What is going on in DC in February?

First, let me introduce myself – I am Patty Lovera, the new policy director for OFA. I worked on organic issues for many years when I was with Food & Water Watch and I’m very excited to now be working with OFA!

The opening days of 2020 have been more dominated by politics than policy, with Congress  largely ­­­­­­focused on the impeachment process for the month of January. Now that the process has wrapped up, our priorities can receive more attention from legislators. And we expect new developments from USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to be coming soon on several of our key issues. Here is a quick status report as we start the year:

Strengthening Organic Enforcement – that’s the official title for a proposed rule that is the result of language OFA worked to get included in the 2018 Farm Bill giving NOP additional authority to track organic imports. The proposed rule is under review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which is one of the last steps in the process before it can be released for public comment. There is no deadline for when the review has to be completed and the proposed rule gets released, but we will let you know when it happens and how to submit a comment.

Origin of Livestock – After hard work by OFA members and allies last year to push NOP to close the loopholes for how conventional animals are transitioned into organic production, we are hearing that NOP is making progress on a rule to fix this longstanding problem. The spending bill for USDA that (finally) passed in late December, gives NOP six months to issue a final rule on origin of livestock.

Immigration – In December, the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 5038). The prospects for the bill are not as clear in the Senate, but now that impeachment is over, negotiations on the bill are expected to pick up. The version of the bill passed by the House does not meet the criteria of OFA’s policy position on immigration, and we will be urging the Senate to improve it, especially addressing the House bill’s overreliance on the existing H-2A visa system.

Climate Change – The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is finishing up a report with recommendations for Congress on addressing climate change. OFA has been in touch several times with committee staff developing the agriculture section of the report, making the case that organic agriculture needs to be a key part of the solution to climate change. The report will be released in March.

 Advocating for Organic

Late winter is a really good time to get in touch with your members of Congress.  (Although, any time you have available is a good time – they always need to hear from constituents about what is really going on outside DC.) But this time of year is important because it is when the annual process of “appropriations” begins. That means the long process of setting the spending levels for agencies like USDA, which starts with proposals about how much money the agencies should get and what they should do with it. OFA and our allies will be working throughout the spring and summer as these bills move through the process to make sure our priorities are getting their due (and keeping an eye out for bad ideas that might pop up.) Talking to your members of Congress about what your organic farm needs (like improving NOP enforcement, better organic research, or organic certification cost share) reinforces the work we do in DC to make the case for organic.

Want to learn more about how to get in touch with your legislators and what to say when you do? Tune in to our webinar on February 18 at 2:00ET for tips and ideas. Register here.