with both farm workers and progressive industry representatives and to stand together for a more just food system.

    For more information or to join the NOFA Domestic Fair Trade committee, contact Elizabeth Henderson at elizabethhenderson13@gmail.com , Lou Battalen at Louis@topoftheforest.com or Alexis Simpson at ahksimpson@gmail.com.

     
    • Jan, 2014
    • By Elizabeth Henderson and Louis Battalen
  • Strengthening Fair Trade in North America – Reigniting the Movement

    Note: This summary represents the perspective of the Domestic Fair Trade Association and Fair World Project.

    The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit brought together almost fifty diverse stakeholders to explore how to strengthen the fair trade movement in North America. Attendees represented small farmers in Latin America, farmers in the US and Canada, farmworkers in the US, US- and Canada-based food, craft, and retail businesses committed to the principles of fair trade, and NGOs involved in the fair trade movement. On the third and final day, the group was joined by representatives of Agricultural Justice Project, Institute for Marketecology, Fairtrade Canada, and Fair Trade USA to address how certification, standards, and labels can and should play a role in the fair trade movement.

    After three days of work, a firm foundation was laid for a stronger, more coordinated movement and a commitment was made to continue this important work together.

    Positive outcomes of this meeting included:

    1. Reclaiming the understanding that certification is a tool of fair trade and that tool must serve this movement.
    2. Initiating a process for holding standard-setters, certifiers, and labelers accountable to a high bar set by the stakeholders of the movement.
    3. Establishing relationships of trust and a commitment to collaborate among stakeholders who had never before worked together.
    4. Committing to work collaboratively to transform the policy and corporate structures that marginalize producers and workers worldwide.

    Four working groups formed in the months leading up to the summit to address four key areas:

    1. Vision and the future of fair trade
    2. Accountability within the movement
    3. The architecture of the movement
    4. Messaging and education around

    It quickly became apparent that there were key issues that needed attention that crossed the boundaries of those working groups, notably large-scale agriculture and domestic fair trade. For both issues, some clarity was achieved, though work remains to be done.

    Large-large and corporate agriculture: We reaffirmed that worker voices throughout the supply chain need to be heard in addition to small farmers/artisans and that space in the movement must be created for them. How large-scale agriculture fits into certification programs needs to be worked out, with options including:

    1. Certification/labeling is not an adequate tool for large-scale agriculture and other mechanisms need to be developed to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
    2. Certification/labeling is an adequate tool and can be run in parallel to traditional fair trade programs, but products from large-scale agriculture need to be labeled distinctly in the marketplace.
    3. Certification/labeling is an adequate tool, but additional requirements such as worker access to land for subsistence crops, relationships with local workers’ groups, and working for land reform must be implemented.
    4. Domestic fair trade: Attendees agreed that the domestic and international fair trade movements should collaborate more closely to identify where commonalities are, understand differing points of view, and ultimately to help each other push our movements forward. Key next steps include:
    5. Bridge domestic fair trade movements worldwide
    6. Collaborating on a term that may be used to distinguish domestic fair trade in the marketplace
    7. Coordinating on accountability issues in a way that sets a high bar and supports those we collectively seek to help.

    Though monumental progress was made at this initial meeting, there is still work to be done to further define and strengthen this movement and bring about transformation in agriculture and trade. Next steps include:

    1. A new group of volunteers has stepped up to be an ad hoc organizing committee proposing outcomes, goals, and a work plan for the next six months to a year. A proposal is expected by July 1st.
    2. A paper produced by the Accountability group outlining key issues will receive priority attention in the plan for the next six months as a basis for setting minimum expectations for any organization involved in standard-setting and labeling for the fair trade movement.
    3. Fair World Project has volunteered to create a series of follow up questions for those standard-setters and labelers who joined the Summit to ensure accountability and transparency going forward.

    Fair trade in North America is at a critical crossroads. The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit represents a crucial step in reigniting a diverse movement of farmers, workers, Alternative Trade Organizations, and advocates to build a just economy based upon the values of fair trade. Fair World Project and the Domestic Fair Trade Association are committed supporting and strengthening this movement going forward.

    For more information on next steps, please contact:

    Dana Geffner, Fair World Project dana@fairworldproject.org Kerstin Lindgren, Domestic Fair Trade Association kerstin@thedfta.org Ryan Zinn, Fair World Project ryan@fairworldproject.org

     
    • May, 2012
    • Elizabeth Henderson
  • Report to NOFA on the IFOAM Organic World Congress, General Assembly and the meeting of the farmers' group, the Intercontinental Network of Organic Farming Organizations (INOFO) - Sept 28 - Oct 5, 2011

    Report on the IFOAM General Assembly, October 3-5, 2011
    Every 3 years, the IFOAM General Assembly (GA) meets in conjunction with the Organic World Congress, a 4-day conference on all aspects of organic agriculture with participants from every country in the world. This year, the brand new Organic Museum on the banks of the Han River near Seoul, S. Korea made a luxurious venu for the assembly. The GA sets the top priorities for IFOAM and elects the World Board. Under the leadership of a new Executive Director, Markus Arbenz, IFOAM is on the path to financial recovery and has created a unified strategic plan. IFOAM is undertaking major advocacy campaigns aimed at the United Nations (Food and Agriculture (FAO), UNCTAD (Commission on Trade and Development) and other international meetings, conventions and events: "People before Commodities (on food security), "Powered by Nature" (biodiversity), and "Not Just Carbon" (on significant role of organic agriculture in mitigating climate change). NOFA members have the possibility of speaking for IFOAM at meetings in N. America, and particularly the UN in NY.

    The IFOAM Organic Guarantee System has undergone revamping, and now consists of five parts
    1. Family of standards - draws the line between what is organic and what is not, includes all standards and regulations that have passed an equivalence assessment. At the GA, it was announced that the NOFA Organic Landcare standards had been accepted into the Family.
    2. Best Practice Standards - to stimulate innovation and continuing improvement
    Participatory Guarantee Systems - based on community organizing, a way for small farms that cannot afford certification, to group together to provide a credible organic guarantee for use in local markets.
    4. IFOAM's Global Organic Mark -a universal logo now available for a fee.
    5. International Organic Accredition Service (IOAS) - provides Accreditation to organic certification agencies.

    IFOAM also continues its commitment to GOMA - Global Organic Market Access - a joint project with FAO and UNCTAD to harmonize standards to allow freer trade in organic farm products, especially important for developing countries.

    With more than half of the members present and participating, a new World Board was elected that continues the commitment to promoting smallholder organic farming worldwide.

    The next world congress will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 4 - 14, 2014.

    Download the full report (pdf)

     
    • December, 2011
    • Elizabeth Henderson
  • The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill on September 7th.

    The bill and Committee Report do not specify the amount of funds that are to be assigned to the National Organic Program (NOP), but do fund the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which contains NOP, at $82 million. This is $9.5 million more than the House bill allocates for this agency. The House report language recommended that NOP be funded at or above fiscal year 2011 levels, so we are optimistic this language will be included in the Conference Report if the full Senate passes the bill.

    The Organic Data Initiative (ODI) was not funded at a specific level, but the Committee Report language directed funding appropriated for the Economic Research Service be used to continue funding ODI. The House passed bill includes an amendment to fund ODI at $300,000. The Senate bill contains $3.992 million for the Organic Integrated Transitions Program (ORG). This is $4 million below funds appropriated by the House because of a mandatory 2% cut across the board of Section 406 Programs. The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas Program (ATTRA) was funded at $2.25 million, $225,000 more than the House approved bill. This is promising progress since ATTRA was zeroed out in the fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution.

    Also included in the Committee Report was language directing the National Agricultural Statistics Service to conduct the Organic Productions Survey on a regular basis. Conservation programs were deeply cut; The Conservation Stewardship Program losing $35 million, compared to losing $171 million in the House bill, and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program losing $350 million, the same as the House.

    Fiscal year 2011 ends on September 30th. If the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill is not finalized by then, we will likely see a string of continuing resolutions, which is what Congress used to fund the government from October 2010 through April 2011. To avoid a continuing resolution, or a shut-down of the government programs funded through this bill, the full Senate must pass the bill. Then, a conference of the House and Senate would take place to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills. The bill worked out by this conference committee would then go back to the House and Senate for final passage before being sent to the President for his signature. Another option, which would avoid a conference, would be for either the House or Senate to pass the other chambers’ bill without changes. Because of the substantial differences in the bills, this is unlikely to happen.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee Report is available here, and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed bill is available here.

     
  • Food Justice Certification Gains Momentum: Certifiers and Farm Worker Representatives Complete Training and Qualifying Exam

    The Agricultural Justice Project proudly announces the awarding of certificates to representatives of four organic certification agencies and five farm worker organizations who successfully completed a 3-day training on the requirements for the Food Justice Certified label. Twenty one people took part in the training May 3 - 5, 2011, in Eugene, Oregon, which included formal presentations on AJP standards and policies, and three practice inspections on area farms and a business. Management Committee member Sally Lee explained, "A Memo of Understanding with AJP will allow the certification agencies to offer our domestic fair trade certification to farms and food businesses across North America. A unique feature of the AJP system requires the trained certification inspectors to cooperate with representatives of farm worker organizations in performing the third party verification."

    The long-term goal of the AJP is to transform the existing unjust food system. AJP envisions a food system that is based on thriving, ecological family-scale farms that provide well-being for farmers, dignified work for wage laborers, and that distributes its benefits fairly throughout the food chain from seed to table. As a first small step towards this ambitious goal, AJP is launching domestic fair trade in the United States with a social justice label, Food Justice Certified. This new label allows family-scale farms to distinguish their products from industrialized organic products. The standards for this label are based on the complementary principles of fair pricing for the farmer and just working conditions for farm and food business workers resulting in a win/win/win/win scenario in which workers, farmers, buyers, and ultimately consumers all benefit.

    For more information, contact Sally Lee at agjusticeproject@gmail.com or visit the website www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org.

     
  • Alliance Calls for Stronger Measures to Protect Human Health, Wildlife From Dangerous Pesticides

    WASHINGTON- More than 130 groups in 35 states, representing public health, food-security, sustainable-farming, farmworker and conservation interests called on the Environmental Protection Agency today to use all the tools at its disposal to protect public health and imperiled wildlife from harmful pesticides. The letter to the EPA, citing significant flaws in the pesticide registration process, comes as Congress considers legislation to weaken environmental protections and allow increased pesticide pollution.

    "Pesticides pose a clear and preventable danger to our health and the environment. It's time for the EPA to ensure pesticides no longer jeopardize human health, wildlife, the water we drink or the air we breathe," said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Congress must do its part by stopping legislation sponsored by chemical corporations and their allies to strip important laws that safeguard future generations, farmworkers and wildlife from pesticide harms."

    The groups cite undue pesticide industry influence over EPA's pesticide decisions under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)-as well as documented pesticide impacts such as endocrine disruption, cancers and reproductive disorders for humans and wildlife-in requesting increased protections from harmful pesticide use. Specifically, the groups urge EPA to use the "rigorous scientific review process and strong legal protections" of the federal Endangered Species Act.

    "The pesticide industry has subverted the intended protections of U.S. pesticide law under FIFRA. That law is broken. If enforced, the Endangered Species Act offers strong protections for our most endangered wildlife, with human health benefits because it requires a more rigorous scientific review process less susceptible to industry influence," said Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America. "Current independent science indicates that the low-level mixtures of pesticides to which we are all exposed contribute to children's rising rates of neurodevelopmental disease and certain cancers, and impact the biodiversity that keeps our planet resilient."

    Pesticide use in the United States is regulated primarily under FIFRA, a 1947 labeling law that was last significantly updated 40 years ago and has been subject to major pesticide industry and farm-lobby influence. The Endangered Species Act is a stronger statute that requires formal consultation with federal wildlife agencies to assess pesticide impacts and develop measures to avoid harm to endangered species. The EPA has completed very few of these consultations. The Clean Water Act also regulates pesticide pollution by requiring federal permits for discharges of contaminants that enter waterways, including pesticides. A bill currently under consideration in the Senate, however, would exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act.

    In January, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America filed the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled wildlife from pesticides. The suit seeks to compel the EPA to evaluate the impacts of hundreds of the most dangerous pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 endangered and threatened species. The process would yield common-sense restrictions on some of the most harmful pesticides and safeguard human health (including for farmworkers and their families), drinking water and wildlife. Tellingly, Crop Life America, the pesticide industry's main trade group, has stated that defeating this lawsuit is one of its top three lobbying priorities.

    "Lobbying by pesticide interests to exempt pesticides from our strongest environmental laws will have cascading effects for generations," said Pilatic. "Hundreds of groups have come together to call for more - not less - protection from pesticides."

    See an interactive map of endangered species threatened by pesticide use
    Find out more about the Center's Pesticides Reduction campaign
    Read information from PANNA on the environmental impacts of persistent poisons

     
    • Frequently Asked Questions About Organic and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011

      What is the Food Safety Act in general?

      The Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), also known as the Food Safety Act or S. 510, was signed into law on January 4, 2011. The Act amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to safety of the food supply. The Act is aimed at helping the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prevent food safety problems, and it gives FDA new enforcement authorities and new tools for managing imported foods. In addition, it requires food facilities to identify potential food safety hazards and to develop and implement preventive control plans.

      Read More at OFRF website click here.

       
    • IFOAM Annual Report 2010 Now Available

      Dear IFOAM Affiliates,

      We are pleased to share with you our 2010 Annual Report.
      "One Earth, Many Gifts" is a reference to the many positive contributions made throughout 2010. Regardless of whether these contributions were given through the volunteering of work, engagement in partnerships, membership in IFOAM, endorsement of projects, contracting of our services, in-kind or money donations, they all reflect one common motivation: the creation of a fairer and more sustainable world.

      To all of you who contribute we would like to say 'thank you'. We hope that you enjoy skimming through the pages of our Annual Report and that the stories form the organic movement inspire you too to 'live change'.

      Alongside of the 2010 Annual Report, you will find IFOAM's Summary Strategic Plan. In 2010, Affiliates and other stakeholders were consulted on what IFOAM's strategic direction should be. The outcome has been condensed into this one document, which succinctly explains IFOAM's strategic foci, the five strategic pillars, and its structure.