TPP text released – 90 days to stop it!


The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been released — and it’s as bad, if not worse, than expected.

When you think of “free trade,” you probably think about cargo ships, tariffs, and quotas. But only a small portion of the TPP addresses those issues. Instead, the majority of this long, complicated agreement sets the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S. – on issues such as agriculture, food, intellectual property and patents, banking, and more. The agreement gives international corporations the ability to trump properly enacted domestic laws by attacking them as supposed trade barriers.

Here are just some of the highlights:newTPP map cropped

  • The TPP gives importers the ability to challenge individual border inspection decisions, second-guessing U.S. inspectors about what food is safe and not safe to let into our country.
  • The TPP threatens any serious limitation on genetically engineered foods. Although this portion of the text still isn’t available, the USDA’s website states: “The TPP … includes provisions on agricultural biotechnology that commit TPP countries to foster transparency in their decision-making processes, to work together on situations of low-level presence, and to promote timely authorization of products of modern biotechnology.”  Translating that into regular English: Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops, or even require GMO labeling.

Read more »

FDA issues first major rule under Food Safety Modernization Act

On September 17, FDA formally published the first major final rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the Federal Register.

This final rule addresses the standards for “facilities” that sell food for human consumption. The rule has staggered deadlines for compliance, so that large businesses will have to come into compliance in November 2016, while small businesses will have an additional one to two years depending on their size.

(The Produce Safety Rule, the other major rule under FSMA, is supposed to be finalized by late October of this year.)

This first published final rule implements FSMA’s requirement that businesses that manufacture, process, pack, hold or store food implement “hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls” (HARPC), including a written food safety plan that identifies the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products and outlines steps the facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.…

Read more »

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.…

Read more »

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.…

Read more »

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.…

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.…

Read more »

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


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

Read more »

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?…

Read more »

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



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  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.…

Read more »