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From the marble halls to the field: Ben Barasky visits Local Roots Farm

June 12, 2014 - 5:19 pm No Comments

Last April, Tilth Producers of Washington and the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group, in partnership with the Washington Young Farmers Coalition, hosted Congresswoman Suzan DelBene for a listening session and tour of Local Roots Farm. She liked it so much that she sent her D.C.-based agriculture staffer, Ben Barasky, to the district for his own tour this month.


The tour, in pictures:


Siri Erickson-Brown and Sam Bowhay, owner and manager, respectively, of Local Roots, welcomed Ben and a few other local farmers.


We headed to the fields to talk about the farm’s growing practices, including pest management. Field Manager Sam is considering applying for support from a farm bill research program like the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) grant program or the new Crop Protection and Pest Management (CPPM) program’s Integrated Pest Management funding to find an organic control for wireworms.


In the farm’s processing area, Sam showed Ben the farm’s Food Safety Manual, a response to the forthcoming food safety regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Adjusting to new food safety regulations is expensive and time consuming –  Sam spent over 40 hours this winter learning about food safety regulations and creating the manual – so we are glad to see funding in the latest federal budget for the new Food Safety Outreach Program.


This season-extending greenhouse was funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Ben was impressed to see the impacts of this program, which he worked on farm bill language for, in person.


The full diversity of Local Roots’ crops is on display in the starts greenhouse. We discussed how diversification acts as a form of risk management for farms, talked about the need for more projects like that at Hearty Roots Farm in New York to make farm bill programs work better for diversified farms, and the pros and cons of Whole Farm Revenue Insurance.


The tour wrapped up with some local bounty for refreshments and casual conversation on the farm pad.


Thanks to Local Roots Farm, Sam, and Siri for hosting, to Ben Barasky for lending us your afternoon, and to Congresswoman DelBene for supporting sustainable faming!

What does the 2014 Farm Bill mean for a sustainable food and farm future?

March 17, 2014 - 2:58 pm No Comments

Wondering about the new 2014 Farm Bill? Check out this helpful info graphic from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition!

More information on the new bill from NSAC:

Action Alert: Fair Farm Bill Now!

January 14, 2014 - 3:41 pm No Comments

An action alert from our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

Do you believe in fairness for farmers?

We sure do. We’re talking about common-sense basics here: ensuring independent growers have a fair crack in the marketplace against Big Ag and closing loopholes so mega-farms can’t rake in excessive subsidies that they don’t need. The time to fight for the rights of our nation’s independent producers against abuses by large corporations, and for common-sense, long overdue reforms to our nation’s commodity subsidy programs, is right now. This is our chance to make the changes that this bill desperately needs in order to work for sustainable farmers and a better food & farm future.

Your voice matters – speak out today!

There’s so much at stake right now. First, long-overdue, common-sense subsidy reforms that will save taxpayers money and were approved by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate last year are on the chopping block in behind-the-scenes negotiations! Limiting subsidies and eliminating loopholes in the commodity programs – known as payment limitation reform – will keep mega-farms from abusing the system. It ought to be a no-brainer. And majorities in the House and Senate have already approved identical reform provisions. Yet still a handful of dedicated opponents are fighting tooth and nail to strip out the reforms.

Adding insult to injury: Big Ag is trying to push through an amendment that would strip farmers and ranchers of basic legal protections against unfair treatment at the hands of large corporations (like retaliation, where a corporation can bankrupt a farmer for raising a grievance). If Big Ag wins and USDA can’t enforce what’s known as the GIPSA rule, independent meat and poultry producers have no legal protection against outright abuse.

Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene sits on the committee that is putting the finishing touches on the Farm Bill and making decisions on these issues. Call her office now to make sure the final bill is fair and supports organic farmers.

Calling is easy!

Step 1:

Call 202.225.6311 and ask for Agriculture Staffer Ben Barasky

Step 2: Tell him:

Hi, my name is _____, and I’m a constituent and a voter calling about the farm bill. Since you are a member of  the farm bill conference committee, I ask you to:

Please oppose any amendment that strips fair market protections from independent farmers and ranchers by preventing enforcement of GIPSA rules. Growers deserve a fair shot in the marketplace and protection from abusive practices!

Please oppose any attempt to weaken or remove common-sense commodity subsidy reforms in the 2014 Farm Bill! Payment limitation reform for commodity subsidy programs was supported on a bipartisan basis last year in the House and Senate and must be included in the final bill – it saves money and limits abuse of the system!

Thank you for your time!

Northwest Farm Bill Action Group • • 2011
Design based on Missed Spring theme • Rainier image courtesy of USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory