December 2023 Policy Update

December 2023

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Appropriations Package Delayed Again

Last month, Congress passed a resolution to extend a short-term government funding patch through the new year, and to extend the Farm Bill until September of 2024. The Farm Bill extension includes funding for all programs, including organic certification cost-share and other programs that were at risk due to a lack of baseline funding. 

Now, lawmakers must pass 2024 funding bills. This large package of bills has been divided into two tranches with different deadlines. Agriculture spending is in the earlier group with a deadline of January 18. The Republican-controlled House has yet to pass their version of the bill, and it’s possible that they’ll go straight to conference with the Democratically controlled Senate to work towards a compromise.

Farm Bill Extended

Congress has extended the 2018 Farm Bill until September of 2024 and neither chamber of Congress has yet published bill text. House Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson recently disclosed his diagnosis with prostate cancer, but has stated he will continue to lead work on the huge package of food and farm legislation. 

The delay in writing a new bill means that marker bills are still being introduced and there is still an opportunity for farmers to advocate for their needs. Bookmark our Farm Bill Marker Bill Tracker to stay up to date.

New Report Shows Inequities in Crop Insurance Subsidies 

This week the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing opportunities to reduce government spending on crop insurance programs. The report shows large proportions of program costs going to private insurance companies and agencies that write policies. The GOA goes on to recommend that millions of taxpayer dollars could be saved or repurposed by reducing subsidies for the highest income farmers, and urges Congress to repeal a 2014 provision that any revision to agreements with insurance companies not reduce their expected underwriting gains. 

Senator Welch Introduces the WEATHER Act

OFA has endorsed the Withstanding Extreme Agricultural Threats by Harvesting Economic Resilience (WEATHER) Act, legislation that calls for the development of an index-based insurance policy that is more responsive to crop and income losses faced by farmers as a result of extreme weather. The bill was introduced by Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) 

The legislation would direct the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to research the possibility of developing an index-based insurance program that:

  • Creates a multi-peril index insurance product for farmers based on weather indices correlated to agricultural income losses using data from NOAA, satellites, climate models, and other data sources. 
  • Pays out within 30 days in the event of indices exceeding any of the pre-determined county-level thresholds for the following events: High winds, excessive moisture and flooding, extreme heat, abnormal freeze conditions, hail, wildfires, drought, and other perils the Secretary determines appropriate. 

Read more about the WEATHER Act here, and the full text of the bill here

Please Fill Out OFA’s Annual Policy Survey

Each year, the Organic Farmers Association asks ALL CERTIFIED ORGANIC FARMERS and ORGANIC FARM ORGANIZATIONS to share their top policy priorities and policy positions. 

The OFA farmer-elected Policy Committee reviews the results, identifies the top priorities, and drafts policy statements from this broad-based solicitation to submit to OFA members for comment. The Policy Committee uses the member comments to finalize the proposed policies, then OFA Farm Members vote on the final policies. Policies that pass the national vote by 60% AND two-thirds of the regional vote by 60% become official OFA policies. 

Please take the survey to submit policy proposals, then share this survey with certified organic farmers in your network!!