Hot August Nights

Hot summer nightsIt’s that time of year again when many of us are on vacation. If you’re not working and enjoying these hot August nights, you’re in good company. Congress is also on recess until September 9. Lawmakers left Washington DC with unfinished business and a farm and agriculture community truly sweating it out. Continue reading

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?  Continue reading

What Farm Bill?

Capitol HillYou eat, therefore you live. So shouldn’t you know what’s in the current version of the US Farm Bill? If you’re an engaged member of the organic food industry, you should be well acquainted with the Farm Bill and be willing to take action.

Here’s why: we need more federal funding. Continue reading

Connecticut passes mandatory GMO Labeling Bill!

Breaking News in CTThe Connecticut bill HB 6527, the first ever State GMO labeling bill, was ratified by the House and Senate after much mediation and grass roots communication.  After several days of intense negotiation between the Senate, the House, and the Governor’s office, several compromises were reached.

An amendment exempting farmers growing less than 1.5 million dollars, which would have rendered the bill meaningless, was not included. However, the following language was inserted to ensure the law will only go into effect when: “Four states, not including this state, enact a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with the provisions of this subsection, provided one such state borders Connecticut; and (2) the aggregate population of such states located in the northeast region of the United States that have enacted a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with this subsection exceed twenty million based on 2010 census figures.” 

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