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League of Women Voters releases views on federal agriculture policies

To the editor:

Earlier this year the League of Women Voters of La Plata County, along with 242 other state and local LWVs, participated in an update of our national LWV position on agriculture, adopted in 1988. The new position on federal agriculture policies, a supplement to the older position, has just been released by our national board. This supplement, along with the supporting study materials, can be examined in full at http://forum.lwv.org/member-resources/article/lwvus-position-federal-agriculture-policies .

In general, the league believes that government should provide financial support for agriculture that includes disaster assistance, crop insurance (with limits on premium subsidies to larger farms), need-based loans, and incentives to adopt best management practices. Support should be extended to specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts; to new production methods, such as organic, hydroponic, and urban practices; and to farms that supply local and regional markets. 

Highlights of the remaining provisions include:

Increased competition in agricultural markets, enforcement of antitrust laws, and alternative marketing systems such as regional hub markets, farmers' markets and farmer cooperatives;

Application of clean air and water regulations to all animal and aquaculture production and processing facilities; small operations should not be granted automatic exemption;

Adequate authority and funding of relevant government regulatory agencies;

Government funding of transparent basic agricultural research including the impact of new technologies, such as genetic engineering and other nanotechnologies, prior to widespread adoption;

Funding of research to support diversified and sustainable systems, such as seed banking and genetic diversity.

Regarding safety of our food supply, government should

Limit use of antibiotics in animal production to treatment of disease;

Promote crop management practices that decrease dependency on added chemicals

Clarify and enforce pre-market testing requirements for food and food additives developed using any new chemical technology, such as genetic engineering or other nanotechnologies;

Require follow-up monitoring and fund third party risk assessment.

The league supports the government developing and requiring more informative and standardized definitions on product labeling. Food labeling and advertising should display only approved health and safety claims and an accurate representation of the required ingredient and nutrition lists. The league supports consumer education about labeling of foods developed using any new technology.

Marilyn T. Brown, chair, agriculture committee

LWV of La Plata County