OPN Connect Newsletter 96 · January 3, 2019

Organic Scores Big In the 2018 Farm Bill

Last month, Congress achieved bipartisan agreement on the 2018 Farm Bill, with President Trump signing the $867 Billion bill, officially titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, into law and providing big wins for organic farmers and consumers alike. 

Most notably the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) achieved a milestone in the 2018 Farm Bill.  The initiative establishes permanent funding for organic research by authorizing $50 million in annual funding, a total of $395 million for organic research over the next 10 years.

This permanent funding for OREI is an especially big win for organic farmers. The research it funds will help future organic farmers innovate, increase yields, managing soil fertility and use resources more efficiently. It will also ensure farmers across the country are equipped with the data, skills, and resources necessary to meet the increasing consumer demand for organic food.

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As important, the 2018 Farm Bill addresses organic fraud that has become increasingly troublesome in recent years. As in any successful system, there are bound to be a few bad actors and unfortunately organic is not immune to those who want to cheat the system.

The 2018 Farm Bill addresses the problem with funding for improved oversight of organic trade to ensure integrity throughout the entire local supply chain. These tools will protect organic market prices for US farmers and assure organic consumers are getting what they pay for when they see the USDA seal.

The National Organic Program (NOP) receives all its funding from the Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill recommends funding the NOP at $16.5 million in 2019, increasing to $24 million in 2023.

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It’s important to keep the NOP adequately funded to keep pace with industry growth, continue to set uniform standards, and carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and across the globe.

The NOP will receive one-time mandatory funding of $5 Million for technology upgrades to in the Organic Integrity Database. This will provide technology to modernize and improve international trade tracking systems and data collection.

Among the other wins are $5 Million for Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives which helps the USDA collect data on the organic sector. This important information helps farmers get loans, land appraisals and determine which crops to plant. The data has been sorely lacking from USDA’s data collection services and has been catching up since the 2002 Farm Bill.

The Organic Certification Cost Share Program incentivizes small and beginning farmers to transition to organic by offsetting the costs of annual organic certification fees. The bill includes

$40.5 million over the life of the farm bill until expended. It directly allocates $24 million in new funding in addition to authorizing $16.5 million in unspent carryover funds from the previous Farm Bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill is an historic bipartisan accomplishment for organic farmers and consumers. It establishes permanent funding for organic research and makes significant strides to improve the oversight of global organic trade to safeguard the integrity of organic. It encourages more farmers to transition to organic production by sharing the cost of organic certification.

The support of House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders was crucial to organics’ success in this bill. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representatives Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Collin Peterson (D-MN) and the staff of the Agriculture Committees deserve recognition. They were joined by many organic champions in Congress to achieve a historic win for organic agriculture in 2018.

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