Are you familiar with California’s Egg Rule? In 2008, Proposition 2 of the Egg Rule was approved by voters which banned the sale of eggs in California unless hens had a minimum amount of space in which to lay their eggs. A couple of years after the Rule approval, legislature enacted a statute applying Proposition 2 to all eggs sold in the State of California, regardless of where they were laid. The State of Missouri took issue with this statute because about one third of the eggs laid in Missouri are sold in California. Last week, Mark Arnold (Partner in our Food and Agribusiness team) details why Missouri is challenging the California Egg Rule. Visit our Food and Ag Law Insights blog to read the full article.

Elizabeth Rakola, Organic Policy Advisor for the USDA.Here is part 2 of Melody Meyer’s interview with USDA Organic Policy Advisor Betsy Rakola via Organic Matters.  (Part 1 is available here). Melody is the Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods, a leading independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods and related products.  Thanks, Melody for allowing us to repost!

What challenges do you hope to address for the organic community?

Products that are locally produced and not certified organic continue to be an issue.  We are devising new strategies to provide outreach and information, especially at farmers markets, to producers to ensure they know the organic requirements. This is where the NOP sees the majority of complaints on non-compliance – producers making the organic claim without the certification. The end goal is to uphold the integrity of the organic seal, and make it easier for small producers to come  certificated organic.

We need to increase the number of certified organic operations because, as you know, domestic supply issues are acute right now. The supplies aren’t there to meet the current demand and through growth we can provide more opportunities and better options for American consumers looking for a vast array of organic products year-round. We have an internal goal to increase the number of certified organic operations. We currently have 18,500 certified entities and the market is expected to grow 12-15% per year, so perhaps we mimic that growth. This of course doesn’t capture the growth of new organic acres.  The producer survey can help us bridge that knowledge gap so USDA can help organic production grow. Continue Reading An Interview with Betsy Rakola: A focus on transitioning farmers and organic acreage. Part 2

National Ag DayThis is the day, where, according to the website, we celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agriculture associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together on this day to recognize the contributions of agriculture.

The statistics are staggering. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture issued by the USDA in May 2014, the U.S. has more than 2 million farms and more than 914 million farm acres.

As you shop at your supermarket, think about this: More than ten billion bushels of corn for grain were harvested, and more than 2 billion bushels of wheat harvested and almost 3 billion bushels of soybeans. And, what about all those peanuts and sunflower seeds we eat at baseball games? Nearly 2 billion pounds of sunflower seeds were harvested, along with 6 billion pounds of peanuts. Continue Reading Happy National Ag Day!

Elizabeth Rakola, Organic Policy Advisor for the USDA.The following interview with USDA Organic Policy Advisor Betsy Rakola comes via Melody Meyer’s wonderful blog, Organic Matters.  Melody is the Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods, a leading independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods and related products.  Thanks, Melody for allowing us to repost!

Just before the MOSES conference I was lucky enough to catch Betsy Rakola, USDA Organic Policy Advisor, for a chat. It was exciting because Betsy took the role just last August. She also serves as the chair of USDA’s Organic Working Group. This position was created by Secretary Tom Vilsack two years ago, and it’s the first of its kind at USDA. Now it is a permanent position so the focus on organic is here to stay. Betsy is no stranger to the National Organic Program and her commitment to growing organic agriculture was evident in every answer.

Tell me about your position and what do you hope to achieve in it?

I advise the office of the Secretary of Agriculture at the USDA so the department is up to date on the issues and opportunities for organic agriculture. I also coordinate the USDA Organic Working Group to make sure that organic farmers are represented in all of our programs and services across the department! It’s a big job to work with all the interagency teams.

I bring the organic perspective to broader discussions, such as how it relates to small and beginning farmers and ranchers or our local and regional sectors. I am working to implement many of the organic provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill that support this $35 billion industry!

I worked to develop the website where we now have a one-stop-shop with a dedicated organic portal that we hope has information useful to everybody. For instance you will find information on research, programs for universities and an Organic Literacy Initiative. The latter is an educational program that over 30,000 USDA employees have already completed!  This Organic 101 and 201 course explains the basics on what organic is and what it means.  Even the consumer or general public can access the course, and learn more about what the organic label means.  We especially want farmers and ranchers to have the resources they need so we can fulfill the USDA’s strategic goal to increase the number of certified operations!

Tell me more about the Organic Working Group.

The Organic Working Group is an interagency group that has five teams based on five themes; data, research, regulatory reciprocity (which means getting in sync and reducing paperwork), training and increasing the organic sector. Secretary Vilsack outlined these themes in his 2013 guidance to the USDA on organic agriculture, and I bring these areas of focus together at the USDA. This assures that every agency is working to support organic farmers, ranchers, and handlers. Continue Reading An Interview with Betsy Rakola: A focus on transitioning farmers and organic acreage. Part 1

FamilyinField135789295Many of our clients are family farmers, and are often the third, fourth, or fifth generation farming their land.  Husch Blackwell LLP partner Christine DeMarea has spent her career assisting these clients plan for the future to protect their valuable assets for future generations.

Christine publishes a newsletter addressing issues of importance to the family farmer, and the most recent issue, Family Farm Newsletter September 2014, is now available.  In this issue, Christine addresses everything from planning for risk associated with the unexpected loss of a child to the differences between “trusts” and “LLCs” and why the family farm often needs both.

If you’d like to receive this newsletter, contact the authors of this blog or Christine directly.  In the meantime, enjoy the newsletter and PLAN AHEAD!

Pesticide SprayerHusch Blackwell partner Gene Summerlin will be speaking at the American Agricultural Law Association‘s Annual Educational Symposium on October 19-21, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He will be speaking about organic agricultural certification and contamination by spray drift. Gene co-chairs the firm’s Sustainable and Organic Agriculture practice group.

NSAS LogoLast weekend, the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (“NSAS”) held its annual Healthy Farms Conference in Kearney, Nebraska.  The Healthy Farms Conference has been bringing the sustainable community in Nebraska together for nearly 20 years, and this year’s conference was exceptional.

The keynote featured a talk by Paul Willis, founder of Niman Ranch’s pork division. Niman Ranch is a network of farmers and ranchers who raise high quality premium meats under an exacting set of protocols which ensure that the animals are raised using natural, humane, and sustainable methods. Chipotle Mexican Grill produced an enlightening biographic video of Paul’s story available here. Paul’s talk showed that sustainable farming can be a sound and profitable business model while benefiting the land, animals, and consumers.

Paul’s talk gave way to two days of break-out sessions on varied topics from the use of cover crops, to budgets and estate planning, to pollinators and pest management, and many more.  (This author found the “Dry Curing & Smoking Ham” session from Chad Lebo of Cure Cooking to be the most compelling!)

Finally, the conference wrapped up with a capstone talk from Leigh Adcock, Executive Director of Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN).  As Leigh noted, roughly half of all farmland in the United States is owned by women, and their needs are varied.  Women operators tend to own their land, tend to be smaller in total acreage, and tend to grow more specialty crops.  WFAN has been assisting them for almost 20 years, through programming, advocacy, and (as the name implies) networking.

All in all, the 2014 Healthy Farms Conference was a successful meeting of producers, consumers, service providers, and supporters of sustainable agriculture in Nebraska.  The 2015 conference is already in the planning stages—see you next year!

UPDATE, 2/21/2014, 4:30 P.M.  Dave Vetter of Grain Place Foods points out that NSAS has been holding its conference for much longer than 20 years.  According to Dave, NSAS was originally organized as the Nebraska Organic Agriculture Association as a result of a series of meetings arranged by Bob Steffen in 1976.  Bob was the Farm Manager at Boys Town and managed the farm according to bio-dynamic principles from the early 1940’s until he retired in the late 70’s.  The first “annual meeting” of the predecessor to NSAS  was held in February 1977, as a potluck lunch with about 25 attendees.  Suffice it to say, sustainable agriculture is alive and well in Nebraska!