Dear Members & Friends:
> Today (Nov. 5), Washington state will tally up the votes for I-522, the citizens’ ballot initiative that, if passed, will require labeling of genetically engineered food. Right now, the vote is too close to call with the YES on I-522 campaign being outspent more than 3 to 1 by the bio-tech and industrial food companies. This has been the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in WA state history and the WA state Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for campaign finance violations. Here’s hoping the voters of Washington state can see through the fear and confusion that is being broadcast and grant themselves the right to know what is in their food!
> Sat Nov. 9th, I hope you’ll join me and other activists at the Vermont Environmental Summit at VT Technical College in Randolph. Regardless of the outcome in WA state, I will be working with other members of the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition to share our strategy to pass VT’s GMO labeling bill in 2014. Stonyfield Yogurt founder and “Just Label It” spokesperson Gary Hirshberg will be the keynote presenter. With other organizers, I will also be offering tips on how you can be a powerful citizen advocate in the Vermont State House this winter. We’re expecting a full court press from the same interests who have been spending so much money to prevent labeling efforts across the country. PLEASE NOTE: Because we are a co-sponsor of the Summit, members of Rural Vermont can attend the day-long event, which includes lunch, for just $15 if you register by Thurs. at 5PM.
> November 15 is the deadline for comments to the FDA on their proposed rules to implement the Food Modernization and Safety Act (FSMA). Why should you care about this? Well, it has become apparent, through careful reading of the draft rules (by others much smarter than me), that they contain confusing and in some cases obscure provisions that could make it virtually impossible for small diversified farms to sell good local food and be economically viable. Thanks to the work of UVM’s Vern Grubinger, as well as folks at NOFA-VT, New England Farmers’ Union and the VT Agency of Agriculture, we have pulled together some of the best analysis of what you need to know and what you CAN do to add your voice to the protest over how these proposed rules could devastate small scale agriculture in Vermont.
This is complicated and “wonky” stuff but I can’t stress how important it is for Vermont’s small-scale family farms to participate in this action now. See below for details and feel free to contact me with questions.
Finally, to end on an upbeat note – we are grateful to the over 60 raw milk producers who joined us last Sunday (Oct. 27) at the Bethel Town Hall for a very productive and inspiring Raw Milk Producers’ Summit. I hope you will read on for Rural Vermont member and activist Katie Spring’s first-hand account of this great gathering.
Let’s get organized!
P.S. For some really inspiring words from our unofficial farmer “Poet Laureate,” I urge you to check out Bill Moyers’ recent interview with Wendell Berry.
“FSMA” stands for Food Safety and Modernization Act and it is a law that was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2011. It represents the most comprehensive set of changes to food safety laws passed since the 1930s.
At the time it was being debated in Congress, Rural Vermont supported FSMA because the assumption was that most small-scale farms would fall under exemptions to its major provisions. As with almost all rules that come out of DC, things have changed.
Now, more than two years later, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which was given broad authority to implement FSMA, has set a deadline of November 15 for the submission of comments on two DRAFT rules it has prepared.
Although the purpose of FSMA was ostensibly to address post-Sept. 11 security concerns and the increasing frequency of food-bourne illnesses in the U.S. food system, it now looks like the proposed rules could radically restrict the kind of community-scale agricultural production and food processing that has been encouraged and is, in many ways, flourishing in Vermont and around New England. The rules, as currently proposed, have the potential to be very damaging to many farms – especially those who are focused on veggies and fruits.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT?