Author Archives: Mollie

Times Argus: GMO labeling law lands allies

July 23,2014
By Neal Goswami
Full Article

MONTPELIER — Two advocacy groups are looking to help defend the state against an industry group lawsuit against Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Food Safety say they have filed papers to formally move for party status in the lawsuit against Act 120, which was signed into law in May by Gov. Peter Shumlin. It requires the labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients.

The two groups want to intervene on behalf of the state to assist in defending the law. Both groups are being represented jointly by lawyers from CFS and the Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the largest group of food manufacturers in the country, as well as the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers, filed suit against the law about a month after it was signed. The state’s response to the suit is due Aug. 8.

The food industry has poured tens of millions of dollars into anti-labeling campaigns in other states, according to the groups.

“Corporations don’t get a veto in the state of Vermont,” said George Kimbrell, a senior attorney for CFS who will serve as the lead attorney for VPIRG and CFS. “We will vigorously defend this legally sound and important law, which is critical to our members and our mission.”

Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, said his group is prepared to contribute resources to help the state defend the law.

“Vermonters take their food seriously, and this law gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing choices,” Burns said. “VPIRG will do whatever we can to defend the GMO labeling law from corporate bullies who would rather keep consumers in the dark about what’s in their food.”

Falko Schilling, VPIRG’s leading advocate for GMO labeling, said it is unclear exactly how much the legal effort will cost.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said Assistant Attorney General Megan J. Shafritz, chief of the attorney general’s civil division, will serve as the lead attorney for the state. The litigation team defending the law will include in-house attorneys Jon Alexander, Kyle Landis-Marinello and Naomi Sheffield. It will also employ attorneys from the Washington, D.C., firm Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, which struck a $1.465 million contract with Sorrell’s office.

Sorrell told lawmakers the legal effort could cost the state as much as $8 million if it loses the case.

Vermont’s law, set to take effect in July 2016, is seen as a key battle in whether or not food companies will be required to label products with genetically modified ingredients. Two other states, Connecticut and Maine, have passed food labeling laws that are contingent on other states passing similar legislation. And Oregon has a ballot initiative on the November ballot.

Mary-Kay Swanson, executive assistant to Sorrell, who was out of state Tuesday, said the state is not opposing intervention by VPIRG and CFS, but the court will decide if they meet the legal standard for party status. She said the state is planning to mount a strong defense regardless.

“There’s no question that the state will vigorously defend this law and that we have the resources and expertise at our disposal,” she said. “In no way will this case be hindered by us having to pinch pennies.”

Schilling said both VPIRG and CFS can help boost the state’s defense of the law if they are granted party status.

“This is an issue that we have been involved with … and we have a long history of working on and we feel we can bring a lot of things to the table,” Schilling said. “That’s why we’re pushing to intervene. We believe the law is constitutional and believe it will be upheld.”


Defending VT’s GMO Labeling Law

On July 21, 2014 The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), jointly represented by counsel from the Vermont Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School and CFS, formally moved to defend Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law, Act 120.

The groups filed legal papers to intervene on behalf of the State of Vermont in order to assist in defending Act 120 from a legal challenge brought by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other food industry trade associations. GMA, which represents the country’s largest food manufacturers, sued Vermont just over a month after the law was signed.

The lawsuit filed by the GMO et. al. seeks to have Vermont’s first in the nation, no strings attached, labeling law struck down.

Rural Vermont, which, with VPIRG, NOFGA-VT and Cedar Circle Farm, led the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition will likely file an amicus or “friend of the court” brief if VPIRG and CFS are successful in obtaining intervenor status.

Read the press release here. Read a recent article from the Times Argus here.


Center for Food Safety: Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Center for Food Safety Move to Defend Vermont GE Labeling Law

Experts join forces to protect state from aggressive legal challenge by the food industry
July 21st, 2014
Full Press Release

Today, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) formally moved to defend Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) food labeling law, Act 120. The groups filed legal papers to intervene on behalf of the State of Vermont in order to assist in defending Act 120 from a legal challenge brought by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other food industry trade associations. They are represented jointly by counsel from CFS and Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC). Act 120 was signed into law on May 8, 2014. GMA, which represents the country’s largest food manufacturers and has poured tens of millions of dollars into anti-labeling campaigns in other states, sued Vermont just over a month after the law was signed.

“Corporations don’t get a veto in the state of Vermont,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “We will vigorously defend this legally sound and important law, which is critical to our members and our mission.”

“Vermonters take their food seriously, and this law gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing choices,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “VPIRG will do whatever we can to defend the GMO labeling law from corporate bullies who would rather keep consumers in the dark about what’s in their food.”

“With this filing, we’re very proud to be taking our first step in defending Vermont’s law. We’ve seen Act 120 this far and aren’t going to give up now – it’s a strong law that deserves protection,” said Laura Murphy, associate director of the ENRLC, which represented VPIRG throughout Act 120’s legislative process.

The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016. Two other states, Connecticut and Maine, passed GE food labeling laws with effective dates contingent on other states passing similar legislation. Oregon also has a ballot initiative on GE labeling in November 2014.  There are currently 64 countries with labeling laws and 70 state bills were introduced in 2013-2014, in 30 different states.

Act 120 was carefully considered by several committees before the Vermont legislature passed it and the governor signed it into law. The GE food labeling law received the support of a strong coalition of citizens groups such as VPIRG and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition, which includes Rural Vermont, NOFA-Vermont, and Cedar Circle Farm. VPIRG and The Vermont Right to Know coalition were essential, spearheading statewide policy and grassroots campaign efforts for several years.

GMA represents the country’s largest food manufacturers, which already label GE foods all over the world, but have forcefully fought efforts to label here in the U.S. For example, GMA spent over 13 million dollars to oppose 2012 and 2013 GE labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington. GMA has also supported a bill in Congress that would preempt states from pursuing labeling laws, even in the absence of a federal standard. To help implement and defend its law, Vermont included in Act 120 a voluntary “food fight fund” provision to solicit public donations.


Huffington Post: Americans Are Too Stupid For GMO Labeling, Congressional Panel Says

By Michael McAuliff
07/10/2014
Full Article & video

WASHINGTON — It’s pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they’ve called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.

The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they’re often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, as well as their four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition and reducing the use of pesticides.

People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.

“I really worry that labeling does more harm than good, that it leads too many people away from it and it diminishes the market for GMOs that are the solution to a lot of the problems we face,” said David Just, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) agreed with another witness, Calestous Juma, an international development professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, that political leaders had been cowed by misinformed populaces into bending on GMOs, especially in the European Union, where Juma said hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on studies that have found GMOs safe.

“It’s obvious that while the science in the EU in incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers,” Schrader said.

Juma cited an extensive report by the European Commission. (There is at least one controversial group that disagrees with him.)

Certainly, there is misinformation about GMOs, as highlighted in a New York Times feature on a Hawaiian ban of most GMOs. But entirely missing from the hearing was any suggestion that there are real concerns about the impact of genetically engineered food, such as the growth of pesticide-resistant “super weeds,” over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, decreased biodiversity, and a lack of a consistent approval process. (Read more pros and cons here.)

The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a measure backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) to stop states from requiring GMO labeling could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled “100 percent natural.”

The idea of the bill brought Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield to Capitol Hill Thursday to push back, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who backs labeling.

Greenfield told HuffPost that labeling is a simple, inexpensive matter of letting people know what’s in their food, and letting them decide what they want to support and eat.

“This idea that consumers will be scared away — the label will be a very simple thing, a few words on a container saying something like ‘may be produced with genetic engineering.’ It’s not scary,” Greenfield said.


National Family Farm Coalition: Vermont’s GMO Labeling and Raw Milk Access Gain Legal Status

By Andrea Stander
Summer 2014 Newsletter
Full Article
On May 8, Governor Peter Shumlin signed Vermont’s “no-strings-attached” GMO Food Labeling bill into law (Act 120), which is also first in the nation. This is a huge victory for everyone who eats and wouldn’t have been possible without the enormous support of not only Vermont citizens and dedicated activists but many from around the country these past three legislative sessions. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to achieve this important step in protecting our right to choose the food that supports our values. You can see a slide show of photos from the GMO Labeling Bill Signing Ceremony here.
The VT Right to Know Coalition, of which Rural Vermont is a founding member, will continue its work in several areas: We are assembling all the lessons we learned and resources we gathered during the campaign to share with other states working GMO labeling bills and ballot initiatives.
We will develop materials to help Vermont citizens participate in the Attorney General’s rule-making process to implement the GMO Labeling law.
We are supporting the effort to raise money to support implementation and
defense of the new law through the Vermont Food Fight Fund that Governor
Shumlin announced when he signed the bill. If you or your organization can
help spread the word about the fund it will be greatly appreciated. We need to show the corporate bullies that  there is broad and deep support for the right to know what is in our food.
Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, et. al., file suit
Late in the afternoon of Thursday, June 12, the Grocery Manufacturers’
Association and industrial food allies the Snack Food Association, International
Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers, filed a law-
suit in federal district court to strike down Vermont’s law.
Although the lawsuit does not raise any unexpected issues, it does mark the
beginning of what will likely be a landmark legal battle over the people’s right to
know vs. corporate right to hide.
This summer Rural Vermont’s Board and staff will be developing plans for our
next steps in addressing the broader concerns related to genetically engineered
food and corporate control of our food system. For more information, write andrea@ruralvermont.org or call 802-522-3284.
Raw Milk Bill Becomes Law: Farmers’ Markets Delivery Began July 1!
On Tuesday, May 27, Governor Peter Shumlin signed S.70, now Act 149, into
law. The new law makes modest improvements to the statute governing the
production and sale of raw milk in Vermont.
After hearing testimony on opposing sides from state and national experts, the
Legislature made improvements to the current raw milk law, including authorizing the delivery of raw milk to farmers’ markets for Tier 2 producers. Although
Act 149 makes only modest improvements in providing greater access to raw
milk, taking testimony and debating the bill significantly raised the profile of raw
milk among legislators and increased the level of respect for the farmers who
provide this esteemed product.
Act 149 will provide the following improvements in access to raw milk:
As of July 1, 2014, Tier 2 raw milk producers are able to deliver raw milk to existing customers at farmers’ markets where they sell. (Existing customer means someone who previously made a visit to the farm to make their initial purchase of raw milk.) Act 149 changes the daily sales limit to an aggregate weekly limit for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers, providing greater flexibility for farmers and convenience for customers. There are some additional requirements regarding cold storage capacity and protection of shelf life. Act 149 also clarifies that raw milk producers need only provide the “opportunity” for customers to take a tour of their farm.
.
For more details about these changes to the law, please read Rural Vermont’s Fact Sheet on Act 149. You may also read our updated “cheat sheet” on the requirements for Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers. Rural Vermont will reach out to raw milk producers and customers about opportunities offered by the new law. We will also continue our campaign for commonsense, scale-appropriate regulation of raw dairy and all other farm fresh food. For more information, write shelby@ruralvermont.org or call the office at 802-223-7222.

LA Times Op-Ed: A tip for American farmers: Grow hemp, make money


07/15 Update: Sunny Days, Rainy Days, Busy Days!

 In this update:
FromDirector

Message from The Director
Dear Members & Friends:

Summer is here in earnest and for me it is the best time of the year. I get to escape the office and travel the back roads of Vermont visiting with our members and supporters. This is the time of year when I get to be a sponge soaking up information, comments and critiques and answering questions about Rural Vermont’s work. I’ll be posting my visit schedule on our Facebook page so let me know if I can catch up with you somewhere along the road.

I hope to see some of you at Family Cow Farmstand this Thurs. July 17 from 6:30 -8:30 for an Open Barn and Raw Milk Ice Cream Social. Owner Kalyn Campbell will offer tours of her dairy operation and talk about her business AND share some delicious raw milk ice cream. Bring family and friends for a great Vermont “night on the farm.”

On the more serious side, I’ll be traveling to St. Albans on Friday July 18th for a public hearing on the water quality issues affecting Missisquoi Bay. That hearing is open to the public and will be held 9:30-Noon at the St. Albans Historical Society, 9 Church Street, St. Albans. I’m planning to visit with several Rural Vermont members in the Enosburg area in the afternoon. If that’s your neighborhood and you’re up for a chat
Because so much of our organizing and advocacy work happens in the fall, winter and early spring, the summer is our time for research, planning and community outreach to help identify priorities for the coming year. We know summer is a busy time for most of you but I am happy to have a chance to chat out in the field, in the barn, the garden, the farmers’ market or wherever summer finds you.

See you soon!

Andrea

OpenBarn

Raw Milk Ice Cream Social & Open Barn
This Thursday 7/17! Family Cow Farmstand, Hinesburg    

Join Rural Vermont and Family Cow Farmstand THIS THURSDAY from 6:30-8:30 pm at Family Cow Farmstand, located at 2386 Shelburne Falls Road in Hinesburg. This free and family-friendly event is the first in a series of Rural Vermont events that will celebrate raw milk and the latest change to the law that allows farmers to deliver their milk to customers at the farmers’ market.

This change creates opportunity, access, and convenience!

What better reason to celebrate?!

Spend Thursday night at Family Cow Farmstand – bring a picnic, sample raw milk at its finest, meet the calves, tour the farm, and enjoy some good local music and conversation.  

Raw Milk Ice Cream!

 

PLUS – Kalyn Campbell of  Family Cow Farmstand will be treating us all to her rich and creamy homemade, raw milk ice cream — Chocolate, Strawberry, Maple, and maybe even a surprise flavor!

Bring a topping if you’d like … strawberry sauce, maple syrup, good old fashioned fudge — anything goes!

Want to learn more about raw milk delivery? Because the new law requires anyone who wants to pick up raw milk at the farmers’ market to first visit the farm, Thursday will be a great opportunity to explore Family Cow’s delivery options and sign up for raw milk delivery!

RSVP for the Raw Milk Ice Cream Social & Open Barn on Family Cow Farmstand’s Facebook event page.

Family Cow Farmstand produces small amounts of fresh, unpasteurized milk. Their milk is a healthy, whole food with amazing flavor. They deliver through their milk share program and sell milk to drop-in customers at their self-serve farmstand in Hinesburg, Vermont, which is always open.

FallInternsStill Accepting Fall Internship Applications!

Attention college students! Any interest in an internship that offers a customized experience, extensive travel opportunities, networking opportunities galore, and plenty of good food? If you do, then hurry up and apply for Rural Vermont’s organizing/outreach internships!

For more detailed info about the internship and application process, visit the website.

This past weekend, Rural Vermont interns from past years gathered at Wrightsville Beach in Middlesex for a potluck lunch, catching up with one another, and some beach time. Another benefit to interning with Rural Vermont? Plenty of opportunity to connect with other young professionals with a shared commitment to supporting Vermont’s farmers and healthy rural economies.
[Pictured to the right: Cecile Reuge, Mick Poletta, Holly Kreiner, Emma Paradis, and Claire Stodola.]

EdOpps

Upcoming Educational Opportunities

  Monthly: Farm to Consumer Foundation Raw Milk Education Webinar Series - Various topics, dates and times.

Burnt Rock Farm, Huntington, VT 5pm

07/18-09/09: Summer Organic Dairy Series
All workshops are $20 each and include lunch by the NOFA-VT Pizza Oven

July 18th: 10:30am to 2:30pm at: Beidler Family Farm in Randolph Ctr

August 19th: 10:30am to 2:30pm at The Fournier Farm in Swanton
August 28th: 10am to 3:30pm at Butterworks Farm in Westfield
September 9th: 10:30am to 2:30pm at North Hardwick Dairy in Hardwick

07/21 -Sandor Katz Public Talk 7-9PM
Shelburne Farms
1611 Harbor Rd, Shelburne VT

07/24 Crops and Soils Field Day
Alburgh, VT
9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m
Registration is free for farmers, $25 per person for all others, and
includes a barbecue lunch featuring local foods


NPR: Raw Milk Producers Aim To Regulate Themselves


Raw Milk Ice Cream Social & Open Barn in Hinesburg on July 17th

Rural Vermont & Family Cow Farmstand Host Raw Milk Celebration

There will be a Raw Milk Celebration with homemade ice cream on July 17th at Family Cow Farmstand.

There will be a Raw Milk Celebration with homemade ice cream on July 17th at Family Cow Farmstand.

On Thursday, July 17th from 6:30-8:30 pm, Rural Vermont and Family Cow Farmstand partner to host a Raw Milk Ice Cream Social & Open Barn at the farm, located at 2386 Shelburne Falls Road in Hinesburg. This free and family-friendly event is the first in a series of Rural Vermont events that will celebrate raw milk and a recent change to the law that allows raw milk enthusiasts to pick up their milk at the farmers’ market. This change creates opportunity, access, and convenience! What better reason to celebrate?!

Come out to Family Cow Farmstand on Thursday and bring a picnic, sample raw milk at its finest, meet the calves, tour the farm, and enjoy a rich and creamy bowl of homemade, raw milk ice cream. Who knows – some local musicians might even make an appearance!

This latest update to the raw milk law allows Tier 2 raw dairy producers to go beyond home delivery and also offer delivery to farmers’ markets for customers who have come out to the farm to make their initial purchase.

The change to the law requires anyone who wants to pick up raw milk at the farmers’ market to first visit the farm. For anyone interested in learning more about Family Cow Farmstand delivery options, what better time to visit the farm then Thursday evening when the tour will be accompanied by homemade ice cream?!

Governor Shumlin signed into law this exciting, albeit modest, improvement to Vermont’s raw milk law in late May, and it went into effect on July 1st, 2014. For more info about raw milk and the new law, visit www.ruralvermont.org, call (802) 223-7222, or come to Family Cow Farmstand on July 17th!

RSVP for the Raw Milk Ice Cream Social & Open Barn on Family Cow Farmstand’s Facebook event page. Rural Vermont will be announcing additional raw milk celebrations soon … Check www.ruralvermont.org for updates.

Family Cow Farmstand produces small amounts of fresh, unpasteurized milk. Their milk is a healthy, whole food with amazing flavor. They deliver through their milk share program and sell milk to drop-in customers at their self-serve farmstand in Hinesburg, Vermont, which is always open.

Rural Vermont is a statewide nonprofit group founded in 1985. For over 25 years, Rural Vermont has been advancing its mission of economic justice for Vermont farmers through advocacy, grassroots organizing, and education. For more info or to be added to the mailing list, call (802) 223-7222, visit www.ruralvermont.org, or find them on Facebook.

 


My Champlain Valley: Raw Milk Can Now Be Delivered to VT Farmers Markets

By Kristen Tripodi
07/01/2014
Full Article & Video

Starting Tuesday, raw milk can be delivered to farmers markets in Vermont. It’s all a part of a new law that was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin during the 2014 legislative session.

According to Rural Vermont—an organization that represents farmers, the new law says raw milk can be delivered to farmers’ markets by Tier 2 raw milk producers.

It gives increased access to markets for raw milk producers by allowing delivery to farmers’ markets.

The new law does not allow farmers to sell the raw milk at a farmers market. They can only deliver the product to customers who have already paid for the product.

To review the new law, click here.