OFRF co-hosts farm visit and attends Farm Bill Listening Session for Rep. Panetta, other Congressional Members.
On August 23, OFRF hosted our partners and Representative Panetta (CA-20) on a tour of Tablas Creek’s vineyard operations with Partner and General Manager Jason Hass and Jordan Lonborg, their viticulturist. After this farm tour, we all made our way to Paso Robles for a Farm Bill listening session with Representatives Carbajal, Costa, Lofgren, and Panetta with Rep. Costa chairing the meeting. This is one of many meetings like this happening across the United States, we encourage everyone to reach out to their congressional delegation to find opportunities like this and highlight the issues facing agriculture to their representatives.
Although we faced high temperatures, the tour was incredibly impressive. We all had the opportunity to learn more about the organic, regenerative practices being utilized by Tablas Creek. Like a large majority of organic producers, the vineyard prioritizes building healthy, living soils that build resilience to the increasingly hot and dry summers in the Paso Robles region. A particularly interesting piece of their operation is the use of sheep for nutrient and weed management, ultimately saving costs and frustrations in a difficult agriculture labor market. Rep. Panetta was particularly interested in their use of dry farming techniques, an incredibly important practice in such a drought impacted region of the country.
At the listening session, we joined a diverse group of stakeholders and OFRF had the opportunity to highlight the importance of the organic sector in providing both environmental and climate benefits as well as creating economic opportunity for producers, especially in CA, the leading state in organic production. We spoke about the need for Farm Bill programs to continue to invest funds in organic research, transition assistance, certification cost share, and technical assistance. Both Representatives Costa and Panetta asked follow-up questions of us on the needs of organic producers and how programs like the organic certification cost share can help create opportunities. Other stakeholders touched on diverse other issues, including the importance of USDA programs like conservation, crop insurance, as well as local issues such as the worsening drought and lengthening fire seasons and the role that the region’s cattle, vineyard, and specialty crop producers play in building resiliency to these climate-aggravated challenges.
Ultimately, it was a day full of fruitful discussions that will inform the 2023 Farm Bill process. We look forward to continuing to strengthen the connections between our representatives in the halls of the Capitol and the producers that we all depend on for safe, healthy, and tasty food and drink.
The USDA unveiled the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) Proposed Rule, with public comments on the rule open until October 11, 2022. OFRF is happy to see this significant step towards clarifying the animal welfare requirements associated with organic certification.
In short, OLPS ensures that there are clear, robust standards for livestock production authorized under the Organic program. While this is an important step for animals being raised in organic systems, it is also important for consumers who want USDA organic certification to include significant animal welfare practices.
Two significant actions this rule takes are:
- Describing standards on living conditions, healthcare, transportation, and slaughter practices that support animal welfare for mammalian livestock;
- Establishing indoor and outdoor poultry space requirements and stocking density limits, and clarify that enclosed porches will not be considered outdoor space for this requirement.
Both of these policies will strengthen organic standards related to outdoor access and appropriate, humane living conditions.
OFRF will continue to work with organic partners to advocate for strong enforcement and compliance for this rule. That is why OFRF is joining the Organic Trade Association, and other signatories, to call for the USDA to reduce the implementation period for egg producing operations from 15 years to no more than 5 years. Allowing 15 years to implement these requirements represents generations of chickens that live in substandard conditions while the operators continue to enjoy the market premium associated with the rule’s provisions.
We are also calling on you to provide feedback to the USDA! Consider the National Organic Coalition Template, or the Organic Farmer’s Association or Organic Trade Association’s individual comment tool. We need to be clear that the USDA must implement this rule quickly!
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR), is pleased to announce two more 2021-22 Organic Research grants, awarded to Axel Garcia y Garcia and Jennifer Taylor. These awards are the the last of six projects in OFRF’s current 2021-22 organic research grant cycle.
- Dr. Axel Garcia y Garcia, Associate Professor at University of Minnesota, aims to address Upper Midwestern organic grain growers’ struggle with integrating cover crops into the corn aspect of their rotations. This project will evaluate various management factors including seed selection, timing, and type of mechanical operations to optimize this key part of sustainable organic corn production
- Dr. Jennifer Taylor, farm owner at Lola’s Organic, a participatory capacity building agricultural research and outreach project that will identify needs, hindrances and barriers with BIPOC farmers and help farmers walk through the development of their own organic farming systems.
OFRF’s grant program funds research on organic production systems and the dissemination of these research results to organic farmers and agricultural research communities. The 2021/22 grant cycle prioritized early career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants, and awarded on-farm projects focused on climate mitigation and resilience.
As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free in an online database.
Thank you to FFAR and our research partners for making the 2021/22 organic research grant program possible.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Funding toward Technical and Direct Farmer Assistance, Market Development
(August 22, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the initial details on a historic $300 million investment in the Organic Transition Initiative. As part of its Food System Transformation Framework, the USDA is taking important steps toward supporting both organically-certified farmers and ranchers and producers who wish to transition into organic production. Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has been working alongside policymakers and industry partners to advocate for this crucial investment that supports producers’ adoption of organic management while building a resilient and equitable food system.
“Organic farming brings environmental and economic benefits to communities across the country, but has historically been under-invested in,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director. “This is a meaningful investment in key programs to support organic and transitioning farmers. We have advocated for these goals for many years and it is exciting to see them come to fruition.”
“We are expanding USDA’s support of organic farmers to help them with every step of their transition as they work to become certified and secure markets for their products,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA’s announcement proposes four primary Organic Transition Initiative investments:
- Transition to Organic Partnership Program: Up to $100M in wrap-around technical assistance for organic transition across six regions and includes farmer-to-farmer mentoring. This program will be managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
- Organic Pinpointed Market Development Support: Up to $100M in organic supply chain improvements that provides more and better market options for producers seeking support in areas such as organic processing capacity and infrastructure, market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. This program will be managed by USDA’s AMS.
- Organic Management: $75M for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a new Organic Management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice.
- Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA): $25M for USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to support transitioning and certain certified organic producers in reducing cost related to crop insurance coverage.
The USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative programming directly responds to research findings in OFRF’s 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA). Overwhelmingly, organic and transitioning-to-organic producers surveyed found “farmer-to-farmer networks and mentoring are by far the most effective ways to obtain and share information.” Additionally, finding and developing markets for organic products was a leading non-production challenge among organic farmers surveyed in the 2022 NORA report.
“We are thrilled to see this investment,” said Gordon N. Merrick, OFRF Policy & Programs Manager, but also added, “Importantly though, we must remember that this is Agency action with a limited time table. We are committed to making sure we see meaningful support for organic agriculture be codified in the Farm Bill in 2023, which is just around the corner.”
With the 2023 Farm Bill season beginning in earnest after the finish of August recess, Members of Congress will start introducing marker bills and staking out positions on important issues. OFRF will be working closely with its partners on Capitol Hill to ensure there are the necessary resources and organic research for producers to transition to or maintain organic farming systems as seamlessly as possible.
About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.
Gordon Merrick, OFRF Policy & Programs Manager, email@example.com
Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
On August 7, 2022, the full Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which will provide approximately $40 billion over the next ten years for climate change mitigation and resilience efforts through agriculture provisions. Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and a broad coalition of over 130 groups strongly recommended investment in climate solutions and conservation technical assistance in the bill to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. OFRF further recommends immediate bill passage by the House to ensure agricultural producers can access USDA programs that promote soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while building climate resilience.
The $739B bill will allot approximately $369 billion to address climate change; this includes about $20 billion for USDA conservation programs for farmers, ranchers, and landowners. Funding would include the following:
- $300 million for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to quantify carbon sequestration and emissions on farmland
- $8.45 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- $6.75 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- $3.25 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- $1.4 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
- $1 billion for USDA conservation technical assistance programming
“We are equipping farmers, foresters, and rural communities with the necessary tools to be a part of the solution,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who also acknowledged support from environmental advocates, economists, companies, trade groups, and farm-related organizations such as OFRF.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.
What Farmers Said
- In the NORA report, 74% of survey respondents cited insect/pest management as a substantial technical assistance need.
- Specific feedback from organic farmers also underscores the need for additional research on managing pests such as spotted wing drosophila.
Download OFRF’s Pest Profile on Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).
Watch the eOrganic Webinar on SWD featured in OFRF’s Organic Agriculture Research Forum 2022.
Know Your Pest
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is an insect pest of small stone fruit and berry crops. SWD is native to Asia and was first detected in the mainland United States in California in 2008.
Adult flies are smaller than 4mm, light brown in color with red eyes.
Male SWD have a dark spot on the leading edge of the wing, unbroken bands across the top of the abdomen, and two dark combs on each front leg pointing toward the tip of the leg. The wing spots are an easy to detect characteristic, though these markings are not always present on newly emerged males.
While harder to identify, females have a pronounced serrated ovipositor. This allows female SWD to use the saw-like organ to cut the skin of intact ripe or ripening fruit and deposit eggs inside the fruit.
Key strategies to manage SWD include:
- Setting up traps.
- Sample fruit for larvae.
- Create a barrier such as exclusion netting or row cover tunnels.
- Time your planting to give your crop the upper hand.
- Decrease the intervals between harvests.
- Remove cull fruit.
- Mulch, prune the understory, and harvest.
- Encourage the populations of beneficial insects.