NOFA-VT sends action alerts during key votes or comment periods on issues at the State and Federal level in an effort to encourage members and concerned citizens to make your voices heard. To ensure you receive our action alerts, sign up to receive our newsletter on the bottom of this page, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Our blog is also an excellent source for background on policy issues.
TELL FSA: DON'T CUT ORGANIC CERTIFICATION COST SHARE!
UPDATED AUGUST 14, 2020
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that they are reducing reimbursement rates for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Congress set the current reimbursement rates in the 2018 Farm Bill at 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope. FSA plans to lower the rate to 50 percent of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This reduction comes in the middle of a global crisis, at a time when it is critical to support our organic farms and processors as essential to our recovery.
We at NOFA-VT and VOF are working with Vermont's Congressional delegation to fight this decision and restore full reimbursement to all organic operations.
Here is what we need from you! Contact FSA at the federal and local level to let them know:
- The Organic Certification Cost Share Program is an important tool to help organic farmers stay in business. Organic businesses need this support now more than ever because of the lost markets and increased costs to keep workers and customers safe during the pandemic.
- Congress established reimbursement rates in the 2018 Farm Bill. It is unacceptable for FSA to disregard Congressional funding directives.
- It is vital that FSA reinstate the full organic certification cost share reimbursement.
FSA CONTACT INFORMATION:
- FEDERAL: Tona Huggins, Program Policy Branch Chief, (202) 720-6825, [email protected]
- VERMONT: Wendy Wilton, Vermont State Executive Director, (802) 658-2803, [email protected]
In the meantime, VOF will be sending our applications for reimbursement to our organic producers. We encourage our certified producers to apply for cost share assistance as soon as you receive the paperwork. Operations have until November 2, 2020 to apply for funding.
"NO TAXATION AND REGULATION WITHOUT REPARATIONS." LAWMAKERS: SAY NO TO S.54!
UPDATED AUGUST 12, 2020
NOFA-VT, in solidarity with Justice for All, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Growers Association, opposes S.54, Vermont's cannabis taxation and regulation bill. If passed, S.54 will disproportionately benefit wealthy, out of state business owners and exclude communities of color most harmed by decades of cannabis criminalization and racist policing. It will also disadvantage Vermont farmers by giving preferential treatment to existing medical dispensaries.
S.54 passed both the House and Senate earlier in the 2019-2020 biennium and is now in the hands of a conference committee made up of three members each chamber. The task of the conference committe, if and when it meets, will be to reconcile the two versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate.
As lawmakers prepare to return for a short, budget-focused legislative session later this month, a small number of well-funded, highly vested interests are working to convince lawmakers that passing S.54 should be a priority.
However, S.54 does not prioritize restorative justice and inclusion of those most harmed by our nation's history of cannabis prohibition, criminalization, and mass incarceration. It does not prioritize the expungement of all cannabis related criminal records and the immediate release of those incarcerated for cannabis related crimes. As an organization whose mission calls us to work toward a socially just food and agricultural system, we cannot support policy like S.54 that does not redress these harms before allowing the powerful to profit.
At the same time that it does not adequately address the harm done by the "war on drugs," S.54 also disproportionately benefits Vermont's existing medical dispensaries by giving them a jumpstart on licensing and market access. Rather than creating an equitable, inclusive, high quality, ecologically sound cannabis market, S.54 builds cannabis policy around assumptions based on the lopsided and inequitable markets created by other states. As we press on into this new territory, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the nation how cannabis policy can not only bring in revenue, but do so in a way that repairs past harms, prioritizes equitable market access, supports existing farms and Vermont-owned businesses, and bolsters our rural economies and communities.
For this to become a reality, lawmakers must commit to working with our organizations, communities of color, and small farms and businesses across Vermont to develop legislation creating a tax and regulate system in our state which sets a new standard for equity, reparations, inclusivity and representation.
TAKE ACTION! SPEAK UP FOR EQUITABLE FARMER RELIEF
UPDATED JUNE 15, 2020
NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont have been advocating for ALL farms and processors to have an equitable opportunity to apply for COVID-19 relief funds from the State. We need your help to contact members of the House and Senate TODAY in order to achieve this!
In these days of Zoom sessions and hurried processes, the legislature has heard very little testimony from diversified farmers and non-dairy processors about their experiences in relationship to Covid. The current bills reflect a disparity in testimony between ag sectors with respect to funding opportunities, and time is growing exceptionally limited with the legislature planning on going to recess as soon as June 18. Both the Senate and House Ag Committees have passed different bills out of their Committees - so it is important to focus on all representatives at this point in our advocacy.
Earlier this month, NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont sent a letter to the Senate Ag Committee with recommendations for relief for non-dairy farmers and followed up with a similar letter to key legislators in the House on June 16. Here is a link to the Senate bill which does include funding opportunities for non-dairy farmers and food processors. For comparison, you can see the DRAFT bill passed by the House Ag Committee, which only provides relief funds to dairy farmers and processors, HERE.
Please reach out to your representatives about the importance of equitable access for all farms and processors to Covid relief funding, and you can contact Maddie Kempner at NOFA-VT, Andrea Stander or Caroline Gordon at Rural Vermont with any questions or if you'd like to share testimony with Rural Vermont and NOFA as well as your representatives. We need individual and organizational testimony - so please encourage food system organizations you work with to join in this call for equity in solidarity with ALL farms and farmers in VT.
Here is a link to the VT Legislature page where you can locate your representative and find his / her / their contact information.
Clearly, it is a very difficult time of year to make time for advocacy and to make extra work for farmers - please consider doing what you can with the time you have.
TAKE ACTION: TELL VERMONT LAWMAKERS TO PRIORITIZE FOOD SECURITY!
UPDATED JUNE 8, 2020
We need your help TODAY or TOMORROW to let Vermont legislators know that food security is a top priority as they allocate the Coronavirus Relief Funds that have been given to our state. Discussions are happening this week about how to spend the $1.25billion that Vermont received a few weeks ago.
A coalition of groups has asked legislators to prioritize food security for people living in Vermont, and we need your help to show support for this proposal. Our proposal asks for $18million to address immediate and emergency needs. We also ask for an additional $20million to increase 3SquaresVT benefits to families so they can buy the food they need.
The $18 million total includes financial support for currently overburdened programs like school and summer meal programs for children and the Vermont Foodbank’s efforts to distribute food — including local food through Vermonters Feeding Vermonters — in partnership with its 215 network partners to families and individuals across the state. It also includes a stimulus for schools to purchase food from VT farmers and producers; provision of school meals to early childhood sites, and feeding homeless households staying in motels during the pandemic. The funding will also cover the cost of increased outreach needed for 3SquaresVT and additional Crop Cash funding for Vermont families to access local food at farmers markets. You can see our letter here (pdf).
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO - Please act TODAY or TOMORROW to have the biggest impact:
- Look up your legislators here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2020
- Search by town and you will get a list of all of your legislators.
- You can click on each one to get their email address.
- Send an email to EACH of your legislators (separately).
- Your subject line should be something like: Please use CRF$ to support food security in Vermont.
- In the body, say that you support the Food Security Coalition’s request to allocate Coronavirus Relief Funds to address immediate food security needs in Vermont.
- BRIEFLY give YOUR PERSONAL reason for believing this is an important reason to spend the money this way. You can choose a talking point from below or tell a personal story or use your favorite data point. Try to keep it to 3 sentences for this part.
- Thank your legislator for their consideration and ask them to do whatever they can to support this request.
- Include your contact info (phone or email).
Some suggested talking points (pick one and include your own thoughts also):
- As we begin to emerge from the immediate COVID-19 emergency, Vermont is seeing alarming signs of increasing food insecurity for Vermonters and their families.
- The State of Vermont cannot expect our schools and charitable food system to shoulder the entire burden without state support.
- The most recent data from Feeding America, released in mid-May, estimates the number of food insecure people in Vermont has increased by 46% and that child food insecurity in VT has increased by 60%.
- No person living in Vermont should be worried about how they will get the food they need to be healthy.
- Please do not allow Vermonters to fall further and further into poverty, to go to bed hungry so that their children can eat, or to choose between paying rent, buying food, or taking their medications.
THANK YOU for taking this action to help us make sure we can get food to Vermont families who need it.
TELL VERMONT LAWMAKERS: IMMIGRANT WORKERS NEED RELIEF, TOO!
UPDATED JUNE 8, 2020
Last month, the federal government began issuing relief checks to individuals and families in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most adults in the country received $1,200, with additional payments of $500 per child. Though these amounts are a drop in the bucket for many struggling families, the concept is a good one: direct payments to people in a time of crisis to reduce suffering and forestall economic recession.
Millions of immigrant families, however, have been glaringly left out of these relief payments. At a time when many immigrants – including farm workers sustaining Vermont’s dairy industry – are being deemed “essential workers,” this exclusion is particularly unjust.
Vermont now has an opportunity to step up where the federal government has fallen short. We are in partnership with Migrant Justice, Rural Vermont, and other human rights advocates in calling on Vermont to create a coronavirus relief fund to issue direct payments to every state resident who has been unfairly excluded from federal aid due to immigration status.
Over the past several weeks, we have joined a coalition with supporting organizations and testified in the legislature, and spoken with legislators, about this proposal. Many legislators are supportive, but for our elected officials to move this proposal forward and get it right, they need to hear from you!
Yesterday, Governor Phil Scott announced a $400 million COVID relief package for the state. It includes $50 million in relief payments to dairy farms, but no direct support for dairy farm workers – or any other immigrant workers – who have been left out of all aid packages to date.
Vermonters, please take a moment today to call your legislators! We are calling upon Vermont lawmakers to:
- Create a Coronavirus Relief Fund to issue payments to all immigrant families excluded from federal relief due to immigration status
- Relief payments should be the same as federal stimulus payments: $1,200 per adult and $500 per child
- Work with advocates and affected communities to develop and implement the fund
Find your representatives and senators on the state legislature’s website. Just select your town and then click on their names to get a phone number.
If they don’t answer, be sure to leave a message with your name and town where you live. And please note: not all legislators provide phone numbers; if the number given is (802) 828-2228 (the statehouse direct line), the call will not go to your representative or senator. In that case, send them an email with the same message.
FARMERS FEEDING OUR FAMILIES NEED HELP NOW: TELL THE USDA TO DO BETTER
Posted May 4, 2020
As farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to distribute $16 billion in direct aid to producers who have experienced financial losses.
Applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be open in early May, but the program, as currently designed, may leave out the family farmers feeding our communities.
USDA’s plan fails to:
- Focus aid on independent, family-scale farmers, farmers who sell into local and regional markets, diversified farmers, and organic farmers who need help and have no other safety net (unlike large corporate operations)
- Include a thorough outreach plan or reserved funding for underserved producers, including farmers of color
- Reflect realistic timelines for farmers’ losses or their increased expenses
The farmers feeding our families need help now and have received little to no federal assistance to this point to help their businesses survive this crisis.
We have an opportunity to tell the USDA to do better. They have not yet released the full details on their program, so now is the time to urge them to fix problems with the program and get aid to the farmers who need it.
Here’s how you can help:
Tell Your Story to the USDA on Social Media
The most effective thing you can do is share your story.
Did you have a major restaurant account disappear overnight? Were schools a big part of your business until they all shut down? Have you spent hours in front of a computer instead of in the field this spring as you rush to find an online sales platform? Did you lose a space at your local farmers’ market or are you seeing reduced sales due to limited numbers of customers at markets? Are you facing other difficulties?
Most importantly, speak up about the impacts you are seeing, the market losses you are experiencing, the innovating you are doing, and why it’s important that USDA supports farmers like you. You don’t need to have all the answers; just be willing to speak up in your own words!
Here’s how to get started:
- Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #plant2020 (the USDA follows this during planting season)
- Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here
- Sample social media post: Hey @USDA! My farm has experienced major financial losses due to #coronavirus during #plant2020, but your farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include funds for farmers like me. This is a photo of [my fields, my crops, etc. Explain what the photo illustrates]. [Ask a question, such as: What are you going to do to help direct market farmers like me who have lost markets? How can diversified farmers show their losses? How can organic farmers qualify at organic prices? What about farmers whose losses came after April 16? How will you ensure equitable aid to farmers of color? How will you make sure family farmers, not just corporate middlemen, get aid?] We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
Call USDA Farm Service Agency Offices
Contact your Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to ask questions about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Not only will this help you receive information on the program as it becomes available, it will also help FSA offices share the concerns they’re hearing from small-scale, diversified, and direct-market farmers with the USDA.
Here’s how to get started:
- Look up your county office using the the FSA County Office Directory
- Call your local FSA office. Introduce yourself, your farm, and what you do
- Let them know you’re calling about the new USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s $16 billion in farmer aid and that you have some questions about your eligibility. Consider the sample questions below.
- Keep us posted about what you hear! Send news you learn from your FSA office to [email protected] and [email protected]
Here are some example questions you can ask:
- I hear there is aid money available for small farmers who sell at farmers markets and directly to schools and local restaurants which have been impacted by the pandemic. Do you have any information about how to apply for that?
- Do I need to have any sort of documentation of my sales or losses? How do I show the pandemic’s impact on my business?
- I grow and sell X varieties of crops and am able to capture a price premium for them. How can I ensure this is reflected in my aid?
- Is there a way to get support if I am still able to sell my crops but my costs of production, marketing, and delivery have increased because of changing protocols?
- Will I qualify for this program if most of my farm income comes later in the year?
- How will USDA handle payments to diversified farmers who don’t produce just one commodity?
- How can I prove my losses and price information as a certified organic farmer?
Tell the USDA You Stand with Farmers on Social Media
If you don’t farm, you can be effective by advocating for the farmers who continue to grow food for us when we need it the most. You don’t need to have all the answers; just speak up in your own words and stand with farmers!
Here’s how to get started:
- Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #istandwithfarmers
- Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here
Here are some sample social media posts you can use:
- Hey @USDA! Organic [or vegetable, or small-scale, or direct-to-consumer] farmers need #coronavirus aid too! How will you include underserved farmers in the USDA aid program? Don’t leave out farmers in need. We need you to #dobetterUSDA! #istandwithfarmers
- Hey @USDA! [Name of farm you are mentioning] is an amazing farm feeding our community during #coronavirus. I’m worried your aid program will leave them out. [include a photo if you can] How will you help them and other small farmers feeding our community? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
- Hey @USDA! Farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Markets are upended, farmers and farm workers are in need of safety equipment, and everyone is working hard to get food to people amidst many challenges. I’m worried to see that now, to make things worse, the government’s new farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include some of the farmers who will be hit hardest. Now is the time for us to stand up for the resilient, innovative farmers and producers who are keeping their communities fed in a crisis despite lost markets. In a global state of emergency, how will you ensure that the ones feeding us are able to stay afloat? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
Tell USDA to Finalize the 2015 Origin of Livestock Rule!
Posted November 13, 2019
NOFA-VT is asking all certified organic farmers to stand with U.S. certified organic dairy farmers and submit comments to the USDA in support of a strong final Origin of Livestock Rule (OOL). Not only is this important to dairy farmers—it is important to all organic farmers that rely on a strong organic label that maintains consumer trust.
Family organic dairy farmers across the country have suffered greatly over the past few years, partially because the USDA has failed to close regulatory loopholes that have allowed mega-dairies to skirt the rules (by continually transitioning conventional dairy animals) and have flooded the milk market causing lower prices to farmers. Consumers have caught wind of these mega dairies and have questioned the integrity of the organic label. We cannot let that happen! We must fight for strong standards.
All comments are due to USDA by December 2.
Individual comments to the USDA are best. Form comments will count as one comment. Please take 5 minutes to support organic dairies with a comment using the below template.
Click here for more information and suggested comments.
Take Action to Protect Organic in the Farm Bill
Posted: May 4, 2018
The Senate Agriculture Committee is under intense pressure from lobbyists to weaken the organic standards! Pending Senate Farm Bill legislation could gut the authority of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and put corporate interests above the needs of family farmers.
We are deeply alarmed by this threat. The NOSB determines which materials can be used in organic farming and is the heart of the transparent, democratic process that upholds the integrity of organic seal. Gutting the authority of the board could end organic as we know it.
KEEP THE ORGANIC STANDARDS STRONG!
Consumer trust in the organic seal and the future of American organic family farms is at stake. We need more support for organic in the Farm Bill, not a sneak attack aimed at opening up the organic standards to special interests.
TAKE ACTION NOW - CALL SENATOR LEAHY
As the "father" of the National Organic Program, we know that Senator Leahy understands how critical the National Organic Standards Board is to the integrity of the organic label. When you call, thank him for his leadership on organic food and farming, and ask him to continue to defend the NOSB from underhanded attacks in the Farm Bill.
Ask to speak with the staffer who works on agriculture or leave a message with whoever answers the phone. Use these talking points:
- I’m calling as a constituent and an organic farmer/consumer.
- I urge Senator Leahy to oppose any attempts to weaken the organic standards in the Farm Bill. First and foremost, I urge Senator Leahy to oppose any changes to the National Organic Standards Board.
- I urge Senator Leahy to protect organic programs like certification cost-share and organic research.
- I want Senator Leahy to create a level playing field for U.S. organic family farms and stop organic import fraud.
For additional background information, visit the Advocacy home page.
Save the Dates! Rallies to “Keep the Soil in Organic” Oct. 8th and Oct 15th
Save the date to join fellow organic farmers, eaters, and movement leaders at the Intervale Center in Burlington on Sunday, October 8th. A second rally is being planned for Sunday, October 15th on the green at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. These are just two of dozens of rallies happening around the country this fall in solidarity with organic producers growing in, and caring for the soil.
Tractor parades at each rally will start rolling at noon, followed by brief speeches, local food, live music, and lively celebrations!
Speakers at the Intervalle rally include: Senator Bernie Sanders, Eliot Coleman, David Zuckerman, Maddie Monty, Christa Alexander, and Pete Johnson. Speakers at the Hanover rally include farmers Jesse LaFlamme, Roger Noonan, Will Allen, Jake Guest, and Dave Chapman.
Please join us as we rally together to take back the National Organic Program (NOP) from corporate influence and reclaim the lost meaning of organic. Organic integrity has suffered in recent years as a flood of hydroponic vegetables and berries and products from animal confinement operations have forced their way into the Program. Join us in sending a strong message to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that animal confinement and hydroponic production have no place in organic. Real organic is based on healthy soil and working with natural systems, not imitating and replacing them. We are preparing for a historic NOSB vote in November on fertile soil as the foundation of organic farming.
Please join Vermont and New Hampshire organic farmers in demanding that the NOP honor its commitment to real organic!
- Intervale: Davey Miskell 802-318-0576
- Hanover: Dave Chapman 802-299-7737
Please consider donating to support sending farmers to testify at the NOSB meeting in Jacksonville!
Tell USDA: We Want REAL GMO Labels! Comments due july 17th
We’ve fought for years for labeling of genetically engineered (GE or GMO) food. Now’s our chance to finally get it.
As you may remember, a “compromise” bill on GMO labeling was passed last year, but a lot of the decisions about what foods would be labeled, and how they would be labeled, were left up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The law includes labeling options other than on-package labeling, such as QR codes and websites, which would only serve to hide the information this law was passed to provide.
Big Ag and food companies have made it clear which option they support for labeling: QR codes. They know consumers don’t use these codes and that “labeling” via QR codes is really no labeling all. The agency has heard from big corporations – now they need to hear from you!
Join us in telling them to label ALL GE foods, clearly on the package, as quickly as possible! Americans have waited long enough. There is no docket for these comments, so they should be sent or delivered directly to USDA at [email protected]
The USDA is accepting comments through July 17th. Tell USDA to label GMOs, not hide them behind high-tech codes!
Act Now to Save Vital Farmers Market Programs!
Two critical programs that support farmers and farmers markets in Vermont are under threat. The recently released presidential budget proposes the complete elimination of both the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) has provided and is currently providing funds to support NOFA-VT's Direct Marketing programs. With our current grant we are support direct market farmers and farmers market with data collection and usage, developing a statewide marketing campaign to promote direct markets that will happen in 2018 and 2019, and more.
The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP) is funding that goes to support Farm to Family Coupons for WIC customers at farmers markets all around the state. These funds are an important way to encourage eligible families to try out farmers markets and to purchase fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers.
Please take a few minutes to call or email your Congresspeople today!
- Senator Patrick Leahy:
VT Office (802) 863-2525 | DC Office (202) 224-4242 | Email
- Senator Bernie Sanders:
VT Office (802) 862-0697 | DC Office (202) 224-5141 | Email
- Congressman Peter Welch:
VT Office (802) 652-2450 | DC Office (202) 225-4115 | Email
Oppose Any Further Delay of the Organic Animal Welfare Rule! Comment by June 9th.
After gathering input from organic farmers, researchers,the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and the public over the past ten years, the National Organic Program (NOP) rolled out its Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP) in January. The OLPP or "animal welfare" rule would allow the NOP to consistently enforce stronger animal welfare standards on organic farms and remove loopholes being taken advantage of by some large operations.
Rather than allowing the OLPP or "animal welfare" rule to take effect this month, the USDA has delayed the rule until November 14th and is now asking whether it should even be implemented.
Send USDA a clear message: the organic animal welfare rule—also known as the OLPP rule—should become effective on November 14th without further delay. Here's how to comment:
- Visit regulations.gov and enter docket # AMS-NOP-17-0031; NOP-15-06A to submit your comment online.
- Use these talking points and/or share your own thoughts as to why the USDA should let the OLPP rule take effect in November.
- You can also mail your comments to: Paul Lewis, Director, Standards Division, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC. 20250-0268.
With your help, we can level the playing field for organic livestock producers and send a clear message that there should be no further delay in implementing the OLPP!
Questions? Email Maddie Monty
Action Alert! USDA Requests Public Input on Revision of Biotechnology Regulations. Comment by June 19th.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing proposed revisions to its biotechnology regulations.
APHIS is proposing a regulatory program in which it first assesses GE organisms to determine if they pose plant pest or noxious weed risks. If APHIS concludes that a GE organism does not pose a plant pest or noxious weed risk, then APHIS would not require a permit for the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release (outdoor use) of the GE organism. On the other hand, if APHIS determines, based on risk analysis that controls on movement are needed, APHIS will work with the requestor to establish appropriate permit conditions to manage identified risks to allow safe movement.
NOFA Vermont has long advocated for USDA to implement stronger regulations under authority provided by the Plant Protection Act to protect farmers, the environment, and our communities from the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) organisms.
Remember to comment by June 19th! NOFA-VT plans to submit comments calling for a more robust and coordinated framework for regulating biotechnology.