Public hearing includes discussion of 2008 Farm Bill provisions for organic agriculture
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 28, 2009)--Questions and answers about the National Organic Program (NOP) fielded at a public hearing held today by the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture pointed to the new funding level for NOP and how this will be used to address concerns that members of Congress have been hearing.
Discussing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is implementing some of the provisions of Title X (Horticulture and Organic Agriculture) of the 2008 Farm Bill, Rayne Pegg of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) noted that NOP, now an independent program area within AMS, has recently hired a Deputy Administrator, Miles McEvoy, and will be hiring ten additional staff.
When asked about issues such as rulemaking for allowing sulfurous acid to adjust soil pH as recommended by the National Organic Standards Board in May and policing the use of the organic label, Pegg noted that NOP staff has primarily been focusing on rulemaking for access to pasture. However, increased allocations by Congress will enable NOP to have the additional staff needed to move forward on these other issues. She agreed that it is important to get helpful tools out to organic producers as soon as possible.
Pegg pointed out that NOP received $3.86 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2009, and is set to get $6.96 million in FY2010. In addition, NOP is undergoing a review of its accreditation process and program by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In 2009, the cost-share allocation for farmers’ organic certification costs increased from a maximum of $500 to $750. She noted that in 2009, $4.3 million was distributed to the states for allocations to farmers.
In addition to information about USDA’s programs affecting organic producers, much of the discussion at the hearing focused on USDA’s new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative and specialty crop block grants.