• Farm Bill

    Representatives Kaptur, Bustos Bring Farm Bill Listening Session to Ohio

    The week of August 22, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) joined the House Agriculture Committee and held a listening session in Fremont, Ohio. More than 200 members of the public participated in the session in person or online.

    Crop Insurance Reform

    Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur (right) and Illinois Representative Cheri Bustos (left)

    One of the prominent topics was crop insurance. While some major commodity groups repeat a refrain often heard during the 2018 Farm Bill discussions, “Don’t touch crop insurance,” sentiments may have shifted a bit since then. President of the Ohio Farmers Union and organic farmer Joe Logan reiterated the importance of the crop insurance program and talked about the need to “…reconfigure it in a way that rewards farmers for building soil health.”

    OEFFA organic farmer Eli Dean also spoke to the committee on the subject, noting that policies are put in place for all other USDA subsidy programs that do “means testing,” or making sure that benefits are not just going to the wealthy few, but that is not the case for crop insurance. For farmers who receive crop insurance coverage, taxpayers cover an average of 62 percent of the cost of each policy, and that holds regardless of how much money a farmer makes.

    Eli said that crop insurance is his favorite program, it works really well and there are adjustments that need to be made. Eli suggested there should be limits put in place so the largest farmers don’t continue expanding and the small- to mid-scale farms are not able to compete. According to Eli, “…as a taxpayer, it makes sense that our tax dollars don’t go to the richest one percent of farms”

    The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) recently published an Economic Analysis of Payment Caps on Crop Insurance Subsidies. This report’s introduction noted a recent study found the largest 10 percent of farms received over 60 percent of all subsidy benefit. NSAC analyzed five different options for placing “caps,” or limits on the amount of subsidies farmers can receive, and one of those options presented (limiting all discounts of crop insurance cost to $50,000) would affect about 3 percent of farms and result in a 26 percent ($16.6 billion) savings. This is a clear illustration we can make this important risk management tool more equitable and cost effective while protecting about 97 percent of farmers using the program.

    Climate Change Solutions

    Tony Logan, former USDA Ohio State Director for Rural Development, spoke to the need for clear standards when it comes to measuring the amount of carbon farmers are able to store in the soil. As the USDA looks to incentivize practices that encourage minimization of greenhouse gases and/or sequestration of carbon, there needs to be a clear and accurate initial baseline and an effective, science-based measurement for progress over time.

    Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

    Vicki Askins, a member of the Ohio Farmers Union and Lake Erie Advocates, asked that a temporary moratorium on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) be instituted to protect water quality in Lake Erie. While manure digesters are sometimes sought as a solution to CAFO waste generation, Vicki stated that they are expensive, and the government should not be subsidizing the cost for large operations.

    Local and Regional Food Systems

    Kristy Buskirk of Clay Hill Organic Farm shares her testimony.

    Kristy Buskirk, a farmer from Clay Hill Organic Farm, talked about selling into local and regional markets. In their ninth season as first generation farmers, they have experienced extreme weather events. With OEFFA’s 2023 Farm Bill platform in hand, Kristy talked about the need for increased investment in local and regional food systems, specifically in flash freezing infrastructure. The Ohio produce calendar and the school calendar don’t line up. Because most school kitchens are heat and serve, regional facilities that do minimal processing and freeze produce for later use would help farmers get into institutional markets such as farm to school.

    Angela Huffman with Farm Action received a standing ovation as she spoke about the presence of endless rows of corn and soybeans, but not food for people to eat. She also conveyed the issues of food security as national security, synthetics and contamination of our soil and our bodies, and the crisis of corporate consolidation in food and agricultural markets. Angela closed by saying we need to focus more on food and less on feed, and to expand crop insurance for diversification and organics.

    Fixing a Broken Food System

    Commenters had two to three minutes to share their thoughts, which is a challenge, but others hit home in that very tight time frame.

    Bob Jones of Chef’s Garden said, “…we have the largest spending of any nation on health care, the smallest spending on food, and there is a direct connection.” According to him, food and agriculture are broken; people are begging for more money for insurance and subsidies while people are obese, sick, and dying. He talked about those who grow fruits and vegetables, known as specialty crops in USDA parlance, as the tick on the end of the tail on the end of the dog when it comes to spending.

    It is clear from this snapshot of two hours of farm bill testimony that some people want things to stay the same. There is, however, a growing chorus of people advocating for change. Between a climate threatening the viability of farming in many areas of the country, the increasing consolidation of farming and food processing benefiting very few at the expense of thousands of small farmers and rural communities, increasing public health concerns directly relating to the food system or environmental crises, we can’t wait another five to ten years to get started.

    Now is the time. Join us today as we build the campaign for change.

  • Conservation,  State Policy

    Ohio Soil Health Bill Moving Forward

    Paul Dorrance and Jim Linne discuss pasture-based livestock farming and soil health on Jim’s farm, White Clover Farm, in Hillsboro, Ohio

    This growing season (like many before) has seen months of challenging conditions including excessive rain followed by days on end of high heat and drought. In facing these challenges, Ohio farmers know that improving soil health is a critical component to mitigating the impacts of these extreme weather events, as well as offering a myriad of other environmental benefits.

    But our farmers can’t do this alone. It’s essential that there is legislative investment in supporting and incentivizing the use of good soil management practices to create lasting environmental and economic resiliency. This commitment to soil health needs to be more than just seed deep. When we prioritize soil health, we’re supporting improved surface and ground water quality, increased crop productivity and profitability, better water holding capacity and reduced erosion, and so much more. Going deeper, this commitment means investing in the future of our farms, in a more sustainable food system, and resilient communities.

    Coordinated planning and leadership that’s informed by our farmers is needed to make good soil health practices a real priority in the state of Ohio. That’s why just this May, with support from OEFFA and the Ohio Soil Health Initiative (OSHI), Representative Juanita Brent (D-12), introduced Ohio House Bill 669 which aims to create a Healthy Soils Task Force.

    Getting to Know HB 669

    HB 669 calls for creating a Healthy Soils Task Force consisting of a diverse group of farmers, agriculture and soil health experts from Ohio academic institutions, conservation and environmental organization representatives, and appointees from the Ohio House and Senate. With administrative and fiscal support from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) the group will:

    1. Develop a healthy soils initiative for the state of Ohio
    2. Create a comprehensive action plan to implement an Ohio soil initiative with set goals, timelines and resource requirements and availabilities
    3. Examine, identify, and review:
      • Financial incentives to improve soil health;
      • The benefits of livestock to soil health;
      • Goals and timelines for improving soil health in the state via partnerships between producers and regional agencies and other invested organizations;
      • Identification of federal resources that can be leveraged in the state of Ohio to further soil health practice.
    4. Consult additional experts and agencies
    5. By the end of 2022 (at which time the Task Force will be terminated), submit the action plan, report findings and suggestions to the Governor and the State House and Senate agricultural committees

    Next Steps to Prioritizing Healthy Soils in Ohio

    This bill is the first step towards prioritizing soil health in Ohio and there is still time to contact your legislator and ask them to support the Healthy Soils Task Force!

    Sign OEFFA’s Soil Health Petition

    Become an OEFFA Member

    If you would like to be more involved, contact lauren@oeffa.org or (614) 725-0903 to learn about how you can help support healthy soils in Ohio.

  • State Policy

    Moving the Needle on Land Access

    When the National Young Farmers Coalition formed, they started their work by assessing the challenges faced by beginning farmers. It came as no surprise to many that access to farmland was, and remains, a huge hurdle for farmers just getting started. The cost of land to purchase or lease continue to climb and, combined with the significant investments in starting a new operation, often put a farming career out of reach for many.

    We know secure land tenure ensures that farmers are able to invest in place and provide culturally relevant food, medicine, and connection to their communities. That tenure also allows them to invest in practices and management systems that are sustainable, provide resilience, and strengthen the viability of our food system.

    Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to this important issue. That is, until 2018, when OEFFA started researching legislative options to support land access for beginning farmers.

    OEFFA Members Help Pass Family Farm ReGeneration Act

    We met with former Ohio House Representative John Patterson and Ohio Senator Bob Peterson, had conversations with folks in Minnesota who had recently passed a bill to provide tax incentives for beginning farmers, consulted with staff at the OEFFA Begin Farming program, reached out to the Ohio Farmers Union and the Ohio Farm Bureau, and, most importantly, heard from our members.

    OEFFA supported legislation to offer tax credits for owners of agricultural assets, including farmland, livestock, buildings, or equipment, who transfer them to a beginning farmer. House Bill 95, or the Family Farm ReGeneration Act, included credits on the following schedule:

    • 5 percent of the sale price of assets sold to a beginning farmer, up to $32,000
    • 10 percent of the gross rental income in the first three years of a cash rental agreement with a beginning farmer, up to $7,000 per year.
    • 15 percent of the cash equivalent in the first three years of a share rent agreement with a beginning farmer, up to $10,000 per year.

    This is the same structure utilized with the original Minnesota law. During our outreach and engagement on the bill, we organized a petition so that our members could demonstrate their support, garnering more than 600 signatures. Some OEFFA staff and members also provided testimony on the bill, including Rachel Tayse, Kate Hodges, Dean McIlvaine, Matt Aultman, and Jason Ward.

    Thanks to the advocacy of our members and partners, the bill received near unanimous support in the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. During the last days prior to passage of the bill, changes were made to restrict the tax credit for owners of agricultural assets to 3.99 percent for all classes of transfer-sale, lease, or cost share rental agreement.

    Farming on land you don’t own can limit investment in long-term practices that may take years to see positive results, which also benefits communities through cleaner water and better ecosystem functions. It makes sense that we would want to increase the incentive for land leasing so these long-term practices have a better chance of being adopted, but also for the relationship building that may be necessary to secure a more permanent transfer into the future.

    Tax Credit for Beginning Farmers

    While the focus on the tax credits in this bill is the landowner, that is not solely the case. The bill also provides a modest tax credit for beginning farmers that participate in a business management program certified by the Department of Agriculture and/or Ohio land grant colleges, such as the Ohio State University and Central State University.

    OEFFA is currently working to ensure that our Begin Farming program is on that list. Its Heartland Farm Beginnings, a year-long farmer-led training and support program, is designed to help early career farmers achieve their goal of creating a sustainable farm business. Through intensive workshops, beginning farmers develop a whole farm business plan through goal setting, financial management, and assessment of resources, skills, and markets. Participants are also paired with a farmer-mentor for one-on-one support. 

    The USDA has historically disenfranchised black and indigenous farmers, and many of these “underserved” producers still cannot adequately access USDA programs, including credit options for purchasing land. That is one of the reasons OEFFA supported an increased tax incentive for agricultural asset owners that work to transition land and other resources to farmers of color.

    So, with the passage of the Family Farm ReGeneration Act, we do two things:

    1. We celebrate our power to win when we work together; and
    2. We work to improve the law in the future.

    Join us today and continue to build our power to make positive change for a more sustainable food and farm system. If you are already part of the OEFFA family, reach out to our policy staff to share your story and ideas.

  • Conservation,  State Policy

    Contact Your Representative Today for Soil Health Into the Future!

    OEFFA members know that healthy soil is foundational to sustainable agriculture. While healthy soil is the basis for healthy crops, animals and humans, decision makers at the statehouse overwhelmingly are not talking about this important issue.

    That’s why OEFFA, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative and allies are urging decision makers to pass legislation that creates a Soil Health Task Force that includes public hearings and the creation of a proposed comprehensive soil health action plan within 1-year of establishing the task force.

    Use the form below to send an email to your state Representative and ask them to join Representative Juanita Brent (D-12) and sponsor the bill to create a Soil Health Task Force in Ohio.


    • Don’t include an introduction or sign off, those will automatically be included;
    • Share why soil health is important;
    • Keep it short and to the point; and
    • Ask for a response and let us know what they say!

    Talking points:

    • The creation of a soil health task force, that includes public hearings, would create the appropriate planning that is needed to accelerate and coordinate the adoption of soil health practices.
    • Healthy soils are a limited natural resource and fundamental for healthy and sustainable food production and for a resilient agriculture able to respond to a changing climate.
    • Ohio is a leading agriculture state with productive soils and abundant water supplies, and a commitment to healthy and productive soils is critical to the future of agriculture.
    • A comprehensive soil health action plan needs to be informed by farmers across the state. Public hearings are essential to creating a comprehensive plan for soil health that meets the needs of Ohio farmers.
    • There are real and pressing opportunities for Ohio farmers to capitalize on the economic and production benefits of improved soil health and water quality. We can’t ignore this critical opportunity. A Soil Health Task Force charged with creating a comprehensive soil health action plan within one year, needs to be put in place now.
  • General

    Making a Difference Together: Six Conference Conversations You’ll Want to Be a Part of

    For many, getting the OEFFA conference schedule of workshops, keynotes, and networking events can make you feel like a kid in a candy store.

    There’s so much good material to choose from and opportunities to connect with old friends and make new ones, all while working collectively toward a healthier future. The 2022 conference will be no exception.

    If you want to see real change in our food and farming system—changes that support organic and regenerative farmers and invest in healthful local and regional food choices—you’re going to want to be a part of these key conversations at the 2022 OEFFA conference, Rooted and Rising, February 12 online and February 17-19 at the Dayton Convention Center:

    • An Organic Approach to Farm Policy: Scott Marlow served as the executive director for the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, working to reorient the farm system away from concentration and corporate control to truly supporting family farmers. Join his virtual workshop on February 12 focusing on how we structure farm credit and risk management, and how the availability or lack of capital and access to crop insurance has a profound impact on the farming we see on the ground. 
    • Farm Bill Forecast: On February 12, a panel of food system leaders will explore how 2022 will be a formative year for the creation of the 2023 Farm Bill, and the unique opportunities it presents for reorienting the food system toward sustainability. Hear an in-depth conversation from Eric Deeble, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Abby Youngblood, executive director for the National Organic Coalition, and Jonathan McCracken, Senior Policy Advisor for Senator Sherrod Brown.
    • How Should Organic Grow?: Patty Lovera, policy director for the Organic Farmers Association, will have a conversation with organic growers and supporters about how organic should grow in the years ahead during this workshop on February 12.
    • Organic is Risky? Progress and Challenges of Crop Insurance for Organic Farmers: Jeff Schahczenski of the National Center for Appropriate Technology will focus on organic farmers and the crop insurance tools that do and don’t work during this February 12 workshop.
    • Winning a Better Food and Farm System: OEFFA’s new policy team will lead a discussion on February 18 about how to win a better food and farm system, and provide real next steps you can take away from conference.
    • The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture: We are excited to welcome back Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While there, she helped establish national standards for organic food and oversee the National Organic Program. During this February 18 workshop, she’ll share insights from her work with the Organic Trade Association, where she is identifying the priorities for organic as we head into the 2023 Farm Bill.

    This is just a sample of the critical policy conversations that we hope you will be a part of during the 2022 conference. Please join us as we work toward positive change! Learn more and register at conference.oeffa.org.

  • Conservation,  State Policy

    OEFFA Soil Health Task Force Petition

    Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) members know that healthy soil is foundational to sustainable agriculture. While healthy soil is the basis for healthy crops, animals and humans, decision makers at the statehouse overwhelmingly are not talking about this important issue.

    We believe in an Ohio where farmers who are curious about experimenting with soil health are supported and farmers who are implementing soil health practices are recognized. That’s why OEFFA, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative and allies are urging decision makers to pass legislation that creates a Soil Health Task Force as a first step towards developing farmer informed solutions that support health soil principles and practices. This task force would allow Ohio farmers to educate decision makers about the challenges, opportunities and actions they want to see addressed at the statehouse.

    Add your name in support below!

    We the undersigned support the creation of a healthy soils task force by the Ohio Legislature that would:

    • Consider the many benefits of soil health including but not limited to those identified by the Ohio Soil Health Initiative;
    • Prioritize the experience and knowledge of farmers who are already implementing soil health practices in Ohio and farmers who want to improve soil health on their farms, specifically by holding public hearings; and
    • Submit a comprehensive action plan, based on the knowledge of Ohio farmers amongst others, to the Governor, the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, and the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee within one year of the creation of the task force.

  • State Policy

    Beginning Farmer Bill on the Move

    The end of first year of Ohio’s 134th General Assembly brought the passage of Ohio House Bill 95 (HB 95).

    The Family Farm ReGeneration Act passed with almost unanimous support (Republican House Member Thomas Brinkman, Jr. was the only dissenting vote).

    OEFFA has been championing legislation to alleviate the overwhelming challenges beginning farmers face in finding affordable farmland for several years.

    Ohio can be proud to rank 6th in the nation in the number of beginning farmers.

    If we are to enjoy the food security and economic development benefits of agriculture, we must ensure next generation farmers have a secure land base.

    This bill establishes a tax credit for farmland owners and which grants an income and franchise tax credit to any person who sells or rents agricultural assets to a beginning farmer.

    How the Legislation Promotes Land and Resource Connections

    The credit equals:

    • 5 percent of the sale price of the assets sold to a beginning farmer, up to $32,000
    • 10 percent of the gross rental income in the first three years of a cash rental agreement with a beginning farmer, up to $7,000 per year
    • 15 percent of the cash equivalent in the first three years of a share rent agreement with a beginning farmer, up to $10,000 per year

    The same type of provisions were included in legislation that piloted this program in Minnesota. During the first year of implementing the law, they received more than 800 applications from landowners and beginning farmers. This holds promise for assisting both landowners and land seekers in the state. Ohio Representatives Susan Manchester (R-84) and Mary Lightbody (D-19) introduced HB 95 to the House Ways and Means Committee on September 28th.

    How You Can Help

    The Senate Ways and Means Committee will be hearing proponent testimony starting this week. If you would like to add your voice there are opportunities to call or present written or in-person testimony, call Amalie Lipstreu at (614) 947-1607 or email here. We need this legislation to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Governor DeWine before the end of this legislative session in the late spring of 2022. Help us to ensure a strong future for Ohio farmers today!

  • Conservation,  Farm Bill

    Why Farm Bill Conservation Programs Matter (and What You Can Do About It)

    OEFFA’s member-farmers work hard every day to practice good conservation on their land. 

    They plant cover crops to feed the soil and protect it from erosion.  They create buffers of grass, trees, and shrubs, that draw carbon from the atmosphere and protect our waterways and find creative ways to improve habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. 

    Farmers are increasingly looking to expand their practices to include no- and reduced-tillage systems, rotational grazing, alley crops, and agroforestry. 

    All of these practices can help farmers produce food while also improving soil conditions to make their farms more resilient to shifting weather patterns.

    These important practices, which benefit all of society, require time and financial resources. Hard-working farmers should not have to bear those costs alone. 

    Natural Resource Conservation Service Programs

    At the height of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, Congress recognized that farmers needed support and resources to do the work of protecting and improving our soil.  Toward this end, Congress created the Soil Conservation Service, which later was renamed to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).  For decades, NRCS has played a critical role in supporting farmers to implement best practices.

    These days, farmers are most familiar with two NCRS programs:  the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  EQIP provides cost-share and technical assistance payments to farmers and ranchers to address natural resource concerns; including the Organic Initiative to support organic practice adoption and the High Tunnel Initiative for vegetable production.  CSP rewards advanced and conservation systems with 5-year renewable payment contracts to implement conservation practices like rotations, cover cropping, and rotational grazing. 

    In addition to these better-known programs, a variety of other NRCS and USDA programs are targeted toward conservation, organic farming, access to healthy food, support for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and local and regional food systems. For a full summary of those programs, please see this chart from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  

    Conservation Programs and the 2023 Farm Bill

    Every 5 years, Congress outlines the scope of these programs in the Farm Bill.  The next Farm Bill will be in 2023, which gives us the opportunity to expand and improve what is already being offered.  To do that, we need to make sure that our legislators understand how important these conservation programs are.

    Members of Congress need to hear how farmers in their communities are using these programs to create healthy soil, protect our waterways, increase resilience to drought and flooding, and remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.  The best way to get that message across is for farmers to use these programs and to share their stories.


    • If you aren’t currently making use of these programs, check out the deadlines and application process for 2022.  Note that there is special consideration for organic farmers and historically underserved farmers (which include BIPOC farmers, veterans, and beginning farmers)
    • If you are already using these programs, please contact us at policy@oeffa.org to share your story. Sharing your experience helps inspire others and allows Congress to better shape future programs to meet your needs.
    • Even if you aren’t a farmer, your voice matters. By creating healthy soil and clean water, these programs benefit us all. Please contact one of our policy organizers at policy@oeffa.org to learn more about how advocate for these programs in the upcoming farm bill, through letter writing or calls or visits to your Member of Congress.

  • Marketplace Equity

    Biden Expands Anti-Trust Protections in Agriculture, Part 2

    Last month, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. This EO is exciting in many ways, from the sheer scope of its ambition to its acknowledgment of some of the many ills that have plagued American farmers, from unfair contract farming to retaliation. More on that EO can be found here.

    One of the most exciting facets of the Order, however, only received a few sentences’ worth of attention.

    The Order charged the Secretary of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with submitting a report to the White House outlining the problems posed by patent-protected seeds.

    These seeds challenge regulators to protect them as intellectual property, while still ensuring fair competition in the agricultural industry. Patent-protected seeds cause tension between carrying out the Packers and Stockyards Act, which seeks to reduce monopolies and increase competition, and the Patent Act, which seeks to reward innovation by financially protecting intellectual property. 

    While instructing bureaucrats to submit a report may not sound like exciting government action, that the Biden administration has acknowledged patent-protected seeds as a potential detriment to competition is a sign of progress. 

    Anti-Trust and Seed Competition

    Competition in the seed industry is in real danger. Larger seed companies have been buying up smaller firms since the introduction of genetically engineered seeds, consolidating property rights in the seeds. Now, just four companies control 60% of global proprietary seed sales (see Howard’s seed chart here). 

    Consolidations in the seed industry mean higher prices and fewer choices for farmers. Farmers who use proprietary seeds also have to comply with restrictions on their use, including restrictions on seed saving. Decreased competition in the seed market also means less biodiversity in our soils and potentially, fewer tools as farmers look to adapt to an ever changing climate. 

    This industry consolidation is the kind of practice the U.S.’s antitrust laws are meant to prevent. Nevertheless, we also have robust intellectual property protections, under which these genetically engineered seeds are patented. These protections are rooted in protections going back to 1930, when the Plant Patent Act allowed the patenting of asexually reproduced plants (excluding tuber-propagated plants).

    The patenting of plants continued to expand over the next fifty years, when in 1980 the first utility patent– these are the quintessential patents, granted for new inventions– was granted for a genetically engineered bacterium. Patent protections continued to expand as GE crops were rapidly developed throughout the 90s. Patents prevent others from making, using, or selling a protected product for a set period of time. Patents thereby grant the owner a limited period of exclusivity– the enemy of competition.

    Biden’s Executive Order has charged the Secretary of Agriculture with a difficult task: assessing how to ensure compliance with our robust patent laws, while also breaking up the consolidation of the seed industry and increasing competition. Notably, there is no deadline in the Order for when this report must be submitted, nor any measures of success. However, the Biden administration has acknowledged seed competition as a concern, and the report will be a tentative first step toward what needs to be a vigorous solution.

    This blog is the second in a series of two guest posts by OEFFA policy intern, Eliza VanNess.

  • Marketplace Equity

    Biden Expands Anti-Trust Protections in Agriculture, Part 1

    On July 9th, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which covers a variety of industries including the agricultural sector.

    The Order identifies consolidation as a threat to the survival of small family farms and proposes a number of antitrust measures to bolster support for these farmers. 

    This EO is the latest in a long tradition of antitrust regulations spurred on by the agricultural industry.

    The most sweeping regulation was the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), enacted in 1921. At the time, the industry was controlled by only five large meatpacking companies, who together were engaging in anti-competitive practices such as restricting the flow of food and controlling prices to manipulate the market. The PSA was passed to clamp down on these activities, to ensure fair business practices and competitive markets. The PSA, enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), still provides these protections today,

    While the Packers and Stockyards Act was an important measure in providing antitrust protections in agriculture, it proved insufficient in addressing such a broad problem. Biden’s July EO seeks to beef up the PSA, to protect small farmers trying to compete with ever-growing agribusinesses. 

    The July EO seeks to address the following crucial issues: 

    1. Reducing the burden on litigants suing under the Packers and Stockyards Act

    In order to sue under the Packers and Stockyards Act, courts in the past have required that litigants prove not just that a practice has harmed them personally, but that the practice has resulted in industry-wide harm. This is a difficult standard to prove, and the requirement has made it difficult for individual farmers to take advantage of the Act’s antitrust power. The new EO clarifies that proving industry-wide harm is not necessary to establish a violation of the Act, increasing the usefulness of the law to farmers. 

    2. Bolstering antitrust protections for poultry farmers

    Chicken farmers are often subject to the costs of contract farming, in which contractors or dealers have inordinate control over the factors that determine how much the farmers are paid, while leaving the farmers to assume the risks of factors over which they have little control and require the highest cost investments. The EO seeks to clamp down on this system, “prohibiting unfair business practices related to grower ranking systems.”

     3. Providing anti-retaliation protections 

    Farmers who’ve spoken up about exploitation at the hands of their contractors have too often experienced retaliation, placing farmers in the unfortunate position of choosing to stay silent about unfair business practices and facing potentially ruinous financial punishment. The EO instructs the Secretary of Agriculture to adopt anti-retaliation protections “so that farmers may assert their rights without fear of retribution.”

    4. Clarifying food labels and ensuring access to markets

    The EO bolsters food labeling, mandating labels that allow consumers to choose products made in the U.S. The Order instructs agencies to consider implementing a “Product of USA” voluntary label for meat products. The Order also instructs the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a plan to the White House Competition Council, outlining measures to promote competition in agriculture, as well as to support value-added agriculture and alternative food distribution systems. The Order suggests increasing price transparency in agriculture markets, increasing transparency to allow consumers to choose products that support fair treatment of farmers, and creating model contracts to help farmers negotiate fairer deals as measures the Secretary can include in the plan.

    5. Protecting competition in seed markets

    Finally, the EO identifies patent-protected seeds as a potential danger for competition in agriculture. These seeds cause tension between the Packers and Stockyards Act, aimed at increasing competition in agriculture, and the Patent Act, aimed at protecting intellectual property. Patent-protected seeds challenge regulators to protect them as intellectual property, while still ensuring fair competition in the agricultural industry.

    To figure out how to rise to this challenge, the Order instructs agencies to submit a report to the White House Competition Council, laying out the potential problems. Biden’s Executive Order is sweeping in scope, aimed at addressing a host of long-standing problems in the agricultural industry. However, the Order only provides instructions for agencies, who are ultimately charged with implementing the policies and rule makings proposed by the administration. Only time will tell how well these agencies implement the ambitious policies outlined in the Order.

    This blog is the first in a series of two guest posts by OEFFA policy intern, Eliza VanNess, a second year law student at the Ohio State University.