Action Needed on Farm Bill

Now is the time to communicate with your House and Senate Farm Bill Conferees about the issues that will impact organic agriculture in the Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging House and Senate Ag Committee leaders to have a Conference Report ready soon after Labor Day. Although both the House and Senate will be on recess for all or part of the month, Ag Committee leaders will be very busy during August in an effort to prepare a Conference Report by the target date. NOC is asking allies in the organic community to take action right now to voice your support for organic in the Farm Bill.

Here are some ways you and your organization can get involved:

  1. Write a letter to your Farm Bill Conferee(s) urging support for organic or speak to the staffer who works on agriculture in that office. You can use the letter NOC sent to Farm Bill Conferees as a template.
  2. Meet with your Farm Bill Conferee(s) during the recess and urge support for organic using the talking points in this NOC letter.
  3. Ask your organization’s members or other key stakeholders, especially farmers, to make phone calls to Farm Bill Conferees.  We need your help to bolster support for the certification cost-share program, which is in danger, as well as defend against attacks on the NOSB, and advocate strongly for permanent baseline funding for organic research. Contact NOC for an action alert template.

Thank you for taking action during this critical period!

Farm Bill Recap and Next Steps
The House has now appointed 47 Conferees and the Senate has appointed 9 Conferees. We are now entering the next important phase in the Farm Bill process – the Conference Committee where Congress must reconcile substantial differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.  While the Republican-only House bill overhauls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and makes deep cuts to conservation programs, the bipartisan Senate bill leaves these programs intact. The wide gulf between these major policy decisions in the two bills will make reconciling them a formidable process. 

To recap, the House and Senate each passed their versions of the Farm Bill in June. Our NOC score card compares and grades each of these bills on key organic priorities.  In July, NOC delivered a letter to the House and Senate Ag Committee leaders, detailing our requests for the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee process. In the letter, we also express strong opposition to Farm Bill changes to the authority and structure of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These changes undermine the integrity the Board and the procedures used to ensure full stakeholder input into the USDA organic standards.

In the coming weeks, we expect that the Conferees will be putting quite a lot of work into reconciling differences between the House and Senate bills in an effort to get the legislation across the finish line before the September 30 deadline. The House has already left for their August recess and won’t be back until after Labor Day.  The Senate was on recess the week of August 6 but will be back in session for much of the remainder of August. Most of the work of the Conference Committee will be done by the four Ag Committee Leaders (Roberts, Stabenow, Conaway, and Peterson) and their staffs.  Those four have already met, their staffs are hard at work, and the four leaders say they will be in touch by phone throughout August. 

Once reconciled, both the House and Senate must pass a final Farm Bill Conference Report and secure the President’s signature to enact the legislation. If Congress fails to complete the process by September 30, expiration of the current law poses major challenges for the organic sector because key organic programs like the OREI program and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program lack baseline funding and may lapse if Congress passes a short-term extension (this happened previously when the Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension failed to fund organic programs during 2013). 

NOC will be closely engaged as the process moves forward and will continue to provide updates and action alerts as needed.

Lea Kone