June 8, 2018 – We are extremely excited to share the news that the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill draft, released today, includes a much needed increased investment in organic research and education. The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which was funded at $20 million annually in the last Farm Bill, has been increased to $40 million annually for the next two years and ramps up to $50 million annually by 2022.

Since its inception, OREI has developed a substantial body of research-based information to address the challenges faced by organic farmers and help all farmers be more sustainable. OFRF advocated for the creation of this incredibly successful programming 20 years ago, and has been diligently working for increased funding in the Farm Bill.

With increased funding, OREI can continue to lead the way in cutting-edge research, education, and extension for American farmers. Our report, “Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments, 2002-2014,” provides an in-depth assessment of its progress and recommendations for the future.

We applaud the hard work of Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the champions pushing for an increase for organic research; Senator Tammy Baldwin, who championed organic enforcement, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and their staff, for working to ensure organic farmers and ranchers will have the research, tools, and programs necessary for success.

Some context
Over the last decade federal funding for organic agriculture research has remained roughly level, and not kept pace with the growth and opportunity that the organic sector has demonstrated. “With double digit growth in the demand for organic products, there is a need for scientific research, education programs, and extension resources to address the unique challenges of American farmers and ranchers looking to take advantage of the opportunities in organic agriculture” says Brise Tencer, Executive Director of OFRF. “We applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee for moving this historic investment in organic research forward.”

OFRF has also been working hard to advocate for other key programs that support the needs of organic agriculture. The Senate draft included a wide array of provisions for the organic sector. This includes robust enforcement and trade oversight in the Farm Bill draft, along with $11.5 million in annual funding for the organic certification cost share programs, $5 million for the organic data initiative, increased authorizations for the National Organic Program (NOP), and makes only a minor change to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), maintaining its integrity.

However, this is just the beginning…
It will be a long road from this initial text of the bill to passage of the Farm Bill.  The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Farm Bill Wednesday, June 13th.  If passed out of committee, the bill will go to the floor of the Senate for discussion and a vote. With the House of Representatives failing to pass their draft of the Farm Bill, which included support for organic enforcement and data collection, a modest increase for organic research and no funding for organic certification cost share, we are hopeful that the Farm Bill can pass the Senate.

If the House and Senate both pass different versions of the Farm Bill, the differences will be parsed out in a conference committee, and if approved by both the House and the Senate, will go to the President to be signed into law.

We strongly encourage the members of the Congress to work toward a bipartisan solution that supports America’s farmers, consumers, communities.  As the process continues OFRF will keep advocating to ensure the voices and needs of organic farmers are heard, and that programs that support the success of the organics are included in the Farm Bill.

Thanks to all the organic champions in the Senate for their hard work, the organic farmers and ranchers who spoke up about the need to support organic agriculture in the Farm Bill, and the businesses and organizations that worked hard to cultivate support for organic agriculture.

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that 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.