Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are stepping up to support the advancement of organic agriculture in the United States. These organic champions are publicly advocating for an equal playing field for organic farmers, more research devoted to organic-specific production challenges, and adequate funds for the National Organic Program to maintain the integrity of organic, prevent fraud and uphold organic’s strict standards.
Here are a few of these champions, and what they say about organic and the next farm bill.
Rep. John Faso, Republican from New York
“As the organic industry continues to grow, so do the economic and job opportunities in my district in Upstate New York. Americans trusting organic labels are a large part of why the organic industry has grown so quickly. However, fraudulent organic claims from overseas producers threaten the public’s trust. Legislation I introduced—the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act—will strengthen enforcement and crack down on fraudulent producers who hurt consumers and legitimate organics producers. We need to put our organic producers in positions to succeed, not place barriers restricting their opportunity. The next farm bill is going to be critical for organic producers. We’ve seen organic products become almost a new normal across the country, and this farm bill will need to take that into account.”
Rep. Jimmy Panetta, Democrat from California
“Organic agriculture is a booming business on the central coast of California. Strong investments are needed in public organic research to help producers meet consumer demand. I have introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 alongside Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Congressman Dan Newhouse to increase funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from $20 million to $50 million and to ensure that the research needs of the organic community are being adequately addressed. In addition, consumers must continue to have full confidence in the USDA Organic seal. This is only possible if USDA and the National Organic Program have the resources necessary to effectively guide the industry forward. Congress has the ability to support producers, consumers, and rural communities in this farm bill by supporting organic agriculture.
Rep. Sean Duffy, Republican from Wisconsin
“Small- and medium-sized farms are truly the bedrock of many Wisconsin communities. Wisconsin boasts the second highest number of certified organic operations in the country. That is particularly exciting for Wisconsin because recent research shows that organic agriculture creates long-lasting economic benefits. By giving organic equal access to grant programs, we can ensure that all of our farmers have the tools at their disposal to pick a production style that’s right for them without any penalty.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree, Democrat from Maine
“As a longtime organic farmer, I’ve seen firsthand the huge growth in consumer demand for organic products. That should be reflected in policy and investing in better tools to help farmers meet that demand. Besides the yearly appropriations cycle, the Farm Bill is really the only moving legislative vehicle in the agricultural space. We only have the opportunity to work on it about every five years. We cannot miss this opportunity to dedicate more funding to organic programs, including research, and make sure we have the protocols in place to weed out any import fraud.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, Republican from Washington
“As a third-generation farmer, I have experienced firsthand how important agricultural issues are for families, jobs and trade in Washington State as well throughout the country. As a representative from one of the top five organic-producing states in the country, I see promoting organic agriculture as an important goal. The organic industry continues to grow exponentially to a now $50-billion-a-year industry. One of the many challenges that I have discussed with my colleagues is organic research. With the growth of the industry, we must ensure that farmers have the tools they need that are critical to keep up with today’s demand.”
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democrat from New Mexico
“The next farm bill will be critical to advancing organic agriculture. If we can increase funding for the National Organic Program and increase its authority to crack down on fraudulent imports, this will have a major impact on protecting the integrity of the USDA Organic label that so many consumers and farmers rely upon. If we underfund the organic initiatives and programs at USDA, not only will this damage the industry, hinder important research breakthroughs, and prevent more farmers from switching to organic, but it will also signal that Congress is not serious about the potential that organic agriculture has to offer to the U.S. economy.” //