Immigration Reform Update

Immigration reform is moving in the House of Representatives. Catch OFA’s webinar with Dave Runsten, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) on immigration reform, the current proposed bill, and OFA’s position on immigration at this link.

The House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee scheduled a full committee vote for Wednesday, November 20 on Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) Farm Workforce Modernization Act, HR 4916. In her press release introducing the legislation, the Congresswoman said the proposal makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.

Lofgren along with Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) are original sponsors of the bill.

While the legislation has 25 Republican co-sponsors, a party line vote is expected as the bill is passed out of the committee and sent to the floor for debate.

Judiciary Committee leadership is negotiating with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for floor time the first week of December. Democratic leaders will be watching the November 20 markup to determine their floor strategy and schedule. A contentious markup could delay floor work as the December’s House floor schedule will be packed with other controversial issues.

During the last three weeks of the 2019 Congressional session, Congress will vote on immigration reform, funding the federal government for FY20 and an impeachment vote. The current Continuous Resolution (CR) funding the federal government expires on November 22. Congress is expected to pass a short-term CR until December 20.

Judiciary Committee staff suspects they could get 40 out of the 197 House Republicans to vote for immigration reform for the agriculture industry during floor debate, which would allow the proposal to be sent to the Senate.

The Senate schedule is much more complicated. The end of year work by the House will send both the immigration reform proposal and, as expected, impeachment to the Senate.

The impeachment trial by the Senate will consume almost all the attention. While the Majority and Minority need to come to an agreement on how the process will operate in the Senate, past impeachment precedent had the Senate working six days a week until the trial. That timeline would delay Senate action on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act until March.

USDA responds to our letter concerning the comment of Under Secretary Greg Ibach

Read the USDA's response to our Sign-on letter to Secretary Perdue concerning the comment of Under Secretary Greg Ibach

Read here

OFA-NOSB Oral Comments - Fall 2019

October 23, 2019

RE: General Comments to the NOSB

Thank you, members of the National Organic Standards Board for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the director of the Organic Farmers Association and I am also an Iowa organic farmer. OFA is led and controlled by domestic certified organic farmers and only certified organic farmers determine our policies using a grassroots process. We believe organic farmers were instrumental in creating our successful organic market and must be leaders in directing its future.

Organic Farmers Association greatly supports the work of the NOSB and finds your role crucial to maintain integrity in the USDA organic label. We also support NOSB recommendations moving forward to rulemaking or guidance in a timely manner.

We appreciate the NOSB’s 2018 resolution to move Origin of Livestock standards quickly to a final rule, and the USDA’s recent decision to not issue a second rule. We are concerned that the number of comments coming in might delay the process and we ask that the USDA work to move to an immediate implementation of a Final Rule. We are also hearing from farmers they still see a lack of oversight on pasture rule compliance. We appreciate the increased dairy oversight effort and we need to see more.

Last month we sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture in response to Undersecretary Ibach’s July statement expressing interest in a dialogue about gene-editing in organic. 78 organic organizations joined OFA to clearly communicate our unified opposition. We thank Dr. Tucker for confirming that gene editing has always been prohibited in organic agriculture. The organic community is NOT interested in a dialogue about gene editing. We do encourage robust dialogue about the numerous critical issues organic farmers are facing—protecting farmers from genetic and pesticide contamination, protecting farmers from import fraud, etc.

Organic Farmers Association continues to oppose the certification of hydroponic operations, a position passed by 90% of our certified organic farmer members nationwide and in each of our six geographic regions. We are concerned about the consequences to the integrity of the organic label as a result of the USDA and NOSB moving forward to allow for organic hydroponics without clarity on how it complies with OFPA and standards for this type of production system. At the spring NOSB meeting there was much conversation regarding whether container farms needed to comply with the same three-year transition as soil-based farms. Organic Farmers Association was pleased to receive NOP clarification for certifiers on transition time for container systems after the application of a prohibited substance; however, it left some ambiguity about how greenhouse production fits in. Is a three-year transition needed for a container system inside a greenhouse after application of a prohibited substance? It is important that the organic standards are clear and equitable across growing systems so that certifiers are implementing and enforcing the standards uniformly—if ambiguity is present, the NOP must provide clarity.



Newly-Elected Governing Council and Policy Committee

Results are in for the newly-elected 2019 Governing Council and Policy Committee.  Members will serve 2-year terms, up to 3 consecutive terms (no more than 6 consecutive years). Newly elected members begin their terms at the annual meeting on March 13, 2019.

2019 Governing Council

The Council includes 19 members. From each of the six regions, the council includes 2 certified organic farmers and 1 organic farm organization.  In addition, Organic Farmers Association's fiscal sponsor, Rodale Institute, also has a seat on the council. All Council Members have identical rights and responsibilities, except that only farmer members have the right to vote. The fiscal sponsor, if it has a certified organic farm, also has a vote.
* = Newly elected.

Farmers- Voting

California Farmer Representatives
*Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA
Steve Beck, Kings River Produce, Inc., Hanford, CA
Midwest Region Farmer Representatives
*Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Farm, Atlanta, IL
Joannee DeBruhl, Stone Coop Farm, Brighton, MI
North Central Region Farmer Representatives
*Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI
Harriet Behar, Sweet Springs Farm, Spring Valley, WI
Western Region Farmer Representatives
*Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT
Jessica Gigot, Harmony Fields, Bow, WA
Southern Region Farmer Representatives
Jennifer Taylor, Lola's Organic Farm, Glenwood, GA
*Loretta Adderson, Adderson's Fresh Produce, Keysville, GA
Northeast Region Farmer Representatives
David ColsonNew Leaf Farm, Durham, ME
*Maryrose Livingston, Northland Sheep Dairy, Marathon, NY

Advisory Non-Voting

California Organization Representative
Phil LaRocca, Chair
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

Midwest Region Organization Representative
Renee Hunt, Program Director
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)

North Central Region Organization Representative
*John Mesko, Executive Director
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
Western Region Organization Representative
Becky Weed, Board of Directors
Montana Organic Association (MOA)
Southern Region Organization Representative
*Michael Sligh, Program Director
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)
Northeast Region Organization Representative
*Ed Maltby, Executive Director,
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)
Sponsor Seat
Jeff Tkach
Rodale Institute

2019 Policy Committee

The elected Policy Committee is made up of 12 voting certified organic farmer members and six advisory organizational members. Committee members are regionally diverse and reflect the national diversity of organic farms. The Policy Committee will facilitate OFA's policy platform, created by certified organic farmer members. From its start in the fall of 2016, Organic Farmers Association has been working to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement with a strong voice advocating for organic farmers.
* = Newly elected.


California Region Farmer Representatives
*Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA
 Mark McAfee, Organic Pastures, Fresno, CA

Western Region Farmer Representatives

*Nate Lewis, Oyster Bay Farm, Olympia, WA
 Pryor Garnett, Garnetts Red Prairie Farm, Sheridan, OR

North Central Region Farmer Representatives

*DeEtta Bilek, Tom and DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN
 Harriet Behar, Sweet Springs Farm, Gays Mills, WI

Midwest Region Farmer Representatives

*Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI
 Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Village Acres Farm & FoodShed, Mifflintown, PA

Southern Region Farmer Representatives

*Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY
 Jennifer Taylor, Lola's Organic Farm, Glenwood, GA

Northeast Region Farmer Representatives

*Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm, Cazenovia, NY
 Dave Chapman, Long Wind Farm, East Thetford, VT

Advisory- Non-Voting:

California Region Organization Representative 

David Runsten, Policy Director, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Davis, CA

Western Region Organization Representative 

*Cara Loriz, Executive Director, Organic Seed Alliance, Missoula, MT

North Central Region Organization Representative 

Matthew Miller, Policy Committee Member, Iowa Organic Association, Ames, IA

Midwest Region Organization Representative 

*Mallory Krieger, Farmer Training Program Manager, The Land Connection, Champaign, IL

Southern Region Organization Representative 

Michael Sligh, Program Director, Rural Advancement Foundation International, Pittsboro, NC

Northeast Region Organization Representative

Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA

Farm Bill Update:  Farm Bill Conference Tension Escalates

Farm Bill Update:  Farm Bill Conference Tension Escalates

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mark Rokala, Policy Director

Before a rare evening meeting of the farm bill negotiators last week, lead Senate Republican, Ag Chairman Roberts (KS), said negotiators are running out of time to complete a farm bill by September 30, 2018 when current farm programs expire.  Senate leaders were hoping to be able to come to an agreement on spending numbers for each title of the farm bill last week.

Discussions related to conservatives’ work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP remain a huge road block.

On Friday, President Trump’s tweet accused Senate Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI) and Democrats of being the problem for not agreeing to the House’s work requirements for SNAP.  However, Agriculture Chair  Senator Roberts has said numerous times that he would not be able to get to 60 votes to prevent a filibuster of the conference report if the work requirement is included.  This continues to be the road block of the Farm Bill.

The top four negotiators continue to say they want a bill before the end of the month. Senators are hoping that the two lead House negotiators, Chairman Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) will be staying in town this week to continue negotiations.  The House is scheduled to be in recess this week.

At the opening meeting of the farm bill conference the first week of September almost all 56 members expressed their desire to complete their work in time to send the bill to the President for signature  before the current farm bill expires (deadline September 30).

While much of the farm policy merging should be painless, a couple of major policy changes have the potential to derail the process. In addition to the work requirements, House of Representatives eliminated the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to pay for other priorities.  The Senate farm bill continues the program.

The upcoming deadline is crucial because 39 currently authorized farm and food programs will lose their baseline funding  on October 1, 2018 if they are not re-authorized. Six programs important to the organic industry will lose baseline funding and be put at a standstill including Organic Certification Cost-Share, Organic Research (OREI), organic data collection (ODI), National Organic Program upgrades, NRCS EQIP,  and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

These six programs important to organic farmers are included in a group of programs that received mandatory funding in the 2014 farm bill but do not have a baseline beyond the end of that five-year farm bill. These are referred to as “farm bill programs without a baseline” and do not have assured future funding.

In addition to the organic programs needing funding reauthorization in the 2018 farm bill, the new bill language for Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act is necessary right now to protect American family farmers from fraudulent organic imports.  If the farm bill is not completed, organic farmers will miss out on the needed funding and authorization measures this bill gives the National Organic Program to tighten up its enforcement to protect our domestic organic brand.

In our letter to conferees explaining our conference position, Organic Farmers Association pointed out the baseline issue and encouraged conferees to complete their work by the end of the month.  We continue to work with other organic organizations to encourage Congress to work on behalf of America’s family farmers and bring the farm bill to the finish line. We encourage Congress to do the same.