Organic provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill need appropriations
The Organic Trade Association was pleased to see six items in the 2002 Farm Bill for organic research and production. In addition, there are other general measures, especially in the Conservation Security Program, which will benefit organic producers.
This is the exciting—but delicate—beginning of an expanded role for organic agriculture within USDA. OTA requests that Congress carefully monitor the provisions below so that organic production is assured of receiving fair treatment and full funding within USDA.
Farm Bill Provisions
§7218: Provides for organic agriculture research and extension. Three million dollars have been set aside for each of the next five years for:
- determining desirable traits for organic commodities
- identifying marketing and policy constraints on the expansion of organic agriculture, and
- conducting advanced on-farm research and development that emphasizes observation of, experimentation with, and innovation for working organic farms, including research relating to production and marketing and to socioeconomic conditions.
§7407: Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to 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, but provides no funds for this purpose. OTA proposes that this program be directed from the Economic Research Service and include non-governmental collaborators.
§7408: Promotes international collaboration in research, directing the Secretary to facilitate access to research and extension professionals, farmers, and other interested persons in the United States to organic research conducted outside the United States.
§7409: Addresses §§7407 and 7408 directly, requiring the Secretary to submit to Congress a report that 1) describes the extent to which producers and handlers of organic agricultural products are contributing to research and promotion programs of the Department; the extent to which producers and handlers of organic agricultural products are surveyed for ideas for research and promotion; 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 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.
§10606: Provides for a one-time sum of five million dollars to establish a national organic certification cost-share program to assist producers and handlers of agricultural products in obtaining organic certification (up to 75 percent of certification costs, to a maximum of $500).
OTA requests that Congress make available an appropriate amount.
§10607: Exempts certified organic products from assessments under commodity promotion laws if the operation is 100% organic. It also requires the Secretary to promulgate regulations concerning eligibility and compliance for an exemption within one year.
Please contact OTA if you are interested in working on future provisions.
Funds are needed targeted to developing regulations to exempt 100% organic producers from the federal promotion (check-off) programs. The process of fully implementing the National Organic Program (NOP) rule is going very slowly. In early August Agricultural Marketing Service Deputy Administrator Ken Clayton told OTA that USDA had not yet started on developing regulations to exempt 100% organic producers from these programs.
OTA requests that Congress make available an appropriate amount for the Secretary to take action to review the impact of federal marketing orders on organic products. No specific funds have been made available for the study. OTA has drafted a letter for circulation by Senator Harkin to push USDA to start on the regulations for the exemption of the check-off programs and for the review of federal orders, and urges your support for this approach.
Neither House nor Senate appropriations bills have money specifically earmarked for NOP staff; however, $1.2 million is available under AMS's staffing funds for the agency. OTA anticipates that current staffing levels will have to increase in order to serve the public and the organic industry as implementation progresses due to increased questions from the public and industry based on various interpretations of the rule, and consumer vigilance leading to complaints.
OTA further requests that funds be made available to allow the Secretary to 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 addition, the agriculture appropriations bill has a number of sustainable agriculture programs, including the highly successful Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas programs. The bill also has $2.5 million (House version) and $1.75 million (Senate version) for organic research projects on weed and pest control. OTA supports the higher $2.5 million House level.