May Day is an ancient spring festival celebrated in the northern hemisphere as a rite of spring. Baskets of flowers or small gifts and dancing around maypoles were the tradition when I was a wee sprite. It is also associated with the labor movement and worker’s rights. As we welcome in this month of May we should expect work to be the focus in Washington D.C. as Congress labors at several pieces of crucial legislation. It’s important that stakeholders in the Organic Community be aware of this work, follow the issues closely and advocate for the funding of organic programs and priorities.
In April, the Obama administration released its version of the fiscal year 2014 federal budget. This is the administration’s recommendation to Congress on how spending should be prioritized. One of the strategic goals included in the budget is “to assist rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining, repopulating, and economically thriving.” Organic agriculture was specifically cited in the budget as one way to reach this goal. To that effect, an increase in funding to the National Organic Program (NOP) budget was proposed. The full report can be read here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget
Both the House and Senate are expected to begin the budget process in May. The final version is likely to reflect a melding of House, Senate and White House priorities brought about by discussion, deliberation and compromise. It will be critical to advocate for full funding of the NOP as well as other organic programs throughout this process.
A new Farm Bill should also be on the agenda this month. Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill last January and instead extended the 2008 version, leaving several non-mandatory programs without funding. There is currently zero funding for programs such as the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives and export development programs. All grants, loans, and research projects funded by these programs are on hold until a new Farm Bill is authorized.
It’s vital that we stay involved in these issues. Monitor your elected Congressional leaders on their work, schedule and job performance. Don’t be shy in communicating what you want from them. You are the constituency that elected them into office and your voice is important. You can access contact information here: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Celebrate May as the month you smell the flowers and stand up for organic funding!