Each year, the discretionary spending portion of the federal budget must go through the appropriations process in Congress. Since many organic and other agriculture programs are funded through discretionary spending, the National Organic Coalition participates in the appropriations process by submitting testimony and taking action.
The Farm Bill is the primary agriculture and food policy legislation of the federal government. This omnibus bill deals with agriculture, food assistance programs, and other aspects under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The National Organic Coalition advocates for organic programs in the Farm Bill.
Not everyone is able to follow the many important debates on organic materials and organic standards that affect the integrity of the USDA organic seal, but NOC will be there, as we have been since 2002. The National Organic Coalition is actively engaged in providing input to and supporting the work of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Learn more about the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), the NOSB, and NOC’s work with the NOSB to protect organic integrity.
Genetic Engineering (GE) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not a part of organic production. NOC is currently advocating to clarify the prohibition for next generation GMOs in organic production and we are advocating for transparent labeling of genetically engineered foods. NOC is concerned about GMO contamination of organic crops and we believe that companies that patent, promote, and profit from GE crops should be responsible for covering losses that result from GMO contamination.
The federal government has largely stopped funding classical breeding efforts at state land grant institutions and has largely shifted agricultural germplasm research toward only patented varieties that prevent farmers from saving seeds. Yet one of the basic building blocks of any successful agricultural system - conventional or organic - is farmer access to seeds and breeds that are well adapted to local conditions, soils and climates. NOC advocates to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority within the USDA research apparatus.
U.S. organic production continues to lag behind consumer demand for organic products. One of the key tools that can help address barriers to U.S. organic production is research. Funding for organic-specific research programs, including the OREI program, has been stagnant in recent years. In contrast, the flagship competitive grant research program at USDA, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has experienced significant growth in recent years. Unfortunately, less than 0.2% of these research dollars are focused on organic research needs.
Consumer demand for organic products is growing rapidly, at over 10 percent annually. This growth in demand is encouraging, but domestic production of organic crops is not keeping pace. The result is that an increasing percent of U.S. organic food is imported to meet consumer needs. The National Organic Coalition has created a white paper to explore in greater depth the challenges limiting domestic production of organic crops, as well as policy and market-based tools that could help to address those challenges.
The National Organic Coalition recognizes the urgent need to modernize and strengthen USDA oversight of organic products to prevent fraud and make sure that everyone in the supply chain is playing by the same rules. Operations voluntarily choose to become certified as organic, but once they do, they agree to comply with strict standards. In doing so, they rely on USDA to protect the integrity of the organic seal and to enforce those standards, which undergird their own investments in their farms and facilities. Without effective enforcement by USDA, consumer trust and organic farmer and handler investments are jeopardized.