Organic Farming Research Foundation Applauds Farm Bill Victories for Organic Farmers and Ranchers Congress Makes Substantial 'Down Payment' Toward a Fair Share for Organic

Agriculture Research



    SANTA CRUZ, Calif., May 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's ten
 thousand organic farmers have won a strong commitment to organic systems
 research, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).
 "With the override of the President's veto and final passage of the 2008
 Farm Bill, Congress has made a substantial down payment toward a fair share
 of federal funding for organic agriculture," said Steve Ela, an organic
 tree fruit grower from Colorado and President of OFRF.
 
     OFRF led the fight for increased organic research, education and
 extension funding, which proved to be the biggest win for organic farming
 in the legislation. The 2008 Farm Bill provides $78 million for organic
 agriculture research and education, an historic five-fold increase from the
 $15 million allocated in the expiring 2002 legislation. These funds will
 dramatically expand competitive grants for the development and sharing of
 organic farming systems information through the U.S. Department of
 Agriculture's Integrated Organic Program. Such an expansion is urgently
 needed to ensure that organic farmers and ranchers can continue to meet the
 growing demand for organic products and be successful stewards of their
 land.
 
     While this increase is another major landmark for U.S. organic
 agriculture, it is still not a "fair share" of public investment in this
 area, according to OFRF. The new funding represents approximately 1% of
 USDA's research budget -- well behind organic products' nearly 4% share of
 the U.S. retail food market.
 
     "U.S. producers need far greater science-based information resources
 than they currently have, in order to support the nation's desire for
 healthier food and farming systems," noted OFRF Executive Director Bob
 Scowcroft. "With this bill, Congress has made progress toward fulfilling
 organic agriculture's potential to provide broad environmental and economic
 benefits along with the sustained harvests needed to feed us all. Matching
 federal resources to the organic share of the marketplace is the next step,
 and we will continue working towards that."
 
     Congressional Champions
 
     Congressional support for organic research was led by Senator Tom
 Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition
 and Forestry. Iowa dairy farmer and OFRF board member Francis Thicke said,
 "Chairman Harkin was a true champion for organic agriculture in this bill,
 and we owe him great thanks. He has seen first-hand what organic farming
 has meant to family farmers in Iowa, and it is part of his vision for U.S.
 agriculture."
 
     Another key leader on the bill was California Representative Dennis
 Cardoza (D-Merced). As chair of the newly created House Agriculture
 Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, Cardoza was crucial
 to formulating the initial organic provisions in the bill and preserving
 these gains through its final passage. OFRF board member John Teixeira, an
 organic grower in Rep. Cardoza's district, noted that "Dennis has a lot of
 organic farmers in his district, and he helped make sure we were heard and
 respected in the process."
 
     Other champions for organic agriculture in the Farm Bill process
 included Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), New York Representative Kirsten
 Gillibrand (D-Saratoga Springs) and Wisconsin Representative Steve Kagen
 (D-Green Bay). Congress's two certified organic farmers, California
 Representative Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) and Senator John Tester (D-MT),
 do not serve on the Agriculture Committees but played helpful supporting
 roles.
 
     In addition, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and New Jersey Representative
 Rush Holt (D-West Windsor) successfully led the opposition to a harmful
 provision that could have limited the USDA's ability to reward the use of
 organic farming systems for conservation goals.
 
     Key Role of Farmers
 
     Organic family farmers played a direct role in advocating for changes
 in federal farm policy thanks to OFRF's Organic Farmers Action Network
 (OFAN). According to Scowcroft, "The direct relationships that organic
 farmers established with their legislators played a key role in achieving
 these gains. Both at home in the districts and during visits to Washington,
 D.C., the growers made a strong case for the benefits of supporting organic
 agriculture, family farmers and local food systems."
 
     OFRF expects organic growers to continue to play an important role in
 monitoring and advising the implementation of the bill, and OFAN will help
 them to do so. "Passing the 2008 Farm Bill is only the first step of
 delivering organic systems knowledge to both organic producers and
 conventional producers who want to farm more sustainably. Organic farmers
 will be working with each USDA agency as they integrate organic food and
 farming into their programs," said Mark Lipson, OFRF's Senior Policy
 Analyst.
 
     Other Organic Wins
 
     In addition to the increased research, education and extension funding,
 the 2008 Farm Bill addresses other factors that are limiting organic
 production in the U.S., including:
 
 
-- providing $5 million for collection of economic data about organic production and markets; -- providing $22 million to offset part of farmers' organic certification costs; -- taking steps to eliminate bias against organic growers in crop insurance programs; -- establishing financial and technical support for conversion to organic production. "All of the parts of the organic policy package are important," said Lipson, "and we want to thank the Agriculture Committees' leaders and all our supporters in Congress for making progress on many of them with this Farm Bill." Ela expressed the sense of purpose that he and many other organic growers feel: "It's not just about supporting organic farmers," he said. "Organic research has already demonstrated important benefits for consumers and the environment, from reducing pesticide contamination in children's diets to conserving the health of pollinators. It can make a huge contribution to storing carbon in living soil. Added investment in more and better organic farming practices is part of solving many of the urgent issues we all face." For details on 2008 Farm Bill provisions related to organic agriculture, go to http://ofrf.org/policy/federal_legislation/farm_bill/080520_update.pdf About the Organic Farming Research Foundation The Organic Farming Research Foundation was founded in 1990 to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF sponsors organic farming research and education projects, disseminates the results to organic farmers and to growers interested in adopting organic production systems, and educates the public and policymakers about organic farming issues. The majority of OFRF's board members are working organic farmers. http://www.ofrf.org

SOURCE Organic Farming Research Foundation

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