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Court allows Our Family Farms Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy to Defend Jackson County Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops

February 6, 2015 - Federal Court Magistrate Mark Clarke today issued an 8-page Order granting the motion by Center for Food Safety (CFS), Our Family Farms Coalition (OFFC), Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy  to intervene as defendants in a pending lawsuit challenging Jackson County's Ordinance 635, which was approved by voters as Measure 15-119. The ordinance, passed in May 2014, creates a genetically engineered crop free zone to protect local farmers from transgenic contamination.

The decision means that CFS, OFFC, as well as Jackson County farmers Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy will be able to help Jackson County’s lawyers "vigorously defend the legality of protecting family farmers from genetically engineered crops in Jackson County." The Court found that “[CFS, OFFC, Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy] have alleged concrete agricultural and economic interests that will be just as impacted by this litigation as the interests claimed by the Plaintiffs in this case.” When defending those “concrete agricultural and economic interests” the coalition will be jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School.

“Farmers in Jackson County growing traditional crops are being threatened by crops genetically engineered to survive heavy pesticides. Monsanto and the chemical giants have created a product they can't control. After the people expressed their will through the democratic process, they turned to the courts to protect their profits. They intimidate and bully with high-priced law firms, but we won't back down,” said Jackson County farmer and director of Our Family Farms Coalition, Elise Higley.

In May 2014, voters in Jackson County overwhelmingly approved measure 15-119 by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin. The bi-partisan victory came despite a wave of opposition funding from the chemical industry, topping out at nearly $1 million. These same biotechnology interests challenged the Ordinance in court.

“This is big win for family farmers. The court has correctly recognized local farmers' right to protect right to protect the ordinance, farmers that championed the ordinance and are directly threatened by the lawsuit. We're proud to stand with them and represent them,” said George Kimbrell, CFS’s senior attorney, based in Portland.

Tom Buchele, with the Earthrise Law Center, said, "This is a good start to the case, but its not really surprising given the compelling agricultural and economic interests that farmers growing traditional crops have in seeing the ban on genetically engineered crops upheld and legally enforced."

The hearing to argue the case is scheduled for May 20th.

 

Local farmers, Our Family Farms Coalition and Center for Food Safety Move to Intervene in Legal Challenge to Ballot Measure 15-119!


Our Family Farms Coalition (OFFC), Oshala Farm, and farmer Chris Hardy, together with the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Earthrise Law Center, have filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit attempting to overturn ballot Measure 15-119!  It’s been an extremely busy last month as we have been furiously raising funds, securing a top-notch legal team, and preparing for yet another fight with the biggest chemical corporations in the world.  My farm (Oshala Farm LLC) as well as farmer Chris Hardy (the Chief Petitioner for 15-119) have also asked to intervene in the case.

Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed to our legal fund and has been helping to collect donations.  Thanks to you, OFFC and CFS have together raised more than $25,000 in a little more than a month!  That said, we are still working to raise another $5,000 for the first phase of the litigation. So… if you haven’t donated yet, please join in the fun today and make a donation on-line to Our Family Farms Coalition, or a tax deductible donation to Center For Food Safety that will be used only to support this case.

Next steps? Now that our motion to intervene has been filed, we have to wait for the federal court to decide whether to let us join in the case with the goal of vigorously defending the legality of Measure 15-119 (now called Jackson County Ordinance 635).  That could be a few weeks to a month or more, but we will keep you informed of major updates by email and Facebook as soon as we know.

Who are our attorneys?  We have a great team of attorneys that specialize in complex public-interest litigation and have the legal muscle we need to defend 15-119’s protections for family farmers.  Many of you already know Center for Food Safety’s attorney George Kimbrell, who helped draft and pass Measure 15-119 and is the leading attorney helping communities around the country pass and defend genetically engineered crop bans.  George and CFS attorney Aurora Paulsen are representing OFFC, along with our lead attorney Tom Buchele (28 year veteran lawyer) and Lia Comerford of the Earthrise Law Center, as the primary litigators on this case.  Earthrise, based at Lewis and Clark Law School, is considered one of the top public-interest law centers in the country. We owe our legal team a huge Thank You for all their great work!

Want to read the legal filings in the case?  OFFC will be posting the important legal filings and court rulings in this case on our website if you’re interested in really getting into the weeds!   

Thanks again for all your support!  This will not be a quick fight, but we see this case as our chance to continue to educate the public about the risks genetically engineered crops pose to family farmers and what we can do to protect our farms and our communities.

Elise Higley

Director, Our Family Farms Coalition
Co-Owner, Oshala Farm LLC

 

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for the Landslide Victory
Protecting Jackson County Family Farmers
from Genetically Engineered Crops!
65.9 % YES to 34.1% NO!  

And, congratulations to Josephine County for its incredible 58% to 41% victory against genetically engineered crops!

With this inspiring vote by people of every political perspective, our communities have sent a message to the country and the world, that we will no longer accept the threats of contamination that genetically engineered crops pose to family farmers. Thank you to our volunteers, supporters, and the voters for standing up to the out-of-state political bull and doing what's right for family farmers.

We expect that Monsanto and its representatives with the Oregon Farm Bureau will likely try to challenge this precedent-setting win, so please make a contribution today help defend this important precedent. We are working to raise at least $25,000 in the next 30 days and could use your help to do it.

Why are family farmers so concerned about genetically engineered crops? One gust of wind, and pollen from a genetically engineered crop can spread for miles, making seed from the traditional crops it touches illegal to save for next year's planting and illegal to sell under U.S. patent law.

Any seed produced from genetically engineered pollen becomes the legally patented property of Monsanto, Syngenta and the other corporate chemical giants that attempted to defeat Measure 15-119. This undermines the ability of family farmers to collect and use their seeds from one year to the next, which is critical to the economic viability of many family farms. Contrary to some media reports, there is nothing that limits these impacts to organic farmers.

Genetically engineered crops have already cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars in documented losses. The examples range from the wheat export ban in Oregon and Washington last year caused by Monsanto's genetically engineered wheat, to China's ongoing rejection of U.S. corn shipments due to contamination by Syngenta's genetically engineered corn. The impacts from Syngenta's corn contamination alone has cost U.S. conventional corn farmers more than $2.9 billion in losses and could rise to over $6 billion by next year.

Most of our federal and state leaders from both parties have been content to let family farmers bear the brunt of contamination from genetically engineered crops. Oregon's Gov. Kitzhaber shamefully supported Oregon's Monsanto Protection Act, which took away the rights of other counties to protect their farmers from genetically engineered crops.

We support the immediate repeal of this unjust exercise in state control. Until our political leaders stop catering to the high-priced influence of the chemical corporations like Monsanto, we encourage counties around the United States to adopt local measures to protect family farmers from genetically engineered crops.

Thank you to the western counties that came before us, such as Marin County, Mendocino County, Santa Cruz County, and San Juan County and the growing number of places around the country and world, from Hawaii and Mexico to Ecuador and Zambia that are fighting the injustice of genetically engineered crops. Today we celebrate our local victories in hopes that they become part of a larger global victory for family farmers everywhere.

To see some of the images of the campaign feel free to visit us on Vimeo.

Thank you again for your supp

 

Our Family Farms Coalition Asks You to Vote YES on 15-119
Protect Family Farmers and Our Economy 

THE FAMILY FARMS MEASURE 15-119 PROTECTS FAMILY FARMERS from the serious risk that their crops will be contaminated by genetically engineered crops that are patented and controlled by large out-of-state chemical corporations. There’s no practical way to stop genetically engineered pollen and seed from trespassing onto traditional farms that have been here for years. And when a traditional crop becomes contaminated with genetically engineered pollen, it can be impossible for the farmer to sell. 

PROTECTS OUR DRINKING WATER AND KIDS Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011.These chemicals can end up in our water and our children's bodies. This increased pesticide use has also led to the evolution of high-impact Superweeds2. The measure will help prevent Superweeds from becoming a major problem in the Rogue Valley. 

PROTECTS FAMILY FARMERS FROM PATENT LAWSUITS by Monsanto and the other chemical corporations. These corporations have threatened many innocent farmers with patent infringement lawsuits after their patented pollen or seed has trespassed onto family farmers' property.


 

papapishu_aurochs.pngDon't Buy the Political Bull!

Almost every Jackson County voter can say they are concerned about the County budget and public services. So it’s no surprise that exploiting this concern in an attempt to scare voters seems like a good campaign plan to the out-of-county corporations and other interests that have funded 95% of the opposition to Measure 15-119. 

There are no facts to support the cost claims about 15-119.

The opposition to 15-119 has inflated and misrepresented an already fatally-flawed cost report by County Administrator Danny Jordan. In fact, Jordan stated in a recent County Commissioners’ meeting:

 "I said at least six times in the presentation that this could cost zero dollars."

                                                                                                       - RVTV 14, 3/19/14 County Commissioners’ meeting

 

Why Did Farmers Call for a Retraction of the Report?

IT IGNORES THE LACK OF COSTS IN AREAS WITH SIMILAR LAWS. In the three counties with very similar laws, they have spent virtually nothing on enforcement. For example, Santa Cruz County has an agricultural economy of over $500 million a year, seven times the size of ours. Yet Ag Commissioner Mary Lou Nicoletti says the county has virtually no enforcement costs. 

IT IGNORES THE FACT THAT VIOLATIONS ARE UNLIKELY. As shown by the lack of costs in other counties, this is a law that tends to enforce itself. Growing genetically engineered crops requires major legal contracts that people just wouldn’t sign for a practice that wasn’t legal.

IT WRONGLY ASSUMES COUNTY ENFORCEMENT IS MANDATED. The Family Farms Measure gives the County "the authority” to enforce the Measure, but it doesn't mandate the County to spend a single dime. Any spending is completely up to the discretion of the County Commissioners.

Don’t buy the political spin. Protect our farmers, our economy, and our community from genetically engineered crops. Please Vote YES on Measure 15-119.


 

1. "Pesticide Use Ramping Up As GMO Crop Technology Backfires: Study"  Reuters, Oct. 1, 2012

2. "New GM Crops Could Make Superweeds Even Stronger" Wired, May 1, 2012

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