Capitol Hill Update

Mark Keating's picture

Texas Two-Step: Organic Standards Board Meeting One to Watch

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will convene in San Antonio, Texas this week for its first meeting in more than a year.  Authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, the NOSB’s origins make for a fascinating chapter in the history of the organic movement.  While the beginning of the story is well worth knowing, it’s the NOSB’s ongoing responsibility for establishing organic standards that will make this week’s meeting especially important.

Mark Keating's picture

Where Will Vermont’s GMO-labeling Bill Leave the Organic Brand?

    

Proposals to require labeling of food products containing GMO ingredients are sprouting up in state legislatures and public referendums across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are GMO labeling bills currently under consideration in 29 states and after years of stalemate, the tide may be turning in their favor.  While mandatory GMO labeling would be a milestone affirmation of our right to know where our food comes from, it also has genuine limitations when measured against organic certification.
Mark Keating's picture

As Budget Talks Begin, OFRF Advocates for Farmers

          The approach of April 15 typically means spending some quality time reviewing one’s finances, and it is also the season when the federal government begins budget deliberations for the coming fiscal year.  For USDA, the process begins with senior officials appearing before Congressional Agriculture and Appropriations Committees to elaborate upon and support the funding requests included in the

Mark Keating's picture

More Funding for Organic Farming Research Available from USDA

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

Great news from Washington, DC last week as USDA released its call for proposals for the 2014 Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) competitive grant program. Thanks to strong grassroots advocacy, the 2014 Fall Bill includes $20 million annually in OREI funding for the next five years and USDA has lost no time in making the first installment available.  The deadline for applications is May 8.

Karen Adler's picture

Home on the Organic Range

Does that title conjure up images of healthy cows grazing peacefully on green rolling hills and ranchers watching baby calves frolic in the grass for the first time? Beyond the idyllic scenes, it takes a lot of hard work and know-how to run a successful organic livestock operation, especially with ever-increasing challenges from drought, climate change, and regulations.

 

Mark Keating's picture

USDA is on the Wrong Course When it Comes to GE Crops

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

          Today is the deadline for submitting your comments to USDA on the future of “coexistence”, the term the Department uses to describe the working relationship between farmers raising organic and non-GE crops and those who do plant GE varieties.  It is important that you share your informed opinion on this subject with the USDA since it must by law take into account the public comment it receives when formulating future policies.

Mark Keating's picture

USDA wants to hear from you: How Should GMO Seeds Be Regulated?

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

           USDA is currently requesting public comment on two milestone decisions involving GMO seeds and your voice is needed if we are to reject the status quo and build an organic future for American agriculture. The cutoff periods for public comment are approaching February 24 and March 4.  For too long, USDA has ignored sound science and public opinion by sanctioning the unrestricted release of GMO seeds and their leniency has produced devastating consequences for the environment, rural communities and family farmers.

Mark Keating's picture

GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR ORGANIC LIVESTOCK AND CROP PRODUCERS

    By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

     There is another organic research victory to celebrate beyond the $100 million over five years allocated to the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) in the new Farm Bill. The USDA announced this week that it is accepting applications for the 2014 Organic Transitions (ORG) program to fund the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices.  While limited to a total of $4 million for the program and an upper limit of $500,000 for individual projects, ORG grants are highly effective at bringing together agricultural professionals – primarily research scientists and extension educators – with working organic farmers to explore practical solutions to common production challenges and constraints.

Mark Keating's picture

Action Alert - Farm Bill: Organic Victories Tempered by More of the Same Industrial Ag

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Advisor

UPDATE 1/29/14 : Victory for Organic Farmers:  House passes new Farm Bill; Senate vote expected within days.

House and Senate negotiators have agreed upon on a new five year Farm Bill which significantly increases support for key organic initiatives including the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Data Initiative (ODI).  The bill, which must still pass the House and Senate, also contains $5 million to modernize the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) and increases funding for local, beginning and sustainable agriculture programs including $150 million over five years for the Farmers Market Promotion Program.  The bill also authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to consider the establishment of a dedicated Organic Research and Promotion Program, should the community elect to pursue one.  These groundbreaking victories, however, must be weighed against the billions of dollars which this proposal commits to the failed industrial agriculture model.

Mark Keating's picture

New Film “Seed: The Untold Story” Sounds an Alarm About Our Food Future

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Advisor

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today”   

We don’t know precisely who originated this saying, but its wisdom speaks to us all.  The story of human civilization is inseparable from our heritage as seed breeders.  Most of our food, medicine, clothing and yes, the beautiful flowers which inspire us resulted from thousands of years of skillful selection and breeding practices drawing upon the abundant genetic diversity of plants.

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