December 2020 Policy

By December 21, 2020Policy
New FDA Proposed Rule: Food Traceability 

Public Comment Period closes January 21, 2021

Pursuant to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the US Food and Drug Administration has published a proposed rule for food traceability, including additional traceability recordkeeping requirements for businesses who manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods on FDA’s food traceability list.  These include fresh produce that is commonly eaten well, seafood, shell eggs, and some other foods.  Farms that sell less than $25,000 per year, that market directly to consumers, and that package foods on farm in a way that prevents future contamination and label packages with farm address, are exempt.

Farmers and food entrepreneurs are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new rule, and to provide comments before the close of the comment period.  For more information, see Part 1 and Part 2 of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) blog post on this Proposed Rule and comment period.  To submit comments, scroll down to the last paragraph of either blog post and click on the “comment” hyperlink.

NSAC Submits Policy Recommendations to the
incoming Biden-Harris Administration

With the Presidential Transition now well in progress, stakeholders from across the nation and from all professional and political backgrounds have been bringing their recommendations to the Biden-Harris transition team.  Drawing input from its 140 member organizations including VABF, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has submitted a set of over 200 policy recommendations for the first 100 days of the new Administration, organized around six main themes:

  • Centering racial equity
  • Food systems to help communities thrive
  • Fair markets, fair programs, and fair access
  • Farmer-centered, climate focused conservation programs
  • Supporting safe food producers
  • Science that serves armers

NSAC is encouraged to see the Presidential Transition team’s strong emphasis on “building back better in Rural America” and on dismantling racism in food and agricultural systems, as well as addressing climate change and bringing the pandemic under control.  To learn more, check out the blog post on NSAC’s recommendations to the Biden-Harris transition team.

Section 2501 Funds Innovative Projects despite Funding Cut

Earlier this fall, the USDA announced project awards for its Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the Section 2501 program.  Now part of a larger Farm Bill program with permanent mandatory funding (Farmer Opportunity Training and Outreach or FOTO), Section 2501 received $15 million in mandatory and an additional $2.5 million in discretionary funding – approximately “level” with recent years.  However, a significant fraction of funds were diverted to another program and to cover, administrative expenses, leaving less than $13 million for actual project funding.  As a result, individual project budgets are smaller this year – at a time when the covid-19 pandemic has made aid to farmers of color, veteran farmers, and other socially disadvantaged farmers is more urgently needed than ever.  Despite this setback, the program has funded some innovative projects that will make a substantial difference for many struggling producers.  See the recent NSAC blog for the whole story, including details on selected projects.

USDA Programs Open for Application

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Virginia has opened applications  for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for the 2021 growing season.  EQIP offers special initiatives for organic producers, historically underserved producers, high tunnel production system, on-farm energy conservation, longleaf pine planting, and more.  CSP offers supplemental payments for advanced grazing management and for comprehensive conservation planning.  For more information, visit the Virginia NRCS website.

The USDA Farm to School Grants Program has issued its request for applications and will be awarding a total of $10 million in grants to schools, nonprofits, state and local agencies, agricultural producers, and American Indian tribal organizations to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and to expand educational activities related to agriculture and food.  Click here for more information.  Deadline for proposals is January 8.

Two Farm Manager Positions Open in Virginia

Fields Edge Farm is a diversified Certified Naturally Grown operation growing specialty vegetables and raising grass-fed beef in Floyd County in the Blue Ridge.  The Farm is hiring a Farm Manager for its vegetable production. For more information see the Fields Edge Farm Manager Job Description. 

The Farm at Sunnyside in Rappahannock County seeks a farm manager to oversee its business, which its owners view as a social enterprise integrating agriculture with the goals of biodiversity conservation, climate stability, ecological restoration and a robust local food economy. For more information, see the Farm at Sunnyside Manager Job Description.

Reducing Production Risks through
Organic Soil Health Practices for the South
January 13, 2021, 2:00 – 3:15 pm EST

Join eOrganic and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) for a webinar on organic soil health practices for the southern US.

Southern region organic producers face tremendous challenges from weeds, pests, diseases, increasing weather extremes, and rising production costs. This webinar explores the potential of soil restoration and improvement to reduce these risks, stabilize yields, and build resilience. We will focus on three key soil health practices: cover cropping for plant-available nutrients and moisture, reducing tillage intensity, and frugal use of nutrient-bearing amendments. The webinar will be presented by Mark Schonbeck and Emily Oakley of Three Springs Farm in Oklahoma will be online to answer questions.

In addition to providing monthly policy updates for this newsletter, Mark works as a consultant in sustainable agriculture and as a Research Associate with OFRF, helping in an ongoing analysis of organic research outcomes and development of a series of practical Soil Health guidebooks for organic producers.

Emily Oakley co-owns and operates Three Springs Farm, a diversified, certified-organic vegetable farm in eastern Oklahoma. With her partner Mike, she cultivates over forty different crops and more than 150 individual varieties on three acres of land. Their goal is to maintain a two-person operation that demonstrates the economic viability of small-scale farming.

This webinar is free and open to the public.  Advance registration is required.  Register at:

This Webinar is made possible by funding from the USDA Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), project LS20-324 – Organic Soil Health Education Online Course and Resources for the Southern SARE Region Farmers and Ranchers.