+ a New Sec. of Agriculture, Big Ag Mergers, and big changes proposed for organic farmers and businesses
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Dear Rebecca,

After all of the big news this week in food and ag policy, I have no doubt that 2017 is going to hold a lot of changes for local, organic food. So much has happened in the last few days, so I’ve focused this edition of the Buzz on three big issues: President Trump’s selection of a Secretary of Agriculture; three big changes for the organic farmers and food businesses; and an update on the Bayer-Monsanto/Syngenta-ChemChina/Dow-Dupont mergers. Phew!

Given how much is changing for local, organic food and agriculture, CFSA’s Policy Team will be taking to our Twitter account to hear from you about these and other issues. Join us there by following @carolinafarm on Twitter. We’ll be posting the articles shared here on our Twitter feed over the course of the next few weeks. Reply to those tweets! We’d love to hear what you think about these and other policy issues.

Another new thing we're rolling out in the Buzz this year: We've heard from you that you want to do more. You read the Buzz and are motivated to take action; to make a real difference. We love this. Here's your call to action for this month. 


Meet With Your Member of Congress

Sign up to learn more about how you can make a real difference by setting up an in-district meeting with your congressional representatives. An email is great; a letter is better. But, meeting face-to-face with your representative or a member of their staff speaks loudest. And, CFSA is here to help. We've got a training for how to make this happen and a list of talking points to get you started. When you sign up, CFSA will be in touch with more information about visiting your Representative's district office with our help! 


All the best,
Rochelle signature_cropped
Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director

Buzz-Worthy News for January

Secretary of Agriculture
President Trump tapped Sonny Perdue to serve as the Secretary of Agriculture one day before his inauguration. Sonny Perdue grew up on a farm and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine before serving as the Governor of Georgia. He ran a small fertilizer business for a time, and lately has been heavily involved in grain processing and ag exports. There’s a lot still to learn about how or whether the nominee will support efforts to promote organic, sustainable and local agriculture. Given that the Freedom Caucus—an organization of far-right members of the House chaired by North Carolina’s own Representative Mark Meadows-- has identified the National Organic Program as a law they’d like to eliminate in its entirety, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Gov. Perdue’s confirmation hearings to see if he expresses support for local, organic agriculture. Check out these articles about Perdue’s nomination, and follow us on Twitter to keep up with breaking news about the process as it happens.

Trump taps former Georgia governor for agriculture secretary:

Trump said to nominate Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary:

Three Organic Policy Changes
In one of the last actions of his presidency, the Obama administration unveiled three policies that will affect certified organic farmers and eaters. The Trump administration has since put these policies on hold. Follow us on Twitter to make sure you hear what the Trump Administration decides to do with these rules.
First up, animal welfare rules for organic producers. After years of research by members of the National Organic Standards Board, USDA proposed rules that would regulate animal welfare on certified organic livestock farms this summer. CFSA had a lot to say about the proposed rules, and submitted a comment that focused on how pasture-based poultry systems weren’t addressed in the proposed rule. Find CFSA’s comment and a link to the new rule here. We’re still reviewing the rule at this time, but it looks like USDA took our comments about pastured poultry to heart and made some changes to their proposed rule before publishing it on January 18. How long this rule will be in effect is uncertain; the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee has promised to try to reverse the rule.
Next on our list of changes to organic policy is the creation of a National Certified Transition Program. As you may know, it takes three years for a farm to transition from conventional to certified organic. During the three year transition, farmers have to use organic methods to grow and raise their product, but they cannot label it as USDA Certified Organic until the third year. On most farms, it takes a lot more labor and added expense to use organic practices rather than conventional ones. Some farmers decide not to transition to organic when they learn that they have to act as though their farm is organic for three years, but aren’t able to ask for the higher price certified organic commands. This program may help convince more farmers to go organic. USDA announced the new program in mid-January, and CFSA is evaluating the program to determine whether it will support growth of the organic sector in the Carolinas. Follow us on Twitter @carolinafarm to learn more.
But wait! There’s more! In another last minute move by the Obama administration, USDA proposed an organic check-off program in mid- January. If you’re thinking, “check-off?” you are not alone and we’ve got the basics right here. Check-off programs already exist for lots of other ag products. Let’s use hogs as an example. Hog producers vote, and if there is support among them, each producer pays into a fund to do research into hog production and to market their product. If you’re at least as old as I am, you probably remember one of their marketing slogans, “Pork. The other white meat.” Marketing brilliance paid for with hog producers’ money. Several check-off programs have been plagued by scandals and lawsuits relating to how the funds are used, and there are other concerns specific to organic check-off, since many of those who want this program are not farmers and want to market processed organic items. There’s a lot to chew over, and CFSA will be reaching out to our members to submit comments to USDA about this proposal.

Agrochemical Mergers
To wrap it up, let’s talk mergers. Six agrochemical companies are looking to merge into three. Six companies, Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Dupont and BASF have US ag –related revenues in the billions of dollars each year, and collectively control about 2/3 of the seed market in the US. Five of those companies have proposed merging (Syngenta with ChemChina, a Chinese agrochemical company) into three. Further consolidation in the agrochemical industry isn’t likely to bode well for farmers. Increased consolidation may lead to increased costs for farm inputs due to bundling of genetics, seed, and chemical products with hidden fees, a reduction in innovation due to less head-to-head competition, and barriers to entry by new companies who can’t afford to compete. All of which will translate into a less resilient agriculture industry and higher prices for consumers.

CFSA is participating in an effort to get the USDOJ to look very carefully at these mergers, considering the possibility that they will hurt farmers and consumers. This effort seems all the more pressing after now-President Trump’s meeting with Monsanto and Bayer execs just prior to his inauguration. The agrochemical giants appear to have promised to keep existing US jobs and add new ones if the administration gives regulatory approval to the merger. After crunching the numbers, some analysts think that Bayer and Monsanto haven’t promised POTUS anything they weren’t already planning to do. Follow @carolinafarm for more information about all three mergers as they move ahead.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from a farmer who shares your values – and we can’t do it without you. Together we are building a regional food system that is good for consumers, good for growers, and good for the land.

The greater our numbers, the louder our voice for vibrant, sustainable local food systems!
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