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WASHINGTON -- The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday approved its version of the Farm Bill that included funding and direction for key organic priorities, signaling welcome news for the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association.
"The Senate Agriculture Committee took important steps today to help strengthen the safety net for organic producers and manufacturers," said Caren Wilcox, OTA's executive director. "These measures include funding for organic research, data collection, and transition to organic production. In addition, the committee took steps to eliminate the crop insurance premium for organic producers."
Wilcox said organic producers currently must pay a 5 percent surcharge for crop insurance, yet in times of loss, the producers receive not the usually higher organic crop price, but the lower conventional price.
According to OTA, the Senate Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill:
--Recognizes that increased funding is essential for the National Organic Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the full authorized level;
--Includes $5 million for organic data collection to help provide better price and yield information for organically grown crops;
--Includes $22 million in new money to help farmers transition into organic production;
--Bars USDA from charging a premium surcharge on organic crop insurance, unless validated by loss history on a crop-by-crop basis;
--Adds organic production as an eligible activity in the EQIP program;
--Adds to the Soil and Water Conservation Protection Loans a priority for those converting to organic farming practices and adds conversion to organic production as an eligible loan purpose; and also provides $80 million over the life of the bill for organic agriculture research and extension.