June 6, 2012
In a bipartisan letter sent June 4, 2012, the House organic caucus co-chairs and two members of the Committee on Agriculture urged the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture to continue investing in organic agriculture in the 2012 Farm Bill. Representatives DeFazio (D-OR), Hanna (R-NY), Kind (D-WI), Ribble (R-WI), Farr (D-CA), and Welch (D-VT) stated that the organic industry grew by nearly 10% last year, had $32 billion in sales, and was comprised of over 17,000 operations. As such, the co-signers recognized the importance of the organic industry and asked that the House Committee on Agriculture include provisions to enhance this growing sector.
Many of the requests in the letter sought to reauthorize existing programs that have proven successful. The letter urged reauthorization of the National Organic Program (NOP), which performs regulatory oversight, and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program at the funding levels included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill. The letter asked that the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI) be reauthorized and funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels.
The letter also pointed out the unfairness that organic farmers face when trying to access crop insurance. Organic farmers must pay a five percent premium surcharge on crop insurance policies though they are only reimbursed at conventional prices in the event of crop losses. The letter asked that language be included in the 2012 Farm Bill to base the premium on “actuarially sound data, rather than the current arbitrary 5% organic surcharge.” Additionally, they stated that USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) should complete their organic price series so organic producers can be reimbursed at organic market prices.
The letter also urged the Committee to exempt all organic producers from paying into traditional check-off programs that promote conventional products and to allow the organic sector to create its own multi-commodity check-off program.
This bi-partisan support for the organic sector is encouraging as the House begins to draft their version of the 2012 Farm Bill.