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The Organic Farmers Association applauds Farm Bill conferees for completing work on the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which includes organic programs important to our members.

The Organic Farmers Association would like to thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson for addressing our priorities by improving the integrity of the organic supply chain, providing much needed organic research funds, continuing the organic certification cost share program, and other fixes to programs important to our members. With these changes, our members will be able to respond to consumers’ demand for more local, organic food. The Farm Bill provisions will equip American farmers with what they need to meet that demand through increased domestic production.

“Organic farming is at a critical junction,” said Dave Colson, president of Organic Farmers Association. “American commodity farmers need support to diversify their production and enter new markets, like organic, and the domestic organic market needs more supply. This Farm Bill will help to enhance USDA’s enforcement of the organic label so that all producers are farming within consistent and fair standards. It will also support programs to grow our domestic production to meet the increasing demand for local, organic food. Organic Farmers Association looks forward to working with Congress and the USDA to support American organic farmers.”

Organic Farmers Association priorities that were included in the final bill include:

• Commitment to organic integrity by providing USDA with the additional authorities needed to track organic imports from around the world by including the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act in the final language. One important change requires products to have an electronic import certificate. The current system was created when the U.S. organic market was a smaller, domestically supplied industry. USDA’s system needed updating. This is a win for organic farmers.

• Mandatory funding for the organic certification cost-share program, which supports farmers to enter the organic market by reimbursing some of the annual fees for organic certification. Carryover and new funding will secure $40 million for the program. This is a win for organic farmers.

• Permanent mandatory funding for organic research in the bill incrementally increases funding for the Organic Research and Extensive Initiative program from its current $20 million per year to $50 million per year by 2023. Organic research is imperative to support farmers’ ability to overcome organic production challenges and to continue to meet the growing consumer demand for organic food. Increased organic research benefits all American producers by gaining new knowledge to grow more sustainably. This is a win for organic farmers.

• Organic Data Initiative received $5 million in funding for USDA’s organic data collection program that provides accurate market and production information for the organic community. Accurate data is needed to better understand and predict the growing organic food and farm market, and we look forward to working with USDA and Congress to make sure data collection is extended across all organic commodities. This is a win for organic farmers.

Despite the organic community’s united opposition, conferees made two changes to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that we do not support. The first changes NOSB voting procedures that affect decisions about allowed synthetic materials and the second will allow farm employees to represent a farm on the NOSB farmer seat. We will continue to work with Congress to help them appreciate the NOSB’s role to the organic farming community. We express our disappointment that changes were made to the operation of the board. The NOSB facilitates a valuable public arena for all sectors of the organic community to have input on the direction of its future. It’s important we have strong farmer representation and protect the foundation of the Organic Foods Production Act.

“Working with our membership to reach their Farm Bill goals has been a very rewarding process,” said Mark Rokala, policy director of the Organic Farmers Association. “While we still have work to do educating Congress on the NOSB, the bipartisan work and support of Senators Roberts and Stabenow was crucial to our success.”

Organic Farmers Association will continue to analyze the other 807 pages of the conference report and provide more insight and analysis to our members in the coming days.