March 2022 Policy Update

March 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Setting Organic Priorities for the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the new version. The House Agriculture Committee has kicked off a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs like conservation and commodity programs are working under the current Farm Bill.

On March 2nd, OFA co-hosted a virtual meeting with the Organic Trade Association to gather input from almost 100 organic farmers and representatives from organic farm groups. The session was focused on how the next Farm Bill can best address the challenges facing organic, including continuous improvement in organic standards, increasing enforcement, removing obstacles to new farms getting certified organic and economic viability for all organic farms. This virtual meeting will be combined with feedback from regional meetings held by organic farm groups and an online survey for organic farmers, to identify OFA’s priorities for the next Farm Bill. You can still get involved in OFA’s process for setting our priorities for organic in the next Farm Bill by taking our Farm Bill priorities survey.

Tracking Delayed Organic Regulations

Two long-awaited regulations that are needed to increase the integrity of the organic standards are still in the approval process. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, continues to review USDA’s Origin of Livestock rule and the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment and the final version of the OOL rule.

Virtual Advocacy Days

This week, members of OFA’s policy committee and governing council will be doing online visits with their members of Congress, outlining our priority issues. We will be talking about how to fix organic certification cost share, why organic agriculture is a climate solution, and the need for USDA to protect the integrity of the organic label with ramped up enforcement and updates to the organic standards.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board will be held during the week of April 25th. It will be a virtual meeting that can be watched online.

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

– Potential ways to provide NOSB members with technical help and research assistance.

– Discussion of how to increase traceability in complicated organic supply chains (for bulk commodities like grain) to combat fraud.

– Defining new types of genetic engineering that should be prohibited in organic production.

– Possible restrictions on highly soluble forms of nitrogen.

– And 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 19 and the afternoon of Thursday April 21. Sign up soon to get a spot to offer comments to the Board! There is a form at the bottom of the meeting website to sign up.