Farm Bill Alert: Organic Needs Your Support
BY National Organic Coalition | Aug 22, 2018
FROM THE NATIONAL ORGANIC COALITION:
NOC is urging action on the Farm Bill during the month of August. We believe it is critically important to get calls in to the following Members of Congress who are serving on the Farm Bill Conference Committee to urge them to support key organic programs and oppose changes that weaken the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the organic standards.
House Conferee Targets:
1. Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)
2. David Scott (D-GA)
3. Jim Costa (D-CA)
4. Tim Walz (D-MN)
5. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
6. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
7. Filemon Vela (D-TX)
8. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
9. Ann Kuster (D-NH)
10. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
Senate Conferee Targets:
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Is your organization or company represented by one of the above Members of Congress? If yes, we encourage you to place a call or write a letter urging support for organic and opposing changes to the NOSB – please feel free to adapt language from the NOC letter to the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
In addition, we are issuing an action alert and hope you can help us get calls into the above offices. Calls from constituents are most helpful, but calls to Representatives from other stakeholders in the state can also have impact. See attached for draft action alert language. In terms of timing, sooner is better. We have from now until Labor Day to have an impact on the negotiations – the Conference Committee hopes to produce a report soon after Labor Day.
Do not hesitate to reach out to the National Organic Coalition to discuss strategy and messaging. If you have a Conferee who is not on the above target list, please reach out - we are happy to brainstorm messages that we think would be most helpful during this critical time.
Now is the time to communicate with your House and Senate Farm Bill Conferees about the issues that will impact organic agriculture in the Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging House and Senate Ag Committee leaders to have a Conference Report ready soon after Labor Day. Although both the House and Senate will be on recess for all or part of the month, Ag Committee leaders will be very busy during August in an effort to prepare a Conference Report by the target date. NOC is asking allies in the organic community to take action right now to voice your support for organic in the Farm Bill.
Farm Bill Recap and Next Steps
The House has now appointed 47 Conferees and the Senate has appointed 9 Conferees. We are now entering the next important phase in the Farm Bill process – the Conference Committee where Congress must reconcile substantial differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. While the Republican-only House bill overhauls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and makes deep cuts to conservation programs, the bipartisan Senate bill leaves these programs intact. The wide gulf between these major policy decisions in the two bills will make reconciling them a formidable process.
To recap, the House and Senate each passed their versions of the Farm Bill in June. Our NOC score card compares and grades each of these bills on key organic priorities. In July, NOC delivered a letter to the House and Senate Ag Committee leaders, detailing our requests for the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee process. In the letter, we also express strong opposition to Farm Bill changes to the authority and structure of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These changes undermine the integrity the Board and the procedures used to ensure full stakeholder input into the USDA organic standards.
In the coming weeks, we expect that the Conferees will be putting quite a lot of work into reconciling differences between the House and Senate bills in an effort to get the legislation across the finish line before the September 30 deadline. The House has already left for their August recess and won’t be back until after Labor Day. The Senate was on recess the week of August 6 but will be back in session for much of the remainder of August. Most of the work of the Conference Committee will be done by the four Ag Committee Leaders (Roberts, Stabenow, Conaway, and Peterson) and their staffs. Those four have already met, their staffs are hard at work, and the four leaders say they will be in touch by phone throughout August.
Once reconciled, both the House and Senate must pass a final Farm Bill Conference Report and secure the President’s signature to enact the legislation. If Congress fails to complete the process by September 30, expiration of the current law poses major challenges for the organic sector because key organic programs like the OREI program and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program lack baseline funding and may lapse if Congress passes a short-term extension (this happened previously when the Farm Bill lapsed at the end of 2012 and a short-term extension failed to fund organic programs during 2013).