As debate over the 2007 Farm Bill moves forward, the executive director of the Greenfield, Massachusetts-based Organic Trade Association (OTA) thanked members of a congressional subcommittee on June 7 for their commitment to organic agriculture.   

“The Horticulture and Organic Subcommittee approved additional key steps today that will help strengthen the infrastructure for organic agriculture,” said Caren Wilcox. “OTA appreciates so much the interest this subcommittee has shown in organic agriculture, including holding the first-ever hearing on organic production and processing. We look forward to working with them as the Farm Bill moves to full committee in the coming weeks.”   

The Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture approved the following provisions that benefit organic producers:   

$22 million to help farmers pay for organic certification. The certification cost-share program would provide up to $750 per farmer, increased from the current $500, to help cover the costs of organic certification. Farmland is deemed organic by USDA-accredited certifiers.   

$3 million for organic price and production data. USDA collects reams of data on agriculture prices and production and will now include data on organic prices and production. In addition, information will be used to analyze crop-loss data for organic production, leading to better risk-management tools for organic producers.   

Better outlets. Provisions to increase Farmers Market programs will help small and new organic farmers have an immediate local outlet for their products, enabling them to become established as organic farmers and to grow and prosper in their areas.   

Last month, the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research extended the Organic Research and Extension Initiative to examine optimal conservation and environmental outcomes for organically produced agricultural products, and to develop new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture. The subcommittee authorized $25 million per year for each fiscal year through 2012. This subcommittee also included language that make loans for water and soil projects to organic producers a priority and permitted organic transition to begin at the end of the Conservation Reserve Program. It also gave organic farmers access to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Conservation Innovation grants, provided $5 million will be used for outreach to organic and specialty crop producers each year.   

These proposals are part of OTA’s comprehensive plan for the 2007 Farm Bill. There are two more subcommittee mark-ups to come and full committee action on the Farm Bill in the House Committee on Agriculture. OTA has additional objectives to improve organic farming crop insurance and to develop transition programs for nonorganic farmers to more easily go organic.   

“This fast-growing part of American agriculture has much to contribute to building the economic and environmental health of farming communities across the United States,” Wilcox said.