Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Farm Bill Action Alert - August 31, 2018

Congressional Conference Committee Prepares to Negotiate a Farm Bill

September 30th Deadline Looms

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, DC. USDA photo.

Congress is working on the 2018 Farm Bill and making policy decisions that will affect our entire food and farm system, and, of course, our ecological systems, for years to come.

Both the House and the Senate have passed their own versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. Now a conference committee is working to negotiate one combined bill.

The choice is stark: a farm bill that supports family farmers, organic and sustainable agriculture, and a more equitable future, or one that harms farmers, and strips away investments from conservation, local food systems, and food assistance.

Please contact Maine’s congressional delegation and express your support for a Farm Bill that protects organic farms, our shared natural resources, and Americans facing hunger and food insecurity.

Ask our members to relay your message to members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, which will start meeting after Labor Day.

The Farm Bill is a gigantic piece of legislation that covers diverse agricultural programs from commodities to conservation to research to nutrition. As the federal government’s primary agriculture and food policy legislation (representing several hundred billion dollars over five years), the Farm Bill has great potential to cultivate a more local, more organic, more secure agriculture across the country. However, industrial agriculture interests and partisan politics could make things could go very wrong in the next few weeks.

What’s at stake:

  • cost sharing for organic certification
  • support for beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers
  • research and development funding for organic agriculture
  • integrity of the Organic Foods Production Act
  • local control on pesticide ordinances
  • many environmental protections provided by landmark laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act
  • much more

Essential funding could be reduced significantly or even eliminated for programs that have nurtured organic farming – programs like certification cost-share, beginning farmer training, research and development, market promotion, and farmland conservation. And while some members of Congress work to dismantle these essential programs, they also propose furtive riders that would undermine decades of environmental protection and preempt the democratic principle of home rule.

One horrible rider is a provision that would prohibit local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions. This is an assault on many years of thoughtful public policy development in Maine, where at least 29 municipalities have created ordinances to promote organic landcare practices and protect human health and the environment from unnecessary application of synthetic pesticides. What the pesticides industry-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) failed to pass in Maine’s Legislature over the past two years, Congress could use as a bargaining chip in the Farm Bill. We must defeat this appalling attack on human health, the environment and home rule.

Please take a few minutes to let Maine’s congressional delegation know how important it is to have a Farm Bill that supports a more local, more organic agriculture. We need a Farm Bill that:

  • Invests in a sustainable future by funding programs that connect farmers and eaters, support beginning farmers and farmers of color, underwrite organic and sustainable agriculture research, and provide healthy food incentives for families. Specifically, the Farm Bill must:
    • provide modest organic certification cost-share assistance through two federal programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Act (AMA).
    • provide permanent funding of $50 million per year for the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program to support beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmer and rancher programs to ensure both the next generation and farmers of color have access to the resources they need to build successful and viable farms.
    • support the bipartisan Organic Agriculture Research Act (H.R. 2436, S.2404), which increases funding to $50 million annually (by 2023 in the Senate version) for the USDA’s flagship organic research program, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
    • devote $50 million annually to the public plant and animal breeding programs focused on developing regionally adapted cultivars and animal breeds.
    • include additional resources and authorities for USDA to implement enhanced procedures to track organic imports and ensure that imported products fully comply with U.S. organic standards.
    • protect the stakeholder structure and standard-setting balance of the USDA National Organic Program and National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
    • include the Local Agriculture Marketing Program, which combines and strengthens the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grant Program, Regional Food Economy Partnership Program, and Food Safety Cost-share Assistance
  • Protects our shared natural resources – by protecting the nation’s largest resource conservation program on working farm and ranch lands: the Conservation Stewardship Program
  • Targets support to family farmers instead of Wall Street – by maintaining payment limits and strengthening eligibility rules for farm subsidies
  • Ensures food access and dignity for families in need – by protecting the SNAP program from cuts
  • Rejects provisions that would weaken or preempt federal, state or municipal pesticide regulations, or undermine landmark environmental protection laws like the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act.

Phone calls are the best approach. The staffers who work with our members of Congress are happy to hear from you so don’t delay. Phone numbers for Maine's Congressional Delegation are provided above. If you, your family, friends or colleagues live in another state, please share this alert with them and encourage them to call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121, get connected to their members of Congress, and deliver as much of the message above as they'd like!