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.
- 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)
- 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.