U.S. Senate approves Farm Bill with provisions for Organic Agriculture
The Farm Bill is something that we at OTA (Organic Trade Association) have all been passionate about, and it’s one of the reasons we lobby in Washington every year. This approval from the Senate is a great start to helping organic farmers. Read on…
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a 79 to 14 vote, the U.S. Senate today approved its version of the Farm Bill that included funding and direction for key organic priorities, according to Caren Wilcox, executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
“The Senate Farm Bill includes important steps to help strengthen the safety net for organic producers and manufacturers,” Wilcox said. “These measures include funding for organic research, data collection, and transition to organic production, as well as eliminating the crop insurance premium for organic producers.” Currently, organic producers must pay a 5% surcharge for crop insurance; yet, in times of loss, the producers receive not the usually higher organic crop price, but the lower conventional price.
The Senate version of the Farm Bill:
· recognizes that increased funding is essential for the National Organic Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the full authorized level;
· includes $5 million for organic data collection to help provide better price and yield information for organically-grown crops;
· includes $22 million in new money for certification cost share to aid organic farmers;
· bars USDA from charging a premium surcharge on organic crop insurance, unless validated by loss history on a crop-by-crop basis;
· adds organic production as an eligible activity in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program;
· adds to the Soil and Water Conservation Protection Loans a priority for those converting to organic farming practices and adds conversion to organic production as an eligible loan purpose;
· provides $80 million over the life of the bill for organic agriculture research and extension, and
· includes a sense of the Senate resolution that funding for organic research should be commensurate with organic agriculture’s share of the market, currently about 3 percent.
“We in the organic community appreciate all the support we have received for our priorities in the Senate. Thank you to Chairman Harkin, Senator Leahy, who led efforts to create a national organic program, and Senator Chambliss. With their leadership and interest, organic agriculture and processing will have access to the many federal programs typically reserved for non-organic production and processing.” Wilcox said.