Organic programs lost in Farm Bill extension

January 7, 2013 at 8:47 am

The 9-month farm bill extension that went into effect at the start of this year does not include important programs that support organic agriculture, reports Food Safety News. These programs were in the 2008 farm bill but did not qualify to be automatically part of the extension:

Among the organic programs that weren’t included in the extension of the 2008 farm bill are those that fund organic research and extension, cost share to become certified as organic, and an organic data collection system — the same sort of data collection system that has long been a mainstay for conventional agriculture and that qualified to receive continued funding.

Cuts to these programs will have a significant impact on organic farmers, especially those that are small and mid-sized operations. The cost share program, funded at $22 million in the 2008 bill, was intended to help these farmers cover their certification costs by providing a reimbursement on application fees, inspection fees, travel, and postage.

The cuts to research will also be significant, as the Cooperative Extensions  which operate out of universities in each state, were working to provide “research-based information” to producers, including organic farmers. Already, research for organic agriculture does not get enough funding to keep up with the growing industry. These cuts will only make this more severe.

As Mark Kastel, co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute, says:

“It (the 2008 farm bill extension) undercuts where markets are going. Instead, with this extension, we have the government giving more money (in direct payments) to commodity farmers even though they don’t need payments now because they’re doing well. They’re ignoring what the consumers are voting for in the marketplace.”

Supporting organic agriculture is important in order to diversify our farming industry and expand access to healthy foods. These programs were established because our lawmakers recognized their important public benefits. Not being included in the farm bill extension is 9 months of continued uncertainty for these farmers. Let’s hope that Congress recognizes their importance in September when it takes up the farm bill debate again.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture Policy, Farm Policy, Healthy Foods. Tags: , , .

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