Clean Up the Farm Bill, Protect Organic

Farm Bill Headed for a Showdown on Key Environmental, Public Health, and Organic Issues

With a flawed bipartisan Farm Bill expected to sail through the U.S. Senate this week, we need to turn our attention to the upcoming House-Senate Conference Committee that will attempt to resolve differences between the Republican House bill (with no support from Democrats) and the Senate bill. Despite some advances in the Senate Farm Bill for the organic market, including boosts to organic research funding, some provisions to address fraudulent imports, some enhanced conservation programs, and maintaining certification cost-share programs, the Senate bill contains troubling language affecting organic standard setting that could open the door to more damaging provisions in the House bill. It’s like fixing up a house while allowing the foundation to crumble. 

>> Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections.

Beyond Pesticides opposes any provisions in the Farm Bill that amend the standard setting procedures of the federal organic law and believes that no improvements are worth the damage that can be done to the standard setting process and public trust in the organic seal in the marketplace. Beyond Pesticides is urging the conferees on the House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee over the next weeks to eliminate amendments that change any aspect of organic standard setting under the Organic Foods Production Act (OPFA).

The Farm Bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2, is a direct attack on: organic standard setting; the authority of local governments to restrict toxic pesticides; and, the protection of farmworkers, endangered species, and the environment. Now, the Senate is getting ready to pass a bill that opens the door to an attack on organic. While the Senate train is speeding down the track, it is important to keep these damaging provisions out of the final (conference) bill.

Protect Organic Standards. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) gives the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) broad authority and responsibility to ensure organic integrity. The House version of the Farm Bill contains provisions that will give USDA greater direct and indirect power to allow products and practices that were not intended to be a allowed in organic – hydroponics, poultry houses without real access to the outdoors, and dairy operations without meaningful pasture. The Senate bill opens up the dangerous possibility of a change to the organic standard setting process. There should be no changes to the process that establishes organic standards in order to protect the meaning and value of organic in the marketplace.

The Farm Bill should not:

  • Change definitions that open OFPA to new interpretations of its core standard setting practices, which ensure rigorous review of synthetic substances in organic production and processing;
  • Permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sidestep the NOSB in allowing toxic post-harvest handling substances (sanitizers) to be used in organic production;
  • Change the classification of types of people who may be appointed to the NOSB by adding employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers; and
  • Force consideration of allowing the use of products in organic that are subject to weaker standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The Farm Bill should also not contain provisions that:

  • Amend the federal pesticide law to preempt local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions;
  • Exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time;
  • Eliminate litigation as a remedy when pesticide decisions threaten endangered species;
  • Eliminate all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams;
  • Enact the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, providing long-term funding to EPA for expedited processing of pesticide approvals, without accompanying measures to ensure that farmworkers and other pesticide applicators are safe;
  • Weaken restrictions on the use of the highly toxic ozone deplete, methyl bromide; and
  • Give states authority to delay pesticide restrictions. 

>> Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections.

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