Action Alert: Support Organic Farming Research and Conservation Programs, Obama Proposes Cuts

From the Organic Farming Research Foundation: Cultivating organic farming should be a top priority in the USDA budget. To accomplish this goal, two USDA program areas are critical. USDA conservation programs bolster today’s organic farmers by paying them to improve their conservation activities. Investing in organic agriculture research fosters tomorrow’s organic farmers. Unfortunately, while President’s Obama’s 2011 proposed budget increases funding for some important organic and sustainable farming programs, it makes significant cuts to both conservation and organic research programs. Congress is now starting the 2011 budget process, and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, the committee responsible for funding agriculture programs, is deciding next year’s priorities right now. If your senator sits on that committee, please call and urge him or her to support organic farmers and invest in organic knowledge. (Visit www.congressmerge.com to find out who represents you.)

Capitol Switchboard

(202) 224-3121 – ask to be transferred to your senator’s office

Talking Points
“Hi, I am a constituent of Senator _____. Supporting organic farmers and conservation programs in the 2011 budget is a top priority for me. I am calling to urge Senator _____ to support three important areas in the 2011 budget:

  • Reject President Obama’s proposed $5 million cut to the Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG) and increase funding for dedicated organic agriculture research programs to $35 million.
  • Increase funding for the Organic Market and Production Data Collection Initiative to $5 million.
  • Reject President Obama’s $1 billion cut to conservation programs.

Let us know how your call went – contact Tracy Lerman, OFRF Policy Organizer: tracy@ofrf.org

Background

Following the release of President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget on February 1, Congress began its process to decide which federal programs will be funded and at what levels for the next fiscal year. President Obama’s budget proposes cuts to several critical organic agriculture and conservation programs. It is important that constituents, especially farmers, contact the members of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committeeand urge them to restore those cuts.

Organic Agriculture Research Funding

USDA has two competitive grants programs dedicated to organic agriculture research: the Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG) and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Both of these programs consistently receive significantly more applications than they can fund. Yet, President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget makes no increases to either program and cuts all funding for ORG. Given the crucial role that research plays in supporting and improving organic farming systems, it is imperative that Congress ramp up its investment in dedicated organic research programs.

OFRF advocates that Congress maintain 2010 funding levels of $5 million for ORG. We are also advocating for a $10 million increase for OREI, bringing that program’s 2011 funding level to $30 million. Fully funding these requests would still represent less than 2% of USDA’s total research budget.

Organic Marketing and Data Collection Initiative

The Organic Marketing and Data Collection Initiative (ODI) provides for the collection and analysis of data about organic production, prices, and markets. There is a huge backlog of organic sector information needs. This backlog has led to denial of bank loans and crop insurance for organic growers, because creditors and insurers do not have reliable organic industry information.

The 2008 Farm Bill provided $5 million to jumpstart USDA’s data collection for the US organic industry, and also authorized up to $5 million annually at Congress’ discretion. As there is still considerable need for expanded data collection and analysis, Congress should continue to give significant support to organic industry data collection efforts. OFRF recommends increasing funding for ODI to the full Farm Bill discretionary level of $5 million.

Conservation Programs for Farmers

USDA conservation programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), provide financial assistance and technical support for farmers to improve conservation performance on their farms. These programs lead to cleaner water, erosion reduction, carbon sinks, improved wildlife habitat, and other essential environmental services.

The 2008 Farm Bill provided over $4 billion for these and other USDA conservation programs. Currently, OFRF is working with USDA to better integrate organic farming into these programs so that organic farmers are rewarded for the conservation benefits of their farming systems. The $50 million EQIP Organic Initiative, which is available exclusively to organic and transitioning-to-organic farmers, is a focus of these efforts.

More Information

OFRF’s Priorities for the 2011 Budget

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s FY2011 Appropriations Chart

Making the Case for Funding Organic Data Collection – stories from farmers highlighting the need for better organic industry data.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog postings on Obama’s budget:

2011 Budget Drilldown: Sustainable Ag Research
2011 Budget Drilldown: Organic Programs
Farm and Conservation Groups Oppose Obama’s Proposed Farm Bill Cut

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