Earlier this month, Organic Seed Alliance went to Washington, DC, as part of the National Organic Coalition‘s annual fly-in. OSA is a proud member of the coalition that includes over a dozen organizations and businesses spanning the entire organic sector. We brought our collective voice to the Hill, meeting with over 60 elected officials and their staffers to deliver a timely message about the importance of US agricultural policy to organics. OSA’s Kiki Hubbard and Cathleen McCluskey were joined by research collaborator and Orcas Food Co-op‘s general manager Learner Limbach in our visits with Washington State representatives.
The organic food industry continues to boom, with sales exceeding $43 billion in 2016. Despite increasing consumer demand for organic products, USDA data shows that domestic organic production and research funding are not keeping pace (see graph). This means a missed opportunity for farmers in the US who see the industry growing, that investments are lagging to support existing and transitioning organic farmers, and that consumer demand is increasingly being met by imports. National Organic Coalition members met with our officials and their staff earlier this month to highlight the missed opportunity for growers and deliver solutions for supporting organics here in the US.
2018 is a Farm Bill year and conversations about priorities are well underway. In our meetings, we delivered a strong message about the need to increase organic research funding to support growers facing production challenges. Earlier this spring, Representatives Pingree (D-ME), Newhouse (R-WA), and Panetta (D-CA) introduced a marker bill that would increase funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative (OREI) program, helping to provide much needed organic research dollars. Coalition members found strong support for this legislation during our Hill meetings and will continue to advocate for its adoption along with other research funding priorities.
There were many highlights from the week, including the opportunity to meet with Senator Leahy of Vermont. We sat down with the Senator and were treated to his musings on writing the Organic Foods Production Act into the 1990 Farm Bill, the legislation that standardized federal regulations for organics and set groundwork for the 2000 launch of the National Organic Program. We also had the opportunity to meet as a group with Representative Chellie Pingree from Maine, an organic farmer herself and strong ally for organic agriculture in DC.
We left DC with our heads high and hearts full of determination for the road ahead. Be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter and action alerts to receive important updates and to engage in this work. We’re in it together and we couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside others in the organic community and on the shoulders of the giants who came before us.