2022 OFA Annual Meeting and Reception

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22

Join us Wednesday, June 22 at 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT via Zoom for a short review of OFA’s work in 2021 and what we are looking forward to in 2022. Then engage with ORGANIC FARMER and USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt, for a lively conversation about her family’s California organic farm, how she got involved in government, and why it is important for organic farmers to get involved in policy!

Pre-Registration Required

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OFA ANNUAL MEETING

7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific: Welcome by David Colson, President
– Introduction of our new Governing Council & Policy Committee members.
– Thank you to outgoing members.
7:15 PM: Overview of 2021 -Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

RECEPTION
7:30 PM: Introduction of USDA Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt
7:35 PM: USDA Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt
7:50 PM: Q&A with Under Secretary Lester Moffitt
8:00 PM: Adjourn


Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt

Jenny Lester Moffitt has roots in organic farming, which she brought to her work in California and now in Washington, D.C.

Jenny Lester Moffitt was confirmed as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA last fall and is responsible for facilitating trade and setting national and international agricultural standards, including the National Organic Program (NOP).

Jenny is a 5th generation farmer, who has established a successful career in agricultural policy.  She managed her family’s organic walnut farm for ten years and then served as Undersecretary and Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for six years before being asked to come to Washington, D.C. and work for the current administration.  Her experience and roots in organic allow her to understand the needs of both farmers and consumers and how both are essential to a strong organic movement.

Jenny’s father transitioned the family’s walnut farm to organic in 1989 and became certified organic in 1992. She says, “Growing up and helping run my family’s walnut farm showed me just how valuable the USDA is to farmers, processors, and consumers. I developed a passion for agriculture, farmers, and the food system, so I’ve always wanted to work in agriculture.”


June 2022 Policy Update

June 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

New USDA Support for Organic Transition

On June 1st, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack gave a speech on the USDA’s plans to transform the American food system, focusing on increasing resilience in food supply chains. One of the plans he announced was for USDA to establish a program, funded with $300 million, to assist farms that are transitioning to organic. We don’t have any details yet about how the program will operate, but the initial announcement listed farmer-to-farmer mentorship programs, technical assistance, direct support through conservation and crop insurance programs, and efforts to help develop organic markets as focus areas. OFA will continue to engage with USDA about the most useful ways to implement this program and will spread the word when details become available.

Delayed Organic Regulations

Now that the Origin of Livestock final rule has finally been released, we still need USDA action on several other critical issues related to the integrity of the organic label. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, continues to review the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment. We are also waiting for the USDA to finalize the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule, which includes a long list of changes to USDA’s process for detecting and preventing fraud in organic supply chains. When asked at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing about these delayed regulations, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack pledged that they would be released this year.

Setting Organic Priorities for the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the new version. The House Agriculture Committee is working through a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs are working, including a hearing in late March in the subcommittee that covers organic issues. The hearing covered a range of topics, including the release of the final rule on Origin of Livestock and ways to streamline application to USDA conservation programs. In early May, the Senate Agriculture Committee had its first Farm Bill hearing in Michigan, home to the Chair of the committee, Senator Stabenow. The lineup of witnesses included several organic farmers, who talked about the potential they see for growth in organic agriculture and how increased research on organic methods and other USDA programs like organic certification cost-share could help. This summer, OFA will be working with our allies in the organic community to refine our Farm Bill proposals, on fixing organic certification cost-share, supporting organic research, tackling fraud in organic supply chains and other issues.

Get Involved: Advocate for Organic Farms This Summer!

As discussions about the next Farm Bill ramp up, this summer is an important opportunity to share policy priorities for organic farmers with your members of Congress. A good way to do that is to try to meet with your elected officials while they are back home more often during the summer. During periods when Congress is not meeting in Washington, DC, legislators spend time at home in their districts, and you can arrange a meeting with them or their staff there.

For tips on setting up a meeting in your legislator’s district office, check out OFA’s website.

And if you do get a meeting set up, here are some of OFA’s top priorities for the next Farm Bill:

  1. Organic Certification Cost Share - In the next Farm Bill, Congress should:
  • Increase the reimbursement level to 100% (up to $1500 per scope) to make organic certification free for small operations.
  • Streamline the program. The organic community is discussing ways to improve the program and our surveys reveal that farmers are interested in making the program function differently – to reduce the up-front cost of certification instead of reimbursement
  1. Organic and Climate - Organic must be included in whatever climate programs are developed for agriculture, and the USDA must make sure that organic is the gold standard for climate-smart agriculture by prohibiting hydroponic production in organic and enforcing organic regulations to make sure livestock are raised on pasture.
  2. Stronger Standards for Organic Integrity – USDA needs to finish long-delayed improvements to the organic standards, including the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule to prevent fraud and stronger animal welfare standards.

2022 Organic Certification Cost Share

Thanks to years of advocacy from Organic Farmers Association and our partner organic organizations pushing USDA to open the cost share program earlier and provide more funds, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced yesterday that they have opened two pots of money to reimburse farmers for 2022 organic transition & certification fees & other expenses.

Applications are open now and due October 31, 2022.  

Two USDA programs cover costs incurred from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022 (Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) and the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP)). Organic and transitioning agricultural producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and/or participating State agency to apply. See more about each program below.

Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP)

This is the standard Organic Cost Share program that reimburses farmers and processors up to 50% (max. $500) for each certification category (Crops, Livestock, Wild Crops, Processing). If you are certified for multiple categories (scopes) you can be reimbursed up to $500 for each. All FSA county offices will process this program & some certifiers or state agencies process this program.

You will need to provide a receipt of your certification fee payment and proof of organic certification.  Once you have had your inspection, contact your certifier for the documentation you will need. Click for more information on OCCSP.

Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP)

The OTECP program was created to patch the missing cost share funds from the historic 75% ($750 max) reimbursement. This program will reimburse up to 25% ($250) per category (Crops, Livestock, Wild Crops & Processing) for 2022 certification fees AND reimburse for education (did you attend a conference?), soil tests, and myriad costs related to organic transition.

This program is only available at your FSA office. FSA recommends submitting ONE application to OTECP, so wait until you've completed your 2022 expenses (10/1/2021 - 9/30/2022) & then apply before Oct 31, 2022. You will need to provide receipts for reimbursement. Click for more information on OTECP.

Alternative USDA resource for help:

You may also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to provide one-on-one assistance with OTECP or OCCSP. 877-508-8364  (1- English) (2-Espanol)

INTERPRETATION IS AVAILABLE FOR USDA FSA, NRCS, RMA CUSTOMERS - USDA service centers provide FREE translation in 48 languages.

Download poster here to bring to your FSA office.


Danone Shareholders Meeting

April 25, 2022  Danone, owner of Horizon Organic, will hold its annual shareholders meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26, 2022 in France.  In August 2021, Danone notified 89 organic dairy farm families they would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. market.  Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades and were instrumental in building the successful Horizon Organic brand.

Danone’s decision to leave the Northeast region, one of the largest consumer markets, is devastating to the region, and farm-advocates voiced their fury with 15,324 petition signatures in November 2021 calling for Danone to repair the damage leaving the entire Northeast region will have on the farm economy and rural communities. In December, Danone responded with a commitment to 1.) extend farm contracts an additional 6-months for the 89 producers, 2.) provide a small (6% of the milk check for 6 months or $2 per hundred pounds of milk) transition payment for the affected farm families, and 3.) provide a monetary investment in the Northeast region to support these dairy farmers and the region’s organic dairy industry.

Danone has honored their first commitment to extend contracts, but has not provided specific details on how they plan to pay farmers their transition payment nor how they intend to invest in the region.

Producer groups supporting farmers affected by the Danone exit, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and Organic Farmers Association, call on Danone to pay farmers their transition payments immediately based on the last 6 months of production from the date of their 2021 termination notice.  They also urge Danone to match the $20 million granted by the USDA to the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center to follow through on their commitment for financial investment in the region to support northeast organic dairies.

Danone is one of the largest B Corporations and thus has committed to putting people over profits—a commitment its corporate decision to leave the Northeast region decision directly violates.  It is imperative that shareholders hold Danone accountable at the shareholder meeting tomorrow.  Danone must stand up for its farm families that have built the corporate success Danone will be celebrating tomorrow.

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Media Contact:

Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)

emaltby@comcast.net; 413-427-7323


May 2022 Policy Update

May 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

The National Organic Standards Board held its spring meeting in April, and the Senate Agriculture Committee kicked off its Farm Bill process with its first field hearing.

National Organic Standards Board

The NOSB held their spring meeting online during the last week of April. Some of the big topics the board discussed included:

  • Potential ways to provide NOSB members with technical help and research assistance.
  • How to increase traceability in complicated organic supply chains (for bulk commodities like grain) to combat fraud.
  • Updating the list of types of genetic engineering that are prohibited in organic production.
  • Restrictions on the use of highly soluble forms of nitrogen.

The board voted unanimously to approve a recommendation that would limit the use of highly soluble forms of nitrogen fertilizer. The recommendation calls for the use of fertilizers with a carbon to nitrogen ration of less than 3:1 to be limited to 20 percent of the crop’s nitrogen needs. The Board also unanimously adopted a recommendation to update the list of types of genetic engineering that are prohibited in organic production.

The National Organic Coalition is hosting a briefing on the NOSB meeting on May 11 at 1:00 eastern. You can register for their webinar here.

You can read OFA’s comments to the NOSB here.

Organic Priorities in the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress is taking the first steps in the process of developing the new version of the bill. The House Agriculture Committee has been doing a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs are working. In early May, the Senate Agriculture Committee had its first Farm Bill hearing in Michigan, home to the Chair of the committee, Senator Stabenow. The lineup of witnesses included several organic farmers, who talked about the potential they see for growth in organic agriculture and how increased research on organic methods and other USDA programs like organic certification cost-share could help. Other witnesses talked about how USDA nutrition programs can help support farms that provide healthy food to underserved communities. And, in a reminder of what we are up against in the fight for strengthening the integrity of the organic standards, a large organic egg producer from Michigan was also a witness, highlighting what they claim are the advantages of keeping chickens confined indoors for biosecurity. (This is an argument we will hear a lot when the USDA publishes a proposed rule to update the animal welfare standards for organic, called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. The draft is currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.)

This summer, OFA will be working with our allies in the organic community to refine our Farm Bill proposals, on fixing organic certification cost-share, supporting organic research, tackling fraud in organic supply chains and other issues.

Assisting Northeast Organic Dairy Farmers Losing Horizon Contracts

In late April, Danone held their annual shareholders meeting in France. Danone North America owns Horizon Organic, which notified 89 farms in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and parts of New York that it will be dropping their contracts in early 2024. OFA and other regional organic farming groups worked with a shareholder advocacy firm called Trillium Asset Management, which asked Danone management questions about this situation at the annual meeting. Specifically, Trillium asked Danone about their lack of communication with the 89 farms and whether a promised increase in pay price for their milk during the last portion of their contracts had gone into effect yet. The company gave unsatisfactory answers at the annual meeting, so we will be working with Trillium to meet with Danone officials to continue to advocate for the impacted farms. We are also working with the regional farm groups to make sure that USDA’s investment into the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center as a response to this situation actually yields concrete assistance for the impacted farms.

 


OFA Oral Comments to NOSB

National Organic Standards Board
Oral Testimony:   April 19, 2022
Patty Lovera, Policy Director

My name is Patty Lovera, and I am the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association.
Discussion Document: Oversight improvements to deter fraud: Modernization of organic traceability infrastructure

Dealing with fraud has been a top priority for OFA members since the organization’s founding.

  1. OFA supports including acreage per crop on the organic certificate.

But we will need flexibility in how this data is collected to avoid creating a burden for farmers. For example, producers who grow many varieties every year on small parcels of land need a streamlined way to estimate acreage. We also heard concerns about farms that use succession planting and how they would calculate acres per crop per year in a way that is useful for the traceability function of this reporting.

  1. OFA supports including acres per crop on the organic certificate as well as making that information public-facing in the Organic Integrity Database.

Many farmers work with certifiers who already put this information on their certificate, and see the benefit in making this a standardized requirement for all certifiers.

We learned that some large food processors require farmers to sign non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from disclosing this type of information. It would be useful for this disclosure to be a uniform practice across the industry because the NOP requires it, then buyers would have to drop these non-disclosure agreements.

  1. Universal Bill of Lading - During OFA discussions, ideas that generated enthusiasm from grain producers caused anxiety for other types of producers whose markets are very different, like leafy green producers. It may be necessary to create common forms for different sectors of products – grains that are shipped in bulk, livestock, milk, fruits and vegetables, etc.

We also urge the Board and NOP to consider the potential to provide sample or common forms in multiple languages. Making forms more accessible to non-English speakers could remove one of the obstacles for more diverse producers who are considering organic certification.

Proposal: Excluded Methods Spring 2022

OFA supports the NOSB proposal to recommend that the NOP develop a formal Guidance document to include the Definitions,  Criteria, Excluded and Allowed Methods tables as developed by previous Board Proposals in 2016.

We agree with the addition of cell fusion and protoplast fusion as outlined, but suggest that “recombinant DNA” be changed to “in vitro nucleic acid technologies” to provide a more comprehensive definition. Because it is not only DNA that can be manipulated, but also RNA and other materials, we find this definition to be more comprehensive and it aligns with global standards used by Codex.

And with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard now in effect, it is important to help consumers understand how “bioengineered” relates to methods that are excluded from organic. The USDA’s definition of “bioengineered” for the new rule is much narrower than what we would consider as bioengineered within the organic standards, so it is important to show that the organic standards are stronger and make clear to consumers what is and is not allowed in organic.

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National Organic Standards Board
Oral Testimony:   April 19, 2022
Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony
Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today.  Welcome new members.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association.  OFA was created to be a strong national voice and advocate for domestic certified organic farmers.

Today I will be addressing Highly Soluble Fertilizers, Human Capital, and Climate Smart Agriculture.

Crops Subcommittee: Highly Soluble Nitrogen Fertilizers
OFA strongly supports the concept of feeding the soil, not the plant.  We support limiting the use of highly soluble nutrients for use in organic production because such use is incompatible with OFPA and good soil health practices.  Our farmers have voted to prohibit Ammonia Extract and Sodium Nitrate.

Discussion Document: Human Capital Management: Supporting the Work of the NOSB

OFA strongly supports human capital management efforts to better support the work of the board and its members. It is vital the NOSB be fully representative of the organic community.  Farmers and other members of the organic community who are self-employed, often have large out of pocket expenses to cover their time spent fulfilling NOSB responsibilities.  We support the NOP hiring research assistants to support board-member-driven research needs restricted to summarizing literature reviews, technical reports and summaries of public comments.  Managing conflict of interest and confidentiality commitments, and ensuring these assistants have organic knowledge is essential.

We also encourage the NOP to consider expanding the allowable expenses for board members to cover on-farm replacement labor, childcare, etc. so that the self-employed are not facing economic hardship by volunteering their expertise to the NOSB.

NOSB Memo on Climate Smart Agriculture

In response to the NOP memo on February 23rd requesting the NOSB facilitate public discussion and “explore how organic can advance in tandem with climate-smart agriculture to support our planet and our farmers,” I would like to emphasize the contradiction that allowing certified organic hydroponic production poses to this effort.  The NOP asks the NOSB to “help reinforce and capture the connections between climate-smart agriculture and what many certified organic farmers are already doing.”  We support this and highlight that organic soil farming sequesters carbon and hydroponic farming does not, yet all the questions NOP asks around climate smart farming and organic assume soil-based production systems.

Avoiding the issue of organic hydro is creating a huge mess in the marketplace that contradicts the value of organic.  Organic hydroponic production is undefined, lacks standards, and is growing at a rapid pace.  The NOSB recommendations on greenhouse production are now a decade outdated as technology in this industry has changed dramatically.  The NOSB has tools to restore organic’s place as a climate-smart leader and it must use its authority to do so by addressing greenhouse production and hydroponics.

 

 

 

 

 

 


April 2022 Policy Update

April 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Good news! After years of work from the organic community, the USDA finally released the Origin of Livestock final rule, closing loopholes that will level the playing field for organic dairy farms. And Congress continued to slowly move towards the next Farm Bill while the National Organic Standards Board gets ready for its spring meeting.

A WIN for Organic Integrity!

Organic Farmers Association has been pushing the USDA for a strong final Origin of Livestock Rule since we were created in 2016.  This issue has been at the top of our farmer-identified priority list every year. On March 29, USDA finally released the final rule!

The new final rule:

  • Specifies that a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, is allowed to transition non-organic animals ONCE.
  • Prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once a dairy is certified organic, any new animals must have been born as certified organic (managed as organic from the last third of gestation).

This win would not have been possible without the support and action from so many organic farmers, organic farm organizations, and organic consumers who signed on to letters to Congress and USDA asking for support for organic dairy farmers with clear Origin of Livestock Standards.

Now that we have a final Origin of Livestock rule that clarifies the standards for organic dairy transition and growth, we will need to make sure that the USDA’s National Organic Program is requiring organic certification agencies to enforce this rule uniformly.

Setting Organic Priorities for the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the new version. The House Agriculture Committee has kicked off a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs are working, including a hearing in late March in the subcommittee that covers organic issues. The hearing covered a range of topics, including the release of the final rule on Origin of Livestock and ways to streamline application to USDA conservation programs.

Delayed Organic Regulations

Now that the Origin of Livestock final rule has finally been released, we still need USDA action on several other critical issues. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, continues to review the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment.

In the middle of the month, the National Organic Program held a public meeting and comment period to get input on the long list of regulations and guidance on the agency’s to-do list. OFA told NOP to prioritize the Strengthening Organic Enforcement final rule, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards, prohibiting hydroponic operations from being certified organic, clarifying the rules for transitioning greenhouse facilities, finalizing guidance to protect native ecosystems and other issues. You can read OFA’s comments here.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board will be held during the week of April 25th. It will be a virtual meeting that can be watched online.

Some of the big topics on the board’s meeting agenda include:

  • Potential ways to provide NOSB members with technical help and research assistance.
  • Discussion of how to increase traceability in complicated organic supply chains (for bulk commodities like grain) to combat fraud.
  • Defining new types of genetic engineering that should be prohibited in organic production.
  • Possible restrictions on highly soluble forms of nitrogen.
  • A list of "sunset" materials that are up for their 5-year review to be allowed in organic production.

You can read the Board’s proposed recommendations and discussion documents here.  For information on watching the meeting on Zoom, go to the USDA’s page for this meeting. The public comment sessions for this meeting will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday April 19 and the afternoon of Thursday April 21.  You can read OFA’s comments to the Board here.


March 2022 Policy Update

March 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Setting Organic Priorities for the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the new version. The House Agriculture Committee has kicked off a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs like conservation and commodity programs are working under the current Farm Bill.

On March 2nd, OFA co-hosted a virtual meeting with the Organic Trade Association to gather input from almost 100 organic farmers and representatives from organic farm groups. The session was focused on how the next Farm Bill can best address the challenges facing organic, including continuous improvement in organic standards, increasing enforcement, removing obstacles to new farms getting certified organic and economic viability for all organic farms. This virtual meeting will be combined with feedback from regional meetings held by organic farm groups and an online survey for organic farmers, to identify OFA’s priorities for the next Farm Bill. You can still get involved in OFA’s process for setting our priorities for organic in the next Farm Bill by taking our Farm Bill priorities survey.

Tracking Delayed Organic Regulations

Two long-awaited regulations that are needed to increase the integrity of the organic standards are still in the approval process. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, continues to review USDA’s Origin of Livestock rule and the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment and the final version of the OOL rule.

Virtual Advocacy Days

This week, members of OFA’s policy committee and governing council will be doing online visits with their members of Congress, outlining our priority issues. We will be talking about how to fix organic certification cost share, why organic agriculture is a climate solution, and the need for USDA to protect the integrity of the organic label with ramped up enforcement and updates to the organic standards.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board will be held during the week of April 25th. It will be a virtual meeting that can be watched online.

Some of the big topics on the board’s meeting agenda include:

- Potential ways to provide NOSB members with technical help and research assistance.

- Discussion of how to increase traceability in complicated organic supply chains (for bulk commodities like grain) to combat fraud.

- Defining new types of genetic engineering that should be prohibited in organic production.

- Possible restrictions on highly soluble forms of nitrogen.

- And a list of "sunset" materials that are up for their 5-year review to be allowed in organic production.

You can read the Board’s proposed recommendations and discussion documents here. For information on watching the meeting on Zoom, go to the USDA’s page for this meeting. The public comment sessions for this meeting will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday April 19 and the afternoon of Thursday April 21. Sign up soon to get a spot to offer comments to the Board! There is a form at the bottom of the meeting website to sign up.

 


February 2022 Policy Update

February 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

New USDA Program on Climate Smart Commodities

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA would spend $1 billion on grants for pilot programs that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits. OFA will be closely reading the rules for the new grant program to see how organic farming fits into the program’s definition of climate-smart. You can read more about this new program here.

Organic Regulations Moving Through Approval Process

Two long-awaited regulations that are needed to increase the integrity of the organic standards are finally moving through the rulemaking process. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, is reviewing USDA’s Origin of Livestock rule and the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. OFA and our allies have met with the OMB about both of these rules to make the case that stronger rules are desperately needed to ensure a level playing field for organic farms and ensure the integrity of the organic label. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment and the final version of the OOL rule.

Northeast Organic Milk Update

OFA is still working with regional organic farm organizations and the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance to identify options for the 89 organic dairy farms in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and part of New York who were notified by Horizon Organic that the company plans to end their contract to buy their milk. OFA and other farm organizations participated in a task force organized by the USDA that offered a long list of recommendations for steps USDA could take, ranging from finalizing long-delayed rules like Origin of Livestock, to investing in new processing infrastructure for organic milk. When asked by members of Congress during a hearing about the status of these recommendations, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said he expected to be making some decisions quite soon.

There are still many details to figure out for the impacted farmers and lots of work to be done to improve infrastructure for organic milk processing in the region. A 6-month contract extension announced by Danone will give the farms a little bit more time to investigate new paths forward, but what the region really needs is a sound market with more buyers for organic milk. OFA and our allies will continue to push Danone and USDA to co-invest in solutions for Northeast dairy infrastructure that will secure a future for Northeast dairy and provide local organic milk for the Northeast.

Unclear Path Forward for Build Back Better bill

With the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in the fall, the future of a second major spending bill is still up in the air. The second package, called Build Back Better, is a “budget reconciliation” bill that uses a special procedure and can be passed only with Democratic votes (which will be necessary because all Republicans have vowed not to vote for it). The House passed its version of Build Back Better just before Thanksgiving, and it includes a big increase in funding for organic research as well as a historic $28 billion increase (over 10 years) for USDA conservation programs including the Conservation Security Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, with a focus on addressing climate change. The House package also included a new program to forgive USDA farm loans for some small farms.

Senate Democrats have not been able to find agreement on their version of the bill, with key players like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) blocking the process. There is a lot of speculation about the path forward for this package, with some proposals to break the larger package up into smaller pieces. If that is the path forward, we will need to see if a climate package includes the same historic level of funding for USDA conservation programs that was in the original Build Back Better package.

Congress Starts to Prepare for the Next Farm Bill

Even as we try to figure out what will happen with the agriculture and climate spending in the Build Back Better bill, Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the next Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill, passed in 2018, expires in 2023. But the debate over what should be in the bill will begin this year. The House Agriculture Committee has kicked off a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs like conservation and commodity programs are working under the current Farm Bill. And many members of Congress will start to do events like listening sessions or other meetings to gather input about the Farm Bill during their recess periods this spring and summer.

There are several ways you can get involved in OFA’s process for setting our priorities for organic in the next Farm Bill:

  1. Take our Farm Bill priorities survey
  1. Attend a virtual meeting with organic farmers from across the country to talk about what organic needs in the next Farm Bill.

 


USDA Appoints New NOSB Members

On Friday, February 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of four new members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is made up of 15 volunteer members representing the organic community. The new members will each serve five-year terms, through January 2027.  Two certified organic farmers were appointed to the board.

NEWLY APPOINTED NOSB MEMBERS:

Elizabeth (Liz) Graznak (Missouri) is appointed to an environmental protection and resource conservation seat. Graznak has a degree in Environmental Studies and has shown a commitment to sustainable agriculture as a certified organic farmer and during past appointments with environmentally focused Boards.  She was named the 2021 MOSES Farmer of the Year.

 

Allison Johnson (California) is appointed to a public interest or consumer interest group seat.  Johnson currently works for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). She is an attorney with experience working with organic regulations, an organic certifier (CCOF), and has focused her work on sustainable food systems.

Dr. Dilip Nandwani (Tennessee) is appointed to the scientist seat. Nandwani is a professor at Tennessee State University and holds a Ph.D. in Botany. He has 10-years of teaching experience, with a focus on organic agriculture, certification, and crop science.

 

Javier Zamora (California) is appointed to a farmer seat.  Zamora is with JSM Organics, a 100-acre vegetable/fruit certified organic farm, and has 20-years of farming experience. He has provided farmers assistance with direct marketing regulations, organic compliance, and developing direct marketing channels. He is fluent in Spanish.

 

WHAT IS THE NOSB?

The NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) is a Federal Advisory Board established under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. The Board meets monthly and with the organic community two times a year (typically April and October).   As a board, they assist in developing organic standards and advise the Secretary of Agriculture on aspects of the National Organic Program. The USDA has more about the board here: www.ams.usda.gov/organic.