Tag: Legal

Kansas Ag Connection
The Farm

Kansas Ag Connection

Kansas Ag ConnectionLooking for a good way to keep up with daily agriculture-related headlines? Give Kansas Ag Connection a try!

Subscribers to On the Range, our weekly country living update (read more), may already be familiar with this site as a source for some of our headlines. There’s a reason for that. Kansas Ag Connection is a clutter-free aggregator of news stories and press releases of interest to farmers small and large across the state.

Kansas Ag Connection offers a way to keep up with the latest stories on:

  • USDA news.
  • Updates from the governor and state legislature.
  • Health issues currently affecting Kansans.
  • KU and K-State research on health, nature, and agricultural topics.
  • Press releases from Kansas-based companies.
  • State and regional crop and weather reports.
  • Conferences and workshops coming to Kansas.
  • Ron Wilson’s Kansas Profile column, featuring Kansas entrepreneurs with rural roots.

Links are also provided to more headlines from neighboring states, across the nation, and around the world.

Highly recommended!

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2
The Sunflower State

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2Adjusting Livestock Production

In an effort to reduce hog numbers, payments were also distributed to farmers who would destroy their piglets and pregnant sows. About 6 million piglets were slaughtered under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).

A cattle-purchasing program was similarly implemented under the Drought Relief Service in areas where the Dust Bowl had hit the hardest. The federal government purchased approximately 7 million cattle, most which had been in imminent danger of starvation.

At first, surplus livestock was typically shot and buried. However, a tremendous public outcry arose over the waste at a time when many people were starving. In October 1933, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was established to placate Americans and put the livestock to better use. From then on, most salvageable meat was purchased by the government and distributed through various relief programs. Because many slaughterhouses were not equipped to process the massive numbers of small pigs sent through their doors, however, they often took the easier route of processing young pigs for grease and fertilizer. Meanwhile, enough cattle hides entered the market that newspapers reported a price crisis among tanners.


The Economic Results

Many Great Plains farmers welcomed the subsidies. In some areas, as many as 90% of the local farmers came to rely on the AAA. By the end of 1935, the AAA had shelled out about $1.1 billion, about half of which went to farmers in the Great Plains. According to the USDA, farm income increased by 50% between 1932 and 1935, 25% of the increase coming from federal payments.

Commodity prices did indeed rise between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the prices for corn, wheat, and cotton doubled. However, prices remained well below 1929 levels and the parity goal set by the New Deal. Of course, higher prices only benefited farmers who had crops to harvest in spite of the drought.

The AAA payments were rarely enough to help small-scale farmers subsist. Families with small acreages generally failed, abandoned their farms, and left agricultural to the major players. An estimated 2.5 million people had evacuated the Great Plains by 1940. A large number of these former farmers moved to California to seek jobs picking seasonal produce for low wages.

The situation was particularly bad for tenant farmers. While tenant farmers were not as conspicuous in the Great Plains as in the South, they did exist, and they, too, suffered. Under the initial provisions of the AAA, the landowner was to share the money with any tenant farmers he had working for him. Unfortunately, this part of the contract was poorly enforced, and some landlords resorted to fraud to keep the money for themselves. More honest landlords often used their rightful share of the subsidy to purchase modern machinery to reduce their labor needs, setting their tenant farmers adrift. In Oklahoma alone, the number of tenant farmers was nearly cut in half between 1935 and 1945.

The end result was a decided trend toward the consolidation of agriculture. Farm numbers declined in droughty areas, while farm sizes increased. In southwestern Kansas, for instance, the average farm had more than doubled in acreage by 1950.


A New Act

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

Former Oklahoma farm family in California to pick lettuce

In the 1936 case United States v. Butler, the Supreme Court declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act to be unconstitutional:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government.…

From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.…

The Congress cannot invade state jurisdiction to compel individual action; no more can it purchase such action.

However, the AAA was replaced by a new farm relief act. This act did not overtly pay farmers to reduce agricultural production, but instead set up a soil conservation program. Landowners were now paid to implement cover-cropping and similar practices. The money came out of the federal treasury, instead of the tax on food processing. The new program was popular while the drought continued, but most farmers resumed their former cropping practices as soon as the rainfall returned.

But the original AAA had left a lasting legacy. By 1940, 6 million farmers were receiving subsidies. Farm commodities have been subsidized ever since.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1
The Sunflower State

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Between 1929 and 1932, the net income of the average farm operator fell 69%.

Prices for agricultural products were at their lowest since the 1890s. Wheat sold for only 25 cents per bushel.

Much of this drop in prices was due to an agricultural surplus. Harvests had been bountiful before the drought hit, and a considerable amount of grassland had been converted to cropland to meet the demands of World War I. No sooner had the war ended than the prices for crops had dropped sharply. To cope with their reduced incomes, farmers scrambled to plant more acres and sell more bushels, driving the prices down still further. By the time the Great Depression and the beginnings of drought hit the Great Plains, the farm economy was already in a state of crisis.

But Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, promising Americans from all walks of life a New Deal. Regulation and government support could bring stability to the economy, FDR claimed.

Agriculture promised an excellent way to test this fundamental principle of the New Deal.


The Goal

FDR’s stated purpose was to return prosperity to the farm by bringing the farmer better prices for his products. The theory was simple. When the supply of a commodity falls short of the demand, the prices rise as purchasers compete to obtain the scarce commodity. Thus, if consumers had to compete a little harder to obtain commodities, farmers would receive more income for those commodities.

How much of an improvement was sought? Nothing short of parity. In this case, parity meant that any given commodity would have the same purchasing power that it did prior to World War I.

Accordingly, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed in May 1933 during FDR’s first 100 days. This act created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) with the responsibility of planning the farm economy. The ultimate plan, as stated by FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry Wallace, was the “ever-normal granary.”

The AAA established a system of “domestic allotments,” which in practice meant that the AAA set the amounts of commodities that the country would produce annually. Initially, seven commodities were targeted:

  • Corn.
  • Wheat.
  • Cotton.
  • Tobacco.
  • Rice.
  • Dairy products.
  • Hogs.

Additional commodities were added to the list in 1934 and 1935:

  • Grain sorghum.
  • Rye.
  • Barley.
  • Flax.
  • Peanuts.
  • Potatoes.
  • Sugar beets.
  • Sugar cane.
  • Cattle.

Beginning in the fall of 1934, the AAA also started buying up poor cropland. This acreage, ruined by the Dust Bowl, was to be converted into demonstration farms to illustrate how to conserve soil by planting drought-resistant grasses. After the damage to the land had been fully repaired, these areas would be leased as pasture.


The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Adjusting Crop Production

To reduce agricultural production to the AAA-desired levels, a new tax was placed on food processing. The money obtained from this tax was used to pay subsidies to landowners who would leave farmland idle. Lawrence Svobida noted in his memoir Farming the Dust Bowl (read our full review) that he had to agree to remove 15% of his total average acreage from production. The total average acreage was determined by averaging the number of acres that he had planted the last three growing seasons. (Thus, farmers who had previously let land lie fallow received considerably less money than their continuous-cropping peers.) Payments were calculated based on the county average yield per acre.

Of course, there were abuses of this system. Some farmers attempted to cheat the AAA and overestimate their total average acreage to receive more subsidies. To prevent this scenario, the averages reported by farmers were published in local newspapers to give others an opportunity to report fraud. In the words of Svobida:

This provided a unique opportunity to the spiteful, the revengeful, the envious, and the righteous, and most of the culprits were exposed in their trickery, and were compelled to correct their figures.

Unfortunately, by the time the AAA came into being in May 1933, the growing season was well under way. Farmers receiving AAA money could not harvest their grain, so perfectly good crops were destroyed or left to rot. This included 10 million acres of cotton, some of it grown in Plains states such as Oklahoma. Over 87,000 farmers in that state alone plowed under their cotton in exchange for over $15 million.

Even in subsequent years there were difficulties. Svobida cited the story of a neighbor who was able to raise a good wheat crop in 1934, only to discover that he had made an error in his arithmetic and had planted 80 acres more than was allowed under the provisions of the AAA:

This farmer had been honest in his intentions, so he was embarrassed as well as amazed; but, now that the mistake had been made, he wanted to go ahead and harvest the excess eighty and turn the wheat crop over to the county commissioners, to be distributed to the needy.

You will be able to guess what happened, if you have had any experience of small men elevated to petty office. The local allotment committee was made up of men who found great satisfaction in administering their office, and they were the ruling power in such matters, from whose decision there was no appeal. They would not consider the farmer’s sane and philanthropic suggestion for the disposal of his surplus wheat. He was ordered to destroy it.

The effect of fallow land on the Dust Bowl is still debated by historians and climate experts. It is certain that a state of drought existed prior to the AAA. The first dust storms hit in 1932. However, the years 1935 to 1938 were among the worst in the history of the Dust Bowl. By this time, millions of acres were lying fallow due to the influence of the AAA.

Ironically, some Dust Bowl farmers did not use their AAA money as anticipated. According to agricultural and Western historian R. Douglas Hurt, some subsidy recipients left their poorer, dust-destroyed lands fallow and used the federal aid to buy or rent new cropland to plant. This way, if the drought ended, they would still be in a position to bring in a crop despite their participation in the AAA program.

Meanwhile, the cropland-purchasing program met with mixed results. AAA employees did manage to restore some poor land, either to native range or to drought-resistant plants such as sudan grass. The program could be rather exasperating to landowners trying to sell out, however, as they received low prices for their land and the checks were inevitably slow in coming. Nevertheless, some grasslands established under the AAA remain to this day, such as Cimarron National Grassland in southwestern Kansas.


Next week: Part 2


Helpful Resource

Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933
Full text of the original act.

The Sunflower State

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Atlas of Historical County BoundariesDid you know that the last time a Kansas county boundary changed was as recent as 1978?

Did you know that Kansas lost some land to Missouri when the Missouri River shifted in 1944?

Did you know that for about 10 years Kansas had a county named…Kansas?

If you’re a Kansas history buff, this online atlas is just the resource for you!

A variety of maps and chronologies make it easy to see at a glance how Kansas county boundaries have changed over the years. Or, if you prefer, you can pick an individual county and follow its progress through time.

And if you’re a really serious history buff, you’ll love the fact that this atlas is so well researched. A bibliography is included so that you can track the county boundary changes yourself.

Have fun!

Food Preservation
The Lifestyle

Food Preservation

Food PreservationPreserving the food we grow at home or buy in bulk from a local farmer can seem daunting to the beginner. We know that food safety is important, but how do we achieve it?

This food preservation site from K-State has the answers. Many resources have been combined into one convenient location.

Learn more about:

  • Canning.
  • Curing and smoking.
  • Dehydrating.
  • Food business.
  • Freezing.
  • Jams and jellies.
  • Pickling.
  • Special diets.

On each of these topics, choose from an extensive list of resources, including PDFs, videos, and external links.

Just to give you a sampling of the questions you can find answers to:

  • What special methods do I need to use to can low-acid fruits?
  • How do I build my own smokehouse?
  • How do I make beef jerky safely?
  • How long can I store frozen foods?
  • Is it safe to use a pickle recipe written before 1994?
  • Where can I find good jelly recipes?
  • How do I make my own horseradish sauce?
  • Where can I find canning instructions that are safe to use?
  • What is the science behind canning?
  • How do I adjust canning times for my altitude? (No, Kansas is not flat!)
  • What are the regulations on selling home-preserved foods at the local farmers market?

Also, every other month you will find a new issue of the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe newsletter—two pages of seasonally relevant advice and sometimes a recipe.

A great resource for the dedicated home canner, with plenty of other information for those looking for simple but safe ways to preserve the harvest.

Veterinary Feed Directive Affects Small Farms, Too
The Farm

New Rules Take Medicated Livestock Feeds Off the Shelf

Veterinary Feed Directive Affects Small Farms, TooThe Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) was developed to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production, primarily to fend off antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans.  The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 2 million people in the United States are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year.  The concern is that extensive use of antibiotics in the food supply will increase the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria.

The VFD is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2017.


Complying With the VFD

Once the VFD goes into effect, antibiotics for use in or on livestock feed and water will no longer be available to producers over the counter.  To obtain antibiotic additives, farmers will have to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian and periodically have that prescription renewed.

Any medications prescribed must be used to treat or prevent disease as directed on the label.  A veterinarian may not prescribe a regulated drug for any use not specified on the label, such as to enhance performance.

Not all drugs are covered by the new VFD rules.  Only antimicrobials classified as “medically important” and administered orally are regulated, and the directive only applies to food animals.  A drug is classified as “medically important” if it is associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or is a medication of key importance in treating human disease, particularly food-borne disease.

Drugs covered by the VFD include:

  • Aminoglycosides.
  • Diaminopyrimidines.
  • Lincosamides.
  • Macrolides.
  • Penicillins.
  • Streptogramins.
  • Sulfas.
  • Tetracycline.

Feed mills and any veterinarians and producers they work with can expect random inspections from the FDA to ensure compliance.

The FDA expects to handle minor or unintentional violations with warning letters.  Major or flagrant violations could be met with injunctions, seizures, fines, or up to three years in prison.


Implications for Small Farmers

Small producers who rely on medicated feeds on a regular basis will no longer be able to purchase feeds containing medically important drugs.  However, feed mills are already looking into formulating medicated feeds with antibiotics not classified as “medically important” and therefore not regulated by the VFD.

While most large operations already have a working relationship with a veterinarian, many small producers prefer to treat animals on their own whenever possible.  This will make obtaining oral antimicrobial medications far more difficult on a small scale.  While some small farmers may decide to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, they should be aware that the cost of VFD-regulated medication and medicated feeds may rise in the near future as a result of the new regulations and their associated paperwork.

Note that sending photos or videos of a sick animal to a veterinarian to receive a prescription is not considered adequate under the new VFD.  The veterinarian is required to establish a relationship with both the producer and the livestock in question.  A hands-on examination or a farm call is a must.  The veterinarians themselves are likely to insist on this, as the VFD makes them responsible for violations.  Vets would be taking a risk by prescribing antibiotics to farmers that they do not have a relationship with.

Once a producer obtains a VFD-regulated medication, he must keep the paperwork on file for at least two years, according to the new rules.  These records will be necessary in case of inspection.

Of course, those who raise their livestock naturally will be minimally affected by the VFD.

2016 Election Results
The Sunflower State

2016 Kansas Election Results

2016 Election ResultsUnited States President

  • Donald Trump (R): 276 electoral votes
  • Hillary Clinton (D): 218 electoral votes


United States Senate

  • Jerry Moran* (R): 62% of vote
  • Patrick Wiesner (D): 32%
  • Robert Garrard (L): 6%


United States House of Representatives

1st District
  • Roger Marshall (R): 66%
  • Alan LaPolice (I): 26%
  • Kerry Burt (L): 7%


2nd District
  • Lynn Jenkins* (R): 61%
  • Britani Potter (D): 32%
  • James Houston Bales (L): 6%


3rd District
  • Kevin Yoder* (R): 51%
  • Jay Sidie (D): 41%
  • Steve Hohe (L): 8%


4th District
  • Mike Pomepo* (R): 61%
  • Daniel Giroux (D): 29%
  • Miranda Allen (I): 7%
  • Gordon Bakken (L): 3%


Kansas Supreme Court

  • Carol Beier: 56% for retention
  • Daniel Biles: 55% for retention
  • Marla Luckert: 56% for retention
  • Lawton Nuss: 55% for retention
  • Caleb Stegall: 71% for retention

Note that Stegall’s retention is the only one officially decided at the time of this writing.


Kansas Ballot Measure

  • Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment (Amendment 1): Approved by 81% of voters
    This constitutional amendment is to establish the right to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife in Kansas.


Italics: Declared winner

* Incumbent

LegiScan Bill Tracking
The Sunflower State

LegiScan Bill Tracking

LegiScan Bill TrackingInterested in tracking the progress of that important or controversial piece of legislation?  LegiScan’s bill tracking tool makes it easy.

There are several ways you can use this online tool:

  • Pick a specific bill and follow its progress.
  • Track the activities of a committee.
  • Find out what is happening in a branch of legislature.

LegiScan works great on both state and federal levels.  You don’t need an account to view the bills online or to receive RSS updates.

Here are a few links to get you started:

How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law
The Lifestyle

How Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law Affects You

How Vermont's GMO Labeling LawOn July 1, 2016, a law will go into effect in Vermont that promises to impact Americans in all 50 states.  It is Act 120, a labeling law requiring food manufacturers to disclose the presence or possible presence of GMOs in their products.

Obviously, big food companies can’t easily tailor their food labels to the specifications of different states.  This means all of us may be seeing Vermont-style GMO labels on boxes and cans at the grocery store in short order.


Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law At a Glance

Starting on July 1, foods available for retail sale in Vermont must comply with the following regulations if they are entirely or partly produced through genetic engineering:

  • Packaged raw commodities must be labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Unpackaged raw commodities must be kept on a shelf or in a bin labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Processed foods must be labeled “partially produced with genetic engineering,” “may be produced with genetic engineering,” or “produced with genetic engineering,” depending on the information available to the manufacturer and on the quantity of genetically engineered ingredients relative to the whole product.

Manufacturers are not required to specify which ingredients are genetically engineered.

Applying a sticker, stamp, or additional printed text to an existing package is considered an acceptable way to comply with the law.

Foods that have been entirely or partly produced through genetic engineering may not be labeled or advertised as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” etc.

The following foods are exempted from the GMO labeling requirements under Act 120:

  • Foods derived entirely from animals that were not genetically engineered, even if those animals were fed or treated with GMOs.
  • Processed foods containing meat or poultry that must be approved by the USDA.
  • Processed foods that contain processing aids or enzymes (such as rennet used to make cheese) produced through genetic engineering, but are otherwise GMO-free.
  • Processed foods with genetically engineered materials making up less than 1% of the product by weight.
  • Alcoholic beverages regulated under Vermont laws.
  • Medical foods.
  • Foods sold at restaurants and similar establishments.

The labeling requirement only applies to foods sold at physical retail locations within the state of Vermont.  It does not apply to Internet-only sales.

Improperly labeled food cannot be offered for retail sale after July 1.  However, because some foods have long shelf lives, improperly labeled foods will be given the benefit of the doubt until January 1, 2017, unless there is evidence that they were packaged on or after July 1.

The penalty for violating Act 120 is up to $1,000 per day per uniquely named, designated, or marketed product—not per package.  However, violators will be given 30 days to correct the problem before being fined.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouBackground

Vermont became the first state in the nation to require GMO labeling on food products when Act 120 was signed into law by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on May 8, 2014.

About a month later, several trade associations filed suit against Vermont’s governor, attorney general, health commissioner, and finance commissioner.  U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss refused to grant the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) the injunction they sought to block the implementation of Act 120.  In the judge’s opinion:

Issuing a preliminary injunction based only on a possibility of irreparable harm is inconsistent with the court’s characterization of injunctive relief as an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.

Meanwhile, companies such as Kraft and Monsanto also lobbied Congress for a uniform GMO labeling law to be applied nationwide.

In the United States House of Representatives, the opposition to Vermont’s GMO labeling law was organized under Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina.  H.R. 1599, also called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, was written to prevent states from concocting a series of possibly conflicting GMO labeling requirements.  The bill would also create a voluntary GMO labeling program.  The bill passed on July 23, 2015.

Meanwhile, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas introduced a bill to annul state GMO labeling requirements and give the United States Department of Agriculture the power to decide if GMO disclosure was necessary, and if so to determine what form that disclosure should take.  Forms discussed included websites, QR codes, and toll-free numbers.  The bill passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which Senator Roberts chairs.  However, it received only 49 of the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouBenefits of the GMO Labeling Law

Vermont’s GMO labeling law has been praised as an effective alternative to the practice of voluntary GMO labeling.  Advocates of the law point out that voluntary non-GMO disclosures have been allowed since 2001, and yet most large food companies continue to use GMOs under the radar.  Section 1 of Act 120 states:

…It is estimated that up to 80 percent of the processed foods sold in the United States are at least partially produced from genetic engineering….

Some advocates of Act 120 emphasize that the point is not necessarily to call into question the safety of GMOs, but to provide transparency so that the customer can make the final choice.  According to Vermont Governor Shumlin:

Vermonters take our food and how it is produced seriously, and we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy.

In keeping the goal of clarity, one of the stated purposes of Act 120 is to:

Reduce and prevent consumer confusion and deception by prohibiting the labeling of products produced from genetic engineering as “natural”….

Act 120 also claims to address religious concerns regarding genetic engineering:

Persons with certain religious beliefs object to producing foods using genetic engineering because of objections to tampering with the genetic makeup of life forms and the rapid introduction and proliferation of genetically engineered organisms and, therefore, need food to be labeled as genetically engineered in order to conform to religious beliefs and comply with dietary restrictions.

Surveys have suggested that anywhere between 66% and 93% of Americans (depending on the poll) would appreciate having GMOs clearly labeled on their food.

The labeling method specified under Act 120 is unquestionably clear.  Customers can readily see if their favorite foods contain GMOs or not—before they even buy the product.  Visiting a website or calling a toll-free number would be a hassle in the grocery store, and even QR codes are not without drawbacks.  Polling shows that about 40% of Americans don’t have phones that can read QR codes, and even those who do don’t necessarily take advantage of the technology.  Furthermore, a QR code must lie flat and be fairly large for successful scanning, making them practically unusable on some items.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects You

Solid orange indicates the five countries producing more than 95% of commercial GMOs; orange stripes indicate other countries producing commercial GMOs; orange dots indicate countries with experimental GMO crops

Drawbacks of the GMO Labeling Law

One of the major concerns about Vermont’s new law is that it sets the stage for legislative chaos.  If individual states are allowed to regulate their own GMO labels, the result could theoretically be a system of requirements that no company with nationwide distribution can meet.  According to Campbell’s president Denise Morrison:

Put simply, although we believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, we also believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers.  More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.

Major food companies, including General Mills, warn that changing their labels will cost money.  That cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.  While the relatively minor change in labeling will not create significant costs in and of itself (about $9.20 a year for a family of four), the concern is that consumers will shy away from foods labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”  This will create a shift in the marketplace, rewarding companies and products that do not use GMOs and in turn forcing other companies to source non-GMO ingredients to remain competitive.  A study funded by the Corn Refiners Association estimates that this change could cost the average American family as much as $1,050 annually.

These opponents of Act 120 point out that genetic engineering is not considered hazardous to health by the Food and Drug Administration.  In the words of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA):

Putting aside the question of the law’s constitutionality, GMA strongly believes that mandatory statements on labels should be reserved for declarations regarding health, safety, and nutritional information; in other words, information that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems material.  FDA does not consider a statement on a label regarding the presence or absence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be a material statement.  Thus, it should be left as a voluntary claim made at a manufacturer’s discretion.

Current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also weighed in on the GMO labeling issue:

When we require a label on something, we’re either warning there’s a potential safety problem or we’re giving nutritional information.  GMO labeling doesn’t fit.  There’s not a safety issue, and it doesn’t affect nutrition.

Furthermore, a Pew Research poll of scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicated that 88% of scientists say that genetically modified foods are generally safe.  With this in mind, many feel that any push for GMO labeling amounts to fear-mongering or, in the words of the GMA, the promotion of “pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria.”

Finally, adding to industry resentment toward Act 120 is the fact that tiny Vermont, with only a small percentage of America’s population, has essentially set the agenda for the entire country.  According to Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills:

The law of the land is Vermont.  That’s just a fact.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouMoving Forward

Some companies have announced plans to label GMOs on all of their products, including:

  • Campbell’s.
  • General Mills.
  • Kellogg.
  • Mars.
  • Con Agra.

Accommodating Vermont is not a foregone conclusion, however—the editors of The Packer, a weekly newspaper for the produce industry, remarked in an article titled “How to Deal With Vermont”:

Of course, shippers could also decline to do business with receivers in the 49th-most populous state, home to about 600,000 consumers.

Decisions on whether or not to do business with Vermont is up to each individual company.  Companies cannot combine to resist Act 120, as that would be a violation of antitrust laws.

However, the food industry hasn’t given up hope for a federal rule on GMO labeling.  According to Paul Norman, president of Kellogg:

We continue to strongly urge Congress to pass a uniform, federal solution for the labeling of GMOs to avoid a confusing patchwork of state-by-state rules.

Senator Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, forged a bipartisan agreement on GMO labeling laws on June 23, less than a week ago.  This agreement has similarities to Senator Roberts’s previous bill, but includes a few compromises.  In a nutshell, the new bill would:

  • Prohibit states from making GMO labeling laws.
  • Make GMO labeling mandatory across the nation on all FDA-regulated foods.
  • Require large-scale manufacturers to choose between a text, symbol, or QR disclosure.
  • Allow small-scale manufacturers to opt to provide a web address or telephone number.
  • Exempt very small food manufacturers altogether.
  • Require the USDA to study potential problems with different disclosure methods within a year after passage.
  • Prohibit manufacturers from using their labels to promote or denigrate the safety of biotechnology.
  • Prohibit products that are not legally required to have a GMO disclosure from being labeled as “non-GMO” unless they are also certified organic.
  • Give the power to penalize noncompliance to the states.

Of course, the compromise has its critics.  For one thing, the compromise again falls back on controversial QR codes.  It also defines “genetic engineering” far more narrowly than the Vermont act does, exempting some of the latest techniques such as gene editing.  As for the definition of a “small” or “very small” manufacturer, that would depend on the opinion of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Senator Roberts is working to move the bill through the system as quickly as possible.  However, it may be a month before it comes up for debate.

Meanwhile, the ongoing GMO controversy continues among both consumers and scientists.  Both sides agree that the presence of labeling will probably reveal just how passionate the public is on the subject of GMO safety.


Update—The Roberts-Stabenow compromise mentioned in this post has since been passed and signed into law, preempting the Vermont labeling law.  See Helpful Resources below for more information.


Helpful Resources

No. 120
The full text of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

Consumer Protection Rule 121
The annotated rule put out by the Vermont Attorney General’s office.

“Cost Impact of Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law on Consumers Nationwide”
The Corn Refiners Association study cited above.

Campbell Announces Support for Mandatory GMO Labeling
An official press release stating Campbell’s position on GMOs and GMO labeling, including an example of how the new Vermont-compliant labels will look.

GMO Labeling & Disclosure
USDA site with information on new national GMO labeling requirements.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing Guides
The Business

Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing Guides

Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing GuidesAgripreneurs have to be careful to keep up with the legal aspects of their businesses.  Fortunately, the Kansas Department of Agriculture has put together a series of licensing guides to help innovative business owners see at a glance what permits and licenses will be necessary.

The PDF downloads cover many types of businesses:

  • Agritourism.
  • Aquaculture.
  • Dairy farming.
  • Feed sales.
  • Greenhouses and nurseries.
  • Home kitchens.
  • Livestock marketing.
  • Pet animals.
  • Poultry farms.
  • And more.

Each guide contains a checklist of departments that may be involved in different aspects of the business and an overview of the requirements of each department.  Links take you to sites and pages where you can find more information on applicable Kansas laws.

These licensing guides will give you a start in making sure that your venture complies with regulations regarding businesses, taxes, commodities, chemicals, water use, building construction, and more.

Handy, at-a-glance resources for navigating a variety of involved topics.