Blogs | May 2015

OFRF Comments on Agricultural Coexistence

May 11, 2015

Re: Public Comments on Docket No. APHIS-2013-0047

On behalf of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), I submit the following comments on the U.S. Department of Agricultureʼs (USDA) request for public input on enhancing agricultural coexistence (Docket No. APHIS-2013- 0047).

USDA Revives Effort to Update Biotechnology Rules

May 14, 2015 – A long-stalled effort to update federal rules regulating genetically-engineered organisms in agriculture has been revived by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is encouraging public input on the issue through June 22, 2015.

In February the agency formally withdrew proposed regulations that were published in 2008, but never finalized, largely due to an avalanche of more than 88,000 comments submitted by stakeholders. The proposed rules would have amended existing regulations regarding the introduction, importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms in the U.S.

OTA Launches Drive for Organic Check-Off

May 15, 2015 - In a long-anticipated move, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) this week formally petitioned the USDA to begin the process of establishing a research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry. The proposed check-off, dubbed the Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic (GRO Organic), is expected to initially raise $30 million per year to promote the organic industry.

GRO Organic would be the first U.S. agricultural check-off program to promote a production method and not a specific crop such as dairy (“Got Milk?”) or pork (“the other white meat”), and supporters say it could be a game-changer for the entire organic industry. 

“An organic check-off program would give organic stakeholders the opportunity to collectively invest in research, build domestic supply and communicate the value of the organic brand to advance the entire industry to a new level," said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA. 

Organic Systems Provide More Value Than Conventional, Research Finds

May 14, 2015 - A newly-published study comparing organically-managed and conventional farmland in New Zealand found that organic fields consistently provide more value per acre in the production of beans, peas, barley and wheat.

The study, authored by Harpinder Sandhu, Ph.D., and a team of scientists from Australia, New Zealand, England, Denmark and the U.S., calculated and compared the value of both “non-traded ecosystem services,” and the market value, of crops produced on matched pairs of ten organic and ten conventional farm fields. The scientists found that organic provided more value using either approach.

Organic Certification Cost Sharing Funds Available for 2015

May 15, 2015 - Two cost-sharing programs aimed at easing the cost of organic certification have announced $11.9 million in funding for 2015, allowing organic farmers throughout the U.S. to recoup as much as 75 percent of certification expenses paid between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015, not to exceed $750 per certification.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes the cost-share assistance available through state departments of agriculture, lowering economic hurdles for organic producers and handlers across the country.

Applicants Sought for National Organic Standards Board

May 18, 2015 - The USDA is seeking five new members for the 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and has extended the deadline for nominations to June 17, 2015 – providing an additional month to apply.

The NOSB is seeking to fill seats reserved for two organic farmers/producers, two representatives of public-interest or consumer-interest groups, and one USDA-accredited organic certification expert. The term of service for the open positions runs from Jan. 2016 through Jan. 2021.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a Federal Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing materials allowed in organic farming systems, and advising the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act. OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer encouraged organic farmers to consider applying.