March 2024

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Agriculture Appropriations Bill Passes

After more than five months of extensions, Congress has passed a $459 billion 6-bill funding package that includes the Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration bills. Passage of the legislation follows months of debate and Congress must still pass a second spending bundle that includes military, health, education, and labor programs by March 22.

Overall, agriculture programs received a “haircut.” While funding remained nearly flat for many organic-specific programs, organic farmers will still feel the impact of reduced funding for initiatives such as the Dairy Business Innovation Centers. Fortunately, several harmful policy riders were rejected, including one that would have limited the Secretary of Agriculture’s flexibility to use Commodity Credit Corporation funding for important climate and conservation programs.

OFA is continuing to analyze the legislation and will also be advocating for increased funding for organic programs in the Fiscal Year 2025 funding process, which has already kicked off.

Meanwhile, Congress’s extension of the 2018 Farm Bill until September of 2024 still stands. House Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson has continued to indicate that he hopes to pass a farm bill this spring, but after the delays in the appropriations process that will be more challenging than ever.

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

The Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) program supports the development of new and expanded organic markets to help increase the consumption of domestic organic agricultural commodities. The program focuses on building and expanding capacity for certified organic production, aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, distribution, and development of consumer markets. 

OFA Farmer Fly-In

From March 4 to March 7, 36 OFA farmers and members gathered in Washington, D.C. to review policy proposals, set organizational goals, and meet with legislators on Capitol Hill. 

OFA held group meetings with Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt of the Agricultural Marketing Service and National Organic Program lead Jenny Tucker to discuss the rollout of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule and the Transition to Organic Partnership Program, as well as with staff from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to advocate for organic in the upcoming Farm Bill. 

Additionally, attendees visited the offices of over 50 Congressional Representatives and Senators to share their personal experiences and ask them to support legislation that will benefit organic producers.

Proposed Changes to the USDA Organic Regulations: Mushroom and Pet Food Standards 

This week, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to amend the USDA organic regulations. The rule proposes specific standards for organic mushroom production and organic pet food handling that are intended to address the unique aspects of these products and create more consistent standards for these markets.

For organic mushrooms, this proposed rule would:  

  • Clarify which existing crop production standards apply to organic mushroom production. 
  • Create a mushroom-specific standard for organic compost production. 
  • Require operations producing organic mushrooms to:
    • Use organic materials for the uncomposted portions of production substrate when commercially available. 
    • Use organic spawn media when commercially available. 
    • Use organic mushroom spawn when commercially available. 

For organic pet food, the proposed rule would: 

  • Clarify how existing organic labeling requirements should be applied to organic pet food. 
  • Allow organic meat and slaughter by-products in organic pet food. 
  • Describe what ingredients can be used in organic pet food.
  • Add synthetic taurine (an amino acid) to the National List and allow its use in organic pet food to meet some pets’ nutritional needs. 

You can read the full proposal here. The public comment period closes on May 10, 2024. To provide feedback or comment on the rule visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal at (docket number AMS–NOP–22–0063). Instructions for submitting electronic comments are available at Comments may also be sent by mail to: Erin Healy, Director, Standards Division, National Organic Program, USDA–AMS–NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642–So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250–0268.

Spring NOSB Meeting in Milwaukee

The spring NOSB meeting will be held in Milwaukee Wisconsin, with a Public Comment Webinar the week prior. 

NOSB Spring 2024 Meeting dates:

Public Comment Webinars

  • Day 1: Tuesday, April 23 from 11am – 5pm Eastern
  • Day 2: Thursday, April 25 from 11am – 5pm Eastern

Public Meeting

  • Day 1: Monday, April 29 from 9am – 6pm Central
  • Day 2: Tuesday, April 30 from 9am – 6pm Central
  • Day 3: Wednesday, May 1 from 9am – 6pm Central

The full meeting materials and the link to register to provide oral comment are posted online. For the first time in several years, there will be an opportunity to comment in person on Monday, April 29 from approximately 2-5pm CT.

The deadline to sign up for comment is April 3, but be sure to sign up promptly as the number of speakers is limited. If you are interested in participating and want support, please reach out to OFA Policy Director Lily Hawkins at or OFA Farmer Services Director Julia Barton at