Thank You Farm Bill Advocates –
We Have a Bill!
Government Shutdown Impacts National Organic Program at the USDA
The partial government shutdown is now moving into its third week and it’s one of the longest government shutdowns in U.S. history. Employees at the U.S. Department
of Agriculture are furloughed, with significant impacts on the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), which is responsible for enforcing the organic regulations, facilitating the work of the National Organic Standards Board, and overseeing certifying agents.
While enforcement activities by certifying agents will continue, enforcement activities conducted by the NOP, including investigations, suspensions of certifiers and operators, and issuance of penalties for violations, cannot be performed until the USDA is
For more information about how the NOP is impacted, see the USDA’s Agricultural
Marketing Service guidance regarding the status during a shutdown.
The Farm Service Agency, which now operates the organic certification cost-share program
alongside state agencies, is also closed due to the shutdown.
The shutdown will likely slow down implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed
into law on December 20. If the shutdown continues over the long-term, it could impact the annual NOP training for certifying agents at the end of January and the Seattle National Organic Standards Board meeting in April.
Two public nutrition programs administered by the USDA, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, could run out of money if the government shutdown continues through February and beyond. Letting these programs lapse would be unprecedented and would affect tens of millions of Americans.
The House of Representatives is expected to pass several standalone spending bills this
week to reopen large parts of the government, including the Agriculture Department. The Agriculture Appropriations bill under consideration by the House would achieve big wins on behalf of organic by increasing funding for the NOP and for organic and sustainable
This bill, however, is unlikely to move forward at this time in the Republican-controlled
Senate because Senate GOP leaders have indicated that they will only bring forward legislation that has support from President Trump. President Trump wants $5.6 billion for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which is not included in the House legislation.
“This shutdown could end tomorrow or it also could go on for a long time,” he said this past Sunday.
NOC would like to thank our
member organizations, Network Affiliates, and the many farmers and individuals who advocated on behalf of organic and good food policies in the 2018 Farm Bill. Thank you for responding to our action alerts, reaching out
to your elected officials, and following the play by play during this long and arduous process! Our collective voices made a difference in the outcome.
Thanks to the advocacy of folks like you, we were able to:
Save the organic certification cost-share program. This program
was completely eliminated in an earlier version of the House Farm Bill.
Significantly increase funding for organic research. Funding
for the OREI program will increase to $50 million in 2023. This amount more than doubles the current level of funding and provides permanent baseline funding for this critical program, which means it's less likely to be cut in future farm bills.
Expand resources and authority to deter fraud in the marketplace and strengthen enforcement for organic imports.
Continue critical funding for organic data collection.
And more! Read the full details in NOC’s
2018 Farm Bill Organic Scorecard.
Unfortunately, the bill contains deeply troubling provisions that impose statutory changes on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the USDA advisory board responsible for keeping toxic substances out of organic production and processing. NOC has been
consistently and vocally opposed to these and other changes to the NOSB – we appreciate your advocacy on this issue and believe your voice made a difference in fending off other proposed changes that would have weakened the structure and authority of the Board.