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By Patty Lovera, OFA Policy Director
On March 10, 2020, the Organic Farmers Association held our third annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Nineteen organic farmers and advocates from 12 states visited over 30 congressional offices in one day. We focused our meetings on the ways the USDA organic program can improve the integrity of the organic standards, by strengthening enforcement and preventing fraud, ending loopholes in organic dairy standards and stopping organic certification of hydroponic operations.
This is the time of year when Congress is developing the spending bills for departments like the USDA, called the appropriations process. We are still fairly early in the process, when the appropriations committee is developing the list of spending levels for specific federal programs that will end up in the bills that go to the House and Senate floors later this year. This made it a good time for OFA advocates to meet with key offices in the appropriations process to explain why they need to push the USDA’s National Organic Program to protect organic integrity, especially when it comes to preventing fraud, closing dairy loopholes and addressing the growth of hydroponic in organic.
In addition to educating offices on these key organic integrity issues, we also had several meetings focused on the role organic farming can play in addressing climate change and the need to include organic farmers in the debate over immigration and farm labor. There are several bills already introduced in both the House and Senate on agriculture and climate change, with even more expected later this year. We talked with several offices that are leading on climate change issues about how to make sure that organic methods are recognized as part of the solution to climate change and the need to make sure the organic standards on building soil and grazing livestock are as strong as possible, so that organic is the gold standard for climate friendly agriculture. On immigration and farm labor, the debate is centered in the Senate, which needs to consider the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that was passed by the House late last year. It’s not clear when that debate will actually begin in the Senate, but we made it clear to key offices on that issue that organic farms need to be in the conversation.
The trip to DC wasn’t just about our day on Capitol Hill. OFA’s Policy Committee also spent time together to work on the next steps in the annual policy development process. The Policy Committee reviewed the policy proposals submitted by organic farmers from around the country, identified the top priorities and drafted policy statements. Keep an eye out – the new draft policy statements will soon be available to OFA members for comments. (You can read more about the process OFA uses for developing our policy positions here.)