April Policy Update

April, 2021

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

At the end of March, OFA took our annual trip to DC virtual. Instead of meeting in-person for our policy meeting, annual meeting and lobby day, we shifted to online. In early March, we held an online annual meeting with special guest speaker Senator Jon Tester, who is a certified organic farmer from Montana. He talked about why organic farmers need to get involved in policy discussions, how he got into organic farming and why he thinks hydroponic operations should not be certified organic. DO WE WANT TO SHARE LINK OF RECORDING?

The policy council and governing council have also been doing extended online meetings this year to cover the topics we would have discussed at an in-person meeting in DC. And the last week in March, OFA members used Zoom, Skype, and good old-fashioned conference calls to lobby their members of Congress on organic priorities. While we missed getting ready and debriefing together in DC, shifting to virtual meetings meant no travel time and allowed some people to participate in lobbying for the first time. We had organic farmers from 13 states do over 30 meetings with members of Congress to talk about organic certification cost share, getting USDA to finish long overdue organic regulations and how organic fits into climate policy.

Origin of Livestock

Last week, the USDA sent a notice to the White House about the pending regulation on origin of livestock. This long overdue rulemaking is needed to close a loophole in the organic standards that is being exploited by large dairy operations. The review process at the White House is far from transparent – we don’t know what is in the document sent by USDA, just that it was sent. We will continue tracking this rulemaking and pressuring the USDA to finish a strong, enforceable rule as quickly as possible.

Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Response

We are still waiting for details about how USDA will distribute funding for the latest round of pandemic response. In late December, Congress passed a new law to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that authorized $13 billion for responding to the impacts of the pandemic on agriculture, as well as funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. The law instructs the USDA to do several different things with the agricultural funding, including purchasing commodities and providing direct payments to farmers and processors that have been impacted by disruptions caused by the pandemic.

In late March, USDA announced a few details about supplemental payments to producers of cattle and some row crops who received payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 1 and 2 last year. Producers do not have to do anything else to receive these supplemental payments if they were in the system last year. Additionally, USDA announced that it was reopening the sign-up period for CFAP 2 for at least 60 days. If you did not apply to CFAP 2 last year and are interested, you can get more information on USDA’s website.

USDA still has other funding to spend on pandemic response related to purchasing commodities to distribute through food banks, assistance to underserved producers, and possibly other assistance to specialty crop or organic producers. We will let you know when details for any new programs are released.

Paycheck Protection Program: Congress has again extended the Paycheck Protection Program, and you can now apply until May 31 for a first or second loan. To be eligible for a second loan, a business must have less than 300 employees and also be able to show that it suffered a 25 percent loss in revenue for at least one quarter of 2020 (as compared to 2019.) If you are interested, you should contact your bank as soon as possible to make sure there is still funding available.

Climate Policy

The debate about climate change and the role played by agriculture continues to pick up steam. A few weeks ago, the Senate Agriculture Committee had a hearing on the topic (following a House Agriculture Committee hearing a few weeks earlier.) And this week or next, we expect to see bills from Rep. Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Booker (D-NJ) that highlight the role of agriculture as a climate solution. The pace is picking up because of the push by President Biden to pass an infrastructure package – there will likely be even more climate bills introduced very soon in hopes that some pieces of those bills will be included in an infrastructure package passed by Congress later this summer. We will be evaluating the various bills and sharing ways you can support those that advance organic.

House Agriculture Hearing on Black Farmers

In late March, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on that state of black farmers in the United States, which included an organic peanut farmer from Georgia as well as other advocates and the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The hearing covered the long history of discrimination that kept many black farmers from accessing USDA programs or credit and drove generations of land loss. The American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year in response to the pandemic also included funding for loan forgiveness for farmers of color, and at the hearing Secretary Vilsack answered numerous questions about how that program will be structured. You can watch a recording of the hearing on the committee’s website.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

Once again, the National Organic Standards Board meeting is online this spring. You can watch the public comment periods and the full board meeting online. We are hopeful that the board will adopt a recommendation allowing paper pots (after several meetings of discussion). The agenda also includes a discussion on “human capital” to make sure the organic sector has a robust pool of people to serve as organic inspectors, ways to support board members, a discussion of ammonia extract, and many materials that are up for review.

You can get information and links to watch the meetings here.

Public Comment Sessions: Tuesday, April 20 from Noon - 5 p.m. ET and Thursday April 22 from Noon - 5 p.m. ET

NOSB Meeting: Wednesday, April 28 from Noon - 5 p.m., Thursday, April 29 from Noon - 5 p.m. ET, Friday, April 30 from Noon - 5 p.m. ET

What You Can Do

This is the time of year when Congress starts to put together the “appropriations” bills that set the spending levels for each federal agency, including USDA. We still need Congress to intervene to get USDA to restore the reimbursement levels for organic certification cost share through the next appropriations bill. You can help by asking your members of Congress to make sure that USDA restores the reimbursement level for organic certification cost-share.  You can take action here.


March Policy Update

March, 2021

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Congress has started to get down to business, with most committee rosters lined up, the impeachment trial completed and many new Cabinet officials confirmed. One of those confirmation votes was for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who was easily approved by the Senate. This is his second time running USDA, he served as secretary for eight years under President Obama. In his initial weeks on the job, Secretary Vilsack has been making the rounds of media interviews and conferences to talk about his priority issues – climate change, racial equity and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that the top job is filled, there will be more announcements about other political appointees at the agency. So far, a deputy undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs (which is the division containing the National Organic Program) has been named and is on the job, as well as a new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Administrator of the Farm Services Agency.

Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Response

Today, the House is expected to pass the latest measure to respond to the pandemic, sending the bill to President to sign. The American Rescue Plan, is a massive $1.9 billion package that will fund a long list of programs including direct $1400 payments to eligible individuals, expanded unemployment payments, aid for state and local government, and support for vaccinations, health care, education and more.

For agriculture, this bill does not include new money for direct payments to farms or processors impacted by the pandemic. But it does include a 15 percent increase for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, $4 billion in commodity purchases for food banks and funding to increase the resilience of the food supply chain, including grants for purchasing personal protective equipment, test kits, and other measures for food chain workers and infrastructure investments for food processors, farmers markets, food banks, and producers to build resiliency in the food supply. The bill also contains $4 billion for debt relief for farmers of color and additional funding for USDA to create a racial equity commission and address longstanding discrimination in the administration of USDA programs.

Over at USDA, there are still questions about how the funding for agriculture from the last pandemic response law will be spent. In late December, Congress passed a new law to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that authorized $13 billion for responding to the impacts of the pandemic on agriculture, as well as funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. The law instructs the USDA to do several different things with the agricultural funding, including purchasing commodities and providing direct payments to farmers and processors that have been impacted by disruptions caused by the pandemic. In his last week in office, former Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced that USDA would spend over a billion dollars to provide supplemental payments to certain producers who had already received payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in 2020 for specific categories like hog producers and several new categories of crops, including turf grass and pullets, and contract livestock producers who were made eligible in the new law passed in December. Just a few days after President Biden was inaugurated, the USDA announced that it was pausing the payments so the program could be reviewed. We are still waiting for a decision from USDA about what will happen next with these payment programs, and members of Congress are starting to pressure the agency for a decision. At some point soon, the status of those pending payments should be clarified, and the USDA will release the rules for a new round of direct payments using the funding in the law passed in December.

Paycheck Protection Program: The law passed in December also provided additional funding for small business assistance programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program, including second loans under PPP. To be eligible for a second loan, a business has to have less than 300 employees and also be able to show that it suffered a 25 percent loss in revenue for at least one quarter of 2020 (as compared to 2019.) The deadline for applying for a PPP loan is March 31, but if you are interested you should contact your bank as soon as possible to make sure there is still funding available.

Climate Policy

One of the big topics for Congress and USDA this year is climate change. The House Agriculture Committee dedicated its first official hearing of the year to the topic, with a long session that covered how climate change is impacting farmers and possible policy mechanisms to make agriculture part of the effort to fight climate change. The key themes (made by both Democrats and Republicans) were that climate policy for agriculture should be based on voluntary programs and incentives, with lots of emphasis on soil health and conservation programs and discussion on the promise and pitfalls of programs that would pay farms for sequestering carbon. The Senate Agriculture Committee will have a hearing this Thursday at 10:15 eastern on climate change issues, where the chair of the committee, Senator Stabenow, will likely promote her Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would make USDA a technical service provider and certifier for carbon payment programs. You can watch the hearing on the committee website here.

What You Can Do

As we get finally get closer to spring, that means in DC it is time to talk about money. This is the time of year when Congress starts to put together the “appropriations” bills that set the spending levels for each federal agency, including USDA. We still need Congress to intervene to get USDA to restore the reimbursement levels for organic certification cost share through the next appropriations bill. You can help by asking your members of Congress to make sure that USDA restores the reimbursement level for organic certification cost-share.  You can take action here.

UPCOMING EVENTS:  Mark Your Calendars!

OFA “Virtual” Lobby Days

In 2021, instead of traveling to Washington, DC for an OFA lobby day, we will be coordinating a week of virtual lobby visits instead. Mark your calendars for the week of March 22nd, when OFA members will be working together to have online or phone meetings with their members of Congress.  You can register now and we'll keep you in the loop about upcoming trainings and how to participate!  Open only to OFA members.

 


February Policy Update

February, 2021

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

After a chaotic start to the year, Congress is starting to get down to business and the Biden administration is filling jobs across the federal government, including the USDA. There are lots of things happening on issues that impact organic farms.

COVID-19 Vaccine

We’ve heard from some organic farmers that it has been a struggle to figure out when employees of farms or farmers markets will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s not just farms that are struggling – all kinds of agriculture and food-related businesses are reporting challenges in the face of shortages of the vaccine.

The federal government has recommended that workers in agriculture, food manufacturing and grocery stores be included in an early vaccination phase, 1b. But the actual decision about who is eligible for each vaccination phase is made by state health departments. States are balancing the availability of vaccine doses and how to prioritize various groups of people that may be at high risk as they design their vaccination programs.

To find out when agriculture and food system workers in your state will be eligible for vaccination, the best place to start is your state health department. And if you want to urge your state to make sure agriculture and food system workers are in an early phase, here is a letter sent to California regulators from the Community Alliance with Family Farmers that could serve as a model.

Economic Stimulus and Pandemic Response

USDA: In late December, Congress passed a new law to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic disruption. The new law authorizes spending for a long list of pandemic-related programs including direct payments to individuals, supplemental unemployment payments, funding for the transportation and airline industries, healthcare, vaccine distribution and more. There was also $13 billion provided for the USDA to respond to impacts of the pandemic on agriculture, as well as funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. The law instructs the USDA to do several different things with the agricultural funding, including purchasing commodities and providing direct payments to farmers and processors that have been impacted by disruptions caused by the pandemic.

So far, the USDA has announced it would do another round of the Farm to Families Food Box program, which pays contractors to assemble and deliver boxes of foods to food banks and other charities to distribute.

On the direct payments front, things are not as clear. In his last week in office, former Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced that USDA would spend over a billion dollars to provide supplemental payments to certain producers who had already received payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in 2020. The “top up” payments were for specific categories of producers, like hog producers. The funding was also supposed to go to several new categories of crops, including turf grass and pullets, and contract livestock producers who were made eligible in the new law passed in December. Just a few days after President Biden was inaugurated, the USDA announced that it was pausing the payments announced by Secretary Perdue to allow the policy to be reviewed. At some point, the status of those pending payments will be clarified, and the USDA will release the rules for a new round of direct payments using the funding provided in the new law. OFA and the National Organic Coalition sent a letter to the USDA in January urging to make sure any new payment program works for organic operations. We will let you know when the details of the new program are released.

Paycheck Protection Program: The new law also provided additional funding for small business assistance programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program, including second loans under PPP. To be eligible for a second loan, a business has to have less than 300 employees and also be able to show that it suffered a 25 percent loss in revenue for at least one quarter of 2020 (as compared to 2019.) The deadline for applying for a PPP loan is March 31, but if you are interested you should contact your bank as soon as possible to make sure there is still funding available.

Congress

After a lot of delays at the beginning of the session, Congress is now getting down to work. Both the House and the Senate are now officially under Democratic control, but have the majority by the slimmest of margins, which is likely to make it difficult to pass bills that don’t have bipartisan support. We are also getting used to some changes in the key committees, especially the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. In the House, the new chairman of the Agriculture Committee is Rep. David Scott from Georgia, and the new ranking member (top Republican) is Rep. G.T. Thompson from Pennsylvania. In the Senate, the chair of the Agriculture Committee is Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and the new ranking member is Senator John Boozman from Arkansas.

We hope that both of the Agriculture committees are more active this year than they were in 2020, and conduct hearings on key issues like USDA’s pandemic response programs, how food and agriculture supply chains fared during the pandemic and how to design climate policy for agriculture that will work for all types of farms, including organic.

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Tom Vilsack to be the Secretary of Agriculture, and later the same day advanced his nomination out of committee. At some point, possibly quite soon, the full Senate will vote to confirm his nomination and he will begin serving as the Secretary. His reception by the senators on the Agriculture Committee was overwhelmingly positive, with many questions about his approach to climate policy, rebuilding supply chains after the challenges of the pandemic, SNAP and perennial issues like supporting the ethanol industry. Senator Leahy (D-VT) did ask specifically about the stalled Origin of Livestock rulemaking process and Vilsack replied that he wanted to  address that issue quickly.

Climate Change

The role of agriculture in addressing climate change has been grabbing a lot of headlines lately. The Biden Administration has made using federal agencies to fight climate change an early focus, which is triggering a flurry of speculation about how the USDA will engage on this issue. At his Senate hearing, Vilsack emphasized that he will get farmer input as the agency designs its programs on climate change and expressed interest in using existing programs, like conservation programs, to help farms adopt climate-friendly practices. He was also very supportive of a more controversial idea, using USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to establish a “carbon bank” that would facilitate farms participating in market-based programs to pay farms for carbon sequestration. There’s going to be a lot of discussion this spring about the appropriate role for USDA in these efforts, and organic farmers will need to weigh in to make sure any new programs work for all types of agriculture. The OFA Policy Committee has been developing a list of questions we need to inject into the debate. We will let you know when the USDA opens up a process for farmer input on climate change programs. We will need as many organic voices in that process as we can get.

What You Can Do

As the new Administration and new Congress get down to work, we will be pushing them to address our priorities for organic, including getting the USDA moving on long-overdue rules and making sure organic farmer voices are included in debates on climate change and other issues.

One immediate way to help is to ask your members of Congress to make sure that USDA restores the reimbursement level for organic certification cost-share.  You can take action here.

UPCOMING EVENTS:  Mark Your Calendars!

Advocacy 101 Webinar

How can we get Congress to support organic farmers? Learn how to make your voice heard in the legislative process during this webinar about how to lobby your elected officials. Get ready for meetings with your members of Congress. We’ll cover how to schedule a meeting, what to say, and how to create ongoing communication with elected officials.

OFA “Virtual” Lobby Days

In 2021, instead of traveling to Washington, DC for an OFA lobby day, we will be coordinating a week of virtual lobby visits instead. Mark your calendars for the week of March 22nd, when OFA members will be working together to have online or phone meetings with their members of Congress.  You can register now and we'll keep you in the loop about upcoming trainings and how to participate!  Open only to OFA members.

 


118 Organizations & 249 Farms Send Letter to USDA RE: Organic Dairy Rule

January 28, 2021

U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

RE: USDA National Organic Program – Origin of Livestock Rulemaking

Dear Acting Secretary Shea:

As members of the organic community, we look forward to working closely with you to advance a food and agriculture system that benefits the health of people and the planet.

In that regard, we are writing today about an issue that is important for the future of organic dairy farmers, their families, and the integrity of the organic label.  This issue is the need to clarify the regulation regarding Origin of Livestock (7 CFR 205.236), pertaining to the process of transitioning conventional dairy livestock to organic production.

The organic label is one of the most highly trusted labels for consumers. This is due to the strong Federal standards and enforcement behind the label. There are, however, some areas where the USDA’s National Organic Program standards need to be strengthened to retain that consumer trust.  Solidifying standards to ensure all organic farmers operate under the same rules is essential for the entire organic community. The economic viability of organic dairy farmers is dependent upon clarification of regulations to stop varied interpretations or loopholes regarding dairy livestock transitioning practices.

The problem has been that those organic dairy producers who have utilized the loophole to continuously transition conventional animals into organic production have gained an economic advantage and contributed to the oversupply of organic milk. This has contributed to a significant drop in the milk prices paid to organic dairy farmers, the majority of whom were held to a higher standard and stricter enforcement.

In 2015, during the Obama-Biden Administration, USDA published a proposed rule to close the loopholes related to ‘Origin of Livestock’ (80 FR 23455). Specifically, the proposed Rule would clarify that:  “After completion of a one-time, 12-month transition period of an existing conventional dairy herd (or livestock to form new organic dairy operations), all new dairy animals milked on the organic dairy farm would need to be managed organically from the last third of gestation.”

The 2015 proposed rule garnered strong, united support from the organic community and consumers, especially the provision that stopped conventional livestock from continuously entering the organic herd. Implementing the 2015 Proposed Rule would clarify the regulation so that all certifiers will consistently enforce the same standards, with confidence that their decision would be upheld in any legal challenge. Unfortunately, the 2015 rule has never been finalized.

Organic dairy farmers understand the economic importance of maintaining the integrity of the organic label by finalizing the ‘Origin of Livestock’ (80 FR 23455). For 15 years, organic dairy farmers have advocated for an enforceable regulation applied equally to all certified producers. The organic community has provided comments two times on Proposed Rules from the National Organic Program (NOP) to stop the continuous transition and two-track system interpretation created by loopholes in the current regulation. USDA’s unconscionable delay in issuing a Final Rule has resulted in economic damage, financial hardships, and closure of businesses for organic dairy farmers following the true intent of the organic standards.

Congress included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill requiring USDA to finalize the long-delayed rule by June 17, 2020. USDA missed that deadline. On October 21, 2020, the NOP announced plans to publish another Proposed Rule to address enforcement issues raised by USDA’s Office of General, instead of moving directly to a final rule as required by Congress. NOP has failed to provide a timeframe for issuing the new regulations. Organic dairy farmers and the organic community more broadly are frustrated by the NOP’s continued delay in finalizing this regulation.

The undersigned organizations urge you to take the immediate actions necessary to finalize this important rulemaking, to establish a consistent and fully enforceable standard regarding the origin of dairy livestock used for organic production.

Sincerely,

National Organic Organizations (21):

Alliance for Natural Health USA, USA, National
Beyond Pesticides, USA, National
Bioagricert (a FoodChain ID company), USA, National
Family Farm Defenders, USA, National
Food & Water Watch, USA, National
Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), USA, National
Friends of the Earth, USA, National
Green America, USA, National
National Center for Appropriate Technology, USA, National
National Family Farm Coalition, USA, National
National Farmers Organization, USA, National
National Organic Coalition, USA, National
Natural Resources Defense Council, USA, National
Next7.org, USA, USA, National
Organic Consumers Association, USA, National
Organic Farmers Association, USA, National
Organic Farming Research Foundation, USA, National
Organic Seed Alliance, USA, National
Organic Eye, USA, National
The Cornucopia Institute, USA, National
Wild Farm Alliance, USA, National

State & Local Organic Organizations (90):
350 Sonoma, Regenerative Agriculture group, CA
Albert Lea Seed, MN
Arizona Natural Health Center, AZ
Baystate Organic Certifiers, MA
Bethlehem Farmers' Market, PA
Bionutrient Food Association, MA
Bucks Environmental Action, PA
California Certified Organic Farmers, CA
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, NC
CCOF, CA
Central Indiana Organics, IN
Centralas Wine LLC, CA
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), MA
Compost Carpool, TX
Cuatro Puertas, NM
Ecological Farming Association, OR
FairShare CSA Coalition, WI
Farm2Table Co-op & Cafe', WI
Good Earth Natural Foods, CA
Govinda Goshala Cow Haven Inc, NY
Green City Growers, MA
Green Creations Landscape Services LLC, PA
Green State Solutions, IA
Hanover Co-op Food Stores of NH & VT, NH
Honeybee Kitchen and Market, DE
Hoosier Organic Marketing Education, IN
iEat Green, LLC, NY
Iowa Organic Association, IA
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, IL
Kanalani Ohana Farm, HI
KOL Foods, MD
Maine Dairy Industry Association, ME
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, ME
Maine Organic Milk Producers, ME
Maple Hill Creamery, NY
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance, MI
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), WI
Miskell's Conservation Land Consulting LLC, VT
MOFGA Certification Services, ME
Montana Organic Association (MOA), MT
MOSA Certified Organic, WI
Natural Grocers, CO
Nature's Way Resources, TX
North End Organic Nursery, ID
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), MA
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH), NH
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), NY
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), VT
Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council(NOFA-IC), MA
Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS), ND
OCIA Research & Education, Inc., NE
OFARM (Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing), MN
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, OH
One Cert, Inc., NE
Oregon Organic Coalition (OOC), OR
Oregon Tilth, OR
Organic Advocacy, CA
Organic Association of Kentucky, KS
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), ME
Out There Coffee Co, OK
Pacha, CA
PCC Community Markets, WA
Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO), PA
Pikes Peak Farm to School, CO
Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School Sustainability Club, MA
Primus Auditing Ops, CA
Provender Alliance, OR
Real Organic Project, VT
Revolution Rickshaws. L.L.C., NY
Rodale Institute, PA
Rural Vermont, VT
Save Our Soil, WV
Sebastian's Restaurant Racine, WI
Sebastopol Farmers Market, CA
Slow Food North Shore, NY
Slow Food Western Slope, CO
Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, CO
Sonoma County Farm Bureau, CA
Spring Sunrise Natural Foods, IA
Straus Family Creamery, CA
Syntax Land Design, LLC, MO
Texas Organic Farm & Garden Association, TX
The Brice Institute, PA
The Garden of Giving, PA
The Hemp Shield Company, OR
The Land Connection, IL
Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., NY
Valley Organic Growers Association, CO
Virginia Association for Biological Farming, VA
Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA), WA

International Organic Organizations (7):

BW GLOBAL, BC, Canada
IFOAM North America, USA, Canada, Mexico
International Organic Inspectors Association, Headquarters, USA
Nature's Path Foods Inc., BC, Canada
SULADS Canada Foundation, BC, Canada
Extension Unit of Banat University, Romania
Global Certification Society, Palampur, India

Farms (249):

Mountain Sun Farm, AL
Green Goat of Misty Mountain Farm, AR
Royal Berry Farm, AR
Sanctuary Farm & Rest House, AR
Alexandre Dairy, CA
Alexandre Acres, CA
Alexandre Family Farm, CA
DeBernardi Dairy Inc, CA
Full Belly Farm, CA
Galaxy Farm, CA
Handy Farms, CA
Malibu Sangha, CA
McGrath Family Farm, CA
Birdsong Orchards, CA
Cornerstone Farm, CA
Creekside Farms Silveira Farms, CA
For the People Seed Farm, CA
Indian Springs Organic Farm, CA
LaRocca Vineyards, CA
Orchard Flats Farm, CA
Puma Springs Vineyards, CA
Rancho Roben, CA
Somerset Gourmet Farm, CA
Bucher Farms, CA
Renati dairy, CA
Trinity land & livestock Inc., CA & OR
Irongate Ranch, CA.
Natural Ag LLC, CO
Nighthawk, CO
Protect Your Assets LLC, CO
Black Fox Farm, LLC, CO
Sweet Ring Farm, CT
Just Organic Inc, FL
Community Meat Co., GA
LS Adderson, Inc., GA
W.C. Bradley Farms, Inc., GA
Maui Bees Inc, HI
New Dream organic farm llc, HI
Andrew Riniker Jr. Farm, IA
Andy Helmuth Farm, IA
Blueberry Bottom Farm, IA
David W Bangert Farm, IA
Maple View Dairy, IA
Prairie Star Farms, IA
Radiance Dairy, IA
Wells, Inc, IA
Bridgewater Farm, IA
Fantasy Farms, IA
Heritage Organic Acres, IA
Madison Hill Farm, IA
O’Lynch Dairy, IA
Okoboji Organics, IA
Patchwork Green Farm, IA
Randy Riediger, IA
Magic Valley Organic Dairy, ID
Turner Dairy Inc., ID
Deelstra Dairy, ID
Double Eagle Dairy, ID
Eagle View Dairy, ID
Frisian Farm, ID
Ken Backstrom, ID
Mills Farm & Cattle Co., ID
Ackerman Certified Organic Farm & More, IL
Adsit Farms, IL
Amanda Busse Dairy Farm, IL
Mint Creek Farm, IL
Gary E. McDonald/McDonald Farms, IL
Lily Lake Organic Farm, IL
Snow Rocky Road Dairy inc, IL
Ramsey Organic Farms, IN
Center Valley Organic Farm, IN
Sterling Ag., IN
Conway's Produce, KS
ReQua Family Farm, KS
Organic Association of Kentucky, KS
Moon on the Meadow farm, KS
Mt. Folly Farm, LLC, KY
Rolling Fork Organic Farm Inc, KY
Keets Croft, MA
NaMac Farm, MA
Good Soil Farm LLC, MD
Rosebud Estates, MD
Silvercloud Farm LLC, MD
Abundant Grace Farms, MD
Milk and Honey Farm, MD
Chase Farm, ME
Forster Ricardo Farm, ME
Grace Pond Farm, ME
Midsummer Night's Meadow Farm, ME
Milkweed Farm, ME
Noon Family Sheep Farm, ME
Sheepscot Valley Farm, ME
The Milkhouse, ME
Hatchet Cove Farm, ME
Reed Farm, ME
Wolfe’s Neck Center, ME
Ford Farms, MI
Sherman Family Farm LLC, MI
Guza organic farm, MI
Nodding Thistle, MI
Plymouth Orchards, MI
Wingnut Farms, MI
Blue Skye Farms, MN
Ladwig Acres, MN
Mohs Dairy, MN
Robin & Karen Brekken Farm Partnership, MN
School House Place, MN
The Boreal Farm, MN
Valley Organic Farm, MN
Allen Berg Farm, MN
Askegaard Organic Farm, MN
Dean Walz Farm, Mn
Enchanted Meadows, MN
First Foods Farm &Seeds, MN
JPR Acres, LLC, MN
Pleasant Hill Farms, MO
Blue Heron Orchard, MO
Karbaumer Farm, MO
Wacha farms, MO
Quinn Farm & Ranch, MT
Craig & Lori Schmitt Farm, MT
Fox Hollow Farms, MT
Crow Holler Produce, NC
GODS Country, NC
Green Life, LLC, NC
Rose Mountain Farm, NC
Ecological Insights, ND
Michael Zegers, NE
Chad Christianson, NE
Mo-Day Farms, NE
Rhea Brothers GP, NE
Brookfield Farm, NH
Brookvale Pines Farm, NH
Hop N Hen Farm, NH
Pedlar's End, NH
Fertile Fields Farm, NH
Comeback Farm, NJ
Neshanic Pastures LLC, NJ
Stephens Farm, NJ
Still Hill Farm, NS/Canada
Casey dairy farm, NY
Cobblestone Valley Farm, NY
Dewey Produce, Inc., NY
Gianforte farm LLC, NY
Minde Farm, NY
Mr. & Mrs. John J. Saeli, NY
Murphys Grass Farm, NY
Myer Farm, NY
Naturally Organic Realty, NY
Road's End Farm, NY
Rocky Top Acres LLC, NY
Twin Ponds Farm, NY
Biophilia Organic Farm, NY
Breese Hollow Dairy, NY
Be a Blessing Farm, NY
Bundy Creek Farm LLC, NY
Clearview Farm, NY
Elderberry Pond Farm, NY
Hodgins Harvest, NY
Rosewalk Farms LLC, NY
Solstice Hill Farm, NY
The Hoppy Acre, NY
Twin Oaks Dairy LLC, NY
White Feather Farm, NY
Baker Fork Farm, OH
Bezold Farms, OH
Schmidt Family Farms, OH
Straits Brothers Farms Inc., OH
Turner Farm, OH
Circle K Stables, OH
Dahlinghaus Farms, OH
Hi Dew Meadow Farm, OH
Hidden Springs, OH
Jordan Gingerich Farm, OH
NEO HOPS, OH
Pohl Dairy, OH
Straits Brothers Farm Inc., OH
Timberlane Organic Farms, OH
Tom Cail Farm, OH
Three Springs Farm, OK
Farmer Gene's Bees, OR
Hinsvark Farm, OR
Redwing Farm, OR
Wren Vineyard, OR
High 5 Acres inc., OR
Danish Dairy, LLC, OR
Deschutes Canyon Garlic, OR
Gentle Rain Farm, OR
LaNa's Conscious Farm Inc., OR
Medina dairy, OR
Pacific Botanicals, OR
Plum Thickets Farm, OR
Spring Up Farm, OR
Poland Organic Dairy, OR
Earl Groff Farm, PA
Brian Mizikar, PA
Butt Ugly Farm, PA
Hillside Farm, PA
Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, Inc., PA
Provident Farms, PA
Quarry Hill farm, PA
Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, PA
Regenerative Farm LLC, PA
Snipes Farm and Education Center, PA
Lady Moon Farms, PA-FL-GA
Blue Sky Sunny Day, SC
Bill and Janine Fonder Family Organic Dairy, SD
K&N Organic Farm, SD
SLAP Farms, LLC, TN
Floyd Farms, TX
Stonefield Farm, TX
Self Employed Millberg Farm, TX
King Hill Farm, VA
Oak Grove Meadows LLC, VA
Flack Family Farm, VT
Grateful Morning Dairy, LLC, VT
The Corse Farm Dairy LLC, VT
Riverstone Organic Farm, VT
Buck Mountain Maple, VT
Green Wind Farm LLC, VT
Long Wind Farm, VT
Vermont Compost Company, VT
Downriver Orchard, WA
Northstar Nurseries, Inc., WA
Pure Eire Dairy, WA
Uhlenkott Farm, WA
Whitestone Mountain Orchard, WA
Dykstra Farms, WA
Fayette Ranch, WA
Mallonee Family Farm, LLC, WA
Mensonides LLC, WA
Olivers Northwest Produce, WA
Osceola Jerseys LLC, WA
Breezy Hills Farm of Baldwin, WI
DeFere Family Farms LLC, WI
Franklin Farm, WI
Sweet Springs Farm, WI
Wonderfarm, WI
David Olson Farm, WI
Homer Ridge Organic Dairy, WI
Hughes Farms, WI
Klefstad Natural Dairy, WI
Mark and Kim Mueller Farm, WI
Towlealen Farm, WI
Weiterman Farm LLC, WI
Whitefeather Organics LLC, WI
Full Harvest Farm LLC, WI
Belle Vue Dairy, WV
Thistle Ridge Farm, WV
Windspring Farms, Inc., WV

CC:
Deputy Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs Mae Wu
National Organic Standard Board

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

To read more about the Origin of Livestock Rule, below are links to past blog posts on OFA action to call on USDA to finalize OOL
June 2020 Letter to USDA regarding missed rulemaking deadline last June. https://organicfarmersassociation.org/news/usda-misses-ool-deadline/

 

 


OFA & NOC Submit Letter to USDA RE: Covid Relief

January 15, 2021

Dear Secretary-designate Vilsack,

We are writing to make recommendations about the USDA’s implementation of the “Covid-19 Relief and Fiscal 2021 Omnibus Act.” We are deeply concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers, inspectors, and consumers. We are mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all who are involved in organic agriculture, certification, and compliance. Because of the annual organic certification process and the need to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal during this time of ongoing market disruption, some of our concerns and recommendations may be unique from those raised by other sectors of agriculture.

Support for Organic Farmers

The recently enacted Covid-19 Relief and Fiscal 2021 Omnibus Act includes $11.2 billion to:

“prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by coronavirus, including producers and growers of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock, and poultry, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and growers who produce livestock or poultry under a contract for another entity:”

as well as a provision that:

“in making direct support payments in this section, the Secretary of Agriculture may take into account price differentiation factors for each commodity based on specialized varieties, local markets, and farm practices, such as certified organic farms (as defined in section 2103 of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6502)):”

As you make plans to implement this section of Act, we would like to point out that organic farmers represent a significant percentage of the farmers in each of the specialty crop, livestock and dairy, and local food supply categories prioritized by Congress. Therefore, it is critical that organic farmers be included in any payment programs created to implement this provision of the Act. The following financial assistance recommendations would be extremely helpful for the organic sector:

  • In making direct payments, it is critical that the criteria used to distribute those payments be more finely-tuned to support the diversity and richness of U.S. agriculture than was reflected in the previous coronavirus-related payment programs, and that more reasonable payment limitations govern those payments to ensure that more farmers get help with these funds.
  • Most organic and small farms have not traditionally accessed food purchasing programs run by the agency using Commodity Credit Corporation funding. As you develop new purchasing programs to both aid farms and procure food for emergency feeding or other nutrition programs, we urge you to make the procurement process flexible enough to work for organic and small farms, not just large conventional operations. This should include purchases of a diverse set of crops, not just commodity crops.
  • As farmers innovate to respond to the social distancing recommendations related to the pandemic, USDA should provide financial assistance for farms setting up virtual platforms to facilitate the sale of their products, as well as “on-farm” stands, curbside pickup, and other direct to consumer “no-touch” distribution channels that minimize interaction. In the same way that restaurants across the nation have shifted to take-out pick-up options, farmers too are shifting to this model. But farmers need some financial assistance to facilitate this shift.
  • The federal government has historically reimbursed up to 75 percent of organic certification fees paid by organic farms and businesses, with a maximum reimbursement of $750 per certification scope (crops, livestock or handling) per operation. Congress reinforced these reimbursement rates when it reauthorized the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program through the 2018 Farm Bill. Unfortunately, in August, the Farm Services Agency cut reimbursement rates for 2020 certification costs to 50 percent, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This action leaves organic operations – who had been planning on being reimbursed for their certification costs at the same level as previous years – burdened with an unplanned expense, in the midst of a period of higher costs and disrupted markets caused by the pandemic. The cost share program is particularly important to small and mid-sized organic farms, and those who are just starting out with organic certification. We urge you to act quickly to restore the funding levels for this program mandated by Congress.

Relaxing USDA Nutrition Program Rules to Give Low-Income Consumers Greater Access to Nutritious Food During the Pandemic

Allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments to be made online directly to farms and CSAs, and expand SNAP on-line options for customers of smaller retailers, such as local food cooperatives.

  • Provide waivers and direction to States to broaden their WIC-approved food lists to allow WIC participants to purchase organic foods.
  • Support the ability of food banks and other emergency feeding programs to purchase organic products directly from farmers at market prices.

Move Critical Rulemaking Forward to Protect Organic Integrity

There are several long-overdue rulemakings that are critical to the organic sector and the economic viability of organic farms. We urge you to move these rulemakings along without delay in order to protect the integrity of the organic label and to strengthen enforcement to shield operations from unfair competition.

The rulemaking to improve organic enforcement, both domestically and internationally, (the “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” rule) is critical for the economic viability of the U.S. organic sector. The 2018 Farm Bill required USDA to complete the rulemaking by December 19, 2020, but it has not. The public comment period on the proposed rule closed on October 5, 2020. This rulemaking must be finalized and move forward to implementation as quickly as possible.

  • The final rule on Origin of Livestock (OOL), to close loopholes in the organic standards related to the transitioning of conventional dairy cows into organic dairy operations, is another critical regulation for the organic sector. Through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process, Congress mandated that the USDA complete the OOL final rule by June 17, 2020 but the USDA missed this deadline. We need the USDA to finalize an enforceable rule on Origin of Livestock as quickly as possible
  • The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule is another long-overdue measure to strengthen the organic standards, which was delayed and ultimately withdrawn by the Trump Administration. The OLPP final rule would allow the NOP to consistently enforce stronger animal welfare standards on organic farms and close loopholes being taken advantage of by some large operations. We urge you to reinstate the final OLPP rule as quickly as possible.

We thank you in advance for your efforts to respond quickly to the needs of organic farmers and businesses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

Abby Youngblood                                                                  Kate Mendenhall
Executive Director                                                                  Executive Director
National Organic Coalition                                                     Organic Farmers Association


January Policy Update

January, 2021

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

When I wrote my first OFA policy update last winter, I remember thinking it was pretty strange to have to discuss how an impeachment trial was disrupting the normal function of Washington, including agriculture policy. And here we are a year later, just days after an attack on the U.S. Capitol, once again trying to determine how the dramatic national developments will impact our day-to-day work for organic farmers.

The transition period after the 2020 election, both for the new Congress and the Biden Administration, had already been challenging because of the ongoing controversy about the election results and the logistical challenges created by the pandemic. And things are still very unsettled in Washington after the events of January 6th. This week, and at least through the inauguration on January 20th, the Presidential transition and investigation into what happened are going to dominate attention.

But here is what we know so far about organic policy as we embark on 2021:

At the end of the year (up against the deadline of shutting down the federal government), Congress passed and President Trump signed a massive spending bill that did a couple of things:

  1. Funded federal agencies (like USDA) for the rest of Fiscal Year 2021 (which started on October 1st)
  2. Authorized spending for a long list of pandemic-related programs including direct payments to individuals, supplemental unemployment payments, funding for the transportation and airline industries, healthcare, vaccine distribution and more. There was also funding for agriculture, see below for more detail.

USDA Organic Funding

The 2021 spending bill includes several increases that OFA supported, including increases for the USDA’s National Organic Program, organic data collection, sustainable and organic agriculture research and beginning farmer and socially disadvantaged farmer training programs. It also contains language that directs the NOP to resolve inconsistent interpretation of the standards for transitioning organic dairy cows and the enforcement of pasture requirements. Unfortunately, it did not include additional funding to fix the shortfall in the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. We will have to keep working on Congress to provide additional funding to correct USDA’s management failures with that program.

USDA Pandemic Response

The pandemic response portion of the law provides $13 billion to USDA to respond to impacts of the pandemic on agriculture, as well as funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. The law instructs USDA to do several different things with the agricultural funding, including purchasing commodities and providing direct payments to farmers and processors that have been impacted by disruptions caused by the pandemic. So far, the USDA has announced it would do another round of the Farm to Families Food Box program, which pays contractors to assemble and deliver boxes of foods to food banks and other charities to distribute. There were three rounds of these contracts issued in 2020, and USDA quickly announced it was issuing another set of contracts in early January after the new funding was provided.

It is not yet clear when USDA will announce the rules for additional direct payments to producers. The application program for payments under the CARES Act (from last year) closed in December. The new bill does include slightly better language that would allow the USDA to offer different payment rates based on organic or other premiums, so we will be pursuing that issue with USDA as they develop this year’s program. Stay tuned.

Small Business Administration programs

The new law also provided additional funding for small business assistance programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs like the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). So far, we have the most information on PPP. The new law impacts people who got a PPP loan last year with some clarifications on tax issues and also allows for a second PPP loan for some businesses.

Tax Issues for First Round PPP Loans – the new law clarifies that a PPP loan from 2020 that was forgiven will not be considered taxable income by the IRS (but you will still have to check the rules for state and local taxes.) It also states that business expenses that were paid for with PPP loan funds can still be counted as a deduction for federal taxes.

Second Round PPP Loans – the SBA released rules for second loans under the PPP program. To be eligible, a business has to have less than 300 employees and also be able to show that it suffered a 25 percent loss in revenue for at least one quarter of 2020 (as compared to 2019.) The SBA is allowing smaller community banks to issue these loans first, starting this week. It is not yet clear when larger banks will be able to start issuing these loans. If you are interested, check with your bank to see when they are going to start taking applications and what paperwork they will require to qualify.

The New Congress

Now that the Georgia runoff election is complete, things will start to fall into place for the new Congress. The Democrats will control both the House and the Senate, although with extremely tight margins, especially in the Senate. We are still waiting for the complete roster of members of key committees like agriculture and appropriations. But we do know who will be leading the committees. In the House, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee is Rep. David Scott from Georgia, and the ranking member (top Republican) is Rep. G.T. Thompson from Pennsylvania. In the Senate, the chair of the Agriculture Committee is Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and the ranking member is Senator John Boozman from Arkansas.

One of the first orders of business for the Senate Agriculture Committee will be scheduling a confirmation hearing for President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. We will be working to make sure questions about our organic priorities are on the list for his hearing.

How You Can Help

2021 has been quite a year so far, and it’s only the second week of January. But as the new Administration and new Congress get down to work, we will be pushing them to address our priorities for organic, including getting the USDA moving on long-overdue rules and making sure organic farmer voices are included in debates on climate change and other issues.

One way for you to get involved is to participate in the OFA 2021 Policy Survey. Make sure to weigh in on what OFA’s top priorities should be and proposed new policies to guide our work.

And mark your calendars and register for our Virtual DC Advocacy Days. This year, instead of traveling to Washington, DC for an OFA lobby day, we will be coordinating a week of virtual lobby visits instead. Mark your calendars for the week of March 22nd, when OFA members will be working together to have online or phone meetings with their members of Congress.   Register here.

UPCOMING EVENTS:  Mark Your Calendars!

Advocacy 101 Webinar

How can we get Congress to support organic farmers? Learn how to make your voice heard in the legislative process during this webinar about how to lobby your elected officials. Get ready for meetings with your members of Congress. We’ll cover how to schedule a meeting, what to say, and how to create ongoing communication with elected officials.

OFA “Virtual” Lobby Days

In 2021, instead of traveling to Washington, DC for an OFA lobby day, we will be coordinating a week of virtual lobby visits instead. Mark your calendars for the week of March 22nd, when OFA members will be working together to have online or phone meetings with their members of Congress.  You can register now and we'll keep you in the loop about upcoming trainings and how to participate!  Open only to OFA members.

 

https://organicfarmersassociation.org/uncategorized/ofa-starts-the-new-year-strong/


Advocacy 101 Webinar

How can we get Congress to support organic farmers? Learn how to make your voice heard in the legislative process during this webinar about how to lobby your elected officials. Get ready for meetings with your members of Congress. We’ll cover how to schedule a meeting, what to say, and how to create ongoing communication with elected officials.

Advocacy 101 Webinar - Two available dates to register.

Advocacy 101 Webinar (Monday, Feb 8 @ 2pm ET)

Click here to register

Advocacy 101 Webinar (Tuesday, Feb 9 @ 7pm ET)

Click here to register


OFA Starts the New Year Strong!

January 1, 2021

Organic Farmers Association (OFA) and Rodale Institute are proud to announce an exciting new chapter for farmers: OFA has obtained its own IRS 501(c)(5) status to operate as an independent agricultural organization.

This is a significant milestone for both Rodale Institute and OFA, as OFA will become the first, and only, independent national policy organization led by certified organic farmers. OFA will continue to provide a strong voice for domestic certified organic producers in Washington, D.C. and around the country.

Since OFA was founded in 2016, Rodale Institute has acted as the organization’s fiscal sponsor—ensuring OFA has the organizational capacity to allow its organic farmer leadership to focus on impacting policy. Together, we aimed to ensure that farmer priorities were authentically represented among the other organic stakeholders in the Farm Bill, NOSB decisions, and other national arenas. Five years later, OFA is strong enough to stand on its own, having built a solid foundation as a leading voice for organic farmers in D.C. and beyond.

Moving forward, Rodale Institute will continue to support OFA’s efforts in a reduced capacity. While the nature of our partnership is changing, the close relationship between the two organizations will remain, with Rodale Institute maintaining a voting seat on OFA’s Governing Council and continuing to provide 501(c)(3) support when necessary.

Obtaining 501(c)(5) status allows OFA to become its own tax-exempt agricultural organization, enabling us to achieve our primary mission—giving organic farmers independent control of the organization. This status also allows us more freedom in policy advocacy, fundraising, and legitimacy in the agricultural policy space.

With this update, OFA is excited to begin an independent relationship with the Biden administration as well as the new leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farm Bill discussions will begin this year, and OFA will be there to make sure organic farmer priorities are represented. OFA collaborates with the other national organic organizations and together we intend to see to fruition a final Origin of Livestock rule, re-introduction and implementation of the Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices Rule, and stronger NOP enforcement to ensure the integrity of organic and uniform application of organic standards.

OFA will host virtual lobby days this March, open to all OFA members. The advocacy days allow organic farmers an opportunity to share their priorities with their elected officials. OFA provides training and support for the lobby days and hopes for strong farmer attendance this year due to the virtual nature of the event.

As we close one chapter and start another, OFA and Rodale Institute are proud to move forward together as two organizations committed to supporting organic farmers, the organic movement, and protecting the health of people and the planet.

We thank Rodale Institute for all their support in our founding years and ensuring that the voices of organic farmers are always at the table.

Kate Mendenhall
Executive Director
Organic Farmers Association


Election Review: Impact on Organic

What does the recent election mean for protecting organic standards and growing organic? Join Organic Farmers Association Policy Director, Patty Lovera for a review of election results, how agriculture committees might shape up, and what to look for in the months ahead.


Advocacy Days

Join members of Organic Farmers Association as farmers across the country join together in a week of targeted advocacy in Washington, D.C.  We will support you with talking points, link you with other OFA members in your same district, and provide pre- and post-training to make the most of your hill visits.   YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT!  Join us for our virtual farmer advocacy day!

Visits will be scheduled Monday, March 22 through Thursday, March 25, 2021.  Open to OFA members only.   Not a member?  Join today!