Update: The Board of Supervisors is meeting TUESDAY Nov. 22, at 9 a.m. at 130 West Congress Ave.
Please print out and hold a copy of the below image to show your position on Monsanto. You can download in PDF form by clicking this link: Stand Up To Monsanto Graphic.
>>Sign our Change.org petition asking Pima County not to roll out the red carpet to Monsanto<<
In early October, Monsanto purchased 155 acres in Avra Valley northwest of Tucson for $3.74 million. They intend to install a seven-acre greenhouse on the site where they will grow corn and soybean seed for research purposes. Monsanto has negotiated an incentive package with Pima County to reduce their tax burden by two-thirds. This corporate subsidy will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval on November 22.
The Pima County Food Alliance is a grassroots policy council working for a just, local, environmentally sustainable food system in Pima County. As such, we wish to voice our concerns about Monsanto’s plans in Avra Valley, and call for greater transparency in this process. We are concerned that our elected officials are making backroom deals without vetting and input from the public, and we request an open and transparent public forum on this issue that is so important to the future of food in Baja Arizona.
According to reporting by Tony Davis in the Arizona Daily Star, Monsanto’s proposal is opposed by two of the five county supervisors: Richard Elías (D) and Ally Miller (R). Supervisor Ray Carroll (R) says he’s still neutral on the proposal. Supervisors Sharon Bronson (D) and Ramon Valadez (D) haven’t commented on it yet.
Monsanto’s checkered past of patenting seeds and prosecuting small farmers for infringing on intellectual property rights when their GMO crops cross with farmers’ organic crops is of concern, as is their pending merger with Bayer, another giant chemical corporation. The environmental and health impacts of Monsanto’s pesticides and herbicides is also of concern to many.
Our concerns focus on how Monsanto’s presence will affect not only the economy, but also the sustainability of our local agricultural system, particularly given Tucson’s recent designation as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy.
The UNESCO Gastronomy designation honors Tucson’s 4,100-year-old agricultural history, its multicultural foodways, and its work to end food insecurity and support a vibrant local food system. We do not believe a Monsanto greenhouse supports Tucson’s claim to be a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
We demand transparency from our county supervisors as these negotiations, purchases, and plans move forward. Monsanto’s history of disenfranchising small-scale agriculturalists is not in line with PCFA’s mission nor with the goals of the UNESCO Gastronomy designation.
Please join PCFA in asking the Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry for more transparency in this process, and for the Board of Supervisors to reject a tax incentive package for Monsanto, which will only exacerbate corporate control of our local food system.
What can I do, you are asking?
1. >>Sign our Change.org petition asking Pima County not to roll out the red carpet to Monsanto<<
2. Visit Against the Grain Nutrition to stay informed as this issue quickly unfolds.
3. Contact your supervisor (and all the supervisors if you can) and tell them that you are outraged that the county administrator seems to be making a back room deal with Monsanto without a thorough vetting process and without input from the public, that you want and demand open public forums on this issue that is so critical to the future well-being of Pima County, and that you vehemently oppose both a tax break for Monsanto and Monsanto in our community in any way. To find out who your supervisor is, click on the following link for a map of the supervisors’ districts:
Republican Supervisor Carroll, who was called an outspoken environmentalist by the Star, is not running for re-election. Write him and urge him to make his lasting legacy a good one for Pima County’s environment by voting against a tax incentive for Monsanto. Write Supervisor Elias and thank him for saying he won’t support a tax break for Monsanto.
To the other three supervisors, write them and ask them to come out with a public statement on whether they support a tax break for Monsanto or not before the election on November 8th. Before you vote, find out how the opponents running against them stand on the issue, then vote for the person who best represents your views.
If you live in Arizona but not in Pima County, or if you are a winter visitor or travel often to Pima County, please also call our supervisors and tell them you will no longer travel and spend money here if Monsanto establishes a facility in this area.
4. Plan to be at the November 22, 2016 and December 13, 2016 Board of Supervisors’ meetings at 9 a.m. at 130 West Congress Ave. We need to show our elected officials that our community stands against giving a tax incentive to Monsanto.
GAP, which stands for “Good Agricultural Practices,” is a farm certification program run by USDA. Many small farmers feel GAP is not accessible to them, either from a cost perspective or because USDA built the program with much larger farms in mind. Recently, USDA rolled out something called “GroupGAP,” which is supposed to be friendlier to smaller farms by allowing them to apply for GAP as a group. But, is it any better?
Our intern, Clare Healy, spent the whole summer doing research to find out. The bulk of her research went towards just understanding the cost of each, which took months of research and phone calls to sort out. Because there are so many factors that affect the cost, we have compiled her research into one easy to read and adjust graph. (Thanks to Nick Henry and Greg Epstein for handling the math part of this creation.)
Graph of GAP versus GroupGAP (click on the image below to view)
After that, Clare tracked down a few farms that got certified with GAP and some in GroupGAP. Below are two testimonials from each.
GAP (Individual): Blue Sky Farms, Litchfield Park, Arizona.
Farm background: Blue Sky Farms has been growing fruits and vegetables on their 35 acres for twenty years.
The representative from Blue Sky Farms (BSF) reported no challenges to GAP certification. Previous certification experience includes Organic certification; the farmers for Blue Sky are currently seeking dual certification under Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). BSF was reimbursed 75% of their auditing costs through the Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA). The BSF representative recalls the auditing cost at roughly $1,000, with around $700 being reimbursed by the ADA. She added that certification definitely felt worth it, as food safety is a big concern, and she would recommend the process to other growers.
GroupGAP: Upper Peninsula Food Exchange GroupGAP Pilot, various locations in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan.
Group background: Farmers growing fruits and vegetables on six or fewer acres; average farming or personal gardening experience is 15 years; average total gross income of $6,000-10,000.
Challenges: Of the sixteen initial farms involved in the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange GroupGAP pilot, ten completed the program and subsequently became GroupGAP certified. Some farmers expressed apprehension and concern over the costs of GroupGAP for their small group if state or partnering organizational subsidies were to be removed. Farmers also expressed feeling overwhelmed by steps to certification and the amount of paperwork needed. According to the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange:
“Record keeping (a necessary daily activity to stay in compliance) was most noted as a significant challenge of GroupGAP; farmers noted the significant amount of time and effort needed for keeping records and updating them as well as customizing log books. Most found that the actual practices were in line with what they were already doing but necessitated some minor and in some cases time-consuming changes. The group also felt pressure to not let their fellow participant farmers down. While this was a worry, the group pressure also acted as an insurance method to keep each participating farm in daily compliance, adhering to food safety manual and QMS policy.”
Successes: All group members reported feeling at the forefront of preparedness in food safety protocol. Additionally, they felt more safe and supported in the group structure, and came to depend on one another.
For More Information
There is much more information readily available online regarding GroupGAP experiences; if you would like to contact an individually GAP certified farm for more information please see the database of GAP certified growers.
For more information, including a webinar of GroupGAP testimonials, visit the National Good Food Network.
The FDA’s revised Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) establishes “…science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.”
While FSMA has meaningful implications for food safety regulations, it does not apply to every farm in the U.S. This document provides a brief overview of the produce categories covered by FSMA and the act’s exemptions. If you are more visually oriented, take a look at the super intuitive flow chart at the bottom of the page, which will tell you right away whether you have to abide by FSMA or not.
Both the flow chart and the information below were put together by our policy intern, Clare Healy.
The six produce-related categories of FSMA application are as follows:
- Agricultural Water: Water Quality and Testing. Certain water used with growing and harvesting must be tested for the average amount and variability of E coli. Testing requirements vary based on type of water used (i.e. ground water, surface water, municipal water).
- Biological Soil Amendments: Raw Manure and Stabilized Compost. There must be a 120 day interval between the application of raw manure to soil and crops that will contact that soil, and a 90 day interval for crops that will not contact the soil. Stabilized compost must be applied in a form that minimizes the risk of contact with crops before or after application.
- Sprouts: Irrigation water must be tested for certain pathogens, and pathogen tests must be negative before sprouts enter the marketplace. The growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment of sprouts must be tested for Listeria or Listeria monocytogenes.
- Domestic and Wild Animals: All farms must visually examine crops and fields/growing areas for contamination by animals. If significant contamination is found the area should be clearly marked, and crops may need to be forfeited.
- Worker Training and Health and Hygiene: Supervisors and farm workers handling produce and/or food-contact surfaces must be trained in proper hygiene practices, and implement hygienic practices, like hand and food-surface washing. Those who are ill or have a contagious infection should not have contact with farm’s produce or food-contact surfaces.
- Equipment, Tools and Buildings: There must be appropriate, secure, and clean storage of farm tools that come into contact with produce, as well as maintenance and cleanliness of other equipment.
FSMA Does not apply to:
- Fruits, vegetables, and grains that are not raw commodities, or that are rarely consumed raw. A complete list of “rarely consumed raw” foods can be found on pages 4-5 of Key Requirements: Final Rule on Produce Safety, cited at the end of this document.
- Produce consumed on-farm or as personal farm consumption.
- Farms that within the past three-year period from FSMA implementation have an average annual value of produce sold amounting to equal or less than $25,000.
In order to be eligible for qualified exemption, without meeting the exemptions above, a farm must meet the following two requirements:
- During the previous three-year period the farm’s average food sales must be less than $500,000; and
- During the previous three-year period the farm’s sales to “qualified end-users”—consumers and/or restaurant or retail food establishment located in the same state or Indian reservation as the farm, or no further than 275 miles away, must be greater than sales to all other markets combined.
For more information, including list of “Rarely Consumed Raw” crops, FSMA compliance dates, details on qualified exemptions, variances, and more, please see Key Requirements: Final Rule on Produce Safety.
The leadership council is the place where decisions get made for the Pima County Food Alliance, and where much of the exciting work and coordination actually gets done.
As an example of this, over the past year, we successfully advocated to get the City of Tucson to implement changes to its zoning code that allow for MORE urban agriculture. More recently, we provided advocacy on the successful passing of HB2518, which makes it easier for schools to serve garden food in the cafeteria on the state level. And this summer, we have been working on gathering information to help farmers better understand farm and food safety certification systems, like USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices Program.
We are a roughly 16-member body that meets monthly to discuss projects, share information, talk about partnership opportunities, and figure out how to accomplish our food-related goals. Is that something that interests you?
If you think you can contribute, please consider applying. Applications can be downloaded here, and submitted, with a résumé, back to us at email@example.com.