13 Free Farm Commons Legal Webinars

market-15

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Farm Commons announced free registration is open for 13 different law webinars that span from December through March. Farm Commons is an organization working to empower farmers and local communities by connecting them with specialized attorneys. The organization’s webinars are intended to provide individuals with a deeper knowledge of applicable farm law.

Want to learn how to build a legally sound CSA business? How about hosting legally secure farm events? Farm Commons’ webinars have everything you need to know about all this and more. The first eight webinars cover the basics of farm law before the last five delve into more advanced topics. Register now before it’s too late:

1. The Beginning Farmer’s Introduction to Farm Law

Monday, December 8

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

2. Put Your CSA On Strong Legal Footing

Tuesday, December 9

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

3. Hosting Safe, Legally Secure Farm Events

Monday, January 5

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

4. Adding Value without Adding Legal Liability to Farm Products

Tuesday, January 6

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

5. Farmland Leases Built to Last: Content and Legal Context

Monday, January 19

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

6. Food Safety Liability and Regulations for the Farm

Tuesday, January 20

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

7. Sales Contracts for Farm Produce: Why and How

Monday, February 2

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

8. Making Employment Law Work for Your Farm

Tuesday, February 3

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

9. Farm Sole Proprietorships, LLCs, S Corps, C Corps, and Coops: Which? Why? How? (Advanced)

Monday, February 23

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

10. Going In-Depth With CSA Farm Law (Advanced)

Tuesday, February 24

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

11. Getting Farm Work Done Legally With Interns, Apprentices and Volunteers (Advanced)

Monday, March 2

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

12. Financing a Farmland Purchase: Legal Basics for Traditional and Non-Traditional Farmland Purchases (Advanced)

Monday, March 23

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

13. Efficiently Manage Your Farm’s Risks with Insurance (Advanced)

Tuesday, March 24

1 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register here

Want to learn more about webinars? Check out this Spotlight Roundup from earlier this year that highlights 7 organizations producing incredibly helpful webinars on food and farming issues.

How does the FSMA affect you?

On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to shift focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. In order to ensure that everyone from the farmer to the processor to the consumer are playing their role in keeping food safe, the FSMA required the FDA to proposed a set of rules authorized at the farm level: the Produce Rule regulates standards for produce production and the Preventive Controls Rule regulates food safety measure for facilities that process food for human consumption. These rules are still in the proposal stage so they are not signed into law yet, but if you own or operate a farm or small business it may be impacted should these rules pass. Read on to find out if or how you may be affected.

What It Is

The Produce Rule builds on existing voluntary industry guidelines for food safety currently followed by many producers, growers and others. The rule focuses on areas of risk such as agricultural water, biological soil amendments, health and hygiene, domesticated and wild animals and equipment, tools and buildings.

The Preventive Controls Rule will require facilities to have written plans in place that identify potential hazards, detail the necessary steps to address those hazards, verify that the steps are working and outline how to fix any problems that arise.

For more details click here.

How It Effects Producers and Processors

The Produce Rule may affect you if you grow, harvest, pack or store fruits or vegetables.

The Preventive Controls Rule may affect you if you process, manufacture, pack or store human food

Both the Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule may affect you if you grow harvest, pack or store fruits and vegetables AND process, manufacture, pack or store human food

For details on who these rules may affect, click here.

Check out the FDA’s fact sheet on the FSMA proposed rules for a full summary, background and predicted impacts.

For guidance on creating your own food safety plan, check out FamilyFarmed.org’s page on how to create one.

New report released on food system policies in New England

The American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group joined forces to release the exciting new survey, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System. This report examines different policies impacting the food system in New England that either hinder or support its capacity to grow sustainably. The survey was created through interviews with people in food and farming in combination with two years of research.

Through this research, the survey explores opportunities for new or amended policies that can help New England’s food system thrive. In doing so, the report specifically looks into five topics in public policy: land, food production, food safety, markets and waste streams. The survey looks into ways that policies can improve on a state and national level, but also how the New England states can work together to achieve collaboration and change.

The Conservation Law Foundation’s website explains:

The New England states have a deep history of cooperation. This history offers promise for our states to work together on complex food system issues. We hope this report serves as a call to action to help policymakers, food and farming leaders, and citizens in each New England state to identify, support, and implement public policies that can have the most significant impact on strengthening our food system.

For more detailed information on the findings from each of the five public policy areas, click here for the conclusion from the report. 

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Holds Workshops for Good Agricultural Practices

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a level of food safety certification for fruit and vegetable producers. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is holding one-day fall workshops for direct-to-consumer producers to learn how to reach the GAP requirements.

Each workshop is divided into a Level 1 and Level 2 course. Interested participants can register online for a $25 fee and will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course. Registration is still available for the following:

Council Bluffs Workshop—Iowa Western Community College

  • Level 1—Nov. 12: registration deadline Nov. 5
  • Level 2—Nov. 21: registration deadline Nov. 14

Click here for more information, or contact Heather Snyder with questions at (515) 294-9020 or hsnyder@iastate.edu.

FDA’s proposal to the Food Safety Modernization Act threatens family farmers and sustainable practices

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was passed by Congress in 2010 was the first major update to federal food safety laws in 72 years. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed laws to implement the provisions in the FSMA. These new rules leave out crucial aspects of the bill that were initially created to protect small, mid-sized and sustainable farmers.

While there needs to be an up-to-date and feasibly implemented food safety law, the FDA’s current proposal would force many family farmers to pay significant compliant costs. These fees could cost farmers up to half of their profits without many of the protections currently allotted to them. If passed the law potentially threatens local food sources, placing any farm with a profit of over $500,000 on the same level as any industrial agricultural conglomerate. The proposal also ignores Congress’ initial mandate that the FSMA must comply with The National Organic Program, making it difficult for farmers to implement natural or organic practices.

At this year’s concert, Farm Aid teamed up with our resource partner, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), to form a petition that concertgoers could sign against the FDA’s proposal. You can take a stand for family farmers and sustainable agriculture by signing that petition here. There is a comment period on the proposed rules until November 15, so NSAC created a comprehensive guide to form comments to the FDA for consumers and farmers alike supporting local food systems and family farmers.

Webinar and FDA Hearings on Food Safety Rules In Northeast

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in January of 2011. Now the Food and Drug Administration is presenting its proposed rules about how it plans to carry out this law. Public hearings allow farmers, processors, retailers and consumers to ask questions of the FDA, express concerns and better understand the regulations and their complexities, as well as figure out how to operate under the new rules.

There are two upcoming hearings in the Northeast this August. The first will be held on August 19th in Augusta, Maine from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. The second will be held on the Vermont/New Hampshire border on August 20th.

The New England Farmers Union has expressed concerns that small farmers, like those in New England, could be negatively impacted by the new regulations. They have been pushing members to learn more about the FSMA, to comment on the proposed rules and to attend the upcoming hearings. Click here to learn more about their take on the issue and to find out more information about the hearings.

Also, the New England Food System Policy Project (a project of American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group); Food Solutions New England; Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation; New England Farmers Union; Rhode Island Division of Agriculture; UMass Extension; University of Rhode Island are hosting a free webinar on FSMA for New England food producers, buyers, and those working toward a resilient New England food system. The webinar will be August 13, 2013, from 12:00-1:30 PM. Click here to register.

For additional information about the FSMA visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s issue page, and the FDA’s FSMA page.

OEFFA Pre-Conference Workshops on Food Safety and Grazing for Experienced Farmers

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is offering two pre-conference workshops on Friday, Feb. 15th as a part of their upcoming annual conference. OEFFA program director and event organizer Renee Hunt explains, “While our two-day conference covers a wide range of topics geared toward farmers, gardeners, and consumers, our full day pre-conference workshops are able to drill deeper, giving specialty crop growers and livestock farmers the skills they need to take their businesses to the next level.”

Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa will lead a workshop on “Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm,” covering how to establish or improve food safety practices. The second workshop, “From Our Grazing Experience,” will be led by Troy Bishopp, “The Grass Whisperer,” along with a panel of experienced graziers. Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season, specific feeding strategies, business profitability, soil health, and much more.

To register or for more information, visit www.oeffa.org/2013. Contact Renee Hunt with additional questions at 614.421.2022 x205 or renee@oeffa.org.