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In a meeting engineered by the Organic Trade Association, representatives of the organic community met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill Implementation Team this week to discuss the implementation of organic provisions within the 2008 Farm Bill.
"This was an historic opportunity to present key information on the significance of these organic provisions to the team charged with developing the rules implementing the Farm Bill," noted OTA interim executive director David Gagnon.
The OTA contingent included representatives of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, National Organic Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Rodale Institute, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Food and Water Watch, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Florida Organic Growers. The trade group arranged the meeting, which was co-hosted by USDA Deputy Under Secretary Floyd Gaibler of the Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services and Lowell Randel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Congressional Relations.
Also in attendance were agency representatives from the Agricultural Marketing Service, National Resources Conservation Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, Risk Management Agency, Agriculture Research Service, and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
During the meeting, OTA representatives and other participants emphasized the importance of National Organic Program funding, organic production and market data, research needs, organic crop insurance provisions, the national cost share certification program, and provisions for organic agriculture in conservation programs. Particular stress was placed on a well-implemented national USDA support system for conversion to organic agriculture.
"This meeting was very important as we shift from legislative advocacy to the hard work of implementation," said Mark Lipson, senior policy analyst for the Organic Farming Research Foundation. "Our wins in the Farm Bill must be integrated into each agency's work plan as directed by the USDA leadership, but it won't happen automatically. The broader organic community must continue to work together, share the workload, and present a united front. This is essential to our success."
The USDA Farm Bill Implementation Team has the task of crafting 70 Farm Bill implementation rules by 90 days after the June 18 enactment date of the 2008 Farm Bill, including the conversion provision.
In related news, OTA will hold a one-day educational event, "Growing U.S.
Organic Agriculture: Accessing the 2008 Farm Bill," on Nov. 12 at University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business.
The event will enable farmers, State Departments of Agriculture, Extension Service agents, certifiers, farm associations, and land grant colleges, among others, to learn how to access the new organic provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, including crop insurance, data collection, research funding, certification cost share, funding for the National Organic Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
The Greenfield, Mass.-based OTA's 1,700 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, and retailers.