The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the farm bill in mid-May and agriculture leaders there anticipated debate on the legislation in the full House by June.
Organic proponents were pleased with the addition of an amendment in both the House and Senate versions that would make it easier for organic producers of any agricultural commodity to create organic promotion orders.
If enacted into law, the amendment would exempt organic producers and handlers from conventional research and promotion orders, and allow producers and handlers of organic agricultural products to have the option to petition USDA to form a check-off organization, said Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the Organic Trade Association.
“Currently, producers and handlers of organic agricultural products are not afforded the same opportunity as folks involved in conventional agriculture to take advantage of the research and consumer education benefits available under industry-financed check-off programs,” she said.
Simcha Weinstein, marketing director for Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics, said the organic industry is excited about the amendment that would allow for the USDA to approve an organic promotion campaign.
“Particularly with organically raised foods, information is so necessary and so powerful, and the more avenues and opportunities for education, the better consumers can understand their dietary choices,” he said in an e-mail.
During the debate on the amendment, some House Agriculture Committee lawmakers expressed concern that an organic promotion order would lead to negative messages about conventional commodities, even though USDA provisions stipulate that promotion orders should not disparage other agricultural products. Some lawmakers also were concerned about the provision that allowed organic producers to be exempt from existing promotion orders.
While he acknowledged some lawmakers are concerned that organic promotions would emphasize the negative aspects of conventional farming, Weinstein believes the messaging would focus on what’s good about organics rather than what’s not working about conventional farming.
Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst for The Cornucopia Institute, said while the Organic Trade Association favors a promotion order, he said many organic growers are against it.