The U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic Transitions research program received a vote of confidence when the House of Representatives passed an amendment to increase its funding. Attached to the 2007 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, the amendment bumps funding from $1.8 million to $5 million. The bill was sponsored by Reps. Rush Holt, D-N.J., Jim Leach, R-Iowa, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., all members of the Congressional Organic Agriculture Caucus.
According to Brise Tencer, legislative coordinator for the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the amendment signals a possible change in the political atmosphere. "These are people who in the past have been supportive of organic, but this is taking it a step further. It's more than signing on to a letter to their colleagues in the House. It's supporting an amendment and standing up and saying, 'This is important,'" she said.
Organic Transitions is a competitive grant program funding research, education and extension projects to help farmers with organic production and marketing.
Tencer said the amendment "will help meet the high demand for those funds for researchers interested in doing that work." But she also stressed that the Senate must now pass a similar amendment to have any chance of it being signed by President George W. Bush.
And while the funds will only be available in 2007, "it will set the precedent for future funding," she said.