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House Farm Bill misses mark on forward-looking critical needs of organic

On Friday, May 17th, the House Agriculture Committee released the full draft of its Farm Bill in advance of the committee markup scheduled for Thursday, May 23. The Organic Trade Association commends the Committee's diligence in advancing this crucial legislation, however, the draft fails to adequately address the forward-looking critical needs of the organic sector, thereby missing a significant opportunity to bolster rural economies and support farmers seeking to participate in this rapidly expanding market. 

For the past twenty years, organic food sales have consistently shown the strongest growth in the retail food sector. This preference for organic products is even stronger among the youngest generations of consumers. Currently, organic produce accounts for 15% of all produce sold in the US, while organic eggs and dairy make up nearly 10% of their categories’ performance. Despite this robust market demand, domestic organic acreage has not kept pace with the market expansion. Challenges in the organic supply chain, including a lack of processing and storage facilities, along with often uncertain market access has limited growth of the sector. These challenges highlight a critical gap that this Farm Bill must address to enable farmers to diversify production and enhance economic resilience. 

A forward-looking Farm Bill is essential to invest in the future needs of both farmers and consumers. As the House Committee moves towards markup, we urge a strong commitment to the following priorities: 

  1. Organic Market Development Act: This act is vital for expanding market opportunities and providing essential support for organic farmers while shoring up our domestic food supply chain.  
  2. Increased Funding for the National Organic Program: Ensuring the integrity of the organic seal is paramount to maintaining consumer trust and market stability. NOP will be stifled in its basic functions without adequate funding to enforce the USDA organic standards. We urge the House Agriculture Committee to authorize stepped up funding for NOP over the life of the Farm Bill. 
  3. Improved Regulatory Process: Emerging sectors of the organic industry are stalled under an uncertain regulatory future. Clear organic standards are needed to maintain a level playing field and allow for product innovation. We urge the House Agriculture Committee to adopt CIAO – H.R. 5973 to create transparency and structure in organic rulemaking.  

We call upon the House Agriculture Committee to address these critical gaps in the draft legislation. By doing so, they will not only support the growth of the organic sector but also ensure a more resilient and diverse agricultural economy. Investing in the organic market is an investment in the sustainable agricultural practices, rural economies, and consumer interests of today and compounding returns for tomorrow. We urge policymakers to seize this opportunity to drive organic agriculture forward, ensuring its benefits are realized by future generations of farmers and consumers alike.