ACTION ALERTS


Action Needed on Farm Bill
october 8, 2018

If your Senator or Representative is a Farm Bill Conferee please make a phone call today. Let your Senator or Representative know that you are concerned about the fate of critical organic programs now that the Farm Bill has lapsed.

Unfortunately, organic programs are among the many smaller programs that ran out of funding on September 30 with the expiration of the Farm Bill! See NOC’s analysis here.

Call Your Representative or Senator today to urge support for organic in the Farm Bill.

Call the Capitol Switchboard:

202-224-3121

*Enter your zip code to connect with your Senators.

Ask to speak with the staffer who works on agriculture or leave a message with whoever answers the phone. Use these talking points:

- I’m calling as a constituent and an organic farmer/consumer. I want to thank Representative/Senator XX for his/her leadership to advance organic agriculture in the Farm Bill.

- I am calling to urge Representative/Senator XX to pass a Farm Bill that includes provisions to address organic import fraud, plus full funding for organic research and organic certification cost-share.

-     I urge you to reject any changes to the National Organic Standards Board in the Farm Bill, because these changes would undermine trust in the organic seal.

- If Congress is not able to pass a Farm Bill soon, I am urging that you protect organic agriculture by passing a short-term extension that includes funding for organic research, organic certification cost-share, and organic data initiatives.

- When the previous Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension was passed, it failed to fund key organic Farm Bill programs and caused a great deal of disruption for the organic sector in 2013. The same thing will happen again without urgent action to protect organic programs.

Email NOC Policy Director Steve Etka after you make the call to let us know how it went: steveetka@gmail.com

 

Background:

Why is organic at risk in the Farm Bill?

With only a few legislative days left before the September 30 expiration of the Farm Bill, it appears unlikely that Congress will be able to complete its work in time. Unfortunately, organic programs are among the many smaller programs that will run out of funding on September 30 with the expiration of the Farm Bill. Learn more here.

What is the NOSB and why is it important?

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is made up of 15 dedicated public volunteers from across the organic community. The Board advises the Secretary of Agriculture on a wide variety of topics related to organic standards, including what materials should be allowed in organic farming. The Board currently has statutory authority to keep toxic substances out of organic production.

The NOSB is at the heart of the transparent, democratic process that upholds the integrity of the organic seal. Changes that weaken the NOSB could undermine consumer trust in the organic label and full stakeholder input into this process. It must be protected – no changes are needed.

What is Organic Certification Cost-Share and why is it important?

Organic farmers must go through rigorous annual organic certification process and pay fees each year. Two federal programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Act (AMA), provide organic farmers and businesses with a modest reimbursement of up to $750 to cover a portion of their annual certification fees.

The growing costs of annual organic certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially small to mid-size operations. Yet third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the organic seal. The cost-share program fosters diversity in the scale of operations certified as organic.

Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. U.S. organic production is lagging demand for organic products. One of the barriers to getting farmers to transition is the concern about the annual costs of organic certification. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand.  

What is the OREI program and why is organic research important?

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) is a USDA competitive grants program dedicated to addressing the unique research challenges that organic farmers and processors face. The cutting-edge research conducted through the OREI program helps farmers become more productive, efficient, and profitable and leads to the development of new agricultural practices that can be used by both conventional and organic farmers. Investing in organic research is central to the goal of increasing domestic production of organic crops, to better meet expanding demand.

Both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill increase funding for organic research, but the Senate bill would achieve the goal of $50 million in annual funding for OREI by 2023. Funding at this $50 million level would bring the program to “baseline,” ensuring that it has ongoing funding in the future (smaller programs that do not have “baseline” are assumed to go to zero at the end of each Farm Bill).

 

The National Organic Coalition has created a Farm Bill score card with more information about how organic programs fared in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.