April 2023 Policy Update

April 2023

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Work on 2024 Spending Bills is Underway

Amid heated debate over raising the debt ceiling so that the federal government can continue to run essential programs, Congress is starting the annual process of putting together the “appropriations” bills that set the spending levels for each federal agency, including USDA.

Appropriations Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Subcommittees in both the House and Senate ask members of congress and the public to submit their budget requests for Fiscal Year 2024 in April. OFA submitted testimony asking for increased funds for programs that benefit organic producers, including the National Organic Program, the Organic Transition Program, and research programs.

House and Senate Agriculture Committees Continue Farm Bill Hearings

As work on marker bills for the Farm Bill continues behind the scenes, the Senate Agriculture Committee is set to begin a new round of hearings when they return from recess in mid-April. The first hearing in the lineup will be with the Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research subcommittee and focus on nutrition programs. It’s scheduled for just a few days after Subcommittee Chair Fetterman returns to Washington after his hospitalization. Other hearings tentatively scheduled on the committee agenda are as follows:

  • April 20: Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources (conservation focus)
  • April 27: Commodities, Risk Management and Trade (crop insurance and farm credit focus)
  • May 2: Commodities, Risk Management and Trade (commodity groups focus)
  • May 17: Rural Development and Energy (broadband focus)

When the schedule is finalized you will be able to see the dates and times and watch virtually here

Meanwhile on the House side, Chairman G.T. Thompson continues a series of listening sessions, with the next scheduled for April 14 in Binghamton NY. See meeting details and watch the livestream here.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board will take place April 25 through April 27 in person in Atlanta, Georgia.

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

  • A proposal outlining why certified organic producers should automatically be considered climate-smart.
  • Discussion of the realities of crop insurance for organic farmers. 
  • Discussion of the possible use of geolocation technology to aid in deterring fraud.
  • 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 18 and the afternoon of Thursday, April 20. You can read OFA’s comments to the Board here.