The organic sector has secured funding for organic agricultural research and education in the 2018 Farm Bill, which will provide $395 million over the next 10 years. 

USA organic trade group the Organic Trade Association (OTA) applauded the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee for reporting out a Bill that marks a historic milestone by establishing permanent funding for organic research, with significant strides to improve oversight of global organic trade and safeguard the integrity of organic.

The trade association said the Farm Bill as proposed by the conference committee makes momentous steps to move organic agriculture forward and urged quick passage of the bill. The association said the organic priorities contained in the legislation represent a “major policy win” by organic champions, who included association members and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“This Farm Bill marks a key milestone for organic with US$50 million in annual funding for the flagship Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program by 2023, more than double the current funding level,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation shared "details on the Organic Provisions in the Farm Bill in a release on December 11:

▪ $395 million in OREI funding over the next 10 years. $20 million/FY 2019-2020, $25 million/FY 2021, $30 million/FY 2022, $50 million/FY 2023 and every year after.
▪ $5 million for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, which helps facilitate the collection of organic production and market data.
▪ $40.5 million for NOCCSP that offsets part of farmers’ organic certification costs. This program is facilitated by $24 million in new funding, plus an additional $16.5 million in funding that was not used for the program from the previous Farm Bill.
▪ $5 million for technology upgrades, increased enforcement authority, and increased funding authorization for the NOP.
▪ Payment limits for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative are increased to $140,000.
▪ Organic and sustainable agriculture practice is now part of the continuing education for Crop Insurance Agents and Loss Adjusters.
▪ Funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program will be allocated to States to support organic production and transition to organic production.
▪ Current voting and membership practices of the National Organic Standards Board are codified.
▪ Farmers with land in the Conservation Reserve Program can transition the land to certified organic 3 years prior to the expiration of their Conservation Reserve contract.
▪ State Agriculture Mediation Programs shall now cover issues that impact certified organic production.
▪ The Market Access Program shall encourage the export of USDA certified organic products."

The OTA has also identified the most critical areas to increase the integrity of the global organic control system, after it submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture late November on its top ten priorities to boost the integrity of the global organic market and urged the NOP to take “timely action” on all key areas identified.

This follows a Cornucopia report that said three Nebraska farmers will plead guilty to federal prosecutors for knowingly marketing their GMO corn and soybeans over eight years as certified organic as part of a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme. Cornucopia said that domestic organic fraud of this kind is relatively uncommon. The farm was inspected and audited by Organic Certifiers (OC) of California.

The OTA said its comments were filed to help shape proposed rules that the National Organic Program (NOP) will publish in spring 2019. NOP is calling the rules its Strengthening Organic Enforcement rulemaking.

 “The USDA, organic certifiers, and organic businesses all have a shared role in protecting the integrity of the Organic seal, and our members have stepped up to be a part of the solution,” Ms. Batcha said.

“Today’s organic market is a global market, and fraud anywhere in the global chain impacts all of us. The integrity of organic is the lifeblood of the organic industry, and we are committed to preserving and strengthening the trust in organic held by consumers all over the world.”

Among the top 10 list of the OTA's enforcement priorities were:

* Excluded Operations: Require certification of each producer, handler and handling operation in the organic supply chain with very limited exceptions.

* Require at least annual reporting to the Organic Integrity Database from accredited organic certifiers on aggregate organic production area by crop and location.

* Complaint & Alert System: Upgrade the process to prioritize complaints, improve the NOP complaint system, and develop a public alert system.  

* Organic Identification: Boost organic identification requirements to include in documentation with certified products and with all non-retail containers and packaging containing organic.  

* Testing: Update the NOP's Guidance on Residue Testing and increase required use of testing for imports and other high-risk products and/or regions.

Other priorities include: Conduct rulemaking to ensure consistent oversight and enforcement of grower group operations; for inspector and certifier oversight, develop more robust auditing of Accredited Certifying Agencies; in Equivalency and Recognition Arrangements, prioritize oversight and data transparency in arrangements; improve qualifications and training of inspectors to detect fraud; introduce an import certificate system that collects more data, including tracing the original product to its origin.