Government Spending Bill has Wins for Organic Research and NOP

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On March 23rd, the fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill was signed into law just hours before the federal government would have shut down, and almost six full months since the current fiscal year began. This government spending package funds federal programs through the end of September 2018.

The bill appropriates $20.4 billion for USDA; roughly $2.1 billion above FY 2017 levels. The majority of the increase is directed toward improving rural infrastructure and fighting the opioid epidemic.

OFRF and other organizations worked to ensure the voices and concerns of organic farmers were heard during the negotiations. As a result, the final bill makes new investments in organic enforcement, organic transition research, and other key programs. These increases are a strong rejection of the devastating cuts that were proposed.

The National Organic Program received a $3 million increase in funding and a Congressional directive to focus resources on robust fraud detection and oversight. This funding will help ensure the trust and integrity of the organic seal. 

The USDA’s Organic Transitions (ORG) research program regained its previous peak funding of $5 million. This program continues to support research needs on the production and environmental aspects of organic transition.

The bill also increases funding for USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to $35 million, the highest funded level in the program’s 30-year history. This is a very significant win for the sustainable agriculture community and a testament to SARE’s effectiveness.

In addition to these wins, the bill protects and increases investments in related areas, including farm conservation, rural business development, assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers, food safety training, and farm credit programs.

Overall, OFRF is very pleased with the funding and support that organic has received in the omnibus spending bill for FY 2018. However, that doesn’t mean the work stops. The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate are currently beginning the work for the Fiscal year 2019, which arrives October 1st. OFRF and other stakeholders, along with Members of Congress, are now making their requests and recommendations. Normally, the appropriations process would proceed in an orderly fashion through the spring and summer, with final passage before the Sept. 30th end of current spending authority. Since Congress finished this year’s spending bill six months late, getting back on the regular schedule will be difficult.