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House Appropriations Committee Advances FY 2023 Agriculture Spending Bill

The House Appropriations Committee passed their Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs markup on June 23, 2022 by a 31-26 vote. The bill (full Committee Report here) includes $27.2 billion in discretionary funding for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA); $2.1 billion more than was appropriated last year. Earlier this year, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) published recommendations for FY 2023 organic programs and shared those recommendations with Congress. On April 28, 2022, the bipartisan House Organic Caucus led a letter to House appropriators echoing those recommendations. 

As the leading voice for organic in the United States, OTA – based on input from our 9,500+ members – submits funding recommendations to Congress each year. Together with our members and industry allies, we fight to ensure vital conservation, training and technical assistance, research, and other key organic programs receive the support they need. OTA recommendations are consistently used by Congress and the Administration to identify areas of need in organic. 

National Organic Program 

Current Appropriations Funding (Fiscal Year 2022): $20 million 

OTA FY 2023 Request: $24 million (plus report language) 

FY 2023 House Appropriation: $22.8 million 

National Organic Program (NOP) funding is a top priority for the Trade Association given that the program is responsible for developing and enforcing consistent national standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States. NOP also accredits third-party organizations to certify that farms and businesses meet the national organic standards. The House Appropriations Committee has provided NOP with $22.8 million in discretionary funding, which is $2.8 million more than last year’s funding levels.  

The Committee also included key report language requested by OTA that will enhance oversight and improve transparency in NOP’s performance and budget expenditures. The included report language will also ensure that NOP implements provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill related to oversight of the global organic supply chain, including the creation of a standardized electronic import certificate. OTA encourages the Senate to include the same or similar language in their bill so that USDA can better ensure our national organic standards are strictly upheld and continue to advance. 

The House Agriculture Committee report language is as follows: 

“Within the funding provided, AMS is urged to focus on standards development and addressing the backlog of National Organic Standards Board recommendations. The Committee requests that the budget request for NOP include details on key expenditures such as compliance and enforcement activities and standards development. The request should also include a breakdown of expenditures and status of the $5 million in mandatory funding provided by the 2018 farm bill for NOP technology upgrades.” 

Organic Transitions Research, Education, and Extension Program 

Current Appropriations Funding: $7.5 million 

OTA FY 2023 Request: $10 million  

FY 2023 House Appropriation: $7 million 

The Organic Transitions Research, Education, and Extension (ORG) program helps farmers fill knowledge gaps and overcome barriers to transitioning to certified organic in order to become successful organic producers. ORG provides critical grant funding to colleges and universities conducting research that helps organic producers become more competitive and better understand the economic and environmental benefits of organic production. 

The House Appropriations Committee provided $7 million in funding in FY 2023, half a million less than in FY 2022 AND $3 million less than requested by OTA. Federal investment in organic research still lags far behind resources for conventional production. Although organic is now a $63 billion and growing industry, without more substantial investments in research and technical assistance, the industry will not be able to achieve its full potential. OTA urges the Senate to fund ORG at $10 million for FY 2023. 

Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives 

Current Appropriations Funding: $1 million 

OTA FY 2023 Request: $1 million 

FY 2023 House Appropriation: $0 

The Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI) helps to fill the gap in organic data by funding basic informational collection activities on organic agriculture. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service, and Agricultural Marketing Service participate in ODI to provide much-needed organic sector statistics, economic reports, and prices.  

ODI was not provided with any additional discretionary funding for the upcoming fiscal year by the House Appropriations Committee, though it does receive $5 million in mandatory funding through the 2018 Farm Bill, which is to be spent across fiscal years 2019-2023. ODI received $1 million in supplemental funding in FY 2022 and OTA once again requested $1 million in funding for FY 2023 to help fill the market data collection gap for organic.  

OTA will encourage Senate appropriators to provide this small but critical additional support for ODI, which provides policy makers, organic farmers, and organic businesses with the data they need to make sound decisions. 

Organic Certification Cost-Share Program 

Current Appropriations Funding: $0 

OTA FY 2023 Request: $5 million 

FY 2023 House Appropriation: $0 

The Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (OCCSP) provides cost share assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their organic certification under NOP. OCCSP makes organic certification accessible to a diverse range of organic producers who may not otherwise have the resources to obtain or retain federal certification.  

While OCCSP was provided with $40.5 million in mandatory funding over the life of the 2018 Farm Bill (FY 2019-FY 2023) – $24 million allocated in new funds by the 2018 Farm Bill and $16.5 million in unspent funds carried over from the 2014 Farm Bill – it was not provided with any discretionary funding for FY 2023 by the House Appropriations Committee. In 2020, USDA revised the certification cost reimbursement rate down from 75 percent to 50 percent (up to a $500 maximum in eligible expenses) in order to address funding shortfalls. 

OTA requested $5 million in supplemental FY 2023 funding to cover OCCSP’s funding shortfall. Given the high demand for organic products and current supply challenges, we urge Congress to prioritize making organic certification more accessible by providing adequate funding for programs like OCCSP.  

In November 2021, USDA responded to the high demand for organic cost-share assistance by providing a one-time infusion of $20 million through a new program, the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP), which is part of the Department’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Like OCCSP, the reimbursement rate for organic farmers under OTECP is set at 50 percent.  

Next Steps 

The bill is expected to  head to the floor of the House for a full vote after Congress returns from their July 4 recess. The Senate is expected to release their draft version of their appropriations bill and complete the markup process later in July, after which the two chambers will need to reconcile their respective bills. OTA will continue to work with our members across the country and congressional allies to ensure that organic priorities are afforded their fair share in the final FY 2023 appropriations bill.