After House passage on Jan. 29 and the Senate followed suit Feb. 4, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law on Friday, Feb. 7, in ceremonies in Michigan, ending a nearly 500-day stretch without a Farm Bill. In his speech, he noted that the bill supports organic, which “makes my wife very happy!” The final Farm Bill incorporates all of OTA’s “asks”, including:
- Expanding the exemption for organic operations from conventional check-off programs, aligning it with the 95% organic label. We are already working with USDA to implement this exemption as quickly as possible.
- Authorizing USDA to consider an application by the organic sector for a check-off program.
- Increasing funding for organic research, which will fund land grant institutions and other government-funded research programs for improving organic farm practices, developing organic-compliant responses to threats such as citrus greening, and developing new seed varieties for organic farming.
- Increasing funding for organic data collection and distribution, which will enable organic farmers to make more informed decisions about what to grow, what quantities the market needs, and what prices are available.
- Increasing funding for the National Organic Program (NOP), allowing continued enforcement of organic standards, improved technology, increased accreditation of certifiers, and development of international equivalency arrangements.
- Granting NOP additional enforcement tools to enable it to root out fraud, while protecting the due process rights of organic certificate-holders.
- Increasing funding for the Market Access Program, which helps U.S. organic operations engage with markets and consumers around the world.
- Increasing funding for certification cost share for new and transitioning farmers.
- Requiring USDA to complete organic price elections for purposes of crop insurance by 2015.
Hill staffers view these wins as a “coming of age” for organic, and say this will be remembered as the “moment organic took its full seat at the table.” OTA will work with USDA to implement all of the gains for organic. OTA thanks members for being engaged in the process that made this new Farm Bill possible.