The U.S. House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee is slated to pass FY2020 spending legislation that includes a provision to level the playing field for organic dairy producers.
The FY2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill would require the USDA to issue a final regulation on Origin of Livestock – the rules for how conventional dairy cows are transitioned into organic herds – within 180 days.
The bill would also boost funding for the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) from $14 million to $18 million annually.
“The increase in funding recognizes the need to enhance enforcement procedures to safeguard the integrity of the organic label,” the National Organic Coalition (NOC) said in a press release.
“There have been longstanding abuses within the organic dairy sector. USDA has allowed organic dairy operations to make use of loopholes to continuously bring conventional animals into organic dairy herds,” said Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA).“Operations making use of these loopholes have distorted the market for organic milk with rapid expansion of cow numbers and have created an economic disadvantage for organic farmers who play by the rules.”
The spending legislation also boosts funding for organic and sustainable agriculture research, increasing funding for the Organic Transitions Program to $8 million and funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to $45 million.
The legislation also includes a provision that would block USDA from moving the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington, D.C.
“NOC is opposed to the administration’s plan to move those agencies because we believe it would undermine the critical research conducted by these two federal agencies, including research on trends in the organic sector, and result in the loss of highly experienced staff who will not move if these agencies relocate,” the trade group said.