http://www.lwv.org/content/agriculture-update-consensus-questions

Ames LWV Recommendations Drafted 1/30/14,

Finalized 2/18/14.  Ames LWV Consensus 3/9/14

Economic Health of the Agricultural Sector

  1. 1.    Should government financial support for agriculture be directed to:

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Subsidized agricultural credit (loans) X    
c) Disaster assistance X    
d) Crop insurance     X
e) Farms that supply local and regional markets X    
f) Subsidized implementation of best management practices X    
g) Commodity crop programs, e.g., corn, soybeans, sugar, cotton, wheat X    
h) Commodity livestock program X    
i) Commodity dairy program X    
j) Specialty crops, e.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. X    
k) Other production methods, e.g. organic, hydroponic, urban, etc. farms X    
Comments: (1a) We agree there should be subsidized (or government-guaranteed) loans to beginning farmers, not to other farmers. The bulk of farm subsidies should encourage ecological agriculture and family-sized (where the operating family provides the majority of the labor) farming. (1g-k) Whatever subsidies that are provided should be available to a wide variety of crops and livestock, since we need to discourage high-input agriculture and agriculture that damages the land, air, and water, and contributes to the decline of rural communities, regardless of the crop.

 

  1. What changes should government make regarding direct payment programs to farm operators?
    Note: Farm operators can be anything between family farms to huge corporations.

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Eliminate direct payments to farm operators   X
b) Update the rules for direct payments to farm operators to support sustainability X
c) Broaden the types of farms that are eligible X
d) Broaden the types of crops that are eligible X
e) Effectively enforce existing rules X
Comments: (2a-b) When direct payments to farm operators are considered, they should support sustainability. For example, conservation practices such as riparian buffers, grassed waterways, and wetlands should be encouraged. Payment eligibility should be tied to conservation practices. Payments should be closely tied to our LWVUS natural resource positions. Rules for direct payment eligibility and compliance should be updated, broadened, and ENFORCED. (2c-d) Types of farms should be broadened to include those producing livestock and foods other than commodities.

 


  1. What changes to current crop insurance programs should government make?

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Extend to more types of crops X
b) Link to the use of conservation practices X
c) Limit insurance for the cultivation of marginal and environmentally sensitive land X
d) Cap amount of premium subsidy to a single farm operator (see note in question 2) X
Comments: (3a-d) Any farmer can buy crop insurance for commodity crops; the question is whether the government should subsidize it. There is no justification for providing subsidies based on the amount of a particular crop produced.  There should be caps on subsidies to larger farmers and payments should go to active farmers. If we are to have subsidized crop insurance, it should be available to producers of a diversity of crops, support small and medium sized operators, and only be available to farms that practice natural resource conservation.

 

  1. Should government act on any of the following?

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Revise anti-trust legislation to ensure competitive agricultural markets X
b) Enforce anti-trust laws as they relate to agriculture X
c) Promote alternative marketing systems, including regional hub markets, farmer cooperatives, farm markets, etc. X
Comments: (4a) The main problem is in how narrowly current legislation is interpreted and IN THE FAILURE TO ENFORCE current anti-trust laws at all, as well as in the need to incentivize alternative marketing approaches that would result in more local and ecological food being produced.  Some new legislation may be needed.

Animal Management

  1. Which of the following approaches to animal management should government achieve?

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Transparently collect and disclose data about regulated animal feeding operations (AFOs) or aquaculture operations and about the health of animals in such regulated operations X
b) Apply and enforce existing clean air and clean water regulations to animal or seafood management facilities X
Comments: (5a-b) Transparent centralized collection and disclosure of this information and mandatory enforcement of regulations must be included.

 

  1. Which of the following approaches to animal waste management should government require or bring about?

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Treat animal waste with environmentally sound technologies for all regulated AFOs X  
b) Prioritize federal funds to mitigate existing environmental challenges (such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program, cost share, loans, etc.) rather than construction of new facilities   X
Comments: (6b) The mitigation of negative environmental impacts of AFOs should be counted as a cost of running these businesses. The true costs of confined animal feeding operations should be borne largely by the owners of those systems; this should incentivize more ecologically sound methods of producing those animals.  Government money should not be used either to mitigate existing environmental challenges or for construction of new facilities for AFOs.

Research and Development

  1. Which of the following approaches to research and development (R&D) should government fund or accomplish?Note: For the purpose of these questions and some questions below, “developed using any new technology” or “new technologies” refer to any of many scientific processes for developing new crops or animals with genetic engineering, nanotechnology or other new techniques, which are not the traditional breeding or hybridization techniques.

Yes

No

No

Consensus

a) Basic research X
b) Independent third-party (such as an academic institution) risk assessment of products developed using any new technology X
c) Research to assess the impacts of new technologies on human health and the environment, prior to their widespread adoption X
d) Research that advances the continuation of diversified and sustainable agricultural systems X
e) Seed banking, research, and other means that promote and preserve genetic diversity X  
f) Both transparency in the reporting of research studies related to approval of new products and respect for intellectual property rights of private enterprises engaged in research   X
g) Research on long-term effects of new crops, products and processes X  
h) Development of new practices and technologies to promote conservation for all types of farms X  
Comments: (7f) The response is no because of the following reasons: Results of all government funded research on existing or prospective products should be released as a public good. All results of research from publicly funded institutions (such as universities, colleges, agencies) should be public. (7g) The balance of research should be shifted toward ecological agricultural practices that involve fewer purchased inputs and diminished use of products that are toxic for humans and for the environment.  There should be a strong emphasis on systems that reduce soil erosion and increase soil complexity.

 

Food Safety

  1. Which of the following approaches to food safety should government perform or fund?
Yes No No Consensus
a) Clarify and enforce pre-market testing requirements for new foods and food additives developed using any new technology (see note below question 7) X
b) Require developers to monitor all food products developed using any new technology after releasing to the market X
c) Withdraw marketing approval if products are shown to be unsafe X
d) Require post-market monitoring of approved pharmaceutical applications in animal production for human health and environmental impacts X
e) Require developers of new products to provide data and other materials to independent third-parties (such as academic institutions) for pre- and post-market safety assessment as appropriate X
f) Limit use of antibiotics in animal production to treat and control disease X
g) Fund independent third-party (such as academic institutions) risk assessment of long-term and multiple exposures from foods on human health and the environment X
h) Promote crop management practices that decrease dependency on added chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers) X
i) Fund, train and add personnel for assessment and compliance functions of regulatory agencies X
Comments: (8a-b) Revise to remove “developed using new technology.” (8b) Require developers, growers, and processers of food products to monitor long-term effects at their expense to ensure control of risks both prior to and after approval. The Precautionary Principle is appropriate in assessing new pesticides, fungicides, weed killers, etc. Firms introducing such products should be required to pay into a fund for third parties to assess risk prior to approval for market and to monitor long-term effects of those products that are approved. (8f) Newest government licensing and use of antibiotics for animal growth is prohibited. Use antibiotics in animal production only to treat and control disease “and not for growth promotion.” (8h) Remove synthetic fertilizers made with added chemicals, and tighten the categories for synthetic and animal byproducts to those which are fully defined and tested to ensure safety for consumption. We should promote crop management practices that decrease dependency on added chemicals or fertilizers, whether synthetic or animal byproducts.  (8i) Add “enforce” so that it reads “Fund, train and add personnel for assessment, compliance and enforcement functions of regulatory agencies.” We need for testing and enforcement to include testing and enforcing fully the safety, risk and needed labeling of newly introduced products by regulatory agencies.

Food Labeling

  1. How sufficient are the following regarding current food labeling?

Insufficient

Sufficient

Too much

No Consensus

a) Nutrition Facts on food labels X
b) Nutrition Facts on food labels as a means of consumer education X
c) Common allergen labeling X
d) Health and ingredient claims that consumers can understand X
Comments: Need simple nutrition information that helps consumers determine which products are most healthful. The problem with labeling is that over simplified statements are easily misinterpreted and whether a food is useful to an individual depends upon the total diet.

 

10. Which of the following should government achieve regarding marketing and ingredient claims on food labels?

Yes

No

No Consensus

a) Define (and approve for use) health and safety marketing terms (e.g. immunity support, humane, pasture-raised, natural, etc.) X
b) Regulate the use of images or other sensory advertising X
c) Require that ingredient marketing claims accurately represent what is in the required ingredient list X
Comments:  (10a) delete “etc”. “Etc” leaves the list open for everything. Define the list and don’t leave it open. (10 a-c) Require that these also apply to nutritional supplements, including but not limited to vitamin, herbal and botanical supplements. Labeling of food and food ingredients must be in language fully stated and understood by purchasers. Food products provided to multiple language groups must be accurately presented in their languages. Abbreviations should only be used where understood by consumers and where accurate and limiting.

 

11. Recognizing that each food developed using any new technology can be unique, and assuming that required food labeling should be useful to consumers, should the following generalized information relating to how products or components are developed be presented on food labels?See note below question 7. All these questions also assume some percentage threshold of new technology ingredients, such as the 0.9% used in the European Union.

Not Recommended

Voluntary

Mandatory

No consensus

a) Contains ingredients developed using any new technology stating which technologies are involved X
b) Does not contain ingredients developed using any new technology X
c) If meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products are from animals that have consumed feed developed using any new technology stating which technologies are involved X
Comments: (11a-c) These questions obscure and do not address concerns related to new technologies and the lack of public education about these technologies that would make such labeling useful to consumers. GMO labeling in particular is important because of the contributions that GMOs as presently marketed tend to limit genetic diversity within the particular species and contribute to pests and weeds that are pesticide and herbicide resistant. This question of labeling relating to foods using new technology should be further studied by the LWVUS before a truly informed position can be made. “Study without action is futile and action without study is fatal.”