A few weeks ago, Senator Debbie Stabenow announced that the Farm Bill would at last come to conference starting the week of October 28th. The conference members have been named from both the House and the Senate. This is as close as we have come in quite some time to making progress on a Farm Bill. Both houses of Congress passed separate versions earlier in the year and the differences between the two are vast. Reaching consensus on the two versions will be a monumental task. In the midst of the debate, the organic community must be ready to call their ships in and muster the organic fleet so our priorities are afloat in the final bill.
Every 4 to 6 years Congress is charged with passing a whale sized piece of legislation called the Farm Bill which is second in size only to the Defense Bill. Passing this legislation has been the standard work plan for Congress since the Depression, in the 1930’s, when it was enacted to help farmers and ranchers maintain their land and prosperity. The last Farm Bill was passed in May 2008 and it authorized over $289 billion dollars of federal spending over 5 years. Congress has been unable to agree on a new Farm Bill and instead “extended” the 2008 version, leaving many important organic priorities stranded without funding. You can read more on the history of this dysfunctional process in my blogs, “What’s up Congress” and “Over the Organic Cliff we go!”
The biggest gulf to navigate in the conference will be over the commodity title and the nutrition title, which would reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. The Senate bill says $4 billion in cuts; the House bill says $40 billion in cuts. They are oceans apart and must be carefully navigated in order to get a final bill. If not, our organic priorities will be left to flounder.
Now is the time for the organic community to speak up and make sure they get the job done. Constituents of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, N. Dakota, N. Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, S. Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Washington all have Representatives and Senators on the Farm Bill conference committee. If you live in one of these sates, you have an incredible opportunity to influence the process.
Many of the programs below have been adrift with no funding for more than a year. The organic message is clear and concise:
- Pass a comprehensive Farm Bill this year! A current farm bill with organic priorities will support farmers, ranchers and food security
- Support the Senate proposal on the National Organic Certification Cost Share (NOCCS) program. The National Organic Coalition NOC has provided a Fact Sheet HERE for more information about the NOCCS
- Authorize $16 million in funding for each year of FY 2014-2018 for Organic Research and Extension Initiative-OREI
- Include the Organic Data Initiatives, ODI, for $5 million in mandatory funding for each year of FY 2014-2018.
- Fully support the National Organic Program- NOP with $15 million in funding for each year of FY 2014-2018.
- Approve $5 million for a one time spend for technology upgrades at the National Organic Program- NOP.
- Keep the language intact for an exemption for organic producers and handlers from conventional research and promotion orders and an authorization for USDA to consider an application for an organic research and promotion program.
President Obama said recently, “We should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.”
Don’t let this opportunity to act drift by. Rural and urban America needs this Farm Bill to include organic priorities. Let’s navigate that ship home!
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR ON THE FARM BILL CONFERENCE COMMITTEE IN THE FOLLOWING STATES:
STATE REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR DISTRICT PHONE NO.
Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers R-3rd 202-225-4872
Alabama Rep. Martha Roby R-2nd 202-225-2901
Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford R-1st 202-225-4076
Arkansas Sen. John Boozman 202-224-4843
California Rep. Jeff Denham R-10th 202-225-4540
California Rep. Jim Costa D-16th 202-225-3341
California Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod D-35th 202-225-6161
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet 202-224-5852
Florida Rep. Steve Southerland R-2nd 202-225-5235
Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss 202-224-3521
Georgia Rep. Austin Scott R-8th 202-225-6531
Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis R-13th 202-225-2371
Iowa Rep. Steve King R-4th 202-225-4426
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin 202-224-3254
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts 202-224-4774
Mass. Rep. Jim McGovern D-2nd 202-225-6101
Michigan Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow 202-224-4822
Minnesota Ranking Member Collin Peterson D-7th 202-225-2165
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244
Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz D-1st 202-225-2472
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran 22-224-5054
Montana Sen. Max Baucus 202-224-2651
N. Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre D-7th 202-225-2731
N. Dakota Sen. John Hoeven 202-224-2551
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown 202-224-2315
Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge D-11th 202-225-7032
Oklahoma Chairman Frank D. Lucas R-3rd 202-225-5565
Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader D-5th 202-225-5711
Penn. Rep. Glenn Thompson R-5th 202-225-5121
S. Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem At Large 202-225-2801
Texas Rep. K. Michael Conaway R-11th 202-225-3605
Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer R-19th 202-225-4005
Texas Rep. Filemon Vela D-34th 202-225-9901
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy 202-224-4242
Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene D-1st 202-225-6311