September 20, 2008

What Farm Bill, COOL Mean to You

By Suzanne Mills-Wazniak Contributing Writer

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 was enacted by the United States Congress on June 18.

This Act is also known as the much anticipated and controversial "2008 Farm Bill." What one might not know is that the 2008 Farm Bill contains many provisions that affect nonfarming consumers.

The familiar Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is part of the Title 4 -- Nutrition section of the 2008 Farm Bill.

A new program called Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center was established to provide underserved communities with access to healthy foods including locally grown foods.

The commitment to locally grown foods, when "feasible and appropriate," is also found in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.

Also authorized under Title 4, but subject to appropriations, is a provision for capacity expansion and infrastructure improvement for local food banks and their ability to support locally grown foods.

These provisions provide an opportunity for local farmers to market their produce.

Title 9 of the 2008 Farm Bill addresses the needs of research.

Included in this broad title are provisions for organic agriculture, specialty crops, bioenergy, first time and socially disadvantaged farmers.

The research and development provisions may be the most important part of the legislation. To quote Colorado State University plant pathologist, Jan Leach: "Agriculture has been so productive and done so well, people have kind of lost sight of how fragile it really is. It's as if we have lost track of the fact that food is linked to agriculture, which is linked to human survival."

One might wonder why it is so important that agricultural research and development take place.

Food prices would be much higher if it were not for new plant and animal genetics, new herbicides and insecticides, new technology and improved conservation techniques.

Different genetics of the same crop are grown side by side in Montgomery County to ascertain which variety is best for our growing conditions.

Traps have been set by OSU Extension to monitor the movement of potentially harmful and invasive pests.

The 2008 growing season saw the first reported western bean cutworm moth caught in Montgomery County. This pest has been moving eastward from Illinois and presents a major economic threat.

Without research and development of techniques to combat pests and disease, the economic consequences to Ohio agriculture and ultimately the consumer would be disastrous.

The much debated Country Of Origin Labeling interim final rule will become effective Sept. 30. The 2008 Farm Bill under Title 11 expanded the list of commodities covered under COOL.

The added commodities were chicken, goat meat, ginseng, pecans and macadamia nuts.

What does COOL mean to the consumer?

Commodities covered by the regulations entering the "food chain" after Sept. 30 will be required to be labeled as to the country of origin by the packers and retailers.

The new label requirements will provide the consumer with the commodity's country of origin at the time of purchase.

Contact this reporter at (937) 224-9654 or mills- [email protected]

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