The US Department of Agriculture budget for Fiscal Year 2007 – which started October 1, 2006 – has not yet been completed by Congress. As a result, increased funding is stalled for organic farming research, certification cost-sharing, and enforcement of organic standards. When the 110th Congress convenes and takes up the unfinished work in January, organic farmers will have the opportunity to communicate with legislators about these budget issues.
The 2007 appropriations bills have three key organic items that are in play: research, enforcement of standards, and the certification cost-share program. The most important item from OFRF’s perspective is the proposed increase in funding for organic farming research and education. Thanks to Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) the House appropriations bill increased funding by $3.145 Million for USDA’s organic research competitive grants. The Senate Appropriations Committee only recommended an increase of $93,000.
When the full Senate acts on the USDA Appropriations bill, OFRF and other groups will seek an amendment that matches the increase passed by the House. Several key Senators have indicated interest in supporting such an amendment, or at least demonstrating Senate support for the House-passed increase when the House and Senate negotiators meet to work out the final bill. For more information on the organic research program and the proposed increase, go here. OFRF’s press release about the amendment is here.
A funding increase is also slated for the National Organic Program (NOP), the office that writes the organic certification rules and oversees the certifiers and the National Organic Standards Board. The budget line for organic standards and enforcement is set to go from $2 Million to $3.1 Million. These numbers are the same in both the House bill and the Senate committee’s package.
However, the Senate committee version requires that USDA use $500,000 of the NOP increase to continue funding the certification cost-share program. This program provides reimbursement to organic farmers up to $500/year for the cost of getting certified. Without new funding, most states will run out funds this year. Since the House bill does not mention the cost-share program, and USDA says it needs the whole NOP increase for enforcement and writing standards, the Senate language appears to be the only way to ensure that the cost-share will continue.
Look for more updates and specific action alerts as the new Congress convenes in January
Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist
Michigan State University
C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems
303 Natural Resources Bldg.
East Lansing, MI 48824
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