Update from Mark Rokala, Policy Director

House and Senate conferees passed and the President has said he will sign, H.J. Res. 31, the 2019 omnibus spending package that includes funding for the FY 2019 Agriculture programs. The appropriations bills had been delayed by the disagreements over wall funding and the government shutdown.

Funding for USDA including the National Organic Program, was included in the omnibus package. Congress included a $2 million increase for the National Organic Program ($14.1 million).  At a time when the organics industry is growing at an extremely rapid pace and imports of organic foods are increasing significantly, this funding will assist with oversight and enforcement to ensure the organic seal keeps pace with consumer expectations.

Congress also included $6 million for the Organic Transitions Program (ORG) which supports the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs that improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices.

Farm bill implementation has started.  USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey announced that USDA is hosting a listening session for initial input on the 2018 Farm Bill on February 26 in Washington, DC. They are accepting public written comments from farmers and other stakeholders until MARCH 1 via the federal register. USDA is seeking public input on the changes to existing programs implemented by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.

Organic Farmers Association staff will be following the USDA’s work as they implement the Agricultural Marketing Services work on the National Organic Program.