Draft House Farm Bill: Organic Agriculture
April 14, 2018
Organic produce at Washington DC’s Dupont Farmers Market. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik, NSAC.
This is the sixth and final post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). Previous posts focused on: beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance and commodity subsidies, local/regional food systems and rural development, research and seed breeding, and conservation. The bill is expected to be considered and “marked-up” (aka amended) by the full Agriculture Committee this week.
Programs and policies that affect organic agriculture are found across multiple titles of the farm bill. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has combed through the draft farm bill recently introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and provided an overview of how the bill would affect some of the programs and policies most important to the organic industry. Overall, the bill is mixed when it comes to organic agriculture. It fails, unfortunately, to address some very significant issues concerning conservation and crop insurance access, as well as certification support for producers transitioning to organic. However, organic research and data initiatives receive support in the Chairman’s draft, and generally fared better than other areas of organic agriculture.
The bill also proposes several changes to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is the Federal Advisory Board that considers and makes recommendations on a wide range of issues regarding organic production. The organic community is currently analyzing these changes and submitting their feedback, and NSAC will monitor the debate as it moves forward.
Below, we include a summary of the key takeaways on how the Chairman’s mark addresses a subset of organic policies and programs in the draft farm bill.
- Increases funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which is the only research program to receive an increase in the draft bill. The 2014 Farm Bill mandated $20 million per year for the program, while the Chairman’s mark increases annual funding to $30 million. While this level does not meet the $50 million proposed in the Organic Agriculture Research Act, it is a very significant step forward in advancing research to support growth in the organic sector.
- Restores funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI), which the 2014 Farm Bill provided with a total of $5 million. ODI is a multi-agency initiative that facilitates the collection and distribution of organic market information, including data on production, handling, distribution, retail, and consumer purchasing patterns. The House draft bill meets NSAC’s recommendation to provide $5 million to be available until expended.
- Fails to include any significant provisions to expand access to crop insurance for organic agriculture. NSAC has urged Congress to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complete price elections for all covered crops, including organic crops, within five years to ensure that organic operations have the same risk management opportunities as conventional operations.
- Eliminates all funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which supports the growth of domestic production so that U.S. producers can take advantage of growing market opportunities.
- Fails to make any changes to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative that would improve access to conservation support for organic producers. For example, the bill does not eliminate the significantly lower payment cap within the Organic Initiative, nor allocate dedicated funds to the states to ensure utilization.
Farm Bill, Organic