Affecting Change!

April 28th, 2010 | melody | Comments Off on Affecting Change!

On April 14-15, I was both fortunate and proud to represent Albert’s Organics and UNFI at the OTA’s Policy Conference and Hill visit days in Washington, D.C. The event was supported by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), who were, of course, also in attendance. The speakers at the conference were prominent figures such as Kathleen Merrigan (Deputy Secretary of Agriculture), Temple Grandin (Doctor of Animal Science) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D–CT) – each speaking about timely public policy and advocacy issues. As I have written before, I truly get the sense that the winds of change are in the air and blowing in favor of Organic agriculture in Washington D.C.!

After the conference, each afternoon we “Hit the Hill” to deliver the industry’s Fiscal Year, 2011 appropriations requests. The Farm Bill of 2008 allotted mandatory funds for organic agriculture and also funds that Congress votes on each year. These are called “discretionary” funds. Each year WE must go to Washington and speak directly with representatives to fund the discretionary portions of the Farm Bill. I was one of 50 participants who took to the Hill to advocate for organic funding in more than 60 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

Our specific requests were:

*Funding NOP at $10.1 million in order to provide the resources needed to maintain the integrity of the label that domestic and international consumers trust in and to help ensure the continued growth of the industry.

* USDA: Organic Productions and Market Data: Fully funding the program at $5 million will help provide critical data necessary for any agricultural sector to survive, and help increase organic exports.

* Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI): OREI should be funded at $30 million to continue the research in organic agriculture by educational, state, and private institutions.

* Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG): The program should be funded at $5 million to continue and grow this important research.

* Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA): ATTRA should be funded at $3 million to continue providing valuable information to both organic and conventional farmers.

* Classical Plant and Animal Breeding Program: ARS should receive the additional $9.03 million to study classical plant and animal breeding to ensure the development of publicly held cultivars adapted to local conditions and available to organic producers.

I cannot even begin to explain how rewarding and exhilarating I find this work. It is such a rewarding and powerful experience to walk into the office of a Senator or Congressperson and let them know that if they spend this relatively small amount of money, it will go miles to invigorate rural communities and urban food centers in their districts.

If you have the time, I urge you contact YOUR representative and let them know they must support this funding in the appropriations process. Also consider the thrill of delivering this message in person next year when OTA has another conference!