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Organic Trade Association hails huge organic milestones in Farm Bill

Trade group thanks lawmakers and association members for a “major policy win”

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
December 11, 2018
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The Organic Trade Association on Tuesday applauded the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee for reporting out a Farm Bill that marks an historic milestone for organic by establishing permanent funding for organic research, and makes significant strides to improve the oversight of global organic trade and safeguard the integrity of organic.

The trade association said the Farm Bill as proposed by the conference committee makes momentous steps to move organic agriculture forward, and urged quick passage of the bill. The association said the organic priorities contained in the legislation represent a “major policy win” by organic champions, who included association members and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“We thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson for their leadership and all the members of the conference committee for their bipartisan support and historic investment in organic agriculture,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

“This Farm Bill marks a key milestone for organic with $50 million in annual funding for the flagship Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program by 2023, more than double the current funding level,” said Batcha. “This will ensure stable, baseline mandatory funding for the program, and will enable organic farmers to meet the unique challenges they face. The bill also includes important steps to modernize and speed up federal efforts to prevent organic fraud, to create a transparent marketplace, and to ensure that every stakeholder in the organic chain is playing by the rules.”

Robust and stable funding for federal research on organic production methods and organic ingredients, pest control, and weed management is critical to the survival of organic farms, but federal funding for organic research has not kept pace with the growth of the nearly $50 billion-per-year organic industry. The legislation calls for permanent or “baseline” funding of $50 million a year for organic research, establishing a solid foundation for the OREI program.

The legislation also provides support and necessary funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) to keep pace with industry growth and to carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and abroad. It strengthens the NOP’s authority and capacity to conduct investigations to keep organic markets strong; it invests in technology and access to data to improve tracking of international organic trade; and requires increased measures that will strengthen global organic supply chain integrity.

Organic priorities in detail

Top priorities of the Organic Trade Association included in the Farm Bill are:

• Essential tools and funding for the improved oversight of trade to ensure the integrity of organic throughout the global supply chain;

• The largest increase in funding for the flagship Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program in over a decade to achieve stable, baseline mandatory funding for the program. The Farm Bill increases OREI funding from its current $20 million per year to $50 million per year by 2023.

• Funding for the organic certification cost-share program that helps to incentivize small and beginning farmers to transition to organic by relieving some of the associated costs with annual organic certification fees;

• Full funding for the Organic Data Initiative, USDA’s organic data collection program that provides accurate market and production information for the organic industry.

Inclusion of organic priorities a “major policy win” 

“Our organic champions – whether they are members of the Organic Trade Association or members of Congress – have worked tirelessly to make this Farm Bill a reality,” Batcha stressed. “This policy victory reflects extensive feedback from organic stakeholders as we established our organic priorities, engagement by our members in farm bill listening sessions, testifying at Congressional hearings, and meeting with lawmakers. Our members were unrelenting in their efforts, and their hard work paid off.”

The Organic Trade Association and its members have been involved in the shaping of the Farm Bill for almost three years, beginning in 2016 when more than 500 organic operations across 45 states, ranging from organic farmers to organic processors and food makers, responded to a comprehensive farm bill survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association.

Organic farmers and businesses have directly engaged with lawmakers and policymakers in successful and effective fly-ins, visiting with the leaders of the Agriculture Committees and almost 200 other Congressional offices. The Organic Trade Association mobilized nearly 100 member companies to push for full baseline funding for organic research in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.  See the letter here.

“We are proud of our members for engaging, for being bipartisan, and for delivering results,” said Batcha.

Special thanks to organic champions on Capitol Hill

The trade association said it would like to give special thanks to the following lead champions for organic priorities within the Farm Bill:

Rep. John Faso (R-NY-19)

Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM-01)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13)

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-at large)

Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL-09)

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI-06)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01)

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04)

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20)

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA-05)

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Batcha also thanked members of the House and Senate, “especially those who serve on the Agriculture committees as well as members of the House Organic Caucus who supported organic priorities throughout this Farm Bill process. Their support was crucial to achieving these victories.”

Quotes from organic stakeholders on 2018 Farm Bill

Ken Dallmier, President and Chief Operating Officer, Clarkson Grain:

“The Organic marketplace has come of age and this Farm Bill recognizes the buying power of Millennial and Gen Z social values. By adopting the language from Rep. Rodney Davis’ (IL-13) subcommittee, the Conference Committee Report ensured future research programs and market access to continue the trajectory of this $50 billion industry.”

Kelly Damewood, Director of Policy & Government Affairs, CCOF:

“California’s congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle played a key role in advancing organic priorities in the Farm Bill. CCOF-certified farmers, ranchers, and handlers throughout the state built bipartisan support for organic by educating their representatives about the value of organic to their districts. It is rewarding to see the tireless efforts of our members and organizational partners result in big, long-lasting achievements for organic agriculture.”

Matthew Dillon, Senior Director of Agriculture Programs and Policy, Clif Bar & Company:

“Baseline funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) will mean an economic boost to America’s farmers and farming communities. We’ve seen improved farm profitability, and new business and job creation in rural America directly through the organic research investments we’ve made in our nation’s land grant universities.  We’re thrilled to now see the public sector take an expanded role in this Farm Bill.”

Timothy Schultz, Vice President of Research and Development, Lundberg Family Farms:

“We are encouraged by the bipartisan support of the organic priorities in this Farm Bill.  We have been making the case to our Representatives and Senators of the benefits a strong organic sector bring to rural America, and appreciate the support Congressmen LaMalfa, Garamendi and Huffman, along with Senators Feinstein and Harris, have shown for organic agriculture in this Farm Bill.  Achieving permanent funding for organic research is a major milestone for the industry, and will support its continued growth in the market.” 

Melissa Hughes, Chief Mission Officer and General Counsel, Organic Valley:

“This bill contains the largest commitment of resources ever to ensure organic integrity remains strong. It includes better policy and funding for organic fraud prevention, especially in the international trade arena, which was really needed. Modernizing the organic regulations and increasing funding help the National Organic Program be in a position to better weed out fraud. A big thanks to our home-state U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin as well as Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for leading efforts to strengthen organic oversight.  They played a key role in making sure the Farm Bill updated the agency’s ability to crack down on any suspected fraud no matter where it might originate. The work ahead of the organic industry is to now get these changes operational at the National Organic Program as soon as possible, and at Organic Valley, we are going to keep our foot on the gas petal until these new provisions are fully realized and implemented.” 

Britt Lundgren, Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, Stonyfield Farm:

“This Farm Bill contains important provisions which will help advance organic agriculture. Organic farmers face special challenges, and the critical increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will help ensure adequate funding in research needed to address those challenges. America’s organic farmers also deserve an even playing field in the global organic market, and this Farm Bill makes significant steps in improving the oversight of global organic trade and in making sure everyone in the global supply chain is playing by the rules. We’re especially grateful to Rep. Annie Kuster, Rep. Chellie Pingree, and Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Bob Casey for being unwavering champions for organic in this bill.”

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.