November 2022 Policy Update

November 2022

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Today is Election Day

With many tight midterm races around the country, we are expecting changes in the committees working on annual spending bills and the 2023 Farm Bill.  Once the votes have been counted and election results determined, each party will convene conferences in both the Senate and the House to determine their nominees. Whichever party comes away with the majority will appoint the committee chairs, and the percentage of a party’s representation in each chamber will determine how many seats they get on each committee. Then in January when the newly elected Senators and Representatives take office, they will vote to confirm the nominees. OFA will provide analysis of what those new assignments mean for organic policy in DC. 

Expanded List of Import Codes Available for Organic Oversight

Identification and oversight of organic imports is key to ensuring organic integrity. USDA is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide new electronic import oversight tools to monitor imports at US ports and borders.

Products with at least 3 importers and $1 million in annual imports can be assigned a unique Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code that the tool U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses to track goods. Until recently there were only a few dozen of these HTS codes available for organic products, but the number has expanded over the last few years, and is now up to 84 organic, with 12 added this year.

HTS codes specific to organic will be especially important as electronic NOP Import Certificates are phased in. Some importers are already using the electronic system, as part of a voluntary pilot phase. USDA says they are working with stakeholders to build the case for more organic HTS codes to protect the organic seal and support supply chain traceability. 

Ask the USDA for rapid implementation on Organic Animal Welfare Standards

This August, the USDA released a proposed rule to update the Organic Poultry and Livestock Standards. The public comment was originally set to close on October 11th, but has been extended through November 10th. 

These updated standards have been awaited for years, with many delays including lawsuits triggered by the USDA’s decision not to finish an earlier proposal. OFA supports the proposed rule, which would not allow porches in chicken houses to qualify as outdoor access. 

However, the USDA has proposed possible 5 year or 15 year timelines for certified egg-producing operations to come into compliance with the rule once it’s been finalized. OFA is urging USDA to set a faster 3 year timeline, to rapidly finalize the rule and level the playing field for farmers as soon as possible.

Click here to send a comment telling USDA you support the proposed rule, and that they need to set a more aggressive 3 year implementation timeline

Join the USDA Listening Session on Organic Pinpointed Market Development Support

On November 15th USDA will host a listening session to “invite input from stakeholders about innovative ways in which organic infrastructure investments could support increased access to processing, storage, distribution, and consumer markets.” The listening session will take place on Zoom from 3-4pm EST, and written questions and comments can be submitted in advance. This is an opportunity for organic farmers to let the USDA know how Organic Transition Initiative funding can be most helpful. For more details and the RSVP link click here.

Coming Up: OFA’s Annual Policy Platform Process

Over the winter, OFA will begin its annual policy platform and priority setting process. This begins with a survey of all U.S. certified organic farmers and OFA organizational members asking them to submit policy position proposals and prioritize policy issues. Once the results are in, OFA’s Policy Committee will review the results, and draft policy statements for review and comment by membership. The final proposals will be voted on by OFA farmer members, and those that get 60% of the popular vote and 60% popular support in at least two-thirds of the regions will become part of the OFA policy platform.