Support Organic in the Farm Bill
Published: Sep 2023
By: Lily Hawkins, Policy Director at Organic Farmers Association
The Farm Bill is a HUGE package of legislation made up of many chapters, each with numerous sections and policy ideas. Marker bills are smaller bills that aren’t meant to pass on their own but are introduced to promote and build support for a policy idea in the hopes that that idea will be included in a major omnibus package like the Farm Bill. Marker bills help build grassroots and congressional support for policies.
Several marker bills have already been introduced that, if included in the final text of the Farm Bill, will create and improve programs that are crucial to organic farmers. Other marker bills have been introduced that don’t address issues specific to organic agriculture, but address issues like land access and consolidation to help build a better food system that supports specialty growers, small farmers, and historically disadvantaged growers.
Organic Farmers Association has created a Farm Bill Marker Bill Tracker to make it easy to see and follow marker bills that advance organic priorities. You can also continue reading for more details on organic priority bills that have already been introduced.
Opportunities in Organic Act (S. 1582 and H. 3650)
The Opportunities in Organic Act will build on USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Organic Transition Initiative to remove barriers to organic production in several important ways:
-Allow cost-share payments that cover 100% of certification costs, up to $1,500 per scope
-Provide flexible funding for organizations to support organic transition, particularly for smaller scale producers, producers of color, and underserved regions; these organizations may provide a wide range of services, including culturally and regionally relevant assistance with the certification process and recordkeeping, inspector training, and mentorship programs
-Flexible funding for organic operations to offset costs and reduce barriers associated with the transition process, ranging from learning new farming and ranching techniques to business planning, equipment, and processing infrastructure
-Improve technical assistance available through public agencies, universities, and NGOs by providing resources for organic-relevant technical expertise, capacity, and partnerships at public institutions and organizations, including support for education, outreach, and market expansion, so producers in any part of the country will have access to professional assistance that will help them build healthy soil, manage pests naturally, and protect natural resources
Organic Research Bills
-Investing in organic research has significant benefits for all farmers, as well as for rural communities and ecosystems. Recently introduced in the Senate, the Organic Science and Research Act (OSRI) and its House companion the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research Act (SOAR) will provide additional funding for several important organic research programs.
-Increase funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative. The bills would provide stair-stepped budget increases to the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), from $60 million in 2024 to $100 million in 2028.
-Provide Congressional authorization and direction for the Researching the Transition to Organic Program, currently known as the Organic Transition Research Program (ORG), with an authorization for appropriations of $10 million a year from 2024-2026 and $20 million from 2027-2028.
-Increase funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative (ODI) providing $10 million over the life of the Farm Bill, doubling the farm bill funding for this important USDA initiative. The data produced through the ODI aids in the development of risk management products and targeted market development.
-Direct ERS to conduct a full, systematic evaluation of the economic impact organic agriculture has on rural and urban communities, taking into account economic, ecological, and social factors.
In addition to the marker bills that have already been introduced, OFA is participating in conversations that we hope will lead to the introduction of strong marker bills to support organic producers:
-Improve data collection, build a functioning safely net, and invest in regional infrastructure for organic dairy
-Ensure continuous improvement of the organic standards
-Urge your Members of Congress to support organic farmers in the Farm Bill