Much like the farmers laboring in our community and beyond, RAFI has been hard at work during this late-spring and early-summer season. Our fingernails are not as dirty as those of the farmers we work with, a continuing disappointment to RAFI staff, but we are still proud of our recent accomplishments. The RAFI harvest: markets, policies and communities that support thriving, socially just and environmentally sound family farms. What exactly has this looked like since June 1st? Well, it’s looked like this…
Reforming contract agriculture regulations:
- Coordinated and participated in 55 Senate visits with 3 farmers in three days in Washington, D.C., to build opposition to an amendment that would block USDA from using existing funds to write a final GIPSA rule
- Participated in 2 Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform meetings in Washington, D.C.
- Organized 150 grower calls to the White House as a part of a national call-in week.
- Helped a farmer prepare for a teleconference marking the one-year anniversary of the GIPSA rule
- Identified a person supportive of the GIPSA rule to testify in the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and trade on July 7th, resulting in the only pro-farmer-rights testimony presented
- Accompanied three producers to training on the Principles of Community Organizing in Billings, M.T.
- Spoke to the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh with the Justice in Agriculture Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of NC
Educating landowners about their mineral rights:
- Worked with Rep. Gillespie of the North Carolina State House of Representatives to successfully add new provisions into H242, which was signed into law by Gov. Perdue and provides landowners greater protection when signing new oil and gas leases
- Held 8 mineral rights lease education sessions, with 840 landowners in attendance
- Held 3 meetings with clergy about mineral rights leases, reaching 130 clergy and 90 lay members
Maintaining organic integrity:
- Convened a major forum of the organic and sustainable agriculture communities to develop joint statements and a work plan to address genetic engineering in sustainable agriculture
- Organized an international task force on strengthening the IFOAM standards maintenance process, as it is critical to have a gold standard for organic agriculture
Conserving biodiversity in agriculture:
- Released a major report on the state of USDA funding for public plant and animal breeding
- Met with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Merrigan and USDA research staff to present the report on state of USDA funding for public plant and animal breeding
- Got featured in an article in National Geographic on seed diversity. The article referenced a RAFI study on the loss of crop bio-diversity. You can read the entire article here.
Developing social justice food labeling:
- Published the official policy manual for the Agricultural Justice Project, containing governance policies, details outlining how our certification program and labeling work, what our fees are and what we expect of worker organizations and certifiers in terms of accreditation
- Finalized the training certificates for our 21 newly trained AJP inspectors, representing 4 organic certifiers, a major N. Western workers union, and three workers organizations from regions across the country
- Revised 3 challenging sections of the AJP standards addressing at-will employment, H2A and guest-worker visas, and relationships between certified businesses, with support from our stakeholder based advisory committee, and published these revisions for public comment (July 12 – Aug 12, available on our website)
- Prepared to sign MOU’s with 3 major organic certifiers representing the southeast, the upper Midwest and the northwest, approving them to implement our certification program using their fully trained staff
Advocating for farmers:
- Provided in-depth financial counseling to more than 12 farmers, including 4 meetings with the farmer’s lawyer, banker or a USDA program administrator.
- Organized a national gathering of farm advocates with Farm Aid, scheduled for August 10 and 11.
- Completed 3 Chapter 12 bankruptcy feasibility assessments
- Completed 2 National Appeals Division pre-hearings and 1 Director Review request.
Mitigating farmer risk:
- Presented to staff of the White House Rural Council on the importance of agricultural entrepreneurship and access to credit in rural economic development
- Gave a presentation on risk management and financing for entrepreneurial farmers at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders meeting in Minneapolis, MN.
Investing in innovative farmers and farmer groups:
- Visited 52 farmer grant recipients in 26 counties, providing them with grant administration information and surveying farmers about participation in federal programs
- Visited 7 community project sites
- Sent field staff to a Technical Service Provider “boot camp” hosted by NRCS to increase the opportunity to assist the TCRF participants and increase resources for direct services
RAFI’s accomplishments continue to be a source of pride for the staff. None of them would be possible without the community of farmers we work with, our volunteers, the foundations that support us, and our local community. There is always more work to be done, and it is in no way possible without your efforts. So – thank you!