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Daily News Blog

24
Aug

Take Action: Tell Congress to Restore Organic Funding Taken Away by USDA

(Beyond Pesticides, August 24, 2020) USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced on August 10 that it will be reducing reimbursement rates for the organic certification cost share program, which provides reimbursements to organic farms and handling operations. The August 10 Federal Register notice stated that FSA is “revising the reimbursement amount to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope.” The 2018 Farm Bill clearly set reimbursement rates at 75% of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per regulated activity. This change hurts the transition to organic production at a time when it is crucial that the organic sector grows—eliminating petroleum-based pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are contributing to devastating pollution, the climate crisis, and biodiversity decline.

This action by USDA is unwarranted and completely unacceptable. The 2018 Farm Bill provided new funding for the program and also directed USDA to use the program’s carryover balances from previous years to fund the program for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. Given these sources of funding, there should be plenty of funds available for the program’s operation in fiscal year 2020. Either USDA’s accounting for this program is flawed or the agency has decided to disregard the Congressional funding directives in the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition, the FSA has done a huge disservice to the organic community in this time of crisis by delaying the release of funds by many months while organic operations struggle to stay in business as they weather a pandemic and loss of markets. Organic, direct market, and diversified operations have largely been excluded from existing USDA pandemic relief programs, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, while the top 1% of recipients got more than 20% of the money, totaling $1.2 billion.

Organic operations should apply for certification cost-share assistance as soon as they are able to do so with their state agency or local FSA office. Operations have until October 31, 2020 to apply for funding. FSA has stated that “if additional funding is authorized at a later time, FSA may provide additional assistance to certified operations that have applied” for the organic certification cost share program.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to restore organic funding taken away by USDA.

Letter to Congress

I am writing to express my outrage that USDA’s Farm Service Agency has chosen to reduce support for the organic certification cost share program in the midst of a pandemic. The organic certification cost share program provides organic farmers and handling operations with modest reimbursement of up to $750 to cover a portion of their annual certification fees. This decision was announced via an August 10 Federal Register notice that stated FSA is “revising the reimbursement amount to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope.”

This unilateral action by USDA is unwarranted and completely unacceptable and disregards the Congressional funding directives in the 2018 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill clearly set reimbursement rates at 75% of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope.

In addition, the FSA has done a huge disservice to the organic community in this time of crisis by delaying the release of funds by many months while organic operations struggle to stay in business as they weather a pandemic and loss of markets. Organic, direct market, and diversified operations have largely been excluded from existing USDA pandemic relief programs, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, while the top 1% of recipients got more than 20% of the money, totaling $1.2 billion.

If the USDA wants organic farms and our regional economies to survive and thrive, it should be helping organic operations during the pandemic. Producers and other organic operations need this support now more than ever because they are faced with loss of markets due to COVID-19 and increasing costs as they modify their operations to keep workers and customers safe and implement new sanitation and staffing procedures.

I urge you to communicate with FSA to ensure that the full organic certification cost share reimbursement is reinstated. In addition, given USDA’s delay in announcing the funding availability, I urge you to extend the deadlines for state agencies to apply to administer the program, and for organic operations to apply for the assistance.

Please sign onto the letter from Representatives Plaskett, Davis, Brindisi, and Newhouse urging USDA to reinstate the maximum reimbursement rate for the organic certification cost share program, as well as extend all applicable program deadlines to ensure that farmers who are still dealing with COVID-19 impacts have ample time to access these funds.

To sign onto the letter, you can contact Tiana Thomas in Rep. Plaskett’s office ([email protected]), Robert Dougherty in Rep. Brindisi’s office ([email protected]), Janie Costa in Rep. Rodney Davis’ office ([email protected]), or Travis Martinez in Rep. Newhouse’s office ([email protected]). The letter will close at COB on Monday, August 24.

Thank you.

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  • Archives

  • Categories

    • Announcements (586)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (13)
    • Antimicrobial (5)
    • Aquaculture (25)
    • Aquatic Organisms (16)
    • Bats (1)
    • Beneficials (34)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (17)
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    • Birds (11)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (1)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (27)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (8)
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    • Children/Schools (225)
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    • contamination (96)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (6)
    • Emergency Exemption (2)
    • Environmental Justice (125)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (202)
    • Events (82)
    • Farm Bill (10)
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    • Fertilizer (5)
    • fish (5)
    • Forestry (2)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungicides (8)
    • Goats (1)
    • Golf (11)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (1)
    • Holidays (24)
    • Household Use (4)
    • Infectious Disease (2)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (62)
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