July 2022 Policy Update

July 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Delayed Organic Regulations

After the USDA finally released the Origin of Livestock final rule this spring, pressure is growing on the agency to make progress on several other critical issues related to the integrity of the organic label. When the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA, Jenny Lester Moffitt, spoke to OFA members at our annual meeting in June, she said that she hoped both the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed rule and the Strengthening Organic Enforcement final rule would come out this summer. The OLPS proposed rule is a long overdue update to animal welfare requirements for organic operations and the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule includes a long list of changes to USDA’s process for detecting and preventing fraud in organic supply chains. Under Secretary Moffitt also referenced the long list of National Organic Standards Board recommendations that the USDA needs to move through the process to update the organic standards, and said they are committed to making progress on that backlog.

USDA Support for Organic Transition

On June 1st, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack gave a speech on the USDA’s plans to transform the American food system, focusing on increasing resilience in food supply chains. One of the plans he announced was for USDA to establish a program, funded with $300 million, to assist farms that are transitioning to organic.

At OFA’s annual meeting, Under Secretary Moffitt offered a little more detail about what the USDA is considering for this program. She mentioned that a top priority for the program would be providing technical assistance for farms going through the transition to organic, highlighting the role of mentorship. Providing support through improved conservation and crop insurance programs are also on the list for this program. And the final piece of the transition program Under Secretary Moffitt described was working to increase the market for organic products. She emphasized that the USDA understands that encouraging more farms to go organic in a market that is already oversupplied is not helpful, and that they want to target their efforts at parts of the organic market where we need more domestic organic farms to meet demand. OFA will continue to engage with the USDA as they develop this new program.

Congress Gets Input on the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started the process of developing the next bill. The House Agriculture Committee is working through a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs are working, and the Senate Agriculture Committee has held hearings in Michigan and Arkansas (home to the committee chair and ranking member.) In June, the committee had a hearing on the role of climate research in supporting agriculture resiliency, which included testimony on climate benefits of organic production from the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

This summer, OFA will be working with our allies in the organic community to refine our Farm Bill proposals, on fixing organic certification cost-share, supporting organic research, tackling fraud in organic supply chains and other issues. And many members of Congress, especially members of the Agriculture Committees, are beginning to hold public sessions to get input on the next Farm Bill in their districts this summer. There are at least two sessions scheduled for late July (in Washington and Minnesota), and more could be scheduled for this summer. If you have a Senator or Representative serving on the Agriculture Committee, you could call their office to ask if they are planning to have any public sessions to get input on the Farm Bill. Let OFA staff know if you are planning to attend any of these sessions and need any information about organic priorities for the next Farm Bill.

Get Involved: Advocate for Organic Farms This Summer!

As discussions about the next Farm Bill ramp up, this summer is an important opportunity to share policy priorities for organic farmers with your members of Congress. A good way to do that is to try to meet with your elected officials while they are back home more often during the summer. During periods when Congress is not meeting in Washington, DC, legislators spend time at home in their districts, and you can arrange a meeting with them or their staff there.

For tips on setting up a meeting in your legislator’s district office, check out OFA’s website.