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Current NFU News
NFU Says WTO Ruling On COOL Shows USDA Moving in Right Direction, Points Out No Need for Congressional Involvement PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 23, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 23, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) recent ruling on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) clearly shows U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is headed in right direction.

“This ruling demonstrates the legitimate nature of the COOL objective and finds that the current labeling rule is an improvement over the original rule, but it remains unbalanced between consumer information and production costs,” said Johnson. “This decision, as it has been issued, will likely be modified on appeal and NFU strongly urges USTR to appeal the ruling.”

Johnson moderated the panel discussion, and was also joined Danni Beer, president of U.S. Cattleman’s Association, Patrick Woodall, research director at Food & Water Watch, and Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, to discuss the details and implications of the WTO ruling.

On Monday, the WTO released the long-awaited, 200-plus page ruling that found the regulatory goal of COOL was WTO-compliant, and that the new 2013 labels provided better, more accurate information for consumers.

“The ruling gives USDA and USTR the opportunity to redefine the rule without the need for Congress to get involved,” said Johnson. “There may well be a more clear way to define ‘born, raised, slaughtered’ such that it cleans up the confusion which was in the decision.”

Johnson also offered the inclusion of value-added meat in the rule in order to make it WTO-compliant. “By rule, we could include a number of value-added meat products that heretofore, have not been included,” said Johnson. “The WTO decision says that essentially the costs side that the producers have to bear are more than the benefit side that the consumers get… To the extent that you can increase the amount of the product that is labeled, you nullify that argument.”

Johnson also discredited the economic issues raised by COOL opponents.He noted that the U.S. was heading into a recession, the U.S.-Canadian dollar exchange rate dramatically changed, and energy costs were starting to skyrocket. All of this caused a decrease in imports, not just across Canada and Mexico, but for all countries and commodities.

“There is a very strong conviction among all of us that the COOL statute needs to remain in place. The WTO, in all of the decisions that have been rendered on this case so far, have always said the law is ok. We have a right to do this.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Says USDA Can Make Any Necessary Changes Necessary to Bring COOL into Compliance with Today’s Mixed WTO Ruling PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 20, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 20, 2014)  — National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that today’s ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) can be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and reminded lawmakers of the strong support by the public and in rural America for the popular labeling law.

“American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information,” said Johnson. “Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact.”

This most recent challenge to COOL, filed by Canada and Mexico, challenges the final rule put forward by USDA and comes on the heels of an earlier WTO ruling that found the U.S. has the right to require labeling of meat products, but found fault with how the rule was implemented.

“Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels,” said Johnson.    

A May 2013 public opinion poll found that more than 90 percent of consumers support COOL, and feelings for the labeling law are equally strong in rural America. “We are confident that given that level of support, Congress will reject all heavy-handed attempts to make legislative changes to this important labeling law,” said Johnson.

Since its passage in 2002, COOL has been under constant attack both domestically, by the U.S. meat industry, and internationally. On each and every domestic occasion, the rulings have come down in support of COOL. 

This recent ruling will likely take many months to resolve, since it will undoubtedly be appealed, and the WTO process is slow moving. Just as NFU has played an active role in legally defending this rule in U.S. courts – and has so far won every legal ruling in court – NFU will also work with USDA and U.S. Trade Representative to see that our WTO rights are protected and that we will comply with any final WTO decisions. Now is not the time to change the law. It is the time to see the WTO process through to an ultimate conclusion.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU President Addresses Role of Family Farming and Cooperatives in Food Security, Food Sovereignty PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 9, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 9, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today discussed the role of family farming and cooperatives in food security and food sovereignty as part of a panel discussion at the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec City, Canada.  

“Family farms and ranches worldwide are the cultural, social, economic and security cornerstones of every nation,” said Johnson. “Forty percent of the world’s households directly depend on family farming, and every person who eats also depends on family farmers.”

The International Summit of Cooperatives, held annually, brought together nearly 200 leading experts and more than 2500 participants from 42 countries to share their knowledge on innovation in sustainability, development, employment, food security, and the economics of cooperatives.

Johnson noted that despite agricultural production in the United States shifting to large farms, trends also indicate an increase in new, yet smaller, farms. “Americans want families to own and operate farms and ranches,” said Johnson. “Consumers want local foods and demand is creating new opportunities.”

Johnson also noted that in the United States, farmers and ranchers have been successfully involved in cooperatives for nearly 100 years. Farmers Union’s own history is closely tied with the cooperative movement, having developed and supported thousands of cooperatives over the decades.

“Cooperatives and agriculture go hand-in-hand,” said Johnson. “Co-ops provide farmers and ranchers with lower-cost inputs, higher income through marketing and processing, financial resources, access to electrical utilities and communications technology, and connections to consumers.”

The five panelists also discussed the idea that family agriculture is the basis for sustainable production to move towards food security. Johnson pointed out the many benefits of food security in the United States.

“Food security has allowed the U.S. economy to expand into technology, manufacturing, entertainment and heavy industry,” said Johnson. “Consumers spend less than 10 percent of their income on food and it also allows the U.S. to have programs to help feed the poor.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Welcomes Additions to Washington D.C. Office PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 7, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 7, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) is pleased to welcome five new staff members to positions in the government relations, communications, and education departments, as well as the addition of North Bridge Communications as a media relations consulting firm.

New Hires:

Sarah Campbell, Education Coordinator
Campbell supports the NFU Foundation’s education and development team in initiating growth through a variety of strategies. In addition to developing the annual curriculum, she also assists in planning and preparing youth and adult education programs and events. Campbell studied international policy and economics at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.

Zack Clark, Government Relations Representative
Clark advocates for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities in Congress, particularly on crop insurance, commodities, immigration and tax. He joins NFU from the office of Congressman Joe Courtney, where he served as legislative assistant.  As staff to a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Clark worked on the 2014 Farm Bill, advocating on a range of issues important to family farmers.

Tom Driscoll, Government Relations Representative
Driscoll asserts the interests of family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in energy and environmental policy. He also drafts long-form documents, such as comments on agency rulemaking, on a variety of issues that affect family agriculture. Before joining NFU, Driscoll managed the agriculture news clips service AgToGo, wrote articles for Agri-Pulse, and worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Rep. Tim Ryan, and boutique government relations firm Strategies 360.

Andrew Jerome, Communications Coordinator
Jerome serves as the primary media contact, maintains the website and social media platforms, and produces publications such as newsletters, e-newsletters, news clips, and Farmers Share. Jerome is a recent graduate of West Virginia University where he earned a degree in public relations.

Barbara Patterson, Government Relations Representative
Patterson advocates for family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities with a focus on trade, livestock, competition, conservation, nutrition, and food safety. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and recently graduated with a Master of Science in Agriculture and Nutrition Policy from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Patterson previously worked as a policy associate for New England Farmers Union.

North Bridge Communications
NFU has brought on North Bridge Communications to assist with communication operations and proactive media outreach. Leading the team is partner Phillip Hayes and managing director Dave Ray.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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Fort Worth Star-Telegram Guest Opinion: NFU Urges EPA to Stay the Course on RFS PDF Print E-mail

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Oct. 6, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2014) – In a recent op-ed published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stay the course and not scale back the volume targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The op-ed appeared on the heels of a letter to the Obama administration from the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition (GBC), a group representing two-thirds of the nation's governors, pointing out that the EPA's proposed volume cuts in the RFS would hurt jobs and increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“The continued expansion of the biofuels industry is essential for our nation's energy and economic future,” the governors said in the letter. “Through continued expansion of biofuels plants, it will be possible to deliver millions of gallons of clean, renewable fuel, create thousands of jobs, lower imported oil expenditures, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent, compared to gasoline.”

Johnson, also arguing against the EPA’s proposed cuts, compared the RFS to a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, from which a seemingly endless abundance of fruits and other foods pour. “From time to time, legislation that was enacted for one reason has resulted in creating an abundance of benefits in a number of other areas,” said Johnson. “Such is the case with the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

In addition to leading this nation one step closer to energy independence, the RFS bestowed a number of side benefits onto the nation. Johnson pointed to the creation of a new domestic market for corn, the rise in prices for other commodities, as well as other economic and environmental consequences as major benefits of the RFS to not only rural America, but the entire nation.

“A recent Iowa State University study showed ethanol saved consumers an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011,” said Johnson. “Consumers who used to watch their fuel expenditures literally going up in smoke out of their tailpipes could now invest this money in other areas of the economy.

“Biofuels are also much friendlier to the environment,” said Johnson. “A recent study found that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline.

“We have only just begun to see the benefits of the horn of plenty known as the RFS. America needs to stay the course.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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