GREENFIELD, Mass. (May 3, 2002) – An eleventh-hour change to the 2002 Farm Bill exempts farmers who produce only organic products from paying assessments to mandatory commodity promotion programs.
“This is a major victory for organic farmers, who have often felt disenfranchised because the dollars they pay into such programs generally are not used to promote their products,” said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. “In fact, they have been voicing increasing frustration with such requirements.”
The provision exempts only farmers who solely produce and market 100 percent organic products. It does not exempt those who grow both organic and non-organic products, nor handlers of organic products. This amendment requires the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate regulations regarding eligibility for and compliance with such an exemption within a year of the Farm Bill’s enactment.
With this change, a proposal that would have allowed certified organic producers and handlers to credit some of their assessments to a national voluntary generic research and promotion check-off program for organic products was dropped.
Other last-minute changes to organic provisions within the Farm Bill secured $5 million for a national organic certification cost-share program, and removed language that would have set aside money specifically for marketing value-added organic products. However, the amount of money allocated for marketing value-added products, including organic products, was raised to $240 million, from an original $75 million.
“These provisions plus a requirement that data be collected specifically on the production and marketing of organic agricultural products will be very beneficial to U.S. organic farmers and everyone who values how organic agriculture protects the environment and public health,” DiMatteo added.
Organic farmers raise their crops in environmentally sound ways that minimize the use of, and consumers’ exposure to, toxic and persistent pesticides. Organic farming is about building a sustainable future for every aspect of the planet, the soil, water supply, and the health of animals and humans. Consumers who want to avoid exposure to toxic and persistent chemicals can do so by buying organic foods and fiber products, and by choosing organic agricultural methods for home pest control and lawn care.
May 3, 2002
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