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Legislative

OTA’s Government Affairs team develops relationships with Members of Congress and encourages the passage of laws that benefit the organic sector.  Learn more about how you can advocate on behalf of yourself, your business, and the organic sector on the Hill.

Organic Foods Production Act

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill.  It authorized the creation of the National Organic Program (NOP) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which would be based on federal regulations that would define standard organic farming practices, as well as processing and handling standards.  OFPA also called for the establishment of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production, and to provide recommendations to the Secretary regarding implementation of the Act.

Learn More About Organic Standards


Farm Bill

The Farm Bill sets our federal agriculture policy, and is reauthorized by Congress through the House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee roughly every five years.  It includes titles covering nutrition, commodities, conservation, trade, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture and organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance, and more.  In addition to updating programs and policies, Congress also determines the funding levels for various programs at USDA by either providing direct mandatory funding or determining authorized funding levels in the Farm Bill.

The current Farm Bill was signed into law in December of 2018, and OTA’s advocacy efforts resulted in huge wins for organic, including permanent baseline funding for organic research, increased funding for the National Organic Program, and new oversight and enforcement measures to preserve the integrity of the global organic supply chain. To see a full summary of the 2018 Farm Bill priorities for organic, click here.

Farm Bill Implementation


Appropriations

Every year, Congress funds the federal government through appropriations legislation.  Typically, the President releases a proposed budget in the winter, and the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee pass funding bills in the spring and summer, in advance of the start of the government's fiscal year on October 1. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees also focus on USDA appropriations, including funding for the National Organic Program, organic research, and other priorities.

FY20 Appropriations Request House Organic Caucus FY20 Appropriations Sign-On Letter


House Organic Caucus

The House Organic Caucus is a bipartisan group of Representatives that supports organic farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, retailers, and consumers.  The Caucus informs Members of Congress about organic agriculture policy and opportunities to advance the sector.

House Organic Caucus Members


Climate Change

Organic farming practices benefit the environment.  Organic agriculture is based on practices that protect environmental health and improve it.  By prohibiting the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, organic agriculture helps to reduce carbon footprint combat climate change

The Organic Center co-authored a groundbreaking study with the National Soil Project at Northeastern University showing that organic soils combat climate change by locking away carbon, which would otherwise be in the atmosphere, in long-term reserves.  The research compared over 1,000 soils to understand how organic compares to average agricultural practices, and the results showed that soils from organic farms sequester 26% more carbon.

Organic & Climate Change Fact Sheet The Organic Center Soil Study


Origin of Organic Livestock

Milk sold or represented as organic must be from livestock that have been under continuous organic management for at least one year.  This transition period is allowed only when converting a conventional herd to organic.  Once a herd has been converted to organic production, all dairy animals must be under organic management from the last third of gestation.  Due to the lack of specificity in the regulations, some USDA accredited certifiers are allowing dairies to remove organic dairy animals from a herd, raise them using conventional feed and other prohibited management practices, and then re-transition them back to organic.  This practice of cycling dairy animals in and out of organic production is a violation of the intent of the organic standards. 

In 2015, USDA issued a proposed rule that clarified the origin of livestock rules while still allowing for a one-time transition of a conventional herd to organic.  Comments from the organic industry reflected widespread support for the rule and consensus.  The final rule was never published, and in 2017, it was removed from USDA’s Unified Regulatory Agenda without explanation.  Action by the USDA is needed to improve consistency and enforcement of organic regulations.

Organic Dairy 101 Origin of Livestock Fact Sheet OTA Dairy Council Letter to USDA


Continuous Improvement

A healthy market for organic products requires a clear market distinction backed by a level playing field and a trusted, verified, and enforced claim. This burgeoning industry requires critical support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) for uniform and robust standards. Government’s failure to keep pace with consumers and the industry is harming and fragmenting the market

In the past 10 years, industry has advanced 20 consensus recommendations for improvements to the organic standards. USDA has not completed rule-making on a single one of them. The Organic Trade Association is working to repair Organic’s Public Private Partnership to continuously improve organic’s standards.

Continuous Improvement


Access to Healthy Foods

The organic industry is committed to providing healthy and safe food to all Americans. Over the last decade, innovation, growth and research have made organic more accessible than ever, and an emerging choice not only in homes, but also in schools and institutions.

As Congress, considers re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act there are opportunities to expand access to organic foods within the school feeding programs as well as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Child Nutrition Fact Sheet


Visit Your Legislators

Whether at home in your district or in Washington, D.C., your Senators and Representatives love to hear from you.  OTA staff is happy to help you set up a meeting with your Senator or Representative, and give you all the resources you need for a successful meeting. Email Allison Rice, Government Affairs and Engagement Manager, to help you set up a meeting.


Organic Week in Washington, D.C.

From small organic producers to major growers, family-run organic operations to nationwide companies, researchers and policy advocates to distributors and retailers will come together in the nation’s capital for a week of events to advance organic policy priorities.

The Organic Trade Association’s Advocacy Day takes place in hundreds of offices and meeting rooms across Capitol Hill.  Help us share positive messages and educate the nation’s top policymakers on the importance of Organic and the sector’s impact on jobs, growth, and consumer demand.  You will leave with new advocacy tools and personal connections to help you better promote and protect organic in your community, your state, and at the national level.

Stay tuned for Organic Week DC 2020 dates.


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General Resources

Organic State Sheets Benefits of Organic Fact Sheet Organic 101 Fact Sheet 2019 Organic Industry Infographic U.S. Household Organic Purchasing Map Organic Hotspots Fact Sheet  Top 50 Districts with Organic Operations

 


Contact
Megan DeBates
Director of Legislative Affairs and Coalitions
(202) 403-8643

 

 

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