Organic for Climate Policy Recommendations

August 6, 2020 – Earlier this year, OFRF released a toolkit for consumers, advocates, and policymakers on how best regenerative organic farming systems can and should be part of the solution to the climate crisis. With our communications campaign well underway, we expanded our focus and strategy on climate legislation.

As conversations around the climate crisis continue to evolve on Capitol Hill, OFRF wants to ensure that climate legislation includes support for organic agriculture given its many climate benefits—from enhancing our soils’ carbon sequestration potential and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to reducing environmental impacts related to fertilizer and pesticide use and building resilience to extreme weather events. Implementing regenerative organic agriculture systems is the best approach to mitigating climate change and its impacts on farms, ranches, rural communities, and food systems.

We developed farmer-focused, science-based policy recommendations for Congress to:

  1. Increase investments in organic agriculture research
  2. Remove barriers and strengthen support for organic systems
  3. Promote the widespread adoption of organic agriculture through technical assistance

Best organic farming practices continuously regenerate the soil, enhancing its ability to store more carbon and be more resilient to increasingly erratic weather events. We need to be doing everything we can to build resilience in our food and farming systems and to transition to systems of production that are climate-friendly, like regenerative organic farming.

The recently released report by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (Select Committee) included a building block with recommendations to enhance organic agriculture as a climate-mitigating solution. Congress should absolutely embrace the recommendations posed by the Select Committee on organic agriculture. Additionally, to continue improving and expanding organic production systems and their climate-mitigating potential, OFRF recommends Congress adopt the following policy recommendations:

  1. Increase funding for research to reduce GHG emissions, and enhance carbon sequestration and climate resilience in organic production systems – USDA research programs like the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) require increased funding to support urgently needed innovations in climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly for organic and sustainable production systems. We recommend engaging Tribal producers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers from the outset to develop the best and most practical solutions with farmer buy-in. Congress should also invest in public plant and animal breeding research efforts with an emphasis on seeds and breeds adapted to regenerative organic agriculture and local and regional climate stresses.
  2. Incentivize climate-friendly farming practices and ensure organic farmers can effectively access federal conservation programs – Organic farmers should be recognized and financially rewarded for their contribution to soil health, carbon sequestration, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. More support is needed to ensure organic producers can access Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs by aligning conservation practice standards with organic production practices, training NRCS staff in organic systems, and providing more organic-specific options through programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
  3. Promote transition to organic agriculture by providing incentives and addressing barriers, while protecting the integrity of the organic label – support the transition to organic agriculture by increasing reimbursement rates for certification cost-share programs, creating an advance payment option for socially disadvantaged and limited-resource producers applying to certification cost-share programs, and by removing the separate lower payment limit for organic producers under EQIP.
  4. Complete the research cycle by investing in education, Extension, and outreach – support widespread adoption of the latest findings and tools uncovered by research. Farmers need a trusted scientific resource to be successful, and University Extension, NRCS, and other agency personnel can fill this role.

Read our full policy recommendations here and stay tuned for opportunities to engage in future advocacy efforts!