As the debate over the US Farm Bill (2018) intensifies, the American organic sector is making it clear to policy-makers that its voice must be heard.
More than 500 organic stakeholders across 45 states weighed in on issues they see as critical to the organic sector as part of a comprehensive farm bill survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
Organic fruit and vegetable growers, grains and oilseed farmers, livestock and poultry producers, dairy farmers, vineyard owners and flower growers, along with organic processors, food makers, distributors and other organic operations answered questions concerning barriers they face in their organic operations – from regulatory, research, and marketing, to production and investment barriers. Survey respondents also evaluated the effectiveness of existing programmes geared towards the organic sector. In preparation for developing its advocacy work on the next farm bill, OTA partnered with members of OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council and other organic organizations –17 of them – to poll stakeholders directly on issues.
“The 50-billion-dollar-a year organic industry has earned a seat at the farm bill table as one of the bright spots in the farm economy”
The 50-billion-dollar-a year organic industry has earned a seat at the farm bill table as one of the bright spots in the farm economy. Organic farmers, ranchers, handlers, and food and textile makers add measurable value to rural economies, creating jobs and raising incomes—and they do this by responding to consumers’ interest in how their food is grown and made,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association. “We want to build on the success of past farm bills and focus on expanding the production base, supporting successful organic farmers and ensuring healthy markets.
Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that influences every part of the food and agriculture system. The current farm bill was signed into law in 2014 and will expire on Sept. 30, 2018.
Survey participants cited lack of university or professional programmes focusing on organic processing and technology, and lack of consumer awareness of organic’s benefits and value as critical challenges – or barriers – for both organic producers and handlers. Specific producer concerns were the cost of buying land, and the cost and availability of labour. Organic processors and food makers said a pressing issue is the lack of dependable supply of domestic organic raw materials.