House Passes Spending Bill with Wins on Organic Dairy, Import Fraud, and More
The House of Representatives has passed new spending legislation with big wins for organic. NOC worked with Members of Congress to advance key requests for organic agriculture. We are pleased to see these included in the bill:
· The bill boosts funding for the National Organic Program (NOP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from $14 million to $18 million annually. The NOP is responsible for overseeing the growing organic industry, which stands at more than $52 billion in sales annually in the U.S. There are more than 42,800 organic farms and operations in 148 countries. The NOP is charged with ensuring that the USDA organic standards are enforced in a uniform way around the globe and investigating complaints of fraud. The increase in funding recognizes the need to enhance enforcement procedures to safeguard the integrity of the organic label.
· The bill includes a provision to level the playing field for organic dairy producers. It would require USDA to issue a final regulation on ‘Origin of Livestock’ – the rules for how conventional dairy cows are transitioned into organic herds – within 180 days.
· The new spending legislation boosts funding for organic and sustainable agriculture research to help tackle on-farm challenges and help farms become more productive, efficient, and profitable. The bill increases funding for the Organic Transitions Program to $8 million and boosts funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to $45 million.
· The House bill also includes a provision that would block USDA from moving the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington, D.C. NOC is opposed to the Administration’s plan to move those agencies because we believe it would undermine the critical research conducted by these two federal agencies, including research on trends in the organic sector, and result in the loss of highly experienced staff who will not move if these agencies relocate.
“The National Organic Coalition is thrilled with this bill’s passage and we applaud the House Appropriations Committee for its leadership to bring an end to abuse within the organic dairy sector,” said Abby Youngblood, Executive Director of the National Organic Coalition. “Without new regulations to level the playing field, we will see continued consolidation within organic dairy and the demise of many family-scale organic dairy operations. The requirement that USDA finalize the ‘Origin of Livestock’ rules for organic dairy, in combination with a big boost in funding for the USDA’s National Organic Program, will lead to a much stronger organic label.”
“There have been longstanding abuses within the organic dairy sector. USDA has allowed organic dairy operations to make use of loopholes to continuously bring conventional animals into organic dairy herds,” said Ed Maltby, Executive Director at the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. “Operations making use of these loopholes have distorted the market for organic milk with rapid expansion of cow numbers and have created an economic disadvantage for organic farmers who play by the rules. NODPA welcomes this legislation, especially the provisions to bring fairness for organic dairy producers. ”
Consumer trust in the organic seal depends on USDA’s ability to keep up with growth in the organic marketplace, to stamp out fraudulent organic imports, and to ensure that all operations play by the same rules.
NOC would like to thank House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Bishop (D-GA), Ranking Member Fortenberry (R-NE), and Subcommittee Member Chellie Pingree (D-ME) for their leadership in securing these key wins for organic farmers, consumers, and businesses.
Today’s action is an important step toward passage and enactment of final legislation. The Senate is expected to take up agriculture spending legislation in the coming weeks in advance of the September 30 deadline.