The federal Farm Bill has a powerful impact on the cost of farming—both organic and non-organic. A version of the bill introduced by the House Agriculture Committee would cut existing programs for organic farmers and increase their costs, while at the same time continuing to use taxpayer dollars to artificially lower the costs of non-organic food.
Organic farmers shoulder expenses that their conventional counterparts push onto the public, like the costs of keeping air and waterways clean and protecting wildlife. Organic farmers also pay certifiers to verify their compliance with the strict National Organic Program rules.
At the same time, non-organic farmers benefit from many years of public investment in commodity crop subsidies, insurance, technical assistance, breeding, and research. This helps keep conventional food cheaper, leaving organic farmers to play catch up and the public to bear the burden of harms resulting from non-organic agriculture.
Recent Farm Bills have funded critical programs that help organic farmers cover some of their disproportionate costs, while protecting the environment and our health. This year, not only are those programs at risk, but Republicans are actively targeting the stakeholder processes that ensure organic standards stay strong. To top it off, the pending version of the bill continues to disproportionately favor conventional production.
Existing Farm Bill programs at risk include:
The U.S.’s organic rules were built to evolve with public input; this Farm Bill threatens that process.
The House’s bill also targets the foundation of the U.S.’s organic industry, sending a clear signal that health and transparency are not top priorities.
The Organic Foods Production Act (enacted as part of the 1990 Farm Bill) set the framework for our organic rules, and it established a diverse stakeholder group—the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—to oversee the rules on an ongoing basis. The 15-member NOSB represents a wide range of interests in the organic food chain: it includes organic farmers, processors, and a retailer, environmentalists, consumers, a scientist, and an organic certifier.
In order to protect the integrity of organic foods, the NOSB reviews and advises on materials allowed under the organic rules. In general, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited and natural farming inputs are allowed, with a few exceptions. Certain nonorganic materials may also be used in organic handling and processing. The NOSB weighs in on every potential change to the lists of allowed and prohibited materials and revisits each material every five years. Changes require thorough evaluation of ecological and health impacts, availability of alternatives, and “compatibility with a system of sustainable agriculture.”
The public normally has a strong voice in this process, but policies proposed for this Farm Bill could cut the public out. A provision allowing expedited review of certain materials could allow more substances to slip onto the “allowed” list. And a provision that gives other federal agencies a stronger hand in the review process may interfere with public participation and steer the NOSB away from holistic materials review.
The Senate Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill, in progress right now, may pose even greater threats to organic integrity.
Our Farm Bill should nourish us by stepping up investment in resilient farming, curbing pesticide use, and increasing access to organic food. While the House bill preserves some existing organic programs, its attacks on organic are on the long list of poison pills that will prevent it from moving forward. The Senate must do better to protect our nation’s organic farmers, and consumers’ access to safe, healthy food.
Should we have an organic referendum?
From the point of view of Tom Karst, Senior Editor of “The Packer”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture pulled the plug on the proposed organic marketing board before the drama of a referendum could unfold.
In so doing, has the agency turned back the momentum of the organic movement?
A 3-month public comment period that ended in April 2017 garnered more than 14,700 comments, according to a USDA news release.
The USDA cited specific concerns expressed in those comments, which led to its decision to not pursue the program:
Was the decision fair? Why not test the true support for the organic marketing board with a referendum?
A statement by the Organic Trade Association cast the USDA as unwilling to embrace the growth of organic agriculture. The group said the USDA’s action to terminate the rulemaking process to establish a national research and promotion program for organic “reflects a pattern of holding back forward progress on organic by USDA.”
Saying the $50 billion organic sector offers opportunities for U.S. organic farmers, “it makes no sense that the agency is continuing to take steps to cut it off at the knees.”
“This announcement comes within days of a smiley face GMO disclosure logo, which is bound to cause confusion for consumers and reveals that USDA is not being even-handed,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in the release.
Batcha said the association was certain about the quality of the proposal, which she said was crafted over the course of five years.
“We submitted comments with 1,358 public endorsers named, including over 1,230 certified organic operators,” she wrote.
She called it “unfathomable” that organic stakeholders will not be given the chance to cast their vote and decide for themselves regarding the checkoff.
The USDA decision to end the quest for a national organic marketing board will resonate for several years. In my opinion, even though the debate would have been messy, the market would have been served by a referendum. Without the clout of industry assessments, it will be difficult for organic marketers to have a substantial message about the value of organic certification.
How will the consumer value the USDA organic seal in coming years, given that the confusing labeling of food with “free from” labels will only increase? “Non-GMO” seems to have emerged as a competing label, which surely must frustrate organic operators.
The USDA has put the brakes on the national organic checkoff, and also may have pumped the brakes on consumer momentum toward organic food.
Tom Karst is The Packer’s national editor. E-mail him at [log in to unmask].
From the Point of View of Organic Trade Association
The Organic Check-off open comment period closed on April 19. Thank you to the thousands of organic stakeholders that submitted a comment in support of the program.
From January - April 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sought public comments on the GRO Organic Check-off proposal. The period for submitting public comments in response to the proposal for an organic research and promotion check-off program is over. The Organic Trade Association submitted comments with 1,358 public endorsers named, including over 1,230 certified organic operators. These organic farmers, ranchers and business stakeholders were joined by over 11,000 supporters who commented directly on the proposal. The complete text of the proposal is available for review on the Federal Register, or you can find a summary of the program and an excerpt of the proposed regulation here.
Now it is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s duty to cull through the thousands of comments received, and to determine which ones are substantive and which ones reflect input from organic stakeholders. The next step will be the publication of USDA’s final proposal, followed by a vote on the proposed program by the organic sector. It’s time for organic stakeholders to cast their vote, and to decide for themselves if they want to implement an organic check-off. We urge USDA to advance the process.
Please contact OTA ([log in to unmask] or 202.403.8520) with questions, or if you are interested in speaking with a member of the GRO Organic Core Committee.
Educational Program to Help you Grow Your Businesses
Using Social Media to Grow Your Farm Business
Fri, May 25, 2018 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT
This webinar will discuss how you can use social media for your farm business to grow your customer base and market your products. We will provide an overview of the most popular social media platforms for farms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and we will discuss strategies for creating content and how to engage with customers. This webinar will serve as a good introduction if you are wondering how to get started with social media on your farm or are looking for ways to improve your social media skills. We will be hosting additional webinars that will dive deeper into specific social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram. This webinar is funded by USDA-NIFA-AFRI-2014-050471
Field School – For Summer and fall
offered by Cross Hatch- Hands-on, full-day, on-farm conferences are coming this year.
formerly Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design (ISLAND)
Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology envisions communities that are grounded in place: where people connect through stories, music, art, shared work, and food, and where the economy and culture are rooted in restoration of the earth and its people.
Hands-on, full-day, on-farm conferences are coming this year. In addition to workshops with expert teachers, Crosshatch Field Schools will include one-on-one consulting with farm experts, a local food lunch, and a post-workshop social networking hour. Registration is open!
Hands-on, full-day, on-farm conferences are coming this year. In addition to workshops with expert teachers, Crosshatch Field Schools will include one-on-one consulting with farm experts, a local food lunch, and a post-workshop social networking hour. Specific workshop topics to be announced soon. Registration will open in June.
MSU Student Organic Farm Workshops
To Register Click Here or for more information about each workshop
MSU Agriculture Innovations: Focus Fruit and Vegetable Technologies
The third annual MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies will take place June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center at 1791 Hillandale Road in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The 2018 event will begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. and wrap up around 5 p.m. The event is free and includes lunch.
Consumers and the farmers who grow the produce they eat want similar things: sustainably and safely raised fruits and vegetables. That’s why Michigan State University (MSU) is bringing together experts to share how new technologies in spray, water, high tunnels and drones, and new strategies for pollinators and disease and insect management will change the shape of the industry, exceed consumer expectations and improve growers’ bottom line.
The morning program will focus on topics affecting the overall fruit and vegetable industry:
During the afternoon, producers will have the opportunity to choose from three tracks focusing in-depth on vegetables, fruit or grapes.
LANSING URBAN FARM PROJECT IS ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THREE NEW BOARD MEMBERS
Please spread the word to help us find great candidates to lead the Lansing Urban Farm Project!
The Lansing Urban Farm Project (501c3) has been recognized as a model for urban agriculture in the Lansing area since 2010. Recently, its Board of Directors has refocused LUFP’s mission to address the collective needs of small-scale Lansing farmers and thereby strengthen the city’s food and farming system – economically, culturally, and ecologically. To this end, LUFP seeks to expand its Board of Directors to lead the organization through the next phase of its important work. We are looking for people with energy and ideas from across Lansing who can help shape innovative LUFP programming and carry a new mission forward. We seek people who are dedicated to the Lansing area with expertise, experience and/or interest in urban agriculture, local and sustainable food systems, and social responsibility. Those with data management, website design, and marketing skills are especially welcome to apply.
Applications are due by June 1st for consideration to join the Board by summer 2018.
For more information about what a Board position requires and for an application, please contact Laura B DeLind, Board President, at [log in to unmask].
Organic Farming Instructor position in Moscow, ID. University of Idaho
For more info:
Position Summary: This position is responsible for teaching and advising to support the B.S. in Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) degree program in the Department of Soil and Water Systems (SWS). A focus of this appointment is dedicated to teaching undergraduate courses within the SFS curriculum. The position will be responsible for teaching both face-to-face and online courses, and serve as the academic advisor for students within the SFS major. This also includes supervising students who are growing organic crops on the farm as part of their curriculum. This position involves maintaining farm conditions during the academic year to allow for experiential learning at the campus organic farm (which serves as an outdoor classroom for students in the SFS degree program). The appointee will have a demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching, and practical experience in the broad area of organic farming, including knowledge of the organic certification process and methods used to produce vegetable crops.
Amanda Snyder | Associate in Community Food Systems & Small Farms
University of Idaho Extension | 875 Perimeter Drive MS 2338 | Moscow, ID 83844-2338
Phone: 208-885-0984 | Email: [log in to unmask]Outreach Specialist
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is seeking a highly motivated, creative individual with experience and a passion for connecting with current and
future clients. Put your education and experience to work
That passion comes through as he/she engages with clients and
staff. The Outreach Specialist will identify new clients, coordinate and
manage the promotion of goods and services produced by NCAT. The successful
applicant will demonstrate competency in all areas of outreach and the
promotion of technical services and educational materials. Special emphasis
will be placed on internet promotion through social media.
NCAT is a national, private non-profit organization whose work includes
nationally recognized projects in food, agriculture, and energy. The position
will be located at NCAT’s Headquarters Office in Butte, Montana.
QUALIFICATIONS: This is an excellent opportunity for the candidate who has a
combination of education and experience in community outreach, marketing, and
promotion. Because the position will promote NCAT’s agricultural materials
and services, a knowledge of commercial agriculture is preferred. The
position requires the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in communications or
marketing or related field plus a minimum of four years’ experience working in
promotions, outreach or marketing through both traditional and online mediums.
The ideal candidate will be a self-starter who can use creative means to
advance NCAT’s mission and have experience in collaborative efforts with
diverse partners. Excellent communication skills, including public speaking,
writing, editing and research skills are very important in this position.
Preference will be given to applicants with background and experience in
agriculture, energy and rural development. Some travel will be required.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES:
• Commitment and passion for the NCAT mission;
• Understanding of non-profit organizational structure;
• Strong written and verbal communication skills;
• Robust writing and editing skills;
• Thorough understanding of promoting work on social media and web
• Commitment to customer service & community engagement;
• Ability to develop new concepts through curiosity, creativity, and
• Adaptability and willingness to be flexible;
• Aptitude to optimize content and technology.
• Work directly with senior management and project specialists to drive
awareness of NCAT and its mission;
• Increase the visibility and understanding of NCAT's mission;
• Develop sales, marketing and social media materials;
• Strengthen relationships with current partners and communities, and
initiate new partnerships and/or projects of mutual interest;
• Promote content through traditional media, social media and other
• Create advertising schedules, placement and budgets for advertising
and promotional materials in traditional and social media;
• Compile, track and analyze promotional efforts, and report progress to
• Work with the communications team to maintain an inventory of photos,
artwork, videos and other materials necessary for the preparation of marketing
• Seek out opportunities to create connections between NCAT and
communities we serve;
• Plan and execute outreach activities that support NCAT needs and
• Assist with event planning;
• Maintain an understanding of the latest digital marketing trends;
• Creation and publishing of relevant, original, high-quality content;
• Plan specific, timely marketing campaigns.
SALARY AND BENEFITS: This is a full-time position with a salary range from
$32,000 - $38,000 annually depending on skills, qualifications, and
experience. Excellent benefits include paid leave, holidays, health
insurance, 401(k), life insurance, Long Term Disability, dental and vision
plan options, and a pleasant office environment in which to work.
APPLICATION PROCESS: Applications will be accepted through June 22, 2018 or
until a suitable candidate can be identified. Early applications are
encouraged and applications will be considered as they are received. All
persons interested in being considered for the position must submit a cover
letter highlighting their experience and skills relevant to the listed
qualifications, a current resume and a completed NCAT application. Incomplete
applications or reference on the application to “see resume” will not be
considered. Applications and more information about NCAT can be accessed by
visiting our website at www.ncat.org. The website provides a gateway to
projects and other websites developed by NCAT staff. You may find an
employment application under the Jobs tab.
NCAT’s mission is to help people by championing small-scale, local and
sustainable solutions to promote healthy communities, reduce poverty and
protect natural resources. Our work brings together diverse partnerships and
communities to help reduce poverty and protect our natural resources. We
strive to be a multicultural organization that embraces the rich dimensions of
diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-
economic status, age, physical ability, religious or political belief and
marital or veteran status. Diversity creates healthy communities. Special
consideration will be given to applicants who are reflective of the
communities that we serve.
For additional information about NCAT please visit our website at
Organic Farming Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd
East Lansing, MI 48824