Watch on Washington

Buckeye Farm News: 2009 – A Year In Review

Small produce growers took on big proposal

OFBF voiced concerns with a proposed marketing agreement that could have set unworkable standards for Ohio produce growers.

OFBF received many calls from small and medium sized growers, organic growers, representatives of the Amish community and others who were concerned that the California marketing agreement for leafy greens could become the national standard.

The voluntary standards are designed to ensure food safety and could become a nationally recognized seal of approval for leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce. Growers who are unable to comply with the standards could be shut off from potential buyers.

Among OFBF’s concerns were California’s requirements that deal with water use, animal intrusion, field sanitation, harvest requirements and soil amendments. These specifics were designed around some California cultural practices and are not conducive to Ohio.

“In looking at the audit sheets for California, as a small grower, I don’t see where I will find the time, let alone the dollars to pay for this type of program,” said Lisa Schacht, a farm market operator who provided Ohio Farm Bureau’s testimony during a U.S. Department of Agriculture hearing in Columbus.

“I fear this proposal, as it now stands, will only serve to drive Ohio produce farmers out of business,” Schacht said.

OFBF First Vice President Steve Hirsch, a farm market operator, also testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, saying that a one-size fits all structure for food safety will not work.

“In my view compliance is the key to the success of any new food safety system and any new system should be flexible in nature so growers can comply,” Hirsch said.

Water regulations would burden farmers

OFBF expressed farmers’ opposition to legislation that could potentially put all waters in Ohio under federal jurisdiction. The federal bill, which would expand the authority of the Clean Water Act from “navigable” waters to all waters, could make any activity affecting wet areas subject to the federal permit process. The legislation could open up farmers to citizen lawsuits for doing things such as cleaning out a drainage ditch. OFBF collected more than 5,000 postcards from Ohio farmers expressing opposition to the bill and delivered this message to Congress.

The ‘cow tax’ and climate bill

OFBF along with American Farm Bureau fought against a proposed “cow tax” that would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

According to Agriculture Department figures, any farm or ranch with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs emits more than 100 tons of carbon equivalents per year, requiring it to obtain a permit under the proposed rules. OFBF also voiced concerns to Ohio’s congressional delegation regarding proposed climate legislation that would increase the costs of inputs, including fuel and energy, for farmers by putting restrictions on carbon emissions.

Ruling in dust case goes against agriculture

A federal appeals court ruling earlier this year opened the door for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate dust kicked up by farm machinery and other rural activities.

American Farm Bureau Federation had challenged U.S. EPA regulations, saying the agency failed to show that rural dust causes adverse health effects.

OFBF was disappointed with the ruling and believes the cost of new regulations would likely far outweigh any environmental benefit.

As this issue progresses, OFBF will continue to speak out against potential costly and burdensome regulations.

Meat shipment rules will benefit Ohio

Because it would increase marketing opportunities for Ohio farmers, OFBF has been a strong advocate for allowing interstate shipment of meat.

Federal laws prohibit state-inspected meat products (beef, poultry, pork, lamb and goat) from being sold in interstate commerce but other state-inspected products such as milk, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and fish are allowed to be marketed freely throughout the United States. Ironically, meat products shipped from other countries are also allowed in the United States if they pass inspections.

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture program that would allow state-inspected meat to cross state lines is expected to have a big impact in Ohio. Ohio has the second highest number of state-inspected meat processing facilities in the United States.

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