• Climate Change,  Conservation,  Farm Bill,  Marketplace Equity,  Organic

    Key Marker Bills for the 2023 Farm Bill

    The work on a transformational 2023 Farm Bill is underway as climate scientists, activists, food and agriculture businesses, community leaders, anti-monopoly advocates, and policymakers pool together ideas and input for the new legislation. The reauthorization of the farm bill is supposed to be completed by the end of September. Because of the fight over the country’s debt limit and partisan battles, it will likely take until the end of this year or early next before we have a new farm bill.

    Despite a longer timeline, things are moving and we wanted to lay out the key marker bills OEFFA is supporting.

    A marker bill is legislation that is introduced to advance policy proposals and assess their level of support, with the hope of making it into the first bill draft advanced by the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

    OEFFA’s five high-level farm bill priorities are: 

    1. Increase investments in local and regional food systems
    2. Address consolidation in the food and agriculture system
    3. Invest in organic and sustainable research
    4. Promote soil health and climate resilience through conservation policy
    5. Provide more support for beginning and BIPOC farmers

    Bills Supporting Local and Regional Food and Farming Systems

    Roundtable with Senator Sherrod Brown (August 2022)

    Local Food and Farms Act (LFFA) (S. 1205, H.R. 2723) Championed by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown

    This act would strengthen local and regional food system infrastructure and promote rural and urban community economic development. LFFA offers reforms that would make it easier for applicants to use the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), and Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). Investments would be prioritized toward small producers and underserved areas.

    Strengthening Local Meat Processing Act (SLPA) (S. 354, H.R. 945) Also being championed by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown

    SLPA promotes competition within agricultural markets and invests in economic development. The bill addresses critical livestock and poultry supply chain issues, advances training programs for resilient community food systems, and supports small meat and poultry processing plants.

    The Farmers’ Market and Food Bank Local Revitalization Act of 2023 (H.R. 2378) Championed by Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur

    This bill would provide increased financial assistance for farmers’ markets and farmers’ market nutrition programs, and increase local agricultural production through food bank in-house production and local farmer contracting.

    Bills Addressing Consolidation

    Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act (S. 557, H.R. 1249)

    This marker bill opposes the funneling of checkoff tax dollars into deceptive and anti-competitive lobbying groups. A call for increased transparency and accountability in commodity checkoff programs is central to this legislation.

    Checkoff fees are deemed mandatory by the Department of Agriculture for certain commodities (corn, soybeans, beef, eggs, etc.). They fund boards and councils that research and market the commodity as a whole.

    Farm System Reform Act of 2023 (S. 271)

    This bill promotes marketplace competition and fairness. It would reduce monopolistic practices of meatpackers and corporate integrators, suspend large factory farms or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and support mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements.

    There will be other marker bills on crop insurance reform, but they have not been introduced yet. In the interim, check out OEFFA’s Crop Insurance Platform here.

    Bills Supporting Organic and Sustainable Research

    Alexis Dragovich (Mud Run Farm) and Emily Jackle (Mile Creek Farm) at Rally For Resilience (March 2023)

    Seeds and Breeds for the Future (S. 2964)

    This legislation promotes the development of regionally-adapted seed varieties to increase yields and resilience. This would support farmers through challenges with drought and varying growing conditions.

    Strengthening Organic Agricultural Research (SOAR) Act of 2023 (H.R. 2720)

    This bill would direct the agricultural research service to expand organic research. The legislation would also fund research projects that help farmers become more efficient, productive, and profitable.

    Biochar Research Network Act (H.R. 1645)

    This bill would create a national network to test biochar’s ability to absorb carbon and increase crop production.

    Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act of 2023 (S. 1778)

    This bipartisan legislation would support research into how agrivoltaic systems (land being used for agriculture and solar photovoltaic energy generation) can generate clean energy, keep farmland in production, and strengthen rural economies.

    Bills Supporting Climate Resilience

    Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) (S. 1016, H.R. 1840)

    This comprehensive bill is promoted to support farmers as the climate crisis expands and impacts their ability to produce and thrive. Six policy areas are prioritized: research; soil health; farmland protection and viability; pasture-based livestock; on-farm energy; and food waste. 

    Zero Food Waste Act (S. 177, H.R. 652)

    This bill would divert food waste from landfills and ensure hungry Americans have access to food that is often thrown away.

    Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion Of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Act (S. 179, H.R. 4443)

    COMPOST was introduced to redirect food waste away from landfills and promote local composting infrastructure. The bill would add composting as a conservation practice for the USDA’s conservation programs, in addition to providing funding for home, farm, and community-based compost projects.

    Bills Supporting Beginning and BIPOC Farmers

    Rally for Resilience (March 2023)

    Justice for Black Farmers Act (S. 96)

    The introduced legislation would reform the USDA, provide debt relief, establish a farm conservation corps, and create a land grant program. It would also increase funding for programs that support all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

    There will be more bills related to research, conservation, beginning and BIPOC farmers, consolidation, and climate introduced soon. This is a great opportunity to reach out to your members of Congress and let them know you want them to sign on in support of these marker bills. 

    If you are interested in doing that, please reach out to us at policy@oeffa.org and we would be glad to provide talking points and resources.

  • Climate Change,  Farm Bill,  Organic,  State Policy

    OEFFA Members Making Change

    There are few windows of opportunity to make changes to something as big as our food and farming system. When those opportunities present themselves, we have to be prepared to act. Fortunately, OEFFA staff and members have been working for months to advance positive change.

    Last year, OEFFA members attended community and virtual listening sessions or participated in an online survey leading to the development of OEFFA’s 2023 Farm Bill priorities. During the fall, member leaders and staff formed groups to support beginning and BIPOC farmers, increase investments in organic and sustainable research and regional food systems, address consolidation, and promote soil health and climate resilience.

    Groups began meeting regularly to discuss organic agriculture, and how to ensure the crop insurance program works for everyone. Organized by OEFFA, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative—a state-level coalition of farmers, organizations, agency staff, and soil scientists—continued working to support soil health innovations from Ohio farmers.

    When the new year began, we were ready for action. What follows is a summary of OEFFA advocacy in the first quarter of 2023.

    Advancing Priorities in the 2023 Farm Bill

    OEFFA members Eli Dean and Celeste Treece joined OEFFA staff Amalie Lipstreu and Julia Barton for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) winter meeting and fly-in in Washington, DC. After much discussion and preparation, we hit the Hill to meet with Senators Sherrod Brown and JD Vance, new Ohio Representative Max Miller (R-7), and Representatives Shontel Brown (D-11) and Marcy Kaptur (D-9).

    It was an important opportunity for three relatively new lawmakers to learn more about OEFFA, organic agriculture, and the small to mid-scale farms that make positive economic and environmental contributions to their communities. Key messages included:

    • Bipartisan support for local and regional food systems;
    • Research to support organic and sustainable farmers;
    • Support for soil health best practices;
    • Increased support for urban farmers;
    • Allowance of just one subsidy per farm; and
    • Promotion of a crop insurance program that is Fair, Functional, and Informed.

    Eli Dean presented a well-researched perspective about how, under the current structure of subsidized crop insurance, larger farmers have the upper hand when buying up land. He went on to explain why we need to provide more risk management support to smaller and more diverse growers and keep the crop insurance subsidies in place for the majority of growers, but ask those at the very top of the economic pyramid to shoulder more of their own costs for crop insurance.

    Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience

    Joining with NSAC, the Rural Coalition, HEAL Food Alliance, and other organizations, OEFFA staff Heather Dean, Lauren Hirtle, and Amalie Lipstreu accompanied 11 OEFFA members and staff from Rural Action and Ag Noire for Rally for Resilience. The mass action was organized around a request for members of Congress to make climate change policy a priority in the 2023 Farm Bill.

    People united around farmer-led solutions to climate change, racial justice in the farm bill, and a focus on communities over corporations. The three-day event included motivating speakers such as OEFFA member Sophia Buggs from LadyBuggs Farm in Youngstown and Lindsay Klaunig from Trouvaille Farm.

    We were also there with the Organic Farmers Association, where Amalie serves on the Steering Committee and member leader Scott Myers serves on the Policy Council. In meetings with seven members of Congress and three USDA agencies, we advocated for the following:

    • Strong enforcement of organic integrity
    • Organic as a key solution to the climate crisis
    • Increased investments in organic research

    Ongoing communication with and from our members helps to develop strong relationships that build over time. During a meeting at USDA, we learned that different parts of the agency cannot communicate effectively with each other because of outdated and conflicting IT systems. If investments were made in system upgrades, the result would be more efficiencies that would cut bureaucratic and red-tape hurdles that farmers face in accessing resources and programs. Whether from OEFFA members or USDA staff, voices should be heard and remembered.

    National Organic Coalition Fly-In

    On our next trip to Washington, DC, Julia Barton was accompanied by OEFFA members Kim Bayer of Slow Farm in Michigan and Angela Schriver of Ohio’s Schriver Organics, LLC. As an organic grower, Kim is fond of saying that she “pays for the privilege of not applying poisons on her farm.” She led with poignant examples in several legislative meetings, sharing her experiences with cost share and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs. She also highlighted the need for inter-agency collaboration and information sharing.

    Angela Schriver spoke eloquently about the holistic suites of synergistic practices in use by organic farmers and similar challenges her farm has faced in engaging with various programs. She shared how extreme weather events impact organic farmers and conveyed the need for a Fair, Functional, and Informed crop insurance farm safety net. Angela and Kim had never met prior to their trip to DC, but they made an amazing team in six legislative meetings, nurturing ongoing relationships with offices, and cultivating new ones.

    The Ohio Statehouse

    Lauren Hirtle, OEFFA’s state-level policy organizer, has been leading the charge of the Ohio Soil Health Initiative. This year, we are taking advantage of the biennium budget cycle by working to secure funding for farmer-led soil health pilot projects across the state.

    We met with and were well-received by eight House members involved in agriculture and finance. OEFFA’s soil health ambassador, Jim Linne of White Clover Farm, provided powerful testimony to the House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources. You can view his testimony here.

    Interest was piqued when Jim shared the positive outcomes that come from investing in soil health. He has increased his soil organic matter from one to four percent, increased the water filtration and holding capacity of his soil, and increased the days of photosynthesis on his farm by over 100 days per year. Together, these benefits have sequestered tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide and improved his farm’s profitability. It is exciting to imagine the exponential benefits we could see by supporting more farmers to do the kind of intentional soil health management that Jim has implemented!

    Looking Ahead

    OEFFA members have been leading the way for change during the first quarter of this year. To build on this exciting momentum we will be hosting a farm bill advocacy training in June and an OEFFA DC fly-in during July. We will also be promoting opportunities for members to meet with their representatives in community during the month of August when they are back “in the district” for summer recess.

    Consider joining us to take advantage of this once-in-every-five-year opportunity to make real change in our food and farming system! To find out more information about how you can be involved, contact policy@oeffa.org.

  • Farm Bill,  Organic

    NOC Members Urge Congressional Leaders to Advance Organic Agriculture

    This post originally appeared on the National Organic Coalition (NOC) blog.

    Twenty six farmers, scientists, policy advocates and organic company representatives from the National Organic Coalition advocated for organic agriculture last week in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, we criss-crossed Capitol Hill, where we met with 56 Congressional Offices. 24 meetings were with Members of Congress (or their staff) who sit on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees – the committees responsible for writing the 2023 Farm Bill.

    During visits with congressional offices, we focused on four themes to advance organic in the 2023 Farm Bill:

    • A proposed Opportunities in Organic Program, which will establish a suite of flexible, easy-to-access tools to reduce barriers to organic agriculture.
    • Strengthening organic integrity, which is all about ensuring the continuous improvement of USDA’s organic standards.
    • Expanding organic research, which will provide tools to address production, marketing and environmental challenges.
    • Strengthening USDA’s conservation programs for organic farmers, which highlights that organic farming is climate-smart and environmentally sound.

    NOC has developed a detailed list of organic priorities for every title of the Farm Bill.

    NOC also met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Moffitt, where we had a productive conversation about the organic dairy crisis, future updates to the organic standards, and the USDA’s new Organic Transition Initiative. NOC thanked Under Secretary Moffitt for championing organic agriculture within USDA and for the agency’s work to finalize the Origin of Livestock and Strengthening Organic Enforcement rules.

    The photos below show some of the highlights from our time in DC.

    Follow NOC on social media (Facebook @NationalOrganicCoalition and Twitter @NationalOrganic) to see updates from last week’s Congressional and USDA meetings.

  • Organic

    Know Your NOSB: Winter Report

    National Organic Standards Board makes recommendations to the National Organic Program organic standards

    The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets twice each year to hear public comments, discuss agenda items, and vote regarding issues and materials for use in organic production and handling systems. The outcomes of the board votes are shared as advice to the Secretary of Agriculture, which then often returns to the organic community with clarifications or changes to the organic standards.

    The last meeting was held online October 25-27, 2022. Thanks to those of you who submitted comments to the NOSB or shared your ideas with us. OEFFA drew on that feedback to provide comprehensive comments to the NOSB.

    The following are highlights from that fall NOSB meeting. The spring NOSB meeting will take place April 25-27, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia, with the National Organic Coalition pre-meeting on April 24.

    If you’re interested in participating in future NOSB meetings or engaging in OEFFA’s Organic Work Group, contact Julia Barton.

    OFRF: National Organic Research Agenda Report Update

    Brise Tencer and Thelma Velez of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) shared highlights from the National Organic Research Agenda report, highlighting particular challenges and opportunities for organic growers.

    Proposal: Human Capital Management, NOSB Technical Support

    Serving on the NOSB is a huge job, and OEFFA has long supported technical support for the NOSB, especially for farmer members. Although OEFFA’s comments, those of the National Organic Coalition, and others urged the board to seek this support in a way that fits each individual board member, and to look outside of the USDA for this technical support, the board voted to move forward with technical support from within USDA staff. We will be closely following this recommendation as it moves forward to the National Organic Program.

    Proposal: Oversight Improvements to Deter Fraud, Acreage Reporting

    OEFFA has included acres per crop type on our organic certificate for many years. As a fraud prevention tool, the NOSB proposed requiring acres per crop type and total acres on organic certificates. This makes audits easier to conduct and offers another publicly available verification point. It was recognized that there will need to be accommodations made for how acreage of small, diversified growers is listed on the certificate. OEFFA currently uses a “mixed vegetables” designation for this purpose. The board voted to require acreage reporting on the certificate moving forward.

    Discussion Document: Oversight Improvements to Defer Fraud, Minimum Reporting Requirements

    Discussion continued regarding other tools to help prevent fraud through consistent reporting. The OEFFA Grain Growers Chapter led in comments supporting a universal Bill of Lading, a tool grain growers use to communicate with mills about what’s in the truck, what field it came from, whether its food or feed quality, and its organic status. The thinking is that a standardized document would better serve farmers, mill operators, certifiers, and inspectors alike. They are often looking at these documents from multiple farmers during busy times of year, in performing mass balances, trace back audits, and noticing areas of potential fraudulent activity.

    Discussion Document: Organic and Climate Smart Agriculture

    OEFFA urged the USDA to take ownership of organic as a climate-smart agriculture tool, and proudly promote it as such in USDA communications. Instead, the NOSB took the approach of outlining the many climate-smart attributes of organic agriculture by category. We will be closely tracking the next iterations of this discussion document, as it may move forward in proposal form for the spring 2023 NOSB meeting.

    Verbal Update: Excluded Methods

    After some initial discussion regarding a possible place for genetic engineering (GE) technology in organic by outgoing board member Rick Greenwood, fellow NOSB member Mindee Jeffrey reiterated that GE technology remains a method excluded from organic production, stating:

    “I appreciate the tone of yesterday’s conversation indicating the USDA’s commitment to open and collaborative dialogue. In that light, respectfully, stakeholders, consumers, and previous boards have been unanimous in upholding the excluded methods provisions, including the part of those definitions that refer to gene editing techniques. We are united in the understanding that this organic system has positioned all forms of genetic manipulation as excluded from organic systems, just as we have prohibited other substances, natural or synthetic. I also appreciate that when stakeholder groups have questioned USDA on this issue, the USDA has responded by saying, ‘We appreciate your initiative in discussing the role of gene editing with your members and sharing the outcome with USDA. Genetically modified organisms, including gene editing, are considered excluded methods, and are prohibited in organic agriculture under the USDA Organic Regulations.”

    No NOSB recommendations will take effect until the National Organic Program alters the regulations through rulemaking.

  • Organic

    The End of Organic Farming…As We Know It

    Guest blog post by Jim Riddle, Organic Independents LLP, Blue Fruit Farm

    The fundamental concepts of organic farming have always been, “Feed the Soil, not the Plant,” and “Healthy Soil leads to Healthy Crops, Healthy Animals, Healthy People, and a Healthy Planet.” Now, those concepts have been turned on their head, with a recent Appeals Court ruling that you don’t even need soil for growing terrestrial crops, in order to be certified organic in the United States.

    If the ruling is allowed to stand, it will mean that crops grown using hydroponic methods can officially be certified as “organic,” as has been done by a handful of renegade certification agencies for a number of years. Consumers will continue to be deceived when they buy organic products, thinking that such products were grown in healthy soil, using methods that “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity,” as required by the legal definition of “organic production.”

    It will also mean that authentic organic farmers, who produce crops in healthy soil, who protect and enhance the biological diversity of their operations, and who use green manures, cover crops, crop rotations, and compost to recycle nutrients, will continue to compete with hydroponic operations that use inputs “approved for organic use,” but do not comply with the soil building, crop rotation, and ecological requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Regulations (7 CFR 205).

    Decision Violates Organic Foods Production Act

    The Court’s ruling directly contradicts a stated purpose of the OFPA, which is “to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard.” Consumers who purchase “organic” blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and leafy greens will have no way of knowing if those products were produced by operations that comply with all requirements of OFPA and 7 CFR 205, or if those products were produced by hydroponic operations that only use “approved inputs” in their nutrient solutions.

    In its ruling, the Court stated, “the statute imposes three requirements for organic crops—a restriction on synthetic chemicals,” 7 U.S.C. § 6504(1); a prohibition on growing organic crops “on land to which any prohibited substances . . . have been applied,” id. § 6504(2); and a requirement that organic products “be produced and handled in compliance with an organic plan,” id. § 6504(3).”

    The OFPA requirements for an organic crop production plan, at 6513(b)(1), state, “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.” (emphasis added.)

    The Court stated, “USDA’s decision [to allow “organic” hydroponic] interpreted that provision to mean that if crops are grown in soil, their producers must take measures to preserve that soil’s ‘fertility’ and ‘organic content.’” (emphasis not added.)

    That interpretation is not supported by the OFPA, which contains no language that allows for organic crop production plans which do not address soil fertility. The word “if” is not used in the plain language of section 6513(b), which establishes the requirements for organic crop production plans.

    In addition, the Court failed to address the fact that USDA has issued no rules or regulations to guide the organic certification of hydroponic operations. In fact, there is no language in the OFPA or 7 CFR 205 that supports organic certification of hydroponic systems.

    The Court went further, stating that the USDA’s “interpretation is consistent with the OFPA, which provides that ‘…[i]f a production or handling practice is not prohibited or otherwise restricted under this chapter, such practice shall be permitted unless it is determined that such practice would be inconsistent with the applicable organic certification program.’ 7 U.S.C. § 6512.” (emphasis added).

    That interpretation is extremely dangerous, and could open the door to all sorts of technologies, systems, and practices, such as genetic engineering and food irradiation, which are not explicitly prohibited by the OFPA, from being approved for organic use, if the regulatory prohibition on such practices is challenged in court.

    Decision Violates National Organic Regulations

    There is a silver lining on this issue, however – the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is charged by the OFPA with providing advice to USDA regarding implementation of the organic law and with making “consistency” determinations, clearly stated, in April 2010, by a decisive 12-1 vote, that, “Hydroponics, the production of plants in nutrient rich solutions or moist inert material, or aeroponics, a variation in which plant roots are suspended in air and continually misted with nutrient solution, have their place in production agriculture, but certainly cannot be classified as certified organic growing methods due to their exclusion of the soil-plant ecology intrinsic to organic farming systems and USDA/NOP regulations governing them.”    

    This is a clear indication that USDA’s statutory advisory board has ruled that hydroponic production is not consistent with organic certification. This important fact was ignored by the Court.

    Likewise, the Court failed to mention that the NOSB, in establishing the “Principles of Organic Production and Handling” by a 15-0 vote in October 2001, stated, “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.” The Principles go on to state, at point 1.2, “An organic production system is designed to optimize soil biological activity.”

    The Court ignored the General requirement section of 7 CFR 205.200, which states, “The producer or handler of a production or handling operation intending to sell, label, or represent agricultural products as ‘100 percent organic,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))’ must comply with the applicable provisions of this subpart. Production practices implemented in accordance with this subpart must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality.”

    7 CFR 205.2 defines the “natural resources of the operationas “the physical, hydrological, and biological features of a production operation, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife.” Hydroponic operations do not comply with this provision, since the crops are produced in isolation from soil and natural resources.

    The Court even ignored the definition of “organic production at 7 CFR 205.2, which requires that organic production systems integrate “cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

    There is no way that hydroponic operations comply with the soil fertility requirements of the OFPA 6513(b)(1); the natural resource requirements of 7 CFR 205.200; the definition of “organic production” in 7 CFR Part 205.2; or are consistent with organic certification, as ruled by the NOSB.

    What Can We Do?

    To protect organic farming, as we know it, what can be done? There are a number of viable options:

    1. Partial Appeal – Parties who filed the original suit can challenge the substantive portions of the Court’s ruling, due to the omissions, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations it contains.
    2. New Suit – A new lawsuit, based on the USDA’s failure to enforce the law and rule as written, could be filed by certified organic growers who follow all requirements, yet are forced to complete with hydroponic operations that only have to comply with “approved input” rules.
    3. New Suit – A new lawsuit could be filed by consumers, based on the USDA’s failure to enforce the law and rule as written, and for its failure to follow the second purpose of the OFPA “to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard.”
    4. Economic Pressure – Expose the corporations, including Driscoll’s, Wholesum Harvest, Eden Green, Superior Fresh and others, which sell hydroponic products as “organic.”
    5. International Pressure – No other countries, including our major trading partners, allow hydroponic products to be labeled “organic” and most explicitly prohibit it. Pressure can be brought to bear to exclude hydroponic products, ingredients, and formulated products, certified as “organic” under the USDA, from accessing foreign markets, and reciprocity agreements can be amended.
    6. Support Local and Regional Organic Producers – Buy from local and regional organic growers who follow all OFPA and regulatory requirements. Plant organic gardens and orchards.
    7. Support the Real Organic Project and Rodale’s Regenerative Organic Certification, both of which highlight operations that fully comply with all requirements of OFPA and 7 CFR 205, including those which require soil building, crop rotation, protection of biodiversity, and natural resource management.
    8. Amend the Law – As a Big Plan B, amend the OFPA to make it clear that hydroponics, genetic engineering and food irradiation are not allowed in organic. Period.

    While the USDA would like us to believe that this is a “settled issue,” it will not be settled until the USDA enforces the soil fertility provisions of 6513(b)(1) and uses its accreditation program to stop certification of hydroponic operations as “organic.”

    Jim Riddle grew up on a small, diversified farm in Iowa, and has been involved in farming since graduating from Grinnell College in 1978. In addition to operating Blue Fruit Farm, Jim has been involved in the organic sector for more than 30 years as an organic inspector, consultant, educator, speaker, and activist. Jim was founding chair of the Winona Farmers Market and the International Organic Inspectors Association. He served on the National Organic Standards Board and on the boards of the International Organic Accreditation Service and the Organic Farmers Association.

  • Organic

    Organic Animal Welfare Rule to Move Forward

    Animal welfare rules for organic livestock farmers have been in limbo for more than a decade.

    In 2017, the Obama administration published the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, which the Trump administration subsequently withdrew.

    When the Biden administration took office, many organizations, including OEFFA, asked that three pending organic rules be first on the list of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions. OLPP was key among them. In mid-June, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that the agency plans to reinstate animal welfare standards.

    It is important to note that organic farmers want regulation. The OLPP policy received more than 120,000 supportive comments, representing more than 99 percent of commenters. Without thorough standards for the National Organic Program, organic products lose their integrity, customers lose their confidence in the label, and organic farmers are deprived of market share. Organic certification is the only voluntary farming program regulated by the USDA.

    OLPP Would Disallow Poultry Porches

    During the June 17 announcement, Vilsack said that the forthcoming rule will “disallow the use of porches as outdoor space in organic production over time.” Large-scale poultry producers have used these “porches” as a substitute for outdoor access. For years, organic consumers and farmers alike have wanted this loophole to be closed and OEFFA applauds the Biden administration for making this a priority.

    The organic animal welfare rules ensure adequate space and outdoor access for organic poultry by establishing clear and enforceable minimum spacing requirements and specifying the quality of outdoor space that must be provided. OLPP will also codify standards for outdoor access for other organic animals, like cows, and prohibit physical alterations like de-beaking and tail docking.

    Comments Needed!

    When the rule is released again, it will mark the fourth comment period for organic animal welfare standards. The agency anticipates the rule going to the Office of Management and Budget within 6-9 months of the remand.

    Stay tuned to OEFFA or contact OEFFA today to learn more. When the rule is released (again!) we will provide information on how to comment, so we can continue to demonstrate the widespread support for this rule. In the meantime, celebrate this win for organic!