The House of Representatives’ passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 clears the way for the Senate to consider the bill, which includes numerous priorities the Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been seeking for more than two years.
“We are pleased that the organic industry received strong bipartisan support in the Farm Bill that cleared the House of Representatives. More and more, consumers and farmers alike are choosing organic. Giving them that choice is important,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
She added, “OTA especially wants to recognize the House Agriculture Committee leadership who made this positive vote possible—Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), and leading organic champions Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) None of this would have been possible without strong bipartisan support.”
The provisions in the bill passed in the House include allowing organic farmers, distributors, and marketers access to the same agriculture research and promotion programs available to conventional farmers by authorizing USDA to consider an application from the organic sector for its own check-off program, as well as clarifying that the current exemption from conventional check-off programs applies to all certified organic operations. In addition, it provides increased funding for the National Organic Program to enforce organic standards, improve technology, and negotiate international trade agreements, as well as funding for organic research, data collection, and certification cost share.
Last year, when the House Agriculture Committee first included an amendment addressing the specific research and promotion needs of organic farmers, it became clear that support for organic has been growing in Congress among both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, eight Republicans, including many newer members of the House Agriculture Committee, joined with the committee’s Democrats to support the amendment.
“It is a new day for organic, with new champions joining traditional supporters of organic,” said Batcha.
She added, “The Farm Bill now moving through Congress demonstrates that the consumer-driven, farmer-powered organic sector—the fourth-largest food and feed commodity—is an important part of the U.S. agricultural community. It is a victory for organic farmers, businesses and consumers. We now look forward to Senate passage of the Farm Bill and to these provisions being enacted into law."