Students learn about cooperative businesses

On Wednesday, Oct. 22nd, high school students from central Iowa will be learning about cooperative principles. The field trip sponsored by the Iowa Farmers Union Education Foundation will include a trip to the Iowa Food Coop and lunch at Hoq. The students will gain hands-on knowledge of the local food system and cooperative business principles. For more information, contact Aaron Heley-Lehman alehman@iowatelecom.net.20141022 Coop event flier

NCAT crop insurance expert to update producers on new program for Iowa at Iowa Farmers Union convention

“Whole Farm Revenue Protection Coming in 2015: A New Concept for Iowa Producers” will be a featured topic at this year’s convention of the Iowa Farmers Union in Des Moines. The WFRP presentation by Jeff Schahczenski, Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in Butte, Montana, will be Friday, October 31, from 2:15-3:15 p.m.

The Farmers Union conference will be October 31-November 1 at the Hotel Ft. Des Moines. Find out more about the schedule, or register, at http://iowafarmersunion.org/2014convention/

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, or WFRP, required by the 2014 Farm Bill, will be offered for the first time as a pilot program in Iowa in 2015 through the RMA-managed federal crop insurance program. The new policy will expand insurance options for specialty crop, organic, and diversified crop producers. This new product will replace previous whole farm revenue insurance products, Adjusted Gross-Revenue (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGR-Lite). The new policy will offer a whole-farm premium subsidy to farms with two or more commodities that is the same as those provided for single crop policies, as long as minimum diversification requirements are met. This will provide diversified farms a higher premium subsidy than previously available. The coverage levels can range anywhere from 50 to 85 percent, depending on what producers feel is appropriate for their businesses.

“We have been working on whole farm revenue crop insurance for over seven years, and created with RMA assistance, the AGR-Lite Wizard which has helped many diversified farmers explore the benefits of this very unique type of crop insurance,” says Schahczenski.  Schahczenski is the author of “Crop Insurance Options for Specialty, Diversified, and Organic Farmers,” an NCAT-ATTRA publication published in 2012.

NCAT’s Midwest Regional Office was awarded a Risk Management Education Partnership cooperative agreement through the RMA. NCAT will be collaborating with the Iowa Farmers Union, the Iowa Organic Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Midwest Sustainable and Organic Education Service (MOSES) to educate producers in Iowa and the Midwest about this new crop insurance option, as well as other topics related to managing production and economic risks.

More information about the WFRP pilot program will be available mid-November on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov.   All federal crop insurance is sold solely through private crop insurance agents and producers should contact their agents if they are considering this new way to insure their crop and livestock products. The parties involved are an equal opportunity provider.

NCAT is a public-private partnership which champions small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources. Since 1915, Iowa Farmers Union members have worked together to strengthen the independent family farm through education, legislation and cooperation. This work will provide Iowans with sustainable production, safe food, a clean environment and healthy communities.

Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director, jeffs@ncat.org, 406-494-8636

Celebrate National Farm to School Month

Policy Advocacy Encourages Farm to School Growth

Guest post by Deb Bentzel, The Food Trust 

Students enjoy local strawberries. (Office of the State Superintendent of Education photo)

In the farm to school movement, policy tends to be a relatively silent partner to the work many stakeholders are doing on the ground. How does policy get put into place, and how can we rally our local and state decision-makers to support farm to school practices in meaningful ways? We can start by telling stories of where policy in action is making a difference for children, school communities, farmers, and locally owned businesses.

The Mid-Atlantic Region—comprised of New Jersey, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia – has many stories of how farm to school policy has changed the face of school meals, the expansion of school gardening and the funding of these and other initiatives to create lasting, meaningful change for schools and their communities. Here, are two stories of farm to school success—from policy, to practice, to results.

D.C.’s Healthy Schools Act and Healthy Tots Act

The Healthy Schools Act and the Healthy Tots Act of Washington DC are shining examples of how farm to school and child nutrition advocates can work together to support the passage of landmark bills that support healthy food and physical activity environments for children. They are also great examples of how a special emphasis on farm to school and farm to preschool practices can be integrated into broader child wellness policies. Passed in 2010, the Healthy Schools Act expands access to breakfast and lunch, encourages farm to school purchasing practices by providing financial incentives for local procurement (5 cents additional reimbursement for meals containing locally grown foods!), provides grants to fund school garden programs and farm field trips, and has a number of health and wellness components. With ample support from the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools (OSSE) and other local partners, kids across DC are eating healthy, locally-grown foods. In the 2012-2013 schools year, up to 89 percent of DC schools served healthy, local foods to students at least once per month! That’s policy in action.

It has taken the collective and collaborative work of many partners on the ground—including DC Greens, the National Farm to School Netwok’s (NFSN) state lead for the District of Columbia—to support the passage of both acts and to translate their policy into lasting systems change. DC Greens’ Farm to School director Karissa McCarthy reflects, “The legislation has helped elevate the ongoing work of farm to school practitioners in classrooms, cafeterias and school gardens. We are lucky in DC to have a long-standing stakeholder group that not only championed this legislation, but has continued to carry our collective farm to school efforts forward.”  The recently legislated Healthy Tots Act will support farm to preschool practices utilizing strategies similar to the Healthy Schools Act, including financial incentives for local procurement. We look forward to the development of these preschool programs and to celebrating the great work our nation’s capital is doing to support the health of their youngest eaters!

Student at Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School (Surf City, NJ) work in their school garden. (New Jersey Farm to School photo) 

Five new bills support farm to school in New Jersey

Elsewhere in the region, the great Garden State of New Jersey recently signed five farm to school bills into law that will encourage farm to school practices across the state by supporting both schools and the Jersey Fresh growers. Designed to promote, celebrate and help fund farm to school practices, these innovative bills were the result of years of advocacy and support for farm to school. Championed by the New Jersey Farm to School Network, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Farm Bureau, these new bills are exciting in their fresh approach to connecting schools with NJ-grown foods and their focus on celebrating the great work of those making farm to school happen on the ground. New Jersey Farm to School Network executive director and NFSN State Lead, Beth Feehan, thanked all stakeholders “for their willingness to collaborate these past six years and to find the place where grass roots and institutions can meet to affect change.” And New Jersey isn’t the only Mid-Atlantic state with farm to school policy success: Virginia, Maryland and Delaware each celebrate their own “Farm to School Week” thanks to legislative support.

Policy success in YOUR state

How can you get involved in affecting policy change to support farm to school practices in your city or state?  Start by reaching out to your farm to school stakeholders (including your NFSN state lead) to hear the latest about what may already be in discussion, on the docket or in committee. From there, you can testify to your state legislature, write letters of support and educate your elected officials about the benefits of farm to school. You can also participate in NFSN informational webinars to learn more about federal policies like the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Reauthorization and how federal policy can also support our farmers, schools and communities for years to come.

More information on farm to school policies across the country can be found in this comprehensive State Legislative Survey assembled by NFSN and Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.