Welcome to RAFI E-News! This summer, RAFI staff have been busy planting and harvesting organic field trials, visiting innovative farm-based enterprises across the state, providing financial counseling to farmers who call on us for help, and helping farmer’s markets launch SNAP incentive programs. In addition to our ongoing research, policy and advocacy efforts, we’ve also devoted a great deal of attention to contract poultry, as we continue to leverage the momentum generated by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show in May.
We hope these updates will provide you with useful and timely information on RAFI’s work, as well as issues affecting farmers today.
- On March 12th to 13th, the USDA convened a Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence of GMO and Non-GMO Crops in Raleigh, NC. The invitation-only event was organized to address what happens when non-GMO crops are contaminated with GMO pollen.
- Earlier this year RAFI presented at the EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove, CA on the topics of the Agricultural Justice Project, Domestic Fair Trade, and Seeds and Breeds. The Conference is the largest sustainable agriculture conference in CA and the oldest in the country.
- RAFI gave a presentation on GMO at the Organic Seed Alliance in February, submitted testimony to USDA concerning GMO contamination in March and May, and continues to participate in the Non GMO Working Group on seed and policy strategies. For more information on GMOs see The Farmers’ Guide to GMOs.
Report from the Field
We have been getting our boots on the ground all spring long!
This spring the Breeding for Organic Production Systems (BOPS) team planted peanut test plots in Virginia and Georgia using the line Dr. Tom Isleib is breeding for organic production. It was a busy June with the harvesting of farmer-led trials of non-GMO wheat and the planting of two soybean plots and two corn plots, one each in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of the state. Six non-GMO cotton varieties along with a cross-cultivation plot were planted at a research station in Rocky Mount. Cross cultivation is one method that the team is using to experiment with weed management strategies. The results of all trials will be posted on the BOPS page. The Agricultural Reinvestment Fund team has been hitting the road and visiting farms all over the state to meet with 2015 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund cost-share grant recipients. Farm visits have been featured on the From the Farmstand Blog. If you are interested in knowing more about this year’s projects, please see the full list of 2015 grantees with project descriptions.
- HBO aired a new episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about the poultry industry. Scott Marlow, as well as several RAFI staff members worked closely with show producers to provide important information about the topic. Following the airing of the show, RAFI put together research to provide an overview of the data behind the show’s highlighted issues and published it, as “The John Oliver Viewer’s Guide.”
- RAFI’s Benny Bunting delivered a spot-on talk about poultry industry abuses against farmers under contract. Benny was invited by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to be on the panel of a Congressional briefing to discuss protections for farmers against poultry industry retaliation.
- RAFI is a Media Partner in the production of a new film, Under Contract. The film will bring to light predatory contract practices in poultry and hog production by delivering the stories of farmers and the advocates that have fought alongside them.
- Considerable work has been done this spring on researching and educating about Whole-Farm Revenue Protection crop insurance (WFRP). Preliminary data was collected and used to see how the recent crop insurance landscape has changed with the introduction of the new policy.
- Our Contract Agriculture Reform page was updated to include new research, resources, content, and stories. Please share these valuable resources!
- Beyond Hunger Relief program staff and project partners, released a draft version of a literature review titled “The Impact of Selling Into Low Income Communities.“
RAFI Rural Development
As a recipient of USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development grant, RAFI is now acting as a Center for Rural Cooperative and Farm Enterprise Development. The Center provides technical assistance to a select group of producers engaged in collaboration around legal, financial, market, and management risk.
This spring, RAFI launched the Farm Fresh and Healthy Program with four farmer’s markets and roadside stands in North Carolina Tier 1 counties. The goal of the program is to support rural communities, both providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and boosting revenue for local farmers. The primary strategy in this initial phase is the Fresh Bucks consumer incentive program. SNAP transactions at market are matched up to $10 with bonus fresh bucks tokens, doubling purchasing power and putting more dollars towards local farms.
Through extensive research and innovative agricultural practices, Wendy and Jeff Woolard of Autryville, NC have become successful farmers of hydroponic vegetables, filling a niche in their community. RAFI’s AmeriCorps VISTA Ben Paynter has written an in-depth profile of the Woolards, covering the inspiration behind their new farming business, hydroponic methods they are using, and the niche that they are filling.
“By producing vegetables through hydroponics, the Woolards are bringing an innovative agricultural practice to their area for other growers to learn from and emulate.”
- A one-day organic farmer focus session was hosted by RAFI at the MOSES Conference in Wisconsin, the largest organic and sustainable farming event in the U.S., to continue to map out our joint strategies ahead.
- Scott Marlow and James Robinson held a Texas Drought Webinar in early April on current disaster assistance programs, continuing drought response and available resources.
- A screening of “Food Chains” was held in the Dan Pollitt Center for National Farmworker Awareness Week. Before the movie there was a discussion of food justice issues for farm workers and farmers, as well as the importance of public awareness of these issues. The discussion panel included RAFI Executive Director Scott Marlow, Just Foods Program Director Michael Sligh, and guest Laxmi Haynes, Assistant Director of SAF.
- RAFI staff held two Resourceful Farmer Workshops this spring to discuss farm risk management issues and educate attendees about risk management resources and tools.
- In March, RAFI participated in NC Ag Awareness Day at the NC General Assembly, with the goal of educating lawmakers about the critical role sustainable agriculture plays in the health of North Carolina’s rural economy, land, air and water. RAFI staff and a group of farmers we have assisted in the past attended to inform legislators about agricultural innovations and economic growth made possible through state-supported agricultural programs and initiatives.
- The 2015 Regional Come to the Table Conference series was a huge success! We believe our collective insights about how we approach food justice work entered a new level, with many avenues for discussion and growth. This year’s regional conferences were held in Lumberton, Sylva, and Elon NC. A new video highlighting the Piedmont Come to the Table Conference has just been released.