Tell Congress to talk turkey on the Farm Bill!

Congress talks turkeyLet us give thanks for the organic food we will consume tomorrow and to all the dynamic organic producers, distributors and retailers who have been hard at work.  Let’s express gratitude for our ability to work in such a vibrant and vigorous business arena that helps build the soil, protect seed biodiversity and promote health and wellbeing. After we give thanks, let’s make sure we do not become complacent in our festive organic hangovers. There’s no better time than now to remind Congress to keep working on a meaningful Farm Bill before the year runs out!

Congress has not passed a new Farm Bill since 2008. The organic industry was just around $20 Billion in 2008 and has grown to over $32 Billion today. Our industry looks very different today than it did five years ago, with new challenges and climate change nipping at our fields.  Despite double digit year over year growth during an economic recession, government funding for organics has essentially gone down or stopped!

The Farm Bill is the only mechanism for funding the National Organic Program (NOP), which regulates and enforces the label. The Farm Bill funds much needed organic research under the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) as well as data collection on organic prices under the Organic Data Initiative (ODI). Certification cost share helps offset the cost of organic certification, which is actually free in some countries.  Our fledgling industry requires a much needed upgrade of government funding and the Farm Bill is how we’ll get it.

The conference members from both the House and the Senate have been meeting for several weeks, hashing out differences in both versions. Stumbling blocks continue to be on commodity payments and SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps). You can see the full list of Conference Committee members and their contact information in my blog, “Organic Farm Bill Ahoy”.

Many Organic programs below have been adrift with no funding for more than a year now. Please deliver the following message to your representatives today:

•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.

•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

Let’s tell Congress it’s time to start talking turkey and get the job done! Now let’s get cooking!

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