Historic Permanent Funding for Organic Research Secured in Farm Bill

December 11, 2018—Thanks to the hard work of OFRF and a broad coalition of organic champions, we have secured historic wins for organic agricultural research in the 2018 Farm Bill, which will provide $395 million for organic agriculture research and education over the next 10 years. This milestone is the biggest win for organic farming in the Farm Bill in decades, securing permanent funding for organic research at USDA.

These funds will dramatically expand competitive grants through USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), ensuring organic farmers and ranchers have the tools and technology to meet their unique challenges and the growing demand for organic products—leading to a more resilient and sustainable agricultural system that values healthy environments and healthy people.

“Throughout our history, OFRF has worked to ensure that organic producers have the science-based information and resources necessary to support the nation’s demand for healthier food and farming systems,” noted OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer. “Since 2002, OREI research has supported cutting edge scientific inquiry into organic practices and production systems. With this bill, Congress has made progress toward fulfilling organic agriculture’s potential to provide broad environmental and economic benefits for all.”

As the Farm Bill heads to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for final consideration, we support the landmark wins for organic agriculture, including the significant funding increase for OREI and increased enforcement authority of the National Organic Program (NOP). In addition to these milestones, the Farm Bill includes several other programs that impact organic farmers and ranchers such as the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and funding for the Organic Data Initiative (ODI).

Details on the Organic Provisions in the Farm Bill

▪ $395 million in OREI funding over the next 10 years. $20 million/FY 2019-2020, $25 million/FY 2021, $30 million/FY 2022, $50 million/FY 2023 and ever year after.

▪ $5 million for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, which helps facilitate the collection of organic production and market data.

▪ $40.5 million for NOCCSP that offsets part of farmers’ organic certification costs. This program is facilitated by $24 million in new funding, plus an additional $16.5 million in funding that was not used for the program from the previous Farm Bill.

▪ $5 million for technology upgrades, increased enforcement authority, and increased funding authorization for the NOP.

▪ Payment limits for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative are increased to $140,000.

▪ Organic and sustainable agriculture practice are now part of the continuing education for Crop Insurance Agents and Loss Adjusters.

▪ Funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program will be allocated to States to support organic production and transition to organic production.

▪ Current voting and membership practices of the National Organic Standards Board are codified.

▪ Farmers that have land in the Conservation Reserve Program can being to transition the land to certified organic 3 years prior to the expiration of their Conservation Reserve contract.

▪ State Agriculture Mediation Programs shall now cover issues that impact certified organic production.

▪ The Market Access Program shall encourage export of USDA certified organic products.

“All of the organic policy components of the Farm Bill are important and have far reaching impacts,” said Michael Stein, Policy and Program Manager at OFRF. “We want to thank the Agriculture Committee leadership, our supporters in Congress, and the diverse coalition that has helped make outstanding progress for organic agriculture in this Farm Bill.”

Congressional Champions

Organic agriculture would not be where it is today without the strong support of Congress. We would like the thank the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders for their hard work, including Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representatives Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Collin Peterson (D-MN) and the diligent staff of the Agriculture Committees, without whom we would not have been able to achieve such a historic win for organic agriculture.

We would also like to thank Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) who championed Congressional support for organic research. Thanks to their help and support, we were able to gather strong bipartisan support for organic research, securing 66 co-sponsors of the Organic Agriculture Research Act.

Other champions for organic agriculture in the Farm Bill process included Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the Senate’s only certified organic farmer, Senator John Tester (D-MT). Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Darren Soto (D-FL), along with outgoing Representatives John Faso (R-NY) and Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) also supported key organic policies in the farm bill.

Key Role of Organics

Since its inception, OFRF has worked to cultivate organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and organic acreage into organic production. In 2002, OFRF was instrumental in securing the first dedicated USDA funding for organic agriculture, $3 million annually. In the 2008 Farm Bill, OFRF worked to secure $78 million for organic research, a historic five-fold increase from the $15 million allocated in the expiring 2002 legislation. Now in the 2018 Farm Bill, we can proudly say that USDA’s funding for organic agriculture research has become permanent, steadily increasing to $50 million annually by 2023.

However, passing the 2018 Farm Bill is only the first step. OFRF will be working to inform this increased investment by ensuring future research and programs are relevant and responsive to the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers and producers who want to farm more sustainably, and that education and resources are broadly disseminated.

“It is so exciting to see this increased level of support for organic farming and organic research in the Farm Bill, said OFRF Board President and organic farmer, Jeremy Barker-Plotkin. "Organic farming is good for farmers, consumers, and the environment, and can ameliorate the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. Funding for research into organic farming has lagged behind organic farming's market share for years, so it's great to see a movement towards funding parity."