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Daily News Blog

08
Apr

Tell USDA to Support Organic During the Coronavirus Pandemic

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2020) We are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers. We are mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all who are involved in organic agriculture, certification, and compliance. We also seek to advocate for responsible actions that will protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal during this difficult time.


Send a message to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for support to organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers.

The recently enacted CARES Act includes a $9.5 billion emergency fund: “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.”

It is critical that organic farmers and others in the organic community are included in the emergency response actions taken by USDA. Beyond Pesticides, as a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), is asking USDA Secretary Perdue to take action to support USDA organic through the coronavirus pandemic. 

Please note, our form letter to Secretary Perdue is close to the maximum character limit for our action system. Adding text may prevent your letter from sending. 

Send a message to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for support to organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers.

Letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue

COVID-19 is impacting organic farmers, farmworkers, businesses, certifiers and inspectors, and consumers. Please take responsible actions that will protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal while also protecting health and safety of people and the environment.

SUPPORT ORGANIC FARMERS

*Provide direct payments to farmers, including organic farmers, to keep them solvent during this critical production season in the face of lost or disrupted marketing channels.

*Provide financial assistance for farms setting up virtual platforms to facilitate the sale of their products, as well as “on-farm” stands, curbside pickup, and other direct to consumer “no-touch” distribution channels that minimize interaction.

*Increase organic certification cost-share assistance for certified organic farms and handlers and provide immediate payment to organic operations. Consider making payments directly to organic certification agencies to cover certification costs.

*Re-open the 2020 sign-up period for the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program to allow new participants in the program. Give existing DMC participants the opportunity to reconsider their coverage decisions for 2020 given the dairy market collapse related to the pandemic.

ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES OF ORGANIC CERTIFICATION IN THE FACE OF SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIREMENTS

*Provide technical and financial assistance so organic operations can maintain their certifications through virtual platforms. Some organic accredited certification agencies (ACAs) need financial assistance to facilitate new virtual platforms.

RELAX USDA NUTRITION PROGRAM RULES TO GIVE LOW-INCOME CONSUMERS GREATER ACCESS TO NUTRITIOUS FOOD DURING THE PANDEMIC

*Allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments to be made online directly to farms and CSAs (community supported agriculture).

*Provide waivers and direction to states to broaden their WIC-approved food lists to allow WIC participants to purchase organic foods.

*Issue an emergency waiver to all states to allow food banks to skip the normal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements for gathering information from each customer. These procedures slow down already overburdened food banks.

*Support the ability of food banks and other emergency feeding programs to purchase organic products directly from farmers at market prices.

MOVE CRITICAL RULEMAKING FORWARD TO PROTECT ORGANIC INTEGRITY

*The “strengthening organic enforcement” rule must move forward without delay.

*Prioritize completing the Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rule by June 17, 2020, as mandated by Congress.

DESIGNATE FARMS, FARMERS MARKETS, FARM STANDS, AND COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA) OPERATIONS AS ESSENTIAL

*Advocate for a revision to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommendation so local marketing venues, such as farmers markets, farm stands, and CSA operations are listed as essential. Urge that the federal declarations of essentiality of all food production and marketing venues be enforced with more rigor.

ASSIST FARMS WITH LABOR NEEDS AND PROTECT FARMWORKERS

*Establish a program to provide relief workers for sick farmers and farmworkers.

*Direct the U.S. Consulates to treat all agricultural worker appointments as emergency visa services and fast-track approval.

*Provide farmworkers with equitable payment without citizenship questions. Make farmworkers eligible for paid sick leave, SNAP, health coverage, childcare, and worker’s compensation.

INCLUDE FARMERS AND AGRICULTURAL FOOD COOPERATIVES IN THE NEW EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROGRAM ADMINISTERED BY THE SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (SBA)

*Allow farmers to access SBA disaster assistance, as these programs can help fill the void that many farm businesses are currently feeling due to COVID-19.

*SBA should clarify that agricultural cooperatives and consumer food cooperatives are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) during the pandemic.

 

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One Response to “Tell USDA to Support Organic During the Coronavirus Pandemic”

  1. 1
    Amy Kaplan Says:

    Organic food is important!

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