For the first time in its multi-decade history, the 2007 farm bill may help organic growers. Under a draft developed by the House Agriculture Committee, additional money would be devoted to organic research, collecting marketing data on organic crops, and cost-sharing for organic certification.
"I am delighted with the support organic agriculture is receiving in this Farm Bill," saysCaren Wilcox, executive director of the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield, Mass.
Among the provisions are:
♦ $50 million to provide farmers with the mentoring and technical expertise required to transition land from conventional to organic production. Transitioning land to organic production is a three-year process.
♦ Eliminating or reducing the 5 percent organic premium for crop insurance and providing compensation for crop loss at the actual price of the organic crop. Currently, compensation is provided at the price of the conventional crop. In addition, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation would be required to submit an annual report to Congress that details progress made in developing and improving federal crop insurance for organic crops.
♦ $22 million to help farmers pay for organic certification. The certification cost-share program would provide up to $750 per farmer, increased from the current $500, to help cover the costs of organic certification. Farmland is deemed organic by U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited certifiers.
♦ $3 million for organic price and production data. USDA collects reams of data on agriculture prices and production, and it will now include data on organic prices and production. In addition, information will be used to analyze crop loss data for organic production, leading to better risk management tools for organic producers.
♦ $22 million per year to extend the Organic Research and Extension Initiative to examine optimal conservation and environmental outcomes for organically produced agricultural products. It would also develop new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture.
♦ The committee also included language making loans for water and soil projects to organic producers a priority, and permitted organic transition to begin at the end of Conservation Reserve Program enrollment. It also gave recognition for organic farmers to have access to Environmental Quality Incentives Program Conservation Innovation grants. Each fiscal year, $5 million will be used for outreach to organic and specialty crop producers.
The full House of Representatives is expected to consider the 2007 Farm Bill next week.