NOC Weighs in on Draft 2018 Farm Bill
On April 12, 2018 House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 Farm Bill. NOC appreciates the work of the House Agriculture Committee to address important organic priorities in the bill. The draft bill, while falling short of NOC’s $50 million request, includes a significant boost in funding from $20 million to $30 million annually for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. In addition, the draft bill includes funding for organic data collection initiatives, as well as important provisions to address fraudulent organic imports by enhancing authorities at the USDA and providing $5 million in mandatory funding to improve data tracking for imports.
While NOC is greatly encouraged that the bill provides support for these critical initiatives, we are deeply concerned that the bill zeros out funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and significantly cuts certification cost share assistance through the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Act as well. Slashing funding for certification cost share assistance is especially harmful to small and mid-size operations that rely on this partial reimbursement for annual organic certification fees, which are on the rise. NOC believes diversity of scale within organic certification is essential to protect the integrity of the organic seal.
NOC is also alarmed by proposed changes to the National Organic Standards Board that are unnecessary and weaken the authority of the Board. This draft bill would include a provision that states that the farmer, handler and retailer seats on the NOSB can be filled with employees, and another provision creates an expedited process for adding materials to the National List. A third change mandates the creation of an NOSB task force any time the NOSB is considering substances that the EPA and FDA consider to be safe.
Finally, NOC has long advocated that Congress and the USDA reinvigorate public plant and animal breeding programs. The decline in public cultivar development in recent years has made our food system more vulnerable. The investments that NOC is calling for would benefit all farmers, including organic farmers, and address future challenges related to our changing climate and increased disease and pest pressures. This draft bill fails to address this important issue.
NOC has created a scorecard, to provide more details about how this draft farm bill stacks up on core organic priorities.