As we get ready to spring forward and transition into a season of renewal, we would like to share with you some of RAFI’s accomplishments from the past year.
Looking back over 2014, we are reminded of how many people have come together to help create the just and sustainable agricultural community that we envision. Thank you for supporting RAFI’s efforts to grow the movement!
More in-depth information will soon be available in our upcoming 2014 Annual Report.
Seeds & Breeds
This past October, RAFI published the proceedings from our 2014 Summit on Seeds & Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture. The National Seed Summit was held in Washington, D.C. on March 5-7, 2014 to address the need for more public cultivars and breeds that are regionally adapted and readily accessible to both breeders and farmers, and that can remain in the public domain. The summit is part of RAFI’s long-standing work to protect agricultural diversity by addressing systemic policy root causes, such as lack of adequate funding and public support for classical breeding programs.
As a result of the Summit, USDA will be developing a Strategic Plan for public plant breeding. RAFI aims to distribute the proceedings to the larger agricultural community and to policymakers to raise awareness of our findings and critical recommendations for the future. Check out and download the summit proceedings here: http://rafiusa.org/publications/seeds/
Our Breeding for Organic Production Systems (BOPS) program has been busy with a number of field trials, testing the success of organic and experimental non-GMO seed lines. There was success in the results of three wheat trials that were planted in the fall of 2013 and the tracking of two more wheat trials in 2014. Successful data was also collected from a soybean trial using NCSU experimental lines as well as some of the higher yielding non-GMO commercial lines currently available to farmers. Results are now available on the BOPS website.
RAFI staff also organized a pre-conference at the Organic World Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. An international seed roundtable was held, resulting in an ongoing seed working group.
The Come to the Table project laid the groundwork for a successful series of regional conferences, bringing together members of the faith community with farmers, gardeners, farm workers, educators, health professionals and community organizations to find ways to relieve hunger and support local agriculture.
The Come to the the Table project hosted a number of events including two gatherings of Duke Endowment grantees and multiple regional learning tours.
In 2014, RAFI formally launched the Beyond Hunger Relief program. Two new staff members were hired to help fulfill the program’s mission to identify, develop and expand sustainable solutions to food insecurity that also work to strengthen just and sustainable agriculture.
In 2014, the Beyond Hunger Relief program launched a three year participatory research project funded by the Duke Endowment in order to study two main questions:
What are the barriers and opportunities for farmers selling into low wealth communities? What are the linchpin points in the market chain where public or philanthropic investment could open sustainable, entrepreneurial food access solutions? How can we best use our resources to build a more equitable food system? The ultimate goal is to use research results to support entrepreneurial and community based solutions to food access.
RAFI and ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) began partnering on a new project, Connect2Direct. The goal of the initiative is to support and build equitable community-based local food economies through the development of direct markets for farmers in North Carolina.
Our Farm Advocacy staff met with and consulted on 75 farmer cases; including insurance issues, chapter 12 bankruptcies, several National Appeals Division appeals, and loan restructuring cases involving discrimination and beginning and transitioning farmers. Other accomplishments included helping farmers to save on tax bills, saving equipment from repossession, and assisting with insurance claims resulting in appropriate payments.
Farm Advocacy staff developed four training modules: Farm Advocacy 101, When the Phone Rings: Guidelines for Initial Farmer to Advocate Conversations, Disaster Assistance, and Cash Flow: The Common Language Between Farmers and Lenders. All four modules are on RAFI’s website: http://rafiusa.org/programs/farmsustainability/advocacy-webinars/
Our 18-year-old grant program for farmers, the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund (TCRF), was renamed the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund and Jean Willoughby became Project Director for the Fund. Learn more about the grant program here: www.rafiusa.org/grants
Our Growing Innovation project published a new book, Growing Innovation 1.0. It highlights the stories of family farmers working hard to supply their communities with fresh, healthy foods, and create new opportunities for their farms. The Growing Innovation online library was launched in December, 2014. The online library archives all of our farmer-led, grant-funded projects over the course of the program’s 18 year history. Check out the project and get a copy of the book here: www.rafiusa.org/growing-innovation
In November 2014, we launched the Farmer Leadership Network, a pilot program to support historically underserved farmers in engaging with agricultural decision-making bodies. In addition to our outreach and awareness campaign, we are currently supporting four candidates to serve on Farm Service Agency county committees around the state. A new staff member, Kavita Koppa, was hired to manage the initiative.
Research and Policy
Research projects have focused on three areas: (1) analysis of the interaction between various types of risk management tools, (2) development of specialty crop insurance policies, and (3) analysis of early organic crop insurance adopters.
In the first effort, we partnered with researchers in NCSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics to design and conduct original research on how use of crop insurance interacts with different types of farm risk management tools. This research will leverage data from USDA’s national farm level Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) to conduct the analyses, which will be shared with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) and credit providers in 2015.
The second research focus is examining crop insurance options for strawberry growers in the southeast. Our Risk Management and Crop Insurance staff established a strawberry policy development team that includes researchers from NCSU, crop insurance consultants, the NC Strawberry Growers Association, and local growers. To support this effort with grower input, RAFI staff presented at 6 strawberry grower pre-plant planning meetings in 2014 reaching 130 farmers, extension agents, and nursery and input operation representatives.
The final research initiative addressed use of crop insurance by organic growers.
RAFI worked with Congress and USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to make farmer-driven changes to existing whole-farm policies. Under the new whole-farm revenue policy known as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), producers will be able to insure their crops, livestock, and nursery and greenhouse crops for a revenue loss with a single policy rather than using individual crop policies.
We are proud of the accomplishments that came out of our work this year! We look forward to sharing more exciting news with you soon!