Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Encouraging Developments in D.C. for Organic Farmers

House takes action on origin of livestock loophole

May 23, 2019

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and our allies at the National Organic Coalition (NOC) have been working for months to encourage the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to act on issues to benefit Maine’s dairy industry. The draft House agriculture appropriations bill released on May 22 is a victory on this front. Much work remains to be done, but some highlights include language that would require USDA to finalize the origin of livestock rule within 180 days and an increase in funding for the National Organic Program (NOP) to $18 million, up from $14 million.
Passage of the origin of livestock rule has been a priority for MOFGA as it will help level the playing field in the organic dairy industry. Some certification agencies currently interpret the USDA national organic standards as allowing for continuous transition of conventionally raised dairy cows to organic production. This is inconsistent with the organic standards, which allow a one-time conversion. This continuous conversion is viewed as a loophole that MOFGA does not support and firmly believes should be clarified and closed.

On February 15, 2019, MOFGA wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to urge action, and our executive director, Sarah Alexander, met with Maine’s entire congressional delegation in D.C. earlier this spring to discuss this issue. We are encouraged that the House has recognized the importance of this concern and is pushing for swift passage.
The increased funding for the NOP will allow greater oversight and enforcement of organic standards. Increased funding coupled with passage of the origin of livestock rule will help ensure consumer confidence in the organic label, which is especially important now, when organic production is growing rapidly.
MOFGA will continue to monitor these two issues in Congress. We urge the Senate to follow the example of the House in appropriations and include language requiring passage of the origin of livestock rule and increased funding for the NOP.