Urban Ag and Food Waste Bills considered in Congress

This past September, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced a bill that would make urban farms of all types eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and would set up an office of urban agriculture within the agency. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016, as envisioned by Senator Stabenow, would help create new economic opportunities, giving urban families greater access to healthy food and creating a healthier environment in cities and towns across the country.

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Shaping the next farm bill from the ground up

As the new Administration and Congress take on their responsibilities, it is fitting to start framing policy advocacy toward building the next farm bill—a five-year omnibus bill that sets policy for commodity support and risk management, publicly funded ag research, rural development, conservation and nutritional support programs like SNAP—with the current bill set to expire in September 2018. This will be the first time that a farm bill has been written under an entirely Republican House, Senate, and Administration since 1954.

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Farmers Advisory Council helps bring policy reforms for farmers

Designed to convene organic farmers from across the nation and across sectors, OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides a forum for elevating the issues facing the farmers who create the foundation of the entire organic industry. This is no easy task, as the organic farming industry encompasses widely different geographic regions, crops, and political districts. However, when farmers come together, share their ideas, and advise OTA on its policy agenda, the results at a national level can be swift and profound, as illustrated by recently announced significant policy reforms in Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) crop insurance available to organic farmers.

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United States and Switzerland sign equivalency arrangement

Swiss consumers purchase more organic products per capita than any other consumer population in the world. They are the fourth largest market for organic products in the world after the United States, Canada, and the European Union and responsible for 3 percent of global purchases of organic in 2014. Now, U.S. organic farmers have streamlined access to this active market through an organic equivalency arrangement.

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“Myth-Busting Month”campaign reaches 15 million consumers

Fact: You can eat organic on a budget. Fact: Organic agriculture can help feed the planet. Fact: There are proven health benefits of organic. These are three of the more than 30 research-backed facts that OTA and partners digitally disseminated each day in September as part of its highly successful “Myth-Busting Month” social media festival.

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Organic Roots are spreading in Washington

From the East Wing of the White House to the Halls of Congress, organic is spreading its roots in the nation’s capital. Today’s crop of organic influencers is making a difference in agricultural policy, federal legislation, international affairs, food and health guidelines, public research approaches, and environmental issues. The number of organic advocates in Washington has probably never been greater, including individuals with genuine down-to-earth roots in certified organic agriculture. In this edition, we are profiling a handful of these folks who are making their voices heard. These hard-working and committed individuals show how organic truly is seeding changes—in the food we eat, the way we think, and the future of our world.

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Report outlines economic barriers to transitioning to organic

CCOF recently released a report on economic barriers to organic transition that synthesizes discussions from two focus groups in June 2015. CCOF hosted the focus groups under a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Sound and Sensible Initiative, an effort to make organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable.

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OTA continues to work to strengthen livestock requirements

Developing any federal regulation takes a considerable amount of time and energy. The organic sector has an additional layer to this process, as most new organic regulations originate as recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and undergo an arduous journey of public scrutiny and rulemaking. The long-awaited ‘Origin of Livestock’ proposed rule released this summer illustrates the deliberate and transparent steps that must occur for an organic production concept to become codified in the federal regulations.

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An organic researcher perspective on organic check-off funds

As organic researchers, we are very excited about the prospect of organic check-off funds going towards supporting research to help us address U.S. organic farmers’ most pressing needs to increase production of organic food, feed and fiber. For years, we have fought the federal government and our state universities for every organic research dollar. Traditionally, organic research has been woefully underfunded.

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Grant expands fresh produce for Florida SNAP recipients

Florida's fruit and vegetable production is year-round and the second largest in the United States. However, since most is exported, a problem exists: few Florida residents purchase and consume Florida-grown produce. Add to that scenario the fact that nearly one in six Floridians is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

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OTA plays a role in the broader food policy debate

For years, OTA has focused its resources on influencing the national policy debate around organic agriculture priorities—things like ensuring the National Organic Program has the tools it needs to fully enforce the organic regulations, appropriating federal funds for organic-specific research, and developing a proposal for an organic research and promotion program. These debates take place in the context of the Farm Bill and appropriations.

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Spotlight on OTA's Farmers Advisory Council

OTA's Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides input from small- and medium-sized organic farmers, ranchers and growers to the Organic Trade Association on matters pertinent to the advancement of organic agriculture, with a specific focus on OTA’s policy agenda. Established in 2013, FAC is designed to formalize and improve communication between OTA and organic producers. It gives organic farmers a voice to directly influence OTA’s policy, and enables OTA to better represent the diversity of organic producers in its policy and advocacy.

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Perspectives on an Organic Check-Off

“I understood that the proposed check-off was controversial and decided to investigate. Largely I found that concerns stem from bad experiences with other agricultural commodity programs like beef, pork and eggs, that benefited large agribusiness and processors while American farmers were screwed over. But I found that the proposed organic check-off program has been designed with a lot of feedback from organic farmers in a sensible and fair fashion.”—David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s

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An Organic Check-Off: It sounds good but what about...?

An organic check-off would be unlike any other check-off program in American agriculture. Nothing like it has ever been tried, so the idea has understandably raised some questions. OTA has talked to lots of organic stakeholders over the past three years, and has found there’s a core group of concerns that keep coming up. We’ve also found that most of these concerns are based on perceptions of older check-offs, and we’ve addressed these issues.

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Help Wanted: Public Servants

June 14, 2010, I arrived at the west end of the National Mall in D.C. for my first day of employment advising the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture on organic farming and localizing food systems. It was quite a leap for me. After spending 25 years of advocacy and agitation as an organic farmer and non-profit policy wonk, I was about to be assimilated into the Obama Administration. Later that day, I sat outside in the recently inaugurated “People’s Garden,” a patch of reclaimed parking pavement just becoming a working garden of food and flowers.

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