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OTA Farm Bill Advocacy

 

Farm Bill Overview


The Farm Bill is a large piece of legislation that has considerable power over American agriculture and is passed roughly every five years.  The Farm Bill largely focuses on nutrition programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps or SNAP).  However, the Farm Bill also covers commodity programs, conservation, trade, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture and organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance, commodity futures, and more. 

The Farm Bill creates, changes, removes or continues programs as Congress sees fit.  This includes providing both mandatory and authorized funds for various agriculture programs.  

OTA makes sure that organic is a part of the discussion when the Farm Bill is being debated before the House and Senate Agriculture Committees by educating key Members of Congress and their staff about the organic industry. OTA closely monitors Farm Bill discussion and action in order to ensure continued support for the organic industry.

Hearings for the 2012 Farm Bill are now underway.  For the Agriculture Committees’ hearing schedules, click here for the House and here for the Senate. Below, find OTA priorities for corresponding years, memos that cover pertinent hearings, submitted testimony, and handouts that OTA is distributing at meetings with Congressional offices.  

Farm Bill Conference Priorities

Last week, OTA sent a letter outlining its priorities in the Farm Bill to all House and Senate conferees.  This will enable them to keep organic priorities in mind as the Farm Bill moves through the conference process.  You can find an
example of the letter we sent.  If you have any comments or questions, or if you would like to do your own outreach to your Senator or Representative, please contact Marni Karlin, Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs, at mkarlin@ota.com.

Farm Bill Priorities

OTA 2012 Farm Bill Priorities on Investments in Innovation

National Organic Program Requested Authorized Funding Levels

National Organic Program Requested Mandatory Funding Levels

Farm Bill Updates

July 11, 2013

In the House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill, without the nutrition title, by a vote of 216-208.  No Democrats supported the bill, and 12 Republicans voted against it.  The bill was the Farm Bill, without the nutrition title, as it had passed the House Agriculture Committee in May, along with all of the amendments that passed on the floor of the House in June – and including provisions that repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions and make the 2013 Title I permanent law going forward.  (If this became law, it would mean it was permanent law, and there would never need to be another reauthorization of agriculture provisions – Congress could consider them again, but would never face a deadline requiring their reauthorization.)

The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is what happens next?

  • House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) described the next step as bringing the House Farm Bill to conference with the Senate-passed Farm Bill (that includes a nutrition title), resulting in a complete conferenced bill that includes a nutrition title.  Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has also indicated that it is her plan to move quickly to conference on a comprehensive Farm Bill.

  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) indicated he would go back to the drawing board on a nutrition-only Farm Bill, that would be brought to the floor of the House.  This seems to indicate that any conference on a comprehensive bill would have to wait until the House had passed a nutrition title.  Perhaps the farm titles could be conferenced now, but the nutrition title would have to wait.

OTA supports an immediate move to conference on a comprehensive Farm Bill.   The Farm Bill extension, that is inadequate for many organic priorities, expires on September 30, and we encourage Congress to send a final Farm Bill to the President before then.  Having said that, the realities of the congressional schedule – the House is only in session for 21 legislative days before September 30 –  indicate that it may be later in the fall before a bill is sent to the President.

In terms of organic priorities heading into conference, there remains more to fight for.  Some priorities are treated differently in the House and Senate bills, which leaves them subject to negotiation in conference.  Other provisions are treated the same in the House and Senate bills, which puts them in the best position going into conference – but they are of course subject to politics that go beyond the Farm Bill.

Contact Marni Karlin, OTA's Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs with questions.

 

Senate

House

Conference?

OREI

$16 million per year in mandatory funding

$20 million per year in mandatory funding

Fight for House language

ODI

$5 million per year in mandatory funding

ZERO funding

Fight for Senate language

NOP

$15 million per year in mandatory funding

$11 million per year in mandatory funding

Fight for Senate language

NOP technology upgrade

$5 million one-time funding

ZERO funding

Fight for Senate language

NOP enforcement tools

Strong enforcement tools with adequate due process protections

Inadequate due process protections

Fight for Senate language

Crop insurance

Requirement that organic price elections are completed by 2015

NO language

Fight for Senate language

Certification cost share

Consolidates two programs into one national program

Repeals national program

Fight for Senate language

Conservation

Language facilitating organic participation in conservation programs

Language facilitating organic participation in conservation programs

Same in both bills

Research and promotion order

Expands exemption for organic operations from conventional checkoffs; authorizes USDA to consider an application for an organic checkoff

Expands exemption for organic operations from conventional checkoffs; authorizes USDA to consider an application for an organic checkoff

Same in both bills



Post-election Farm Bill scenarios (posted October 26, 2012)


As you know, we are currently operating without a Farm Bill - the 2008 Farm Bill expired at midnight on September 30.  House Leadership was unwilling to bring the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote in advance of the election.

So, what happens after the election?  It’s still unclear, and probably depends in large part on the results of the election – both in terms of who wins the presidency, and what happens in the House and Senate.  Although House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said this week that he intended to bring the “issue” to the floor after the election, that is not a clear commitment to bringing a five year Farm Bill to a vote.  Cantor was vague about what might happen in the short time frame available.

One possibility is, the House returns after the elections and brings its Farm Bill to the floor, passes it with amendments, and sends it to conference with the Senate-passed Farm Bill.  A final bill is approved by both houses and sent to the President for his signature before the end of the year.  Most still think the odds of this happening are slim.  Congress will be in session for at most five weeks between the election and the end of the year.

Another possibility is that a negotiated Farm Bill could be attached as an amendment to something else moving through Congress during the lame duck session – something related to tax cuts or the sequester, potentially.  This would eliminate the need to separately conference the Farm Bill, but would still require significant work and negotiation in advance of any movement in either house of Congress.  This seems a more likely way for any five year Farm Bill to move through Congress before the end of the year.

A third possible path is for Congress to return after the election and pass a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill until a date sometime in 2013.  Then, the new Congress that is seated in January 2013 would be tasked with starting the Farm Bill process anew – with both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees writing new bills that would wind their way through committee and floor processes.  These new bills would operate under a new budget baseline, which would mean a new calculation of costs and savings associated with the bills.  The process would have to start all over again, and new bills must be introduced, marked up in Committee, and voted on in both the Senate and the House.

It continues to be incredibly important for you to hold your Senators and Representatives accountable for failing to pass a Farm Bill.  Contact them and let them know you expect them to return after the election and pass a Farm Bill that includes important organic priorities, including those that ended with the expiration of the Farm Bill in September.  Feel free to reach out to me at (202) 403-8511 or
mkarlin@ota.com if you have any questions or want help in reaching out to your Members of Congress.


The 2008 Farm Bill has expired: What Does This Mean and What Do We Do Now? (posted October 1, 2012)


We woke up this morning to a world without a Farm Bill—the 2008 Farm Bill expired at midnight. Congress failed to pass a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, or fully reauthorize the Farm Bill, in time. This puts our nation’s food and agriculture policy in limbo. Although the Continuing Resolution which keeps the government funded through the end of March 2013 did include an extension for food stamps and a number of related nutrition programs, nothing else covered by the Farm Bill was extended.

Crop insurance is also not affected by the Farm Bill’s expiration, because the authority for federal crop insurance is in the Federal Crop Insurance Act, not the Farm Bill. Although we were working to include improvements to crop insurance for organic farmers in the Farm Bill – namely removing the surcharge and completing the price election – nothing about the current crop insurance program is affected by the expiration (and of course, whenever Congress does turn to a Farm Bill, we will continue our efforts to make crop insurance more fair for organic farmers).

In addition, some conservation programs, including Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), had their legal authorities extended through 2014 by the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act.

But what happens to all of the other programs included in the Farm Bill? If a new Farm Bill is not enacted (or the current Farm Bill is not extended), the Farm Bill commodity programs would revert to permanent law found in the 1938 and 1949 Farm Bills. This generally is an incentive that pushes Congress to get its work done on time – but they are pushing the limit this year. Dairy policy would be the first to revert to permanent law – and that would happen on January 1, 2013, if Congress does not pass an extension or new Farm Bill by then. Grain and other commodities would do so once the 2013 crop year begins. Most people believe that Congress will do something – pass a full Farm Bill or pass a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill – before the end of the year to prevent this from happening.

Moreover, there are a number of programs that have zero funding starting today. This includes the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives, as well as export development programs like MAP and TASC. All grants, loans, and research projects funded by these programs are on hold until the Farm Bill is extended or reauthorized. This is bad for organic farmers who need access to cost share to be able to be certified, and for research throughout the organic industry. Each of these programs was included for renewed mandatory funding in either the Senate-passed or House Committee-passed bill – so there is political support for each program – but expiration of the Farm Bill calls them all into question, at least in the short term.

So, what happens next? No one really knows, but there are a couple of possible paths forward. One is the House returns after the elections and brings its Farm Bill to the floor, passes it with amendments, and sends it to conference with the Senate-passed Farm Bill. A final bill is approved by both houses and sent to the President for his signature before the end of the year. Most think the odds of this happening are slim. Congress will be in session for at most five weeks between the election and the end of the year, and Republican House leadership has shown no inclination to bring the bill to the floor. It is hard to see why that would change.

Another possible path is for Congress to return after the elections and pass a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill until a date sometime in 2013. Then, the new Congress that is seated in January 2013 would be tasked with starting the Farm Bill process anew – with both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees writing new bills that would wind their way through committee and floor processes. These new bills would operate under a new budget baseline, which would mean a new calculation of costs and savings associated with the bills. The process would have to start all over again, and new bills must be introduced, marked up in Committee, and voted on in both the Senate and the House.

It continues to be incredibly important for you to hold your Senators and Representatives accountable for failing to pass a Farm Bill. Contact them and let them know you expect them to return from the elections and pass a Farm Bill that includes important organic priorities, including those that ended with the expiration of the Farm Bill last night. Feel free to reach out to me at 202-403-8511 or mkarlin@ota.com if you have any questions or want help in reaching out to your Members of Congress.



2012 Farm Bill - Organic Programs and Priorities: Where We Are Today (posted July 13, 2012)

The Senate passed its Farm Bill on June 21.  The Senate bill reauthorized many farm and nutrition programs, and made about $4.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (commonly known as food stamps).  It also cut about $5 billion in direct subsidies to farmers.  With regard to organic priorities, the Senate bill reauthorized at strong funding levels the major organic programs; increased USDA enforcement authority; made cost share national; required organic price elections to be completed; and required a study on an organic check-off program.

In the early hours of July 12, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill.  This has a number of significant differences from the Senate bill.  It made about $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and added some price supports for peanut, cotton and rice producers.  With regard to organic priorities, the House Committee-passed bill reauthorized most organic programs at slightly lower funding levels; repealed the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program; increased USDA enforcement authority; and included language regarding crop insurance.

What happens next?  The Farm Bill can now go to the House floor for a vote – but we are hearing that it may bypass that step and go straight to conference with the Senate.  The differences in the bill would then need to be worked out in Conference Committee (made up of Agriculture Committee members from both the Senate and the House) – and would then go to the President for his signature.

We are working on strategies to ensure that our outstanding priorities – namely organic research and promotion order technical fixes, organic crop insurance, and certification cost-share – are adequately addressed in conference and included in the bill that goes to the President for his signature.

The following pages include a chart outlining the differences between the Senate and House bills, and the 2008 Farm Bill as enacted; and descriptions of key organic programs and policy provisions.

Contact
Marni Karlin, Associate Director for Legislative and Legal Affairs, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.




Comparison of Senate and House bills, and 2008 bill as enacted



Program

2008 Farm Bill

Senate Bill (Passed)

House Bill (Passed Cmte)

National Organic Program

Funded at $5m (FY08), $6.5m (FY09), $8m (FY10), $9.5m (FY11), and $11m (FY12)

Reauthorized, $15m per year plus one-time $5m for technology upgrades

Reauthorized, $11m per year plus one-time $5m for technology upgrades

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative

Funded at $18m (FY09), $20m (FY10-12) plus $25m per year authorization for appropriations

Reauthorized, $16m per year plus $25m per year authorization for appropriations

Reauthorized, $16m per year plus $25m per year authorization for appropriations

Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives

Funded at $5m lump sum over life of bill plus $5m per year authorization for appropriations

Reauthorized, $5m over life of bill plus $5m per year authorization for appropriations. Includes coordination language to improve data collection for creation of organic price elections (see organic crop insurance)

Reauthorized, $5m over life of bill plus $5m per year authorization for appropriations

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

$22m mandatory funding over life of bill

Reauthorized, $57.5m over life of bill through the Agricultural Management Assistance program

Repealed

AMA Certification Cost Share

Funded at $1.5m (10% of AMA) per year for 16 AMA states

Underlying AMA organic cost share certification is moot; bill makes provision national

Maintains underlying AMA organic certification cost share provision at $1m per year for 16 AMA states

Organic Crop Insurance

Language in bill but never fully carried out by USDA

Requires USDA to complete organic price series within 36 months

Bill amended to include language comparable to 2008 Farm Bill

Organic Check-Off

No language in bill

Requires Secretary to conduct a study and report to Congress on the creation of an organic research and promotion program

No language in bill

Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative

Language to improve organic access to conservation programs. Sets cap on payment limits for organic farmers

No language to improve coordination between organic and conservation programs, and improve assistance for transitioning growers. Payment cap remains. Strikes NOP definition, and moves OFPA reference to OSP definition

No language to improve coordination between organic and conservation programs, and improve assistance for transitioning growers. Payment cap remains. Strikes definitions of OSP and NOP

National Organic Program Enforcement

No language in bill

Increases enforcement authority

Increases enforcement authority



Descriptions of Key Organic Programs


National Organic Program (NOP) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that performs regulatory oversight and maintains the integrity of the USDA organic label. NOP enforces organic standards, accredits certifiers, develops equivalency agreements with foreign governments, handles complaints, and investigates fraud.

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is USDA’s competitive grants program dedicated to the needs of the organic community.

Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives is USDA’s multi-agency organic data collection initiative that collects information vital to maintaining stable markets, creating risk management tools, and increasing exports.  It is important that organic producers continue to be included in the Census of Agriculture so that policymakers and farmers alike can assess the size and scope of the industry.

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program assists small farmers and handlers in offsetting a portion of the costs of annual certification.  Obtaining organic certification can be expensive for small producers and without this assistance, being certified organic may be overly burdensome for some farmers and handlers.


Descriptions of Key Organic Policy Provisions

Organic Crop Insurance:  There is currently a 5% premium surcharge on organic crops.  The 2008 Farm Bill included language mandating that the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) conduct studies on the loss experience of organic crops vs. non-organic crops, and eliminate the premium surcharge unless the studies showed variations in losses for organic crops vs. non-organic crops.  The studies showed no conclusive data to justify the surcharge – but the surcharge has not been removed.  The Senate bill does not eliminate the surcharge on organic crops.  The House bill was amended in Committee to address this issue.  The amendment language was in flux during the markup and we will report back once its exact effects are clear.

Additionally, when organic farmers experience losses they are reimbursed at conventional crop prices, not organic prices.  The 2008 Farm Bill directed USDA’s Risk Management Agency  (RMA)to offer organic producers separate price elections.  The USDA only completed the price elections for four types of organic crops.  The Senate bill requires RMA to complete the organic price elections.  The House bill was amended in committee to include language to address this.  The amendment language was in flux during the markup and we will report back once its exact effects are clear.

Organic Check-Off:  The 2002 Farm Bill exempted organic producers and handlers from marketing and promotion programs for conventional commodities.  However, the language was so narrowly drafted that it only exempted those that solely produce organic AND are 100 percent organic.  Many farmers and handlers market both organic and conventional products and the primary USDA organic label requires only 95% organic.  OTA has lobbied on behalf of organic producers and handlers being exempted from check-off programs if they are 95% organic, and even if they produce or handle both organic and conventional products.   No language was included in the Senate or House bill to fully exempt organic producers and handlers from conventional check-off programs.  In House Committee markup, an amendment was offered to address this, but it was scuttled.  We are working hard on a strategy to keep the amendment alive throughout the rest of the process.

Currently there are 19 check-off programs covering various commodities. The organic industry does not have the authority under federal law to create a multi-commodity program to promote organic.  The Senate bill directs the Secretary to assess the feasibility of creating an organic research and promotion program and report to Congress.  The House bill does not contain any language on this.  In House Committee markup, an amendment was offered to address this, but it was scuttled.  We are working hard on a strategy to keep the amendment alive throughout the rest of the process.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative:  The 2008 Farm Bill contained provisions to open access and encourage organic farmers and those transitioning to organic to participate in conservation programs such as EQIP and CSP. In implementing this provision, NRCS allocated $50 million a year to the EQIP Organic Initiative.  OTA has advocated for changes to better coordinate NOP requirements with EQIP, and to train USDA conservation staff in organic farming systems and serving transitioning producers.  Provisions to improve coordination and access for organic farmers in EQIP and CSP were not included in the Senate or House bill.

Additionally, the 2008 Farm Bill set a cost share limit for organic and transitioning farmers of $20,000 per year for conservation program participation. This payment limit is not applied to non-organic farmers. The EQIP organic payment limit remains in the Senate and House bills.

National Organic Program Enforcement Language:  Both the Senate and House bills contain language increasing the Secretary’s authority to enforce NOP standards and prevent fraudulent labeling. The Senate and House bills grant the Secretary authority to carry out investigations, subpoena witnesses, and obtain documents related to an investigation. (There are some differences in the details.)  Additionally, the Secretary would be able to suspend or revoke organic certification for producers and handlers who don’t cooperate with an investigation and allow for a civil penalty for violation of a revocation order. In the Senate bill, if a producer or handler was found to have misrepresented a product as organic the Secretary could immediately stop the sale of the mislabeled product.


Super-Committee fails, work continues on the Farm Bill

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super-Committee) announced on November 21 that it had failed to reach an agreement on how to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next ten years. This means that automatic cuts across all government agencies will begin in 2013 in an effort to find $1.5 trillion in savings over the next decade. Also, the 2012 Farm Bill will likely go through the regular legislative process next year, instead of being included in a Super-Committee package this year. According to their press release, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees provided the Super-Committee with $23 billion in proposed savings, including authorization for programs funded through the Farm Bill, but the recommendations were not released to the public.

According to multiple sources on the Hill, programs important to the organic industry, including the National Organic Program, Organic Data Initiative, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Program, and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program were addressed in the Committees' proposal. As you can see in the below grid, the latest recommendations reflected the “asks” we presented in most areas except the cost-share program, with the National Organic Program receiving mandatory funds to specifically increase its technological capabilities to improve efficiency and the ability to oversee certified organic products, along with an increase in authorized funding. Funding for organic data collection was included at the same levels as the 2008 Farm Bill, with mandatory and authorized funding. The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative was said to be funded at $80 million over the life of the next farm bill, and $2 million more than that in the 2008 Farm Bill. According to our sources, the National Organic Cost Share Program was the most impacted in the recommendations, as the program would have lost mandatory funding, instead receiving authorized funding requiring approval by the Appropriations Committees every year. A new cap was also included that would have limited participation in the Cost Share Program to five years, with the first year for all operations beginning in 2013.

We expect the 2012 Farm Bill writing process to begin early in 2012, as much of the work was completed in the hopes of including the bill in the Super-Committee package. However, this means changes to programs important to the organic industry will be subject to more scrutiny and possible revision from what was reportedly included in the Agriculture Committees' recommendations. We will work to maintain the positive provisions that were included in the recommendations, and make improvements where possible, especially to the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

The willingness of OTA's members and organic consumers to engage their members of Congress over the past several weeks was critical to the organic programs being funded in the recommendations, especially when the Agriculture Committees were looking for $23 billion in cuts. More than 10,000 e-mails, letters, and phone calls were made since Oct. 20. This strong showing of support will be absolutely necessary to ensure that provisions for organic programs will continue through the next Farm Bill.


Take Action. Protect Organic in the 2012 Farm Bill

OTA is asking for your immediate assistance regarding imminent cuts to funding for programs that are critical to the organic industry. In  order to reach deficit reduction requirements, Members of Congress are currently facing the daunting task of determining where the unprecedented spending cuts can, and will, come from. While the  funding for organic programs--130 million dollars over the last five years--is miniscule in regards to the overall budget, everything is under scrutiny and consideration. This includes the National Organic Program, data collection, certification cost-share, and research. In fact, everything that receives federal funding and provides the basis  for our industry to continue to grow and add jobs in a faltering economy may be impacted. We need your help. Please email your elected federal officials and make sure they remember the importance  of organic while making these tough decisions. Then invest five more minutes of your day to help protect the years of investment you have made in your business by making a few simple phone calls. Please contact Will Telligman, OTA Legislative and Advocacy Manager, or Laura Batcha, OTA Executive Vice President, with any questions.


House Agriculture Committee Members Express Support for Organic Programs

On October 27th, six Democratic Members of the House Agriculture Committee sent a
letter to House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) expressing their support for organic programs. Joe Baca (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over organic agriculture, is included on the letter. This letter provided a method by which support for organic programs could be expressed in the closed process that is being used to make recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Deficit Super-committee).


Additionally, Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), both Members of the House Agriculture Committee, sent letters of their own to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) to make their support for organic programs known.


Recommendations from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to the Super-committee are due by Tuesday, November 1st.

OTA weighs in to House and Senate Ag. Committees on Farm Bill

OTA sent a letter to Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas, and Ranking Members Roberts and Peterson as they prepare proposals for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization. OTA expressed the strong need for continuing investments in organic agriculture. Read the letter here.

House and Senate Agriculture Committees Commit to Finding $23 Billion in Cuts

On October 17th, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees sent a joint letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super- Committee) promising to provide a detailed plan to cut $23 billion in agriculture spending by November 1st. The letter highlights the cuts that agricultural programs have sustained in recent years and 37 programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill, which do not have baseline funding to continue beyond 2012. Among the 37 programs that do not have baseline, and must be reauthorized in the 2012 Farm Bill, are the National Organic Program, Organic Data Initiative, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, and National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. 

Senator Gillibrand Requests Support for Organic Programs

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on October 12th, 2011, requesting support for organic programs in the 2012 Farm Bill and deficit reduction discussions.  The letter highlights the importance of several programs, including the National Organic Program, data collection, research, conservation, and support for transition to organic production.  She also highlight the continued growth of the organic industry, and the need to meet consumer demand of organic products.               

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Farm Bill Hearing in Kansas

On September 25th, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a field hearing in Wichita, KS this morning entitled “Looking Ahead: Kansas and the 2012 Farm Bill.” Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) attended the hearing, which was composed of 17 witnesses on three panels. The Chairwoman and Ranking Member highlighted the funding cuts that have been made thus far to agriculture, with more expected in the upcoming Farm Bill. The Chairwoman also said she hopes to defend agriculture funding in the discussions that are to be held by the bi-partisan, bi-cameral super-committee, which has been tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings. Chairwoman Stabenow said the super-committee will be accepting recommendations from Congressional Committee Chairs until October 14th, and that the Senate Agriculture Committee is looking for ways to streamline and consolidate agriculture programs for savings.


The first panel was composed of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas State University President Dr. Kirk Shulz. Governor Brownback’s testimony focused on water and soil conservation, and specifically the need for funding to preserve the Ogallala aquifer. Dr. Shulz’s testimony focused on research funding, including the importance of continued mandatory funding for organic. 


The second panel was composed of various agricultural groups in the state of Kansas while, the third panel was filled with miscellaneous panelists including lenders, an electric cooperative, a food company, and a grain company. The panelists discussed the importance of the programs funded by the 2008 Farm Bill, including farm safety net programs, conservation programs, and research funding. 


The testimony of each panelist is available here. Chairwoman Stabenow’s press release can be seen here, while Ranking Member Roberts’ press release is posted here.


House Agriculture Subcommittees Discuss Organic Programs

On July 7, two House Agriculture Committee Subcommittees held hearings to audit USDA programs that impact the organic industry. The Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry met in the morning, with the Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture meeting in the afternoon, in preparation for the next Farm Bill. Read more.

Senate Agriculture Committee holds first official Farm Bill hearing

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) of Senate Agriculture Committee on May 26 held her first 2012 Farm Bill hearing to discuss the ability of U.S. agriculture to feed the world and help the world feed itself.  An expert witness panel testified at the hearing on the provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, and potential changes for the next one. Also testifying, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned organic as an important part of the effort to rebuild rural America with agriculture as an economic base.  Opening statements and recording of the hearing are available online.
A summary of the hearing can be seen here.

House and Senate Agriculture Committee Hearings

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees held hearings on the state of the agricultural economy on Feb. 17, 2011 with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack testifying.  The hearings served as another pre-Farm Bill session to for the Committees to understand the multiple issues that agriculture is facing.  Organic was specifically mentioned a few times, but the main topics discussed were the negative impacts the Environmental Protection Agency on agriculture, the need for a strong safety net for farmers, and the need for stability in the commodity markets.  Notes from the hearings can be read here. (OTA Members Only Resource)

Senate Agriculture Committee 2012 Farm Bill Hearing


The Senate Agriculture Committee held its first Farm Bill hearing on June 30th.  The hearing was the first of four that the Committee plans to hold in the coming months.  Secretary Tom Vilsack of USDA, Bob Stallman of the Farm Bureau, Roger Johnson of the National Farmers’ Union, and four farmers gave testimony at the hearing.  The hearing did not discuss organic specifically, but looked at broad issues that the Committee will focus on going forward.  Read a summary of the issues discussed during the hearing.  (OTA Members Only Resource)

2012 Farm Bill Hearings Continue

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Thursday, May 13 to continue discussing the 2012 Farm Bill.  This is the second hearing the Committee has held on the subject in Washington, but has also held field hearings around the country over the past several days.  More field hearings are scheduled for the coming week.

Thursday’s hearing questioned two panels of academics on the effectiveness of the farm programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill, and what changes should be considered in the 2012 Farm Bill.  The questioning covered a wide range of topics, but risk management for production farms received the most attention by all members of the Committee.  Other topics included nutrition, food safety, young farmers in rural America, and biotechnology.  Organic was not mentioned specifically, as the hearing focused on production agriculture in general.  Many of the questions were about how to save money due to the current fiscal crisis. Read the summary of general issues covered.

House Agriculture Committee begins 2012 Farm Bill hearings

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on April 21 to begin discussing the 2012 Farm Bill.  The hearing covered a broad range of issues, as the Farm Bill deals with many programs outside of the farm safety net. Organic was specifically mentioned as an important part of the Farm Bill by Chairman Peterson (D-MN).  However, Rep. GT Thompson (R-PA) is concerned that the USDA may be pushing organic more than conventional agriculture. This was the first hearing, with many more to come, including field hearings that began on Friday, April 30, in the western part of the country.
Read highlights from the hearing directly related to organic and a summary of general issues covered.


Farm Bill Archives


OTA Efforts on the 2008 Farm Bill Pay Off 
(The Organic Report, Summer 2008)


Organic Provisions in 2008 Farm Bill (OTA Members Only Resource)


Outline for Advancing Organic Agriculture in the 2008 Farm Bil


Organic Provisions in 2002 Farm Bill




 
 
2014 Annual Fund

Research and Promotion 2012

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