Organic Farm Bill update July 16, 2013

Capitol Hill

Last week, the House of Representatives finally passed a Farm Bill by a vote of 216-208. No Democrats supported the bill, and 12 Republicans voted against it. For the first time since 1949 it did not include the nutrition title or food stamps for hungry Americans.  This new version of the Farm Bill included provisions that repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions and make the 2013 Title I a permanent law going forward. If this ultimately became law in conference, it would never need to be reauthorized. Congress could consider them again but would never face a deadline requiring their re-authorization.

The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is what happens next? 

  • House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) described the next step as bringing the House Farm Bill to conference with the Senate-passed Farm Bill (that includes a nutrition title), resulting in a complete conferenced bill that includes a nutrition title.
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) indicated he would go back to the drawing board on a nutrition-only Farm Bill, which would be brought to the floor of the House.

The Organic Community needs immediate movement to conference a comprehensive Farm Bill.   The Farm Bill extension, that is inadequate for many organic priorities, expires on September 30. The realities of the congressional schedule – the House is only in session for 21 legislative days before September 30 – indicate that it may be later in the fall before a bill is sent to the President.

In terms of organic priorities heading into conference, there remains more to fight for.  Some priorities are treated differently in the House and Senate bills, which leaves them subject to negotiation in conference.  Other provisions are treated the same in the House and Senate bills, which puts them in the best position going into conference – but they are all subject to politics that go beyond the Farm Bill.

The Organic Trade Association organized a synopsis of how our organic priorities play out on each side of the hill:

Senate Version:

  • OREI– $16 million per year in mandatory funding
  • ODI– $5 million per year in mandatory funding
  • NOP– $15 million per year in mandatory funding
  • NOP technology upgrade – $5 million one-time funding
  • NOP enforcement tools – Strong enforcement tools with adequate due process
  • Crop Insurance – Requirement that organic price elections are completed by 2015
  • Certification cost share – Consolidates two programs into one national program
  • Conservation – Language facilitating organic participation in conservation programs
  • Research and promotion order – Expands exemption for organic operations from conventional check-offs; authorizes USDA to consider an application for an organic check-off

House Version:

  • OREI– $20 million per year in mandatory funding
  • ODI– ZERO funding
  • NOP– $11 million per year in mandatory funding
  • NOP technology upgrade – ZERO funding
  • NOP enforcement tools – Inadequate due process protections
  • Crop Insurance – NO language
  • Certification cost share – Repeals national program
  • Conservation – Language facilitating organic participation in conservation programs
  • Research and promotion order – Expands exemption for organic operations from conventional check-offs; authorizes USDA to consider an application for an organic check-off

Yes, there will be a fight during conference for organic priorities. Stay tuned to the Organic Trade Association. The group is working on Capitol Hill each day to protect our organic priorities. As the Farm Bill progresses, contact your representatives to insure they know that you care about organic agriculture.

Thanks to the Organic Trade Association for allowing their Hill update to be used in this post.

2 thoughts on “Organic Farm Bill update July 16, 2013

  1. Pingback: Hot August Nights | Organic Matters

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