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USDA12-30-05

USDA: Support Organic Agriculture in the Farm Bill 12-30-05 - Organic Trade Association
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USDA: Support Organic Agriculture in the Farm Bill 12-30-05

 

Support Organic Agriculture and the Organic Industry Through Targeted Programs:

Comments of the Organic Trade Association on

“Notice of meetings and request for comments”,

Federal Register, Vol. 70, No. 116, Friday, June 17, 2005

 

Submitted by:

Tom Hutcheson, Associate Policy Director

December 30, 2005

 

The Organic Trade Association thanks Secretary Johanns for this opportunity to comment regarding the 2007 Farm Bill.  Please note that we have appended an outline and background papers for an organic title for the 2007 Farm Bill which provide specific recommendations for addressing the questions below.

 

Key Issues for Comment

 

Question 1: The competitiveness of U.S. agriculture in global and domestic markets.  

How should farm policy be designed to maximize U.S. competitiveness and our country's ability to effectively compete in global markets?

 

Farmers have to give consumers what they want, especially in the global marketplace.  Consumer demand for organic product has grown consistently as the availability of organic products has grown, with no projected market saturation point.  Programs that support healthy consumer preferences, together with environmental benefits, should be supported. Conservation programs, which are in the World Trade Organization green box, should likewise be encouraged—for example, by recognizing the conservation contributions of organic farmers.  Price supports are of course likely to meet continued challenges in the WTO.

 

Agricultural production should include adding value on the farm wherever possible (including farming organically), and close to the farm in local communities, as a rural development strategy, making rural communities net exporters of finished food, fiber, and other agricultural products.  USDA should support organic production as an attractive added-value option for farmers. In this regard, USDA should also support net value production rather than gross tonnage. USDA programs supporting those who raised the greatest yields per acre have discouraged farmers from switching to higher value crops with reduced yield.


US organic products are being exported and programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) help the organic trade establish markets in foreign countries.  However, organic exporters are not eligible for USDA's export incentive programs such as DEIP (Dairy Export Incentive Program) because very little price data on organic products is available.


 

Question 2: The challenges facing new farmers and ranchers as they enter agriculture.

How should farm policy address any unintended consequences and ensure that such consequences do not discourage new farmers and the next generation of farmers from entering production agriculture?

 

Unintended consequences of past farm policies also include 1) unknown risks and consequences of the use of synthetic, persistent pesticides use and 2) the uncertainties inherent in farms as non-point-source polluters (possibly inviting increased EPA regulation), and 3) the uncertainties inherent in being a highly subsidized business, with the possibility of financial support restructuring, including shifting from commodity price support to conservation programs (as above).  New farmers should be made aware of these structural aspects of farm support and have good information available about organic farming as an attractive alternative. 

Specifically, USDA's Farm Service Agency should strongly maintain both its Direct Farm Ownership (DFO) loans and Guaranteed Farm Ownership (GFO) loans to help young or other beginning farmers to get started in farming.  The DFO is funded at $200 million for FY2006 and the GFO is funded at $1.4 billion. Many private banks are not loaning to agriculture anymore due to the high risk, so these kind of loans are critical for beginning farmers. Organic farmers are eligible to use them, and they do.  The funding for the DFO should be increased to at least $500 million.

In addition, land prices are a difficult problem since they are increasing at a rapid rate, particularly in places such as the Northeast, with farmers competing against developers. USDA should put more emphasis and funds into its Farmland Protection Program, which is now funded at only $112 million annually.

 

Question 3: The appropriateness and effectiveness of the distribution of farm program benefits.  

How should farm policy be designed to effectively and fairly distribute assistance to producers?

 

Producers should be rewarded for conservation and pollution-reduction practices, for example, for farming organically. As they are rewarded by the market, they can seek fewer subsidies and less support that discriminates in favor of high-yield, low-value agriculture.

Question 4: The achievement of conservation and environmental goals.  

How can farm policy best achieve conservation and environmental goals?

 

The primary support of farmers should be through pollution-reduction programs and conservation and restoration programs.  These include activities which are in part mandated in organic production, such as not using persistent synthetic pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers that may easily be poorly absorbed or over-applied.

More funds should go into conservation programs in the next farm bill, though details of this still need to be refined.  Also, USDA should develop an package of conservation practices aimed at assisting organic producers specifically.

Question 5: The enhancement of rural economic growth.  

How can Federal rural and farm programs provide effective assistance in rural areas?

 

The natural resources economy, including farming, is the primary economy, and if developed appropriately, such as through organic production, can help reduce local agricultural pollution and its attendant ills.  Developing rural agricultural systems can include promoting small farms that market locally (including community-supported or subscription farms) as well as promoting operations that add value, such as organic farms. In combination, these practices can significantly strengthen Americans’ food security.

 

Adding value to primary production is the definition of the secondary economy, which draws related services and therefore employment, such as, in the organic system, suppliers of farm inputs suitable for organic production, organic farm inspectors, and organic food processors.  USDA should keep these fundamentals in mind in promoting rural development programs.

Many of these programs at USDA have been cut deeply.  The Value Added Producer Grants should be re-authorized and fully funded. Many organic producers are using these grants. The Rural Business Enterprise Grant should be re-authorized and fully funded at least at the $40 million level and should also give emphasis to organic businesses as the fastest-growing sector in agriculture. Low interest loans for organic producers and processors should be considered, including a separate program specific to organic farmers under the Farm Services Administration.

Question 6: The opportunities to expand agricultural products, markets, and research.  

How should agricultural product development, marketing and research-related issues be addressed in the next farm bill?

 

Organic production is ready to take a major step forward with only relatively minor resources invested in research, product development, and marketing.  Increased USDA support for agronomic research is necessary, but product development has been satisfied entirely by industry up to this point.

 

USDA support for marketing, such as organic price reporting and the revision of market and promotion orders, could also help stimulate the industry.  For example, demand for organic raisins can be rising even as demand for non-organic raisins is falling, resulting in current volume limitations impeding the measured growth of organic production.

Monies for organic research are so small they are hard to calculate. Organic gets about $5 million total ($1.9 million in CSREES and $3 million under the ARS funding from 2002 Farm Bill authorizations). If organic got just 2% of the $800 USDA research budget, which represents the approximate market share of organic product sales,  then research into organic production organic should receive at least $16 million instead of the current $5 million.

 

A farm bill title for organic production and handling

 

Due to a number of issues specific to organic production, OTA also proposes that the 2007 include a title specific to organic production.  These issues include the need for targeted policy initiatives, additional administrative support, re-authorization of 2002 Farm Bill items (along with related legislation), and the need for various research and education programs targeted to organic production that currently exist only for other agricultural interests.

 

Following, please find an outline of OTA’s proposed organic title, along with background papers for each of the four proposed sections.

 

Thank you very much for your consideration.

 


 

A Proposed Farm Bill Title for Organic Production and Handling

Organic Trade Association

 

 

1) Creating a National Organic Agriculture Initiative

Despite the decades-long growth of organic production and sales, there is currently no national strategy for solidifying, maintaining, and enhancing the development of the sector.  Neither USDA nor Congress has provided a vision of what the organic sector should look like in the future. OTA proposes both specific action targets and policy initiatives as part of a comprehensive national organic initiative.

 

Targets
  • Authorize creation of acreage targets for policy guidance: e.g., 5% acreage by 2012
    • small farmer transition education and payments
  • Authorize creation of production targets for policy guidance, e.g., 10% retail food sales by 2012
  • Provide budget targets to coincide with acreage/production targets
  • Initiate export targets
    • balanced trade (exports equal to imports)
    • create organic export incentive program

 

Policy initiatives

·         Support existing organic farmers

o        marketing orders (see below)

o        certification cost-share (see below)

·         Analyze National Organic Policy

o        policy and program gaps in supporting organic

·         Study the effects of Organic Identity Standards

o        consumer research (ERS)

o        marketing studies (AMS)

·         Determine sense Of Congress On Organic Policy Coordination

·         Declare that organic product will be treated as a commodity for data and marketing purposes, and exempt all organic producers from

o        promotion orders (if not covered by the 2002 Farm Bill)

o        marketing orders (if not covered by the 2002 Farm Bill)

o        import quotas

o        tariffs

 

2) Establishing an Organic Production Office

USDA interest in, and support for, organic agricultural production and related data and programs has been increasing steadily since the 1980s.  To date, ten agencies in five of USDA’s seven mission areas are actively working on organic projects.  Despite this increased interest and support, including federal legislation and regulation of products labeled as organic, these multiple agencies are working without formal coordination. An Organic Production Office (OPO) would first be responsible for coordinating communication between all USDA organic programs to ensure the maximum amount of cooperative effort.  This would include monitoring the activities of all USDA agencies that have an effect on organic production, such as APHIS, FSIS and GIPSA, even if they are not directly involved in working on organic systems.

 

·         Establish an Organic Production Office within a USDA mission area

o        responsible for coordinating all USDA organic programs

§         liaison to AMS (and NOP), ARS, CSREES, ERS, FAS, NAL, NASS, NRCS, RMA, etc.

o        responsible for inter-agency coordination (EPA, FDA, etc.)

 

3) Supporting And Enhancing Existing Organic Legislation

Six provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill were directed toward supporting organic agriculture.  While this was a distinct improvement from pervious years, some of the authorizations were not funded, and some that were implemented are problematic.  OTA proposes re-authorization of  2002 Farm Bill items for organic production and handling, especially:

 

·         §7407, organic production and market data initiatives

·         §7408, international organic research collaboration

·         §7409, report on producers and handlers of organic agricultural products

o        includes identification of policy barriers to growing organic sector

·         §10606, certification cost-sharing; increase to $1000

 

In addition, OTA proposes the following measures:

 

·         Delete “100% organic” from §10607, the organic promotion provision

·         Index $5000 small farmer exemption to rate of inflation

·         Amend the title of “The Organic Foods Production Act” to “The Organic Production Act” (would help allow personal care to be covered)

·         Specifically allow personal care product labeling if it meets the NOP Final Rule

·         Authorize and provide funding for personal care organic product rulemaking

 

4) Creating and Enhancing Agency Cooperative Programs

With the implementation of the National Organic Program in October, 2002, the organic supply chain, from farmers to retailers, entered the main stream of American commerce.  Many USDA mission areas and agencies now consider organic concerns routinely when creating and evaluating programs.  In order for organic businesses to be able to fully take advantage of USDA programs, however, more work needs to be done.  Examples of possible USDA support for the organic system, based on current support various other commodities or concerns, follow:

 

  • Agriculture Marketing Service – National Organic Program (AMS-NOP)
    • strengthen accreditation program
      • provide mandatory funding for adequately for continuing ISO 61 compliance
      • provide mandatory funding for ANSI sub-contracting for annual internal audits
    • create an organic price report
    • create a whole-sector organic marketing order for research and promotion

o        authorize and provide funding for organic-specific direct marketing program, through farmers markets, farm stands, direct-to-retail, farm-to-school, etc.

o        require marketing orders to promote a proportional share of funding for organic product

    • authorize and provide funding for accredited certification agent training
  • Agriculture Research Service (ARS)
    • develop and implement an integrated organic research agenda

o        provide mandatory funding for ATTRA (through RBCS) and SARE

o        research the quantity of pollutants avoided by US organic production

§         by crop

§         by region, state, and watershed

  • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
    • provide mandatory funding for a National Program Leader
    • provide mandatory funding for professional development in organic systems and technical assistance training

o        authorize and provide mandatory funding for

§         a new Organic Agriculture Institute (or regional centers)

§         university research and extension

§         grants and fellowships for organic food and agricultural sciences education

§         grants for youth organizations

o        4-H

o        FFA

§         promoting organic in institutional food service

§         promoting pertinent research and focus on organic issues at the land grant universities

§         research money for organic seeds and breeds

§         maintaining public access to non-GMO foundation seeds

§         leveraging existing research and extension programs and requiring “fair share” funding for organic; an “organic farm advisor” staff in each major agricultural state

§         developing private sector support through grants

  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
    • surveys and analysis of the state of organic production, handling, distribution, and retail; trend studies
  • Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS )

o        change customs classification for organic

§         exempt organic meat from BSE embargo for export to Japan

o        collect and provide trade data

·         Farm Service Agency (FSA)

o        provide organic crop production loan supports

·         Child Nutrition and Related Programs

·         Organic pilot program

o        farmers markets

o        organic farmers' market program

§         work with Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Promotion Program

o        mandate that state WIC programs include the option of buying organic food, especially milk and baby foods

      • allow purchase of organic food with food stamps

o        school lunch program

§         increase support for organic food programs by school districts

  • National Agriculture Library (NAL)
    • provide mandatory funding for an international information exchange
    • provide mandatory funding for facilitating agronomic research
    • provide mandatory funding for the facilitation of policy research
  • National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS)
    • improve agricultural census questions and fund special reports
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
    • account for the $15 million annual appropriations for organic
    • expand EQIP to cover organic

o        establish nationwide crop and livestock transition incentives based on successful state models (e.g., Minnesota)

o        count certified organic farms as eligible for CSP money

o        provide incentive payments for transitioning farmers

o        link environmental monitoring to incentive payments:  less sediment, pesticides, and fertilizers in runoff equals greater green payments

    • re-write CSP to delete requiring 100% of acreage to be farmed Tier 3 in order for top payment (adding acreage to organic farms should not reduce payments on existing acreage)
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA)
    • create organic indemnity programs
    • provide risk assessments for organic production
    • discover and pay organic prices for organic crop losses

 


 

A National Organic Initiative

 

Background

 

Despite the decades-long growth of organic production and sales, there is currently no national strategy for solidifying, maintaining, and enhancing the development of the sector.  Neither USDA nor Congress has offered a vision of what the organic sector should look like in the future.

 

Many countries are ahead of the US in this regard and so are in a position to compete effectively with domestic production.  Indeed, a recent report from USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service notes that imports of organic food outweigh exports by a factor or eight to one[1]. Countries with national organic plans include Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and a group of 10 southern African countries (an initiative funded in part by USAID).  Indeed, the European Union as a whole also has an organic plan.  These plans typically include general goals and specific production targets as well as strategies for replacing imports with domestic product and various forms of governmental support.

 

Behind these plans is a recognition that the choice of producing organically includes both economic and environmental benefits.  The choice to farm organically is a serious one and requires a three-year transition; crop yields are usually comparable to non-organic yields only in the fourth year.

 

Consumers have been voting with their dollars for organic products at an increasing rate for decades.  Congress and USDA have provided both the structure within which this market growth could occur and funding to support organic production and marketing, including crop insurance for organic crops, the beginnings of market price reporting, and federal cost-sharing for the required certification.

 

OTA notes that too much reliance on government support can lead to oversupply of organic products, but also notes organic farmers and processors have created a niche that provides environmental benefits throughout the country, and are therefore deserving of public support.  OTA therefore supports a balanced approach to market-led and government-facilitated growth.

 

Balancing market-led and government-facilitated growth

 

Market-led growth is only possible if organic farmers and processors compete on level ground with non-organic farmers and processors.

 

OTA therefore calls for Congress to fund the study it authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill to identify any policy constraints to the growth of the organic niche, including outlining how USDA serves organic farmers through its existing programs.

 

In order to provide an equal demand-side footing for organic products in the marketplace, OTA also calls for market and promotion order reform.  While the provision adopted at the last minute in the last farm bill provides relief for those organic farmers who have completed a transition to organic farming by exempting them from marketing orders, that provision does not cover farmers still making the transition to organic farming, and does not supply the benefits of marketing or promotion orders, and so needs revision. 

 

Organic farmers are currently put in the position of complying with policies that do not benefit the major selling point of their products—that the products were produced according to the most rigorous set of organic standards in the world.  Organic farmers should not have to pay for marketing non-organic products that serve largely—and sometime completely—separate markets.  Instead of requiring organic farmers and processors to subsidize their competitors, Congress should direct USDA to develop one marketing and promotion order covering all organic products.

 

Organic farmers should also not be subject to import quotas or tariffs for non-organic products that are based on largely—and sometime completely—separate markets.   

 

For government-facilitated initiatives, OTA proposes both specific action targets and policy initiatives as part of a comprehensive national organic initiative. 

 

For action targets, Congress should authorize and fund a one-year study recommending government action, including acreage targets for use in guiding future policy: e.g., 5% acreage by 2012, including small farmer transition education and payments.  The study should also recommend production targets for policy guidance, e.g., 10% organic product sold at the farm gate by 2012.

 

Congress should concretely support the policy recommendations of that study by authorizing and providing a realistic budget for USDA to fund the approach toward the acreage and production targets after the study is completed. 

 

To support organic farmers and increase marketing of organic product, Congress should also create export targets for balanced trade (where exports equal to imports) and a substantial organic export incentive program, building on FAS’s Market Access Program.  Currently, the US imports eight times as much organic product (by value) as it imports, suggesting that more energetic export marketing is needed.

 

For policy initiatives, Congress should act to support existing organic farmers in a variety of ways, including, as above, creating an organic marketing order, and boosting certification cost-share programs.  In addition, OTA calls on Congress to fund a study of current policies on organic production and marketing, including identifying policy and program gaps in supporting organic; marketing studies on the effects of the National Organic Program and organic sales; and consumer research.

 

The sense of Congress and removing other barriers

 

OTA further calls on Congress to adopt a sense of Congress on organic policy coordination.  USDA should have a clear, consistent policy supporting organic production and marketing, and each mission area and agency within USDA should implement measures to support organic production and marketing according to its mission.

 

Congress should also declare that organic product will be treated as a commodity for data and marketing purposes, and exempt all organic producers from import quotas and tariffs.

 

Finally, Congress should authorize and fund OTA’s proposals for enhancing USDA programs in order to provide benefits to organic producers similar to those enjoyed by non-organic farmers.

 


 

An Organic Production Office

 

The need

 

USDA interest in, and support for, organic agricultural production and related data and programs has been increasing steadily since the 1980s.  To date, ten agencies in five of USDA’s seven mission areas are actively working on organic projects.  Despite this increased interest and support, including federal legislation and regulation of products labeled as organic, these multiple agencies are working without formal coordination.

 

Organic production encompasses commodity and specialty crops, livestock production, and food processing, resulting in over $10 billion annual retail sales.  In addition, there are emerging sectors in need of federal guidance to ensure consistent policies.  This consistency will in turn secure and enhance the existing consumer confidence that has been gained over the past several decades.

 

One example of the possible efficiencies to be gained by policy coordination is the link between the choices the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service make in developing and funding a research agenda, the risk assessment activities of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) in determining good organic farming practices, and the collection of organic price data by the Agricultural Marketing Service, which RMA could use to reimburse organic farmers for their crops.  All of these activities are linked, but there is no overall coordination, leading to agronomic research and data collection agendas that may not be designed to produce maximum benefit for farmers within the USDA risk management system.

 

The other major concern is activity by agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Grain Inspection, Packer, and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) that do not work directly on organic systems but that might affect the organic business environment in various ways.

 

The current situation

 

Work on organic is currently being done in the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service (including the Foreign Agriculture Service and the Risk Management Agency), Marketing and Regulatory Programs (including the Agricultural Marketing Service, both with its National Organic Program and in data collection), Rural Development (including the Rural Business Cooperative Service), Natural Resources and Environment (including the Natural Resources Conservation Service), and Research, Education, and Economics (including the Agricultural Research Service, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Library, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 

The duties and structure of an Organic Production Office

 

An Organic Production Office (OPO) would first be responsible for coordinating communication between all USDA organic programs to ensure the maximum amount of cooperative effort.  This would include monitoring the activities of all USDA agencies that have an effect on organic production, such as APHIS, FSIS and GIPSA, even if they are not directly involved in working on organic systems.

 

Second, an OPO would be responsible for inter-Departmental coordination, especially with the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, and any other federal agency whose work relates to organic production.

 

A chief administrative officer would work with several USDA program liaisons to other USDA agencies.  Given current patterns of organic work, the bulk of the liaison work would be with FAS, AMS (and NOP), and ERS.  Each staff liaison should be responsible for one additional program at most.  This means that there would be a minimum of four professional liaison staff, with more needed depending on the activities of agencies such as APHIS, FSIS and GIPSA.

 

One clerical staff person should suffice for the office, making a minimum total of six staff.

 

Possible placement

 

While the agency most publicly involved with organic is the National Organic Program, under AMS, their responsibility is limited to administering the Final Rule and the National Organic Standards Board.

 

Each of the individual agencies working on some aspect of organic shares the necessary limitation of their distinct mission and the focused perspective and programs of their agency.  The proper location of a program that serves across several mission areas is either the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Deputy Secretary, though such an office could be placed within a mission area if one accepted the responsibility of championing the issue on both civil service and political levels.

 

If such an Office is created through administrative means before the Farm Bill is considered, of course, there will be no need for legislation.

 


 

Progress Report and Recommendations on

Organic Provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill

 

Six provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill were directed toward supporting organic agriculture.  While this was a distinct improvement from pervious years, some of the authorizations were not funded, and some that were implemented are problematic. 

 

Please refer to OTA’s proposal for organic provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill for a comprehensive recommendation on structuring and implementing an integrated USDA organic policy.

 

SEC. 7218. Organic Agriculture Research And Extension Initiative.

This section provided $3 million per year for organic research, and is the most successful of the 2002 organic provisions.  About 10% of projects submitting grant proposals were funded, somewhat below the CSREES average. 

 

OTA recommends continuing the authorization of (and appropriations for) this program, as research in organic production proportionately lags behind funding for conventional research.

 

SEC. 7407. Organic Production And Market Data Initiatives.

This section simply stated, “The Secretary shall ensure that segregated data on the production and marketing of organic agricultural products is included in the ongoing baseline of data collection regarding agricultural production and marketing.”  In 2004 and 2005, Congress provided $500,000 to USDA’s Economic Research Service, small steps in the right direction. 

 

OTA continues to submit comments on notices of USDA information collection urging USDA to segregate organic data, and recommends that the Secretary establish an appropriate policy and a pan-USDA working group to oversee the implementation of this policy.  OTA recommends increased and ongoing appropriations for organic data collection and analysis.

 

SEC. 7408. International Organic Research Collaboration.

The results of USDA implementation of this section are unclear, but having the Secretary and the Economic Research Service “facilitate access by research and extension professionals, farmers, and other interested persons in the United States to, and the use by those persons of, organic research conducted outside the United States” would normally require a program of translation and publication of foreign generated information for use by US farmers, for which funds have not been appropriated.

 

OTA recommends that $1 million be authorized (and appropriated) for this purpose.

 

SEC. 7409. Report On Producers And Handlers Of Organic Agricultural Products.

Congress has not appropriate funds to allow the Secretary “to submit to Congress a report that

(1) describes (A) the extent to which producers and handlers of organic agricultural products are contributing to research and promotion programs of the Department; (B) the extent to which producers and handlers of organic agricultural products are surveyed for ideas for research and promotion; (C) ways in which the programs reflect the contributions made by producers and handlers of organic agricultural products and directly benefit the producers and handlers; and

(D) the implementation of initiatives that directly benefit organic producers and handlers; and

(2) evaluates industry and other proposals for improving the treatment of certified organic agricultural products under Federal marketing orders, including proposals to target additional resources for research and promotion of organic products and to differentiate between certified organic and other products in new or existing volume limitations or other orderly marketing requirements.”

 

OTA recommends that Congress include mandatory funding of $100,000 for such as report in order to fulfill the intent of this legislation.

 

SEC. 10606. National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.

Congress provided $5 million for federal sharing of the cost of organic certification.  USDA has assigned this program to the National Organic Program (NOP).  NOP’s main function is to implement the Final Rule for the organic program, not to carry out other legislation related to organic production.  Nonetheless, NOP has done its best to produce a successful program, and many organic producers and handlers have benefited as the law intended.  NOP disbursed half the amount provided to State departments of agriculture, and in cases in which the State has used that amount while demand continues, has disbursed further funds.  States seem to have a mixed record both in notifying organic producers and handlers of the availability of these funds and in disbursing the funds.  The current program does not seem optimal.

 

OTA recommends that Congress re-authorize (and re-fund) the program, providing sufficient funds for it to be overseen by an agency appropriate to, and equipped for, the task.

 

SEC. 10607. Exemption Of Certified Organic Products From Assessments.

This section provided that “a person that produces and markets solely 100 percent organic products, and that does not produce any conventional or nonorganic products, shall be exempt from the payment of an assessment under a commodity promotion law with respect to any agricultural commodity that is produced on a certified organic farm”.  USDA has published a final rule.  Due to the limitations inherent in requiring producers to produce and market only 100 percent organic products, not just the product which falls under the promotion program, the practical scope of this legislation seems to be overly narrow.

 

OTA recommends amending the section to state, “a person that produces and markets solely 100 percent organic products or products in transition to organic status, in the categories covered by a commodity promotion law, and having USDA report on the effect of the rulemaking resulting from this section.

 


 

Creating and Enhancing Agency Cooperative Programs

 

With the implementation of the National Organic Program in October, 2002, the organic supply chain, from farmers to retailers, entered the main stream of American commerce.  Many USDA mission areas and agencies now consider organic concerns routinely when creating and evaluating programs.  In order for organic businesses to be able to fully take advantage of USDA programs, however, more work needs to be done.  Examples of possible USDA support for the organic system, based on current support various other commodities or concerns, follow:

 

  • AMS-NOP
    • strengthen accreditation program
      • fund adequately for continuing ISO 61 compliance
      • fund ANSI sub-contracting for annual internal audits
    • create an organic price report
    • create a whole-sector organic marketing order for research and promotion

o        authorize and provide funding for organic-specific direct marketing program, through farmers markets, farm stands, direct-to-retail, farm-to-school, etc.

o        require marketing orders to promote a proportional share of funding for organic product

    • authorize and provide funding for accredited certification agent training
  • ARS
    • develop and implement an integrated organic research agenda

o        increase organic funds for ATTRA (through RBCS) and SARE

o        research the quantity of pollutants avoided by US organic production

§         by crop

§         by region, state, and watershed

  • CSREES
    • fund a National Program Leader
    • fund professional development in organic systems and technical assistance training

o        authorize and provide funding for

§         a new Organic Agriculture Institute (or regional centers)

§         university research and extension

§         grants and fellowships for organic food and agricultural sciences education

§         grants for youth organizations

o        4-H

o        FFA

§         promoting organic in institutional food service

§         promoting pertinent research and focus on organic issues at the land grant universities

§         research money for organic seeds and breeds

§         maintaining public access to non-GMO foundation seeds

§         leveraging existing research and extension programs and requiring “fair share” funding for organic; an “organic farm advisor” staff in each major agricultural state

§         developing private sector support through grants

  • ERS
    • surveys and analysis of the state of organic production, handling, distribution, and retail; trend studies
  • FAS

o        change customs classification for organic

§         exempt organic meat from BSE embargo for export to Japan

    • collect and provide trade data

·         FSA

o        provide organic crop production loan supports

·         Child Nutrition and Related Programs

o        organic pilot program

o        farmers markets

o        organic farmers' market program

§         work with Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Promotion Program

o        mandate that state WIC programs include the option of buying organic food, especially milk and baby foods

      • allow purchase of organic food with food stamps

o        school lunch program

§         increase support for organic food programs by school districts

  • NAL:
    • fund an international information exchange
    • fund support for facilitating agronomic research
    • fund the facilitation of  policy research
  • NASS
    • improve agricultural census questions and fund special reports
  • NRCS
    • account for the $15 million annual appropriations for organic
    • expand EQIP to cover organic

o        establish nationwide crop and livestock transition incentives based on successful state models (e.g., Minnesota)

o        count certified organic farms as eligible for CSP money

o        provide incentive payments for transitioning farmers

o        link environmental monitoring to incentive payments:  less sediment, pesticides, and fertilizers in runoff equals greater green payments

    • re-write CSP to delete requiring 100% of acreage to be farmed Tier 3 in order for top payment (adding acreage to organic farms should not reduce payments on existing acreage)
  • RMA
    • create organic indemnity programs
    • provide risk assessments for organic production
    • pay organic prices for organic crop losses

 



[1] U.S. Market Profile for Organic Food Products

February 22, 2005 USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Commodity And Marketing Programs – Processed Products Division, International Strategic Marketing Group p. 16

 

 
 
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