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Here come the Food Police

January 31, 2014 --

By American Farm Bureau Federationfarm-bureua-usa

By Stewart Truelsen

Picture yourself in the future, the not too distant future, on a bright summer day. You are grilling hot dogs at a picnic with your family in a park. You pay little attention to the drone flying overhead. It’s probably a UPS or FedEx drone making a package delivery. But it’s not. It’s the food police and they are monitoring the items you brought to the picnic. The hot dogs, buns, potato chips and soda pop exceed your family’s maximum caloric allowance for the day. Besides, non-diet soda pop has been completely outlawed because it contains sweetener. You are in trouble with the food police.

If that Orwellian view of the future sends chills down your spine maybe it should, because it is not far-fetched at all. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, already tried to limit the sales of soft drinks. Some said he did it to enhance his image as he left office. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work. The Supreme Court of New York blocked his efforts, calling the limits on soft drinks “arbitrary and capricious.”

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Pass Farm Bill this week!

January 28, 2014 --

By National Farmers Union

The National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson, under direction from the NFU Board of Directors, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner calling for the 2014 Farm Bill to be called up and voted on this week.

“Farm bill conference committee members have agreed to a compromise that will provide farmers, ranchers, rural residents and America’s consumers with policy certainty over the next five years,” said Johnson. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas, Ranking Member Cochran, and Ranking Member Peterson, and, the farm bill is now at the final stage in the legislative process.”

The letter outlines several of NFU’s priorities that were included in the final report language.

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Oregon downgraded in invasive species control

January 27, 2014 --

By Daily Digger
Oregon Association of Nurseries

Oregon gets a B- in invasive species management

Oregon, as a whole, could be doing better in its fight against invasive species. That’s the verdict from the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC), which gave the state a B-minus on its annual Invasive Species Report Card (PDF).

That’s down a full letter grade from 2012, when the state received an A-minus. The main difference? Cuts in state funding, and downtime as the council made the transition to a new coordinator. The coordinator serves on a contract basis, and the contract expired in 2013. A new coordinator, Carolyn Devine, has been brought on board. The report card also talks about other factors in the lower grade, including the need for more outreach to build public awareness of invasive species and the dangers they pose.

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Farm Bureau lays out 2014 agenda

January 24, 2014 --

farm-bureua-usa
By American Farm Bureau Federation

By Tracy Grondine

While many of us spent December running from one holiday party and feast to the next, farmers were busy not only celebrating the season, but celebrating the Farm Bureau grassroots policy process leading up to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention.

Policy development that began in the fall in county Farm Bureau meetings across the country just culminated at AFBF’s annual business session in San Antonio where 357 farmer delegates, representing every crop and livestock sector in the United States, adopted resolutions to set AFBF’s official policy positions for 2014.

On the farm labor front, delegates reaffirmed their strong support for meaningful ag labor reforms that ensure farmers and ranchers have access to workers when they are needed. Delegates also voted to support flexibility that would allow the employment of workers by more than one farmer.

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Judge rebukes Labor Dept. in Hot Goods Case

January 22, 2014 --

Oregon-Farm-Bureau

Oregon Farm Bureau

Federal Judge Delivers Stinging Rebuke to USDOL in hot goods cases
Judge Coffin cites duress, vacates consent judgments against blueberry farmers

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin issued a ruling Jan. 15 vacating the U.S. Dept. of Labor consent agreements imposed on two Oregon blueberry farms in summer of 2012. Judge Coffin ruled USDOL used illegal duress in coercing the farms to sign the agreements. Under Oregon law, agreements reached when one party is under duress are not valid. In 2012, USDOL had used its so-called hot goods powers to tell customers of these farms to not accept shipment of fresh blueberries, one of Oregon’s most delicate and perishable farm products. Only by signing away their right to appeal “whether future finding of fact or law” later exonerated them, would DOL tell customers it was ok to receive blueberry shipments from the farms. USDOL also required the two farms to immediately pay over $200,000 in alleged back wages and penalties without giving any evidence that such wages were owed nor penalties warranted. USDOL’s visits to the farms were not complaint-driven and neither farm had ever been cited for federal or state wage violations. Quotations and the complete ruling from Judge Coffin are attached.

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Flaws behind Wyden’s Eastern Ore. forestry bill

January 20, 2014 --

By Tom Partin
American Forest Resource Council

Oregonians rightfully value political compromise when it comes to tackling challenges facing our state, and there are few bigger challenges than addressing the lack of economic opportunity and jobs in Oregon’s rural communities. Oregon’s congressional delegation recognizes that the key to fighting rural poverty in forested communities is to break the gridlock caused by years of failed federal forest policies. Whether it’s finding a solution for rural citizens in Eastern Oregon, or those living near Western Oregon’s “O&C” forestlands, it’s important to ensure the solution and its necessary compromises actually fix the problems associated with federal forest management such as planning efficiencies, litigation and funding. Otherwise it’s not a solution at all.

When writing about Sen. Ron Wyden’s Eastern Oregon forestry bill, The Oregonian editorial board correctly suggests the forest products industry is used to taking risks. In fact, timber-related businesses invest billions of dollars in Oregon workers and risk billions more in infrastructure to obtain, process and manufacture forest products used around the world. The people who make these investments live and work in rural Oregon and are particularly proud to provide the few family-wage jobs available in these communities. Because these businesses rely on a dependable and sustainable timber supply to stay open, the stakes in federal timber policy are incredibly high for anyone who depends on this cornerstone of Oregon’s economy. Unfortunately, Wyden’s eastside forest bill won’t break the existing gridlock and risks creating even more uncertainty.

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Farmer action alert on EPA & Water Act

January 17, 2014 --

By American Farm Bureau Federationfarm-bureua-usa

There are two things that farmers need to realize about a new regulation that the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release in the coming weeks, two experts in water regulations said at a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention.

One is that the new rule that EPA is proposing would greatly increase the scope of the Clean Water Act, making it of enormous importance to farmers across the country, said environmental and natural resources attorney Virginia Albrecht of the law firm Hunton & Williams LLP and Don Parrish, AFBF’s senior director of regulatory relations.

“We know there are people saying, ‘Oh, what – this again?’” Albrecht said. “But now we’re at this crossroads.”

Second is the need to make sure that EPA and Congress hear from farmers.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Walden notes Oregon win in FDA decision

January 15, 2014 --

Walden-greg
By Oregon Congressman Greg Walden

Greg Walden: FDA’s decision to revise food safety rules is “a victory for common sense”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) reacted to the FDA’s announcement that they would revise draft rules on water quality that would affect Oregon fruit and vegetable growers.

“This decision by the FDA is a victory for common sense. I repeatedly encouraged the agency to listen to concerns from growers that the draft rules were unworkable and could drive many small farms out of business. I’m glad the agency has listened and agreed to revise these unworkable rules. We can make sure food is safe without putting Oregon farmers out of business. As this process moves forward, I’ll continue to encourage the FDA to work with growers to get this right,” Walden said.

Many farmers have pointed out that the original rules lacked common sense and a crop-specific approach, resulting in many of the proposed provisions being unworkable for growers. In particular, Walden heard concerns from onion growers in Malheur County and pear and cherry growers in the Columbia Gorge. Many growers were worried that grouping over 200 crops together in one category fails to account for differing risk profiles and production practices, which has led to the proposed requirements that may be unworkable or unnecessary for particular crops.

Read the full article and discuss it »

OFB pushes crop donation tax credit

January 13, 2014 --

fbcrpdn14By Oregon Farm Bureau

OFB working with Oregon Food Bank on crop donation tax credit for farmers

Oregon Farm Bureau is working closely with the Oregon Food Bank to draft a bill for the 2014 Oregon Legislative Session to make it possible for more farmers and ranchers to donate fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat to charitable organizations that serve Oregonians in need.

The goal is to reinstate and increase a crop donation tax credit to help offset the cost for farmers who want to help support Oregon’s hungry families. Costs involved in a crop donation include labor, harvesting equipment, processing such as crop cleaning, cold storage, and fuel – and can be large enough to prohibit growers from participating. Many farmers make donations at a personal loss. The original state tax credit for donating crops, created in 1977, expired in 2011.

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Cherrios to pay a price for GMO switch?

January 10, 2014 --

cheerios


National Corn Growers Association

General Mills made headlines last week with the announcement that that they will begin marketing original Cheerios “not made with genetically modified ingredients.”

In a post about the change, General Mills VP of global communications Tom Forsythe noted that it really is not a big change. “Original Cheerios has always been made with whole grain oats, and there are no GMO oats. We do use a small amount of corn starch in cooking, and just one gram of sugar per serving for taste. And now that corn starch comes only from non-GM corn, and our sugar is only non-GM pure cane sugar.”

But it’s even less of a change than that, according to Margaret Smith, Cornell University professor of plant breeding and genetics, who says Cheerios are just the same as ever.

Read the full article and discuss it »
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