Fighting for Country of Origin Labeling

Last week, FARFA joined with over 140 other organizations in a joint letter urging Congress to reject repealing or weakening Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and chicken.

The huge meatpackers are pushing Congress to either repeal COOL completely, or to turn it into a voluntary program, which would let the food companies and meatpackers decide whether or not to tell American consumers where their meat comes from.

The bottom line is that Congress needs to — at least — wait and see what happens when the World Trade Organization case is done.  Although the WTO has ruled that the U.S. COOL violates trade agreements, the big issue remains — what are the damages?  Last week, the U.S. government filed a brief with the WTO that totally debunks Canada and Mexico’s absurd claims — it said that Canada and Mexico’s claim for trade penalties was nonsense and that the reasonable damages would be about $91 million, a tiny fraction of the absurd $3 billion figure Canada and Mexico are using to bully the Congress.…

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House passes bill to ban GMO labeling

Last week, a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives sided with giant biotech and food companies instead of their constituents. By a vote of 275 to 150, the House passed H.R. 1599, the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” which has been dubbed the “Deny American the Right to Know” or DARK Act by grassroots organizations.

The DARK Act would overturn state laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered or GMO foods, such as Vermont’s law that is supposed to go into effect next year. In their place, it would effectively enshrine FDA’s failed policy of voluntary labeling – under which not a single company has labeled GMO foods in the last 14 years.

The DARK Act would also allow food companies to continue to make misleading “natural” claims for foods that contain GMO ingredients, while creating a federal bureaucracy that ethical food companies who wish to label their products as non-GMO will have to pay to comply with.…

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Fast Track has passed, but the fight continues

 

June 30, 2015: Despite widespread opposition, the House and Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority, known as Fast Track, and the President signed it into law this week.

The Obama Administration and the Republican Congressional leadership resorted to bizarre procedural steps, extensive backroom deals and arm twisting, and even retaliation against those who opposed Fast Track, in order to force it through.  (The NY Times has an interesting article on some of the politics behind passing Fast Track here)

Passage of Fast Track gives Obama enhanced powers to conclude negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and continue advancing trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other such agreements.  Fast Track will limit Congressional debate over trade agreements and prevent any filibusters or amendments.

While the passage of Fast Track authority is a severe setback, the fight is not over.  Fast Track severely and improperly limits Congress’s role – but ultimately Congress will still have to vote to ratify any trade agreement after the President signs it.…

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Texas Legislative Report

Over 6,000 bills were filed in the 84th Texas Legislative Session, creating a massive challenge even to monitor which ones could impact family farmers and local food producers.  Getting good bills passed meant fighting heavy odds; only about 1,300  bills actually passed and were signed by the Governor.

The local food movement achieved some important victories, both in passing good bills and in fighting bad ones, on issues ranging from community gardens to water.  There were also several disappointments, and many challenges left to work on during the next year and a half in preparation for the next session.  Each year, we build more strength to work for the changes we need.

Note: We have included the names, parties, and hometowns of all the legislators who sponsored these bills — both good and bad.  If your Representative or Senator is listed, please take a moment to call or email their offices and thank them or express your disappointment, as appropriate.  It’s important that the legislators know that their constituents are paying attention and will remember their actions.

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We won! But the other side is coming back

 

You did it!  Together with thousands of other Americans, you convinced a majority of the U.S.  Representatives to vote against the package of bills that would have put the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on the Fast Track to approval.

The bad news is that the other side isn’t giving up, and they have another chance to try to push through Fast Track this week.

Here’s what happened: the House separated the Fast Track bill passed by the Senate into two parts.  First was a vote on a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program for  workers who lose their jobs due to trade agreements.  Then there was a vote on the Fast Track process itself, called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  Both parts needed to pass for the bill to pass.  The TPA was approved by a very slim margin, but the TAA was not — killing the bill, at least for a moment.…

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Water Fights

With your help, we succeeded in stopping the  bill to study how to create a “statewide marketing and conveyance grid” for water in Texas.  But the fight is not yet over!  The water marketers are seeking to attach the bill as an amendment to other bills over the Memorial Day Weekend —  we need your help again!

In practical terms, a statewide water marketing and conveyance grid will mean taking more water from rural areas to supply urban centers.  But average residential water usage ranges from 60 gallons to over 300 gallons per person per day in different cities in Texas.
cracked land and green lawn-1
Are perfect green lawns important enough to drain aquifers and destroy the future of rural communities and local food?

Ultimately, this approach hurts us all, by fueling unsustainable growth and using up the water resources we all need.   

Tell your Texas legislators that we must conserve first, transfer later
Oppose any amendment that focuses on water marketing and conveyances

TAKE ACTION

Call or email your State Representative today – the amendment could come up as the Sunday before Memorial Day!…

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Good news for raw milk and small farmers from the Texas legislature!

 

May 11, 2015: Four good local food bills have passed the House of Representatives!  We have just a few weeks to get them through the Senate in order to become law:

  • HB 91, which would expand legal access to raw milk by allowing licensed farmers to sell at farmers’ markets and make delivery arrangements with consumers
  • HB 1900, which would provide fair property tax treatment for small farmers, vegetables farmers, and diversified farms
  • HB 262, which would limit liability for landowners who allow their property to be used for community gardens, increasing access to land
  • HB 1846, which would require transparency in the state’s implementation of new federal food safety regulations

At the same time, the massive water marketing bill that we oppose has also passed the House and is moving through the Senate, where we will continue to fight to stop it.

Thank you to everyone who has already taken action!  Your voice truly does make a difference, and we’ve come a long way already.  Will you help us keep fighting for our farmers and our food system in this final month of the session?…

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Good news for local foods from the Texas Legislature!

Two important bills for local food producers and consumers are making progress in the Texas Legislature:

  • The fair property taxes for small farmers bill, HB 1900, is scheduled for a vote by the full House on Friday, May 1.
  • The raw milk bill, HB 91, passed the House Public Health Committee and is going to the Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote

Please speak up now to help keep these two great bills moving forward!Cows in Pasture 2

 

TAKE ACTION #1

Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to:

  • Vote YES on HB 1900
  • Support HB 91 and help it move forward as quickly as possible

You can find out who your State Representative is by going to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us  or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

If you call after hours, you can simply leave a message: “Hi, my name is ____, and I am a constituent.  I am calling to urge Representative ______ to vote YES on HB 1900, the fair property taxes for small farmers bill, when it comes to the floor this Friday.  Please also support HB 91, the raw milk bill, and do everything you can to get it scheduled for a vote as soon as possible.”

More information and talking points about both bills are at the end of this alert.…

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Support Access to Raw Milk in Texas

 

Raw milk is already legal in Texas. But government regulations require consumers to drive to the farm every time they want milk, burdening both consumers and farmers.

Representative Flynn has introduced a bill, HB 91, to allow licensed farmers to sell raw milk at farmers’ markets and to make delivery arrangements with their customers. This bill reduces costs and hassle for consumers, while allowing farmers a fair opportunity to market their products.

The Texas House Public Health Committee will hold a hearing on HB91 on Tuesday, April 21. This is a critical step in getting the bill passed.

Please speak up now to help raw milk farmers and consumers!

TAKE ACTION #1

Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to support HB 91 and help move the bill forward. texas capitol

You can find out who your State Representative is by going to www.fyi.

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Texas legislative update

April 11, 2015:  The Texas legislative session is heating up, and the next eight weeks are going to be extremely busy.  You won’t be able to act on every alert, but please do take action as often and in whatever way you can.  Your voice DOES matter!

This week, we have good news, bad news, and multiple ways you can help fight for local farmers.

Good News

Three good bills have Committee hearings scheduled for next week!

HB 184judicial-system6, by Representative Susan King, requires Texas state agencies to be open and transparent in implementing new federal food safety regulations.  The FDA is working on massive new regulations and has already announced that it plans to rely heavily on state agencies to implement them.  HB 1846 requires the  Department of State Health Services and the Department of Agriculture to publish notice of any proposed agreement with FDA, allow for public comment, and consult with key legislators.…

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