Good News for Organics in the Latest Federal Spending Bill

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By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

            In a hopeful sign Monday that Washington is returning to the peoples’ business, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released a compromise fiscal year 2014 budget which both chambers will vote on this week. The spending bill sets funding levels for specific government programs using the budget ceiling of $1.1 trillion agreed to by the House and Senate Budget Committees back in December.

    The extremely good news is that the spending bill includes favorable funding levels for key organic programs.  Major victories include a $1 million increase to the National Organic Program’s budget (for a total of $8 million), $4 million for this year’s Organic Transitions competitive grants program and $2,250,000 for the National Agricultural Statistics Service to complete its Organic Production Survey.  The spending bill also includes important report language directing USDA to improve its organic crop insurance coverage and FDA to factor economic viability into implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
    The House is scheduled to vote on the budget bill Wednesday and with passage deemed likely, the Senate could take up the measure later this week.  It is very clear that the leadership of both parties in both chambers, as well as clear majorities in both parties, do not want another fiscal meltdown like the kind that resulted in last fall’s government shutdown.  Fingers crossed, that common objective will pull the spending bill across the finish line where President Obama is waiting to sign it.
    What progress, if any, Congress is making on a new Farm Bill remains mostly a secret as House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders continue to operate behind tightly closed doors .  While the funding victories in the spending bill are impressive, other key organic programs – especially the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Organic Research and Extension Initiative - cannot be funded until reauthorized in a new Farm Bill.  There’s always more work to be done in Washington, but the impending budget deal offers hope that your hard work is paying off!
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