January 2023 Policy Update

January 2023

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Leadership Changes in Congress

A divided Congress with narrowly held majorities on both sides means a challenging path for the 2023 Farm Bill.  

This month marks the start of the 118th Congress, with Republicans narrowly in the majority. Representative Kevin McCarthy (California) was elected House Speaker early on Saturday, after 15th rounds of voting! This was the first time in 100 years that multiple rounds of voting were required to elect a House speaker. Because the Republican majority is so slim, just 20 House members on the far right were able to hold up the election and eventually extracted concessions that will significantly weaken the speaker position, and empower the most conservative wing of the party.  The delay in electing the House Speaker also pushed back the formation of key House committees including the Ag Committee. Presumed House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson pushed back the date of his first committee listening session. Originally slated for this Saturday, it’s been rescheduled to Friday, January 13th.

Meanwhile in the Senate, where Democrats retained the majority, Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) has announced that she won’t seek reelection in 2024. Senator Mike Bennet (D-Colorado) is likely next in line for her committee chair position, though Senator Klobuchar or Senator Gillibrand may also seek the role. Democrats will be left with  a tough Senate race in battleground state Michigan, providing motivation for them to try to pass the Farm Bill on time, before the next election cycle.

Organic Agriculture Makes Gains in the Appropriations Package

Last month, Congress finally passed the annual spending package, after months of delay. The bill will increase 2023 funding for the National Organic Program from $20 million to $22 million. The package also promises $7.5 million dollars to the Organic Transitions Program for organic research.

In addition to these funding increases, the spending omnibus includes language giving the USDA 30 days to report on available funding for relief for organic dairy farmers, and the following language highlighting the need for increased data collection about market conditions: “The agreement recognizes the need for organic dairy producers to have detailed data about market conditions in order to make decisions about the value of their products. Within 60 days of enactment of this Act, AMS is directed to brief the Committees on the feasibility of collection and publication of organic fluid milk data from all Federal Milk Marketing Orders.”

USDA Releases 2021 Organic Survey Results

Last month, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) release the results of their 2021 Organic Survey, a census of all known operations with certified or transitioning organic production in the United States conducted in cooperation with the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). The survey results show a 13% increase in total sales of organic products from 2019, and a 5% increase in the number of certified organic farms in that same period. Click here for the full results of the 2021 survey and previous surveys.

Save the Date: Rally for Resilience

Over the past year we’ve seen the launch of significant federal incentives for climate-friendly agriculture. And with 2023 as a Farm Bill year, the time is now to keep the pressure on in Washington for further policy change. 

On March 6-8 farmers and farm organizations from around the country will converge in DC and at satellite events in other states to call on Congress to make sure the 2023 Farm Bill provides farmers with the resources and incentives they need to address climate change.

Click here to view the event page and find out how you can get involved.