Feb 14, 2023
OTA outlines priorities for 2023 Farm Bill
The Organic Trade Association has called for a 2023 Farm Bill that helps organic standards keep pace with market demands, provides research and risk management tools as well as climate-smart rewards to farmers, and strengthens supply chain resilience.
“Organic is one of the country’s fastest-growing food production and processing categories, but despite the organic sector’s strengths and marketplace success, the industry faces core challenges that Congress must address in the next Farm Bill,” Tom Chapman, CEO of the trade association, said in a Feb. 8 new release. “The benefits of organic go far beyond the farm gate. To sustain organic’s growth and expand its positive impacts, we’ve developed a set of priorities that will build off the progress made in the 2018 Farm Bill.”
The priorities highlight the role the $63 billion organic sector plays in U.S. agriculture, OTA said, and represent consultations with and recommendations by the association’s Farmers Advisory Council, which represents more than 8,500 organic growers across the country.
“In addition to that work with the Farmers Advisory Council, OTA has also been working to really listen to the broader organic community and bring those perspectives in,” Britt Lundgren, director of organic and sustainable agriculture at Stonyfield Farm, said in an online OTA briefing on Feb. 9. “One of the ways this happened in the past couple of years is through a series of workshops focused on continual improvement in organic, and these workshops brought together nearly 300 certifiers, growers, consumer facing brands, retailers and nonprofit organizations to determine the policies that would support organic into the future.
“ … For responsive organic standards, we’re really talking about standards that uphold the integrity of the organic label and are responsive to how consumer expectations evolve in the marketplace. We’re talking about both the conservation benefits that organic farmers create and how we better support those, as well as having fair and equitable support for research and risk management for organic producers. And then looking at supply chains, we’re looking at how can we make supply chains more resilient in the face of both the risks that we know and the risks that we haven’t yet seen from disease, weather, and increasing costs.”
OTA points of emphasis include:
- Updating the Organic Foods Production Act to establish a preplanned, predictable timeline (no later than once every five years) to review and update the organic standards, so they continue to meet consumer expectations in an evolving marketplace
- Strengthening the National Organic Program’s enforcement authority against false or misleading organic claims
- Increasing funding for core organic programs authorized in the Farm Bill including the Organic Research and Education Initiative, Organic Data Initiative, Organic Certification Cost-Share Program and the National Organic Program
- Expanding organic market data collection and improving risk management tools for organic farmers
- Prioritizing and increasing funding for conservation practices that build soil health
- Acknowledging certified organic agriculture’s contributions to protecting natural resources in current and future USDA conservation and climate-smart verification programs
- Authorizing and investing in new programs to increase technical assistance for organic and transitioning farmers and to facilitate market development and infrastructure grants to expand domestic organic production and processing capacity as piloted by the USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative.
Adam Warthesen, FAC co-chair and director of government and industry affairs for Organic Valley, said enhancing the production of the 17,000-plus certified organic operations in the U.S. is critical. An important piece in achieving that goal is research.
“We’re looking to grow the organic research and extension initiative to a $100 million dollars annually,” he said.
Warthesen also emphasized the importance of providing technical assistance to farmers and strengthening market development strategies. He said OTA is seeking support to increase market access program funding to up to $400 million a year and foreign market development program funding to nearly $70 million annually.
“The thriving farmers are only thriving if they can get their product to market, and then that product that gets to market then can find its way to consumers,” he said.
Peter Mihalick, OTA’s senior director of government affairs, encouraged grassroots involvement and said the organization will be making Capitol Hill visits during Organic Week, May 9-11, to amplify its message.
“The Farm Bill has a huge impact on the future of organic agriculture, and we need to capitalize on the important gains that organic achieved in the 2018 Farm Bill,” said FAC co-chair Doug Crabtree, an organic farmer from Montana. “While still not funded to the proportion of food spending by consumers, organic research funding did receive a big boost in the last Farm Bill. But crop insurance rules continue to make risk management more challenging for organic farmers. Additionally, support for mentoring and other technical assistance for organic and transitioning farmers would help domestic farmers meet the growing demand for organic food.
“A healthy organic marketplace cannot be fully realized without critical support for farmers, who are the backbone of organic.”