Organic Farm Bill News: Wednesday May 15th

photo (4)The Senate version of the farm bill was marked up in the agricultural committee on Tuesday. This first pass must now go to the full Senate floor for approval which is expected to happen as early as today. Tuesday’s three and a half hour debate of the bill, formally named the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, passed out of committee on a vote of 15-5. Four Republicans [Roberts, Thune, Johanns, McConnell] and one Democrat [Gillibrand] voted against it.

“Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich is the champion in negotiating this bill through at record speed and in securing priorities for the organic agenda. Here are some of the organic highlights of this first pass:

  • Authorizes $16 million in funding for each of FY 2014-2018 for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.
  • Authorizes $5 million in mandatory funding for each of FY 2014-2018 for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives.  Includes reference to completing organic price elections in the Risk Management Agency’s portfolio of responsibilities.
  • Authorizes $15 million in funding for each of FY 2014-2018 for the National Organic Program (NOP).  Also authorizes $5 million in funding for the NOP to carry out a modernization and technology upgrade.
  • Grants NOP enforcement tools it needs to maintain the integrity of the seal, while maintaining due process protections for organic certificate-holders. 
  • Requires organic price elections for crop insurance to be completed no later than the 2015 reinsurance year.
  • Merges the Agricultural Management Assistance and National Organic Certification Cost Share programs, and funds it at $23 million for each of FY 2014-2018.
  • Requires Secretary to ensure that outreach and technical assistance are available, and program specifications are appropriate to enable organic producers to participate in the Conservation Stewardship program.  Also requires Secretary to establish a transparent means by which producers may initiate organic certification while participating in the program.
  • Requires Secretary to give priority when making or guaranteeing loans under the Conservation Loan and Loan Guarantee program to those who would use the loans to convert to organic production.

The House will mark up their version in committee today at 10:00 am and we expect philosophical and regional splits among Republicans and Democrats over our priorities. Please take the time to contact your Representative and tell them to fully fund the organic agenda. I will be on the Hill in person doing just that! http://agriculture.house.gov/about/membership