Posted on July 2, 2020 by Sustainable Food News

U.S. House climate crisis report calls for nat’l organic transition program

House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveils report calling for increased federal organic-to-institution procurement

The U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has released its much-anticipated report offering climate policy recommendations that will lay the groundwork for broad climate legislation in the near future.

Chief among the recommendations in the report, titled “Solving the Climate Crisis,” is to reduce net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent below 2010 levels in 2030, and 88 percent below 2010 levels in 2050 with the remaining 12 percent of emissions coming from the “hardest to decarbonize” sectors, such as heavy-duty and off-road transportation, industry, and agriculture.

The report specifically called out organic agriculture as being a farming practice that can help reduce GHG emissions.

“All types of agricultural producers can practice good climate stewardship, and farming organically is one of the many options for farmers and ranchers who want to improve soil health,” said the report. “Additionally, providing a variety of market options can help keep farmers competitive and on the land. Organic agriculture focuses on building soil health and does not rely on certain energy-intensive chemical inputs, thereby increasing carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report also recommended to the 20 House standing committees strengthening aspects of the USDA’s National Organic Program that have been sorely neglected by the Trump administration.

“Congress should increase support for organic agriculture and incentivize climate stewardship practices by organic producers,” the report said.

Specifically, the report recommends boosting legislation recently introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) called the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861), which in its current form requests an increase in the maximum annual cost-share payment for organic certifications to $1,000 per organic producer or handler.

The report said the legislation should also include:

  1. (1) a national organic agriculture transition program, including farmer-to-farmer mentorship opportunities, financial and technical assistance, and initiatives for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  2. (2) increased funding for the NOP
  3. (3) a land-link program to connect retiring organic landowners with young, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers who are seeking organic land but cannot afford it
  4. (4) expansion of NRCS, extension programs, and key partner technical assistance to provide support to existing organic producers and farmers to increase climate-smart agricultural practices
  5. (5) increased cost-share payments and mandatory funding levels for FSA’s National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which provides cost-share assistance to producers who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the USDA’s NOP
  6. (6) codification of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Production rule, which implements organic animal welfare standards and was repealed by the Trump administration
  7. (7) increased federal organic-to-institution procurement

Organic Trade Association executive director Laura Batcha issued the following statement in response to the report released by the committee:

“On behalf of our 9,500 business and farmer members, we thank Chair Castor for her visionary leadership in addressing our climate crisis and highlighting the role organic agriculture plays by sequestering carbon and reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions through practices that build soil health without the use of energy-intensive chemical inputs. Climate Change poses an existential threat to our world and bold policy solutions are needed. Establishing a national organic transition program, increasing technical assistance for organic farmers and incentivizing purchases of healthy organic food in our nation’s schools, hospitals and other institutions are bold steps that will help farmers and local communities while reducing the impact of climate change. Congress should take these recommendations seriously, we stand ready to work with them to bring these solutions to fruition.”

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