Washington, D.C.—On February 4, the U.S. Senate passed the long-delayed Agriculture Act of 2014, otherwise known as the farm bill. After much debate and many different versions of the legislation, the final result looks to contain several victories for the organic food industry. Other winners include dairy and soybean farmers, while about $8 billion in controversial cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) made it into the final bill.
By 2015, organic farmers will be able to insure their crops at full retail value thanks to this new farm bill. Previously, organic crops were stuck at lower premiums more in line with prices for conventional commodities. The bill also opens the door for an Organic Check-off program, which would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Such a program would require organic industry stakeholders to pool marketing dollars that would be used to fund promotional initiatives similar to the “Got Milk?” campaign.
The National Organic Program receives a bump in funding from this bill. Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said the bill represents “a new day for organic, with new champions joining traditional supporters of organic.”
A new Hemp Research Amendment is also part of the bill, which allows hemp to be legally produced for research.
The total costs associated with the bill come to $956 billion over 10 years, which is nearly $17 billion less than the previous farm bill.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2014