October 2022 Policy Update

October 2022

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Comments on Proposed Animal Welfare Standards Due November 10th

This summer, the USDA released a proposed rule to update the organic standards for how livestock are raised. This comes after years of delay, including lawsuits triggered by the USDA’s decision not to finish an earlier proposal. The proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule would not allow porches in chicken houses to qualify as outdoor access, but does request input from the public on how long it should give current operations to come into compliance with tighter standards. The deadline for public comments was originally set for October 11th, but last week it was pushed back to November 10th. 

These stronger standards are long overdue, and we are asking USDA to set a faster 3 year timeline than the 5 year or 15 years they have proposed for certified egg-producing operations to meet the outdoor space requirements for laying hens.. 

To weigh in, visit our action page and tell USDA you support the proposed rule, and that they need to set a more aggressive 3 year implementation timeline

Deadline for Annual Spending Bills Extended

October 1 marked the beginning of the federal government’s new fiscal year. Congress was supposed to have passed annual appropriations bills to set spending for federal agencies such as the USDA by September 30th.  However, they were unable to reach an agreement on the final package of bills and instead passed a resolution to allow the government to continue operating under the 2022 budget until December 16th – narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. 

In the appropriations bills that have been drafted for the USDA for Fiscal Year 2023, organic programs are faring well. The House has already passed a bill that would increase funding for the National Organic Program and includes language to direct the NOP to strengthen their enforcement of organic soil health requirements. The Senate has a draft bill, which also included an increase in funding for the NOP and good report language on enforcement. The senate bill still needs to be passed, and any differences between the two bills must now be reconciled and passed by the extended December deadline.

Watch the National Organic Standards Board’s Fall Meeting

The NOSB meets twice a year to work on recommendations to the USDA about organic standards and the National List of materials that are allowed or prohibited in organic production. After several years of virtual meetings, the NOSB is planning for an in-person meeting in October in Sacramento, California, but will continue to only take public testimony virtually.  Watch OFA’s tweets @OrganicFarmersA to follow organic farmer testimony. 

  • Public Comment Webinar Day 1: Tuesday, October 18 from Noon – 5:00 pm Eastern
  • Public Comment Webinar Day 2: Thursday, October 20 from Noon – 5:00 pm Eastern
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 1: Tuesday, October 25 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Pacific
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 2: Wednesday, October 26 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Pacific
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 3: Thursday, October 27 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Pacific

The deadline to register for comments has closed, but you can still watch the meeting online. Click here for more information and the link to watch! You can also read OFA’s written comments.

Congress Members Campaigning in Home Districts

With the midterm elections just one month away you may see your member of Congress campaigning at events in your area. This is a great opportunity to ask them to support our priority issues.

Here are some ideas of what to say if you get the chance:

  • “Will you support Farm Bill funding to support independent organic farmers and help move more U.S. farms to organic methods?”
  • “Will you encourage the USDA to swiftly implement updates to animal welfare provisions in the organic standards?”
  • You can even invite your member of Congress to visit your farm for a more in depth conversation. 

Grants Awarded Through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities

In September, the USDA announced 70 projects that were selected to receive up to a total of $2.8 billion as part of a funding opportunity called Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. This was the first of two planned funding pools that the USDA is distributing with the goal of expanding markets for climate-smart commodities to benefit producers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There was enormous interest in the program with over $18 billion worth of proposals submitted. Several organizations with an organic focus received awards, the full list of awards given in this first round can be found here

Project proposals for the second pool were due in June, and are currently being evaluated by the USDA, and the selections should be announced later this year. They say the focus of the second round will be on projects involving small and/or underserved producers and minority-serving institutions.