Policy

Farm Bill Conference Committee Meets as Deadline Approaches

The Farm Bill Conference Committee, composed of nine Senators and 47 Representatives, met publicly for the first time on September 6th. The House and Senate each passed different versions of the Farm Bill this year, tasking the Conference Committee with crafting a final version that will have to go back to both the House and Senate for approval, before being sent to the President for signature before it expires on September 30, 2018. This is no small task.

Taking the Next Steps for Organic in the Farm Bill

In a sweeping show of bipartisanship, the Senate voted 86-11 to pass their version of the Farm Bill. With the House passing a different version of the bill without Democratic support, lawmakers will meet later this summer to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills. With the current Farm Bill set to expire on September 30, 2018 there is a lot riding on this process. 

Here is a comparison of some of the organic provisions.

House of Representatives Passes a Farm Bill

While the House Farm Bill was wholly opposed by Democrats, who were joined by some Republicans in their opposition, the House of Representatives passed their version of the Farm Bill, by a vote of 213-211 with two Republicans and two Democrats not voting.

The U.S. Senate is currently working on their text for the Farm Bill (read about it here), which is different than the House version. If the House and Senate pass different bills, the differences will be parsed out in conference committee, and if approved, will go to the President to be signed into law.

Government Spending Bill has Wins for Organic Research and NOP

On March 23rd, the fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill was signed into law just hours before the federal government would have shut down, and almost six full months since the current fiscal year began. This government spending package funds federal programs through the end of September 2018.

The bill appropriates $20.4 billion for USDA; roughly $2.1 billion above FY 2017 levels. The majority of the increase is directed toward improving rural infrastructure and fighting the opioid epidemic.

OFRF Outlines Research Priorities with NIFA

With the Farm Bill debate happening across the country, much of OFRF’s policy work has been focused on Congressional outreach on critical issues facing organic farmers. However, just as important as the legislation are the implementation, regulation, and administration of key organic programs. Among those are the organic research programs administered by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

NSAC Visits Organic Farmers & Researchers in Madison

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and over 100 member organizations descended on Madison, Wisconsin for the annual NSAC summer meeting August 6th – 9th. NSAC policy covers a wide variety of issues, from crop insurance, to plant breeding, to conservation. Organic production was front and center at the meeting. Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a hotbed of organic research and the surrounding area has hundreds of organic farms. (Pictured right: R&G Miller and Sons, Inc.)

Hearings Provide Opportunity to Weigh in on Upcoming Farm Bill

While August is a busy time for many farmers around the country, it is also the time when things slowdown in Washington, D.C. as members of Congress head back home. This August, however, members of the House Agriculture Committee have been crisscrossing the country to hear about a broad array of concerns over the Farm Bill.

Congressman LaMalfa Talks Farm Bill with Organic Producers

This blog was written by Mark Lipson, Senior Policy and Program Specialist at OFRF.

When Congress takes its August recess and Members go home to their districts, it’s a great time to meet with them directly. This year, it’s an especially good time for farmers to express their thoughts directly on the Farm Bill coming for renewal in 2018. This week I had the pleasure of sitting in with organic growers from Butte County, California when they met with their Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Oroville).

Bipartisan Bill Supports Increased Funding for Organic Research

On May 16th, Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced a bill to support increased funding for organic research. The Organic Agriculture Research Act will raise funding for USDA’s Organic Research Extension Initiative (OREI) from $20 million to $50 million annually.

OFRF drafted language and advocated for passage of the $15,000,000 OREI in the 2002 Farm Bill and is pleased to support this bill. “Since its inception, OREI has developed a substantial body of research-based information and tools to support the success of organic farmers across America,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “At a time when the demand for organic food is increasing, it is critical that we continue funding research that supports this promising opportunity for rural communities across the U.S.”

USDA Delays Animal Welfare Rule

On January 18th, USDA released the final rules for more stringent animal-welfare standards for organic agriculture. The new rule will now take place 60 days later than planned due to the administration's freeze on new regulations. Under the new rules, organic cattle, pigs, and poultry must be allowed outdoor access each day, and living conditions must include fresh air, sunlight, and proper ventilation.  Additionally, livestock must have at least enough space to stand up, lie down, and move about.  

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