House Farm Bill fails to address organic sector needs, NOC says


A draft federal Farm Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives on May 21, fails to address the needs of the growing organic sector, the National Organic Coalition (NOC), Arlington, Massachusetts, said.

The 954-page bill, HR 8467, was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.

“NOC appreciates that the House Farm Bill continues support for several critically important organic programs, including funding for the National Organic Program (NOP), the agency that oversees the growing organic sector, the Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the flagship organic research program (OREI),” NOC said. “Unfortunately, the bill assumes a stagnant organic sector rather than providing the necessary resources to keep pace with the growing organic food and farming sector.”

NOC said almost 1,000 companies became certified as organic in just the first four months of this year due to new requirements in the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule that went into effect in March. Meanwhile, the cost of organic certification has risen more than 85% since 2012 and continues to rise.

NOC said it is “deeply disappointed” that the bill:

  • caps funding for the NOP at $24 million annually and does not increase the funding level over the life of the Farm Bill. The NOP currently oversees more than 46,000 operations in more than 100 countries around the world and the sector continues to grow. Additional resources are essential to adequately enforce organic regulations and to tackle fraud in organic supply chains. The Farm Bill should provide stepped-up funding for the NOP over the life of the Farm Bill;
  • provides only $8 million annually for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. That funding level is not even enough to fully fund the program in 2024, and the cost of the program is expected to continue to rise over the next five years as more operations participate in organic certification and the cost of organic certification continues to go up. The Farm Bill should provide funds as needed to adequately cover the cost of this critically important program;
  • fails to invest in the growth of USDA’s organic research ecosystem. Although this bill maintains level funding for USDA’s flagship research program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), it does not reflect the growth of the organic market since 2018 and the challenges all farmers face. Organic research benefits all farmers, but conventional research does not benefit organic producers. Level funding fails to provide farmers with the tools to create thriving businesses in the face of changing weather patterns and shifting markets. The Farm Bill should ensure that organic research keeps pace with the growing organic sector and this bill falls short;
  • does not require timely action by USDA to implement organic regulations. NOC and partners supported the introduction of a bipartisan bill—the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Act (CIAO)—to strengthen organic integrity and make regular updates to the organic standards. The House bill does not include these provisions. The Farm Bill should adopt CIAO (HR-5973) to create transparency and timeliness in organic rulemaking;
  • while the Senate Farm Bill (Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act) framework introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture) includes several elements of the newly launched USDA Organic Transition Initiative, the House bill does not include these same provisions. The House bill does not fund organic market development nor does it fund USDA partnerships with nonprofits to help farmers transition to organic agriculture;
  • does not adequately address racial justice and land access challenges.

NOC said the bill does include several positive provisions including:

  • the bill increases mandatory funding for the Organic Data Initiative from $5 million to $10 million;
  • it includes language requiring USDA to collect, analyze and publish segregated organic dairy data;
  • it increases the payment limit for farmers who take part in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative (a conservation program run by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service). The payment limit would be $200,000 over a five-year period, rather than the current limit of $140,000. NOC is seeking payment limit equity with the overall EQIP program, which provides a payment limit of $450,000 over a five-year period.

HR 8467 includes provisions to fund testing of biochar types across soil types, soil health and soil management conditions, application methods and climatic and agronomic regions, including through the establishment of a national biochar research network. Funding also is proposed to research the agricultural impacts of microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, including structural firefighting foam, in land-applied biosolids or compost on farmland.

Follow us on social media:
Please share this post to your social media

Be the first to comment on "House Farm Bill fails to address organic sector needs, NOC says"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.