Final House Appropriations Testimony 4-14-11 - Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association
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Final House Appropriations Testimony 4-14-11


Statement of Christine Bushway, Executive Director & CEO; cbushway@ota.com

Regarding Fiscal Year 2012 Agricultural Appropriations

Point of Contact: Will Telligman, Legislative & Advocacy Manager; wtelligman@ota.com

April 14, 2011

Chairman Kingston, Ranking Member, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Christine Bushway, Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The organic agricultural economy continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors of American agriculture and is a job creator, with the industry growing by approximately 8% in 2010, compared to 0.6% for the non-organic sector. The U.S. organic industry grew to $29 billion in 2010, with organic food sales representing 4% of the domestic food market.1 In addition, USDA estimates that exports of U.S. organic products were over $1.5 billion in 2010, and continue to climb, creating thousands of jobs.2 In a recent survey of the organic industry, 96% of the respondents plan to maintain or increase employment. Of these, 46% plan to increase their number of employees, compared to the 8% of all US companies.3 To help continue this growth, we respectfully request the following funding levels for programs pertinent to the organic industry: USDA (AMS)- National Organic Program- $10 million; USDA(AMS,NASS)- Organic Data Initiative- $0.3 million for AMS and $1.25 million for NASS; USDA (RCBS)- Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas- $3 million; and USDA (FAS)- Market Access Program- $200 million.

The Organic Trade Association is the membership-based business association representing more than 6,500 organizations in the organic industry including growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy.

National Organic Program (NOP)
OTA supports the President’s request of $10 million for the National Organic Program. This request supports Congress’s intent to enhance NOP as expressed through the 2008 Farm Bill, as well as supporting current NOP projections. USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture: Organic Production Survey reported more than 14,540 farms engaged in organic agriculture production.

NOP performs regulatory oversight over organic agriculture. Recognizing continued growth of the industry, and the need for fiscal restraint, the President’s Budget asks for $10 million, $1 million less than the 2008 Farm Bill authorized for FY 2012 ($11 million), and $3 million more than what NOP is operating on under the current Continuing Resolution. At the current funding level of $6.9 million, the industry is returning over $200 for every $1 spent on the NOP, representing a strong return on investment for the federal government.

The $3 million increase over FY 2010/2011 provides stronger support for regulatory review, enforcement, and development of equivalency agreements for increased trade. Additional funding will also assist accredited certifying agents with training costs to enhance compliance with program regulations. Each of these areas is critical to the integrity of the program, which is critical to maintain consumer confidence and grow demand.

Organic Data Initiative (ODI)
ODI collects and disseminates data regarding organic agriculture through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This program has been highly successful in providing valuable information to Congress, government agencies and the organic industry at a low cost. ODI received $5 million total mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill to begin the process, and was authorized an additional $5 million per year. For Fiscal Year 2012, AMS requires an additional $0.3 million, while NASS requires an additional $1.25 million.

AMS collects organic prices and disseminates the data through Market News Reports, which give producers and buyers knowledge of farm-gate selling prices for several organic commodities, helping to create a more stable organic market. This is an excellent first step, but organic pricing information falls far behind what is available to conventional agriculture. Organic producers currently only receive farm-gate prices for a limited number of commodities, while conventional producers receive farm-gate, terminal and retail price information for many commodities in all regions of the country. Organic producers, processors and retailers need this information to maintain a stable organic market. We therefore request $0.3 million for AMS to continue and expand organic price reporting services in FY 2012. 

NASS provides surveys based on Census of Agriculture data. In February 2010, NASS released the Organic Production Survey (2008), the first survey to provide a state-by-state collection of the amount of farmland used for organic production and gross farm sales of organic products. Such information has been provided for conventional production, and should continue to be funded for organic production. OTA requests that NASS receive $1.25 million in FY 2012, the amount necessary to begin the preliminary work for the next Organic Production Survey.

Unfortunately, the President’s Budget only includes $0.3 million for AMS organic price collection, and does not include required funding for NASS to carry out its charge.

Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG)
OTA requests the Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program in FY 2012 be funded at the President’s Request of $5 million. Authorized by Section 406 of the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998, ORG provides funding for research grants that specifically study the relationship between organic agriculture and improving critical water quality problems. This program consistently receives many more funding requests than it can accommodate.

As organic retail sales have grown to 4% of retail agriculture sales, research funding provided to organic agriculture has only reached and estimated 1.8% as of FY 2010.4
Without continued funding of ORG as an organic specific research grant program, this gap will likely increase. The program should be funded at $5 million to continue and grow this important research.

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
We request $3 million to fund Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. ATTRA helps thousands of organic and conventional farmers across the country by supplying information about a wide range of issues. A sampling of topics that are routinely asked about are: creating rural jobs by encouraging farming; developing new marketing opportunities by focusing on local foods, farm-to-school, and farmers markets; reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides; employing farm practices that help protect air, water, and soil resources; and reducing energy and water use. ATTRA reports that 30% of the calls received are in regards to organic practices.

Market Access Program (MAP)
The Organic Trade Association requests that the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program remain fully funded at $200 million, as authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. According to the USDA, U.S. agricultural exports have increased by nearly 300 percent since the program was begun in 1985. The Market Access Program focuses on gaining and maintaining access to mature and developed organic markets. It enables US organic products to gain market shares and stay competitive in markets across the world. Half (49%) of exporters turn to the USDA branded programs, state agencies, the OTA generic programs and/or other organizations for assistance with international business development activities. MAP serves as a “BUY AMERICAN” program by promoting only American-grown and produced commodities. In effect, it protects American jobs and increases farm income.

Organic agriculture gives more economic opportunities for farmers and rural communities, while improving and conserving the condition of the environment and giving consumers the choice to buy foods and other products that are produced according to organic standards. Meeting these funding requests will help to ensure the continued growth of U.S. organic agriculture by promoting and supporting the integrity of the organic label, providing important data, and continuing to support research for organic agriculture.

I thank the Committee and look forward to working with you to advance the organic industry.

1 Organic Trade Association’s 2010 Organic Industry Survey and 2011 Organic Industry Survey.

2 “Every $1 billion increase in exports supports more than 6,000 additional jobs”. Remarks by President Obama at the Export-Import Bank's Annual Conference. March 11, 2010.  

3 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, March 2011.

4 Estimated total FY 2010 organic Research, Extension, and Economic (REE) spending is approximately $51 million out of approximately $2.9 billion for the REE mission area. This includes: OREI ($20 million), ORG ($5 million), ARS direct organic ($17 million), ODI ($1 million), and other NIFA grants ($8 million).

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