Today Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced the Opportunities in Organic Act, legislation designed to help farmers and other agricultural producers transition to organic practices and build successful and sustainable businesses. Organic agriculture enriches rural economies, protects biodiversity and soil health, and supports public health, but farmers face steep barriers to entry, including high certification costs and insufficient technical assistance from existing United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. The Opportunities in Organic Act helps mitigate these challenges by modernizing reimbursements for organic certification and expanding available technical expertise for organic agriculture within USDA.
“Organic production has huge benefits for our rural economies and our environment—but farmers can’t make the switch to organic practices without help,” said Sen. Welch. “My Opportunities in Organic bill will give these folks the support they need to make the transition to organic and thrive while they do so. That’s a win for our farmers and for our communities.”
“Organic producers protect the long-term health of our food and farming system—and the people and resources who make it work—by building successful businesses that steward healthy soil, ecosystems, and communities,” said Allison Johnson, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).“The Opportunities in Organic Act will help ensure organic is accessible to consumers across the country and entice more farmers to transition.”
Organic agriculture has a wide array of environmental and health benefits, including enhancing soil fertility and structure. These improvements boost crop yield and help reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. By reducing the use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers and toxic pesticides, organic farms further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of farmers, farmworkers, and consumers who might otherwise be exposed to dangerous pesticides. Organic practices also make farms more resilient to extreme weather patterns and climate change, helping farms to simultaneously fight future climate change and increase their own resilience to the climate impacts we are already experiencing.
To help more producers transition to and maintain organic practices, the Opportunities in Organic bill will:
- Expand technical assistance for producers to advance organic practices, including cover cropping and composting.
- Make organic practices more accessible for agricultural producers from socially disadvantaged groups and underserved regions by increasing cost-share payments for organic certification and granting USDA flexibility to exceed current cost-share caps.
- Provide additional support for non-governmental organizations working to help producers transition to organic practices.
The bill is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA) Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Tina Smith (D-MN).
The bill also has a broad network of outside supporters, including:
- Agriculture and Land-Based Training Assn
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn
- Environmental Working Group
- Farm Action Fund
- Georgia Organics
- Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Assn
- Midwest Organic Services Assn
- National Organic Coalition
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- National Young Farmers Coalition
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Northeast Organic Farming Assn of NJ
- Northeast Organic Farming Assn of NY
- Northeast Organic Farming Assn of VT
- Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Assn
- Oregon Tilth
- Organic Farmers Assn
- Organic Farming Research Foundation
- Organic Seed Alliance
- Pennsylvania Certified Organic
- Rural Coalition
- Union of Concerned Scientists
To read the full text of the Opportunities in Organic Act, please click here.