2018 U.S. Farm Bill a Win for the Organic Industry

May 3, 2019 | Categories: Organic

The five-year farm bill, officially named the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, represents a series of victories for the organic farmer. This includes a boost in funding for organic research initiatives, more market and production information for the industry, and greater incentives for farmers to transition to organic. A breakdown of the bill can be found below.

Increased oversight and enforcement of the organic supply chain:

  • Requires USDA to issue final regulations within a year to limit the operations excluded from certification such as ports, brokers and importers
  • Requires electronic, organic-import certificates and establishes a USDA tracking system for these documents
  • Establishes an interagency working group between USDA and Customs and Border Protection
  • Provides $5 million in funding for the National Organic Program (NOP) to invest in technology systems and upgrades that improve international trade tracking systems and data collection

Organic research and data collection:

  • Provides $395 million in funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) over the next 10 years
  • Includes $5 million in funding for the Organic Production Market and Data Initiative (ODI) program

Legalization of hemp and hemp products:

  • Removes hemp from the controlled substances list
  • Legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity
  • Applies to the various derivatives of hemp: fiber (paper and cloth), seeds (for hemp oil and food) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils
  • Clarifies that hemp production is still subject to compliance with other state and federal requirements
  • Means that hemp/hemp products should eventually be eligible for organic certification under NOP

Cost share funding:

  • Allocates $40.5 million in funding for certification cost share. Farmers can receive up to $750 each year (75% of the certification fee) to help with the annual costs of organic certification, which incentivizes smaller and beginning farmers to transition to organic.

Conservation programs:

  • Expands access for current and transitioning organic farmers within conservation programs by raising the payment cap for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative to $140,000 over five years, and supports the transitioning of expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands to organic
  • Allocates funding for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Urban agriculture:

  • Provides $10 million in funding for research and extension activities for urban/indoor farming and includes urban farming under the Conservation Innovation Grants Program

To learn more, see the Organic Trade Association’s updates and news regarding the 2018 Farm Bill.