The National Organic Program needs you!

The National Organic Program administers the O...

The National Organic Program administers the Organic Seal to products that meet the requirements. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Organic Program (NOP) receives recommendations on policy and proposed regulatory changes from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This 15 member board is comprised of specialists in various areas of the organic industry. The experts also rely on YOU, the organic community, to provide comments on their proposals and deliberations in order to make the best decisions on how to move our industry forward. Continue reading

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

Keep your eye on May flowers and on Congress

May DayMay 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. Continue reading

Can anybody tell me… What does organic really mean?

4colorsealgifThe core of organic farming is the idea of developing a sustainable system of agriculture. Organic farming is a way of producing food that doesn’t deplete the earth’s resources or pollute the environment. Instead Organic farming uses birds, insects and cover crops to eliminate pests and crop rotation to combat weeds. Antibiotics and growth hormones are not needed because animals are treated humanely and their feed is balanced and clean all which reduces the spread of infections.  The use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering is strictly prohibited. Organic farming has a real ecological effect on the environment as well as health benefits to those who eat it. Continue reading