Organic Farmers Action Network
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Farm Bill Implementation, FY09 Funding, Conferences and More!
Happy New Year from the OFRF Policy Team! Today, we hope you'll join us in welcoming a new administration based on hope and change. Tomorrow, we hope you'll join us in making that change happen.
We have much to report on in this OFAN update. With the 111th Congress having convened earlier this month and the Obama Administration taking office, activity is ramping up in the federal policy world. Implementing the Farm Bill is a whirlwind of activity, and the FY09 budget is due to be passed, with the FY10 budget hard on its heels. Also, meet OFRF staff in person at upcoming conferences.
Agriculture Appropriations Update
At the end of last summer, we alerted you to possible funding cuts to the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) in the Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) Agriculture Budget. OREI received $18 million in funding for 2009 in the new Farm Bill, but the Senate had proposed a $2 million cut to this funding. Congress did not take up the FY09 budget, but will do so in the coming weeks.
Though the OREI funding levels for 2009 are a substantial increase from last year's funding level of $3 million, funding of organic agriculture research still falls way below fair share levels, and OREI's funding still remains a tiny fraction of the 2009 agriculture research budget. Congress should not chip away at OREI's funding in order to meet their other funding priorities.
OFRF sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture urging them to keep FY09 funding for OREI at the 2008 Farm Bill level of $18 million. Please call your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support full funding of $18 million for OREI in 2009! To find out who represents you in Congress, visit www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.
Also in the coming months, Congress and the Obama Administration will be working on the 2010 budget. OFRF will ensure that protecting and increasing funding for organic research programs remains the centerpiece of our spring advocacy work. Stay tuned!
Farm Bill Implementation Update
EQIP Rule Published with Comment Period
USDA has released many of the rules that will govern several of the programs in the new Farm Bill, as well as Program Announcements and Requests For Applications (RFA) for research and other competitive grants programs. Some of these rules have opportunities for the public to submit comments.
Of interest to organic farmers is the January 15, 2009 publication of an Interim Final Rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This rule houses the newly created Organic Conversion Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to farmers converting to organic farming systems. The rule goes into effect immediately and is open for public comment until March 16, 2009.
OFRF will send out a separate analysis of the EQIP rule to our OFAN listserv. In the meantime, read the text of the interim final rule.
OREI Request for Applications Released
USDA released the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative on January 16, 2009. OFRF is keenly interested in ensuring that strong proposals are submitted to and funded by OREI. OREI is USDA's premier organic agriculture research program, and funds research that enhances the ability of producers and processors to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. For more information, read the RFA.
AFRI Program Announcement
In December 2008, USDA released the program announcement for another competitive grants program that funds sustainable agriculture research, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This research program is the successor to the National Research Initiative and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. Several of the research priorities for AFRI meet sustainable and organic research goals. Included in those priorities is a focus on reducing animal pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and hormones in soil and water, and a focus on classical plant and animal breeding (as opposed to genetically engineered breeding.) The AFRI Request for Applications will be released after an upgrade to the federal grants website, but the program announcement will have enough information for applicants to begin creating their proposals.
For more information, read about AFRI in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's Grassroots Guide to the Farm Bill, and read the AFRI program announcement.
Organic Data Initiative
As required by Section 10302 of the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA has issued a report to Congress, called the "Status of Organic Production and Marketing Data Activities." The five-page document provides brief summaries of various projects that are gathering or analyzing social and economic data about the organic sector. Some of these activities are newly planned or underway with recent Farm Bill funding, and others are ongoing efforts. The report also details how USDA has allocated the $5 million provided by the 2008 Farm Bill for these organic data activities.
The report covers activities of the Agricultural Marketing Service (price and volume reporting for various organic commodities); National Agricultural Statistics Service (organic results from the National Agricultural Census and a special follow-up survey of organic producers); and the Economic Research Service (analysis of organic markets, production costs, and characterization of organic producers and handlers). A copy of the report is available on the OFRF website.
Reminder - Grant Reviewers Still Needed
We let you know in our last OFAN alert about opportunities to be a grant reviewer for USDA competitive grants programs. It's not too late to apply to be a grant reviewer. For more information, please contact Tracy Lerman at [email protected] or (831) 426-6606 x 108.
New and Updated OFRF Resources on Farm Bill Implementation
Read our newly updated fact sheet on organic programs in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Read our newly created fact sheet on 2008 Farm Bill research programs.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, two organizations that have been at the forefront of federal policy reform to support family farms and ecologically-based food and farming systems, have merged to form the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). OFRF was a member of both organizations and will continue to work closely with the staff and other member organizations of NSAC to advance the goals of sustainable agriculture policy.
OFRF Coming to a Conference Near You!
Come meet OFRF staff at the following conferences!
The Eco-Farm Conference
The Ecological Farming Association is hosting the Eco-Farm Conference in Pacific Grove, CA from Jan 21-24, 2009. For more info, visit www.eco-farm.org. Come find our table in the Exhibitors Tent and attend our reception on Thursday at 5:30 in the Fred Farr Forum. Also, find OFRF staff at the following workshops:
10:30-Noon: Media R Us
2:00-3:30: Food Safety
4:00-5:30: Farmers Organizing for Change
4:00-5:30: Measuring Sustainability
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference
OFRF Policy Associate Zach Baker will be at the SSAWG Conference in Chattanooga, TN from Jan 23-24, 2009 and will be presenting a workshop on the Farm Bill. Look for the OFRF table in the Trade Show. For more info, visit www.ssawg.org.
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Conference
OFRF Policy Organizer Tracy Lerman will be presenting a workshop on the Farm Bill at the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) conference, February 6-8 in Killeen, TX. For more information visit www.tofga.org.
20th Annual Organic Farming Conference
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is hosting the 20th Annual Organic Farming Conference, February 26-28 in La Crosse, WI. For more information, visit www.mosesorganic.org. Find OFRF staff at the following workshops:
Friday at 8:30am - State of Organic Research
Friday at 2:00 pm - Beyond the Farm Bill
The 2009 National Organic Action Plan Summit
The 2009 National Organic Action Plan Summit will be held Wed, Feb. 25- Thurs, Feb. 26, 2009 (just before the MOSES Organic Farming Conference) in LaCrosse, WI. NOAP is a collaborative civil society initiative engaging organic community participants across the country, including policy advocates, state and local governments, consumers, retailers and producers to articulate their vision for the future of organic food and farming in the next decade. More info, including how to register for the summit, is available at the National Organic Coalition website.
The Organic Summit
Save the date for the Organic Summit, on June 3-5, 2009, at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. The Organic Summit, held by OFRF and New Hope Natural Media, is a forum for complex discussion and learning for leaders in the organic industry. For more information, visit www.theorganicsummit.com.