Dear Senator Leahy:
We, the undersigned organizations, thank you for your on-going leadership to advance and grow organic agriculture in Vermont and nationwide. Specifically, we want to express our thanks and gratitude for your strong support of organic certification cost share assistance for the nation’s organic farmers and handlers as part of the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization process.
The growing costs of annual organic certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially those of small to medium scale. Yet third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the trusted USDA certified organic brand. The modest certification cost share assistance provided to partially offset these costs has been instrumental in the decision by many farmers and handlers to seek initial organic certification and to remain certified as organic – in spite of the annual costs of doing so. This has helped to foster diversity in the scale of operations certified as organic, and also helps to maintain jobs here in the U.S
We also appreciate your leadership and wisdom in advocating for the merging of the two federal organic certification cost share programs. Streamlining these two programs under the umbrella of the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program provides adequate cost share funding for organic farmers and handlers in all fifty states while minimizing program costs and maximizing efficiency. The inclusion of this provision in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill is largely due to your leadership and greatly appreciated by organic farmers, handlers, and consumers in Vermont and nationwide.
In contrast, the bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in July completely repeals the National Organic Certification Cost Share program. It retains minimal funding for organic certification cost share through the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) but only for farmers in 16 states, with NO cost share assistance for organic handlers at all. The House approach not only creates unnecessary division within the organic community, but it also threatens the growth in certified organic production in this nation at a time when the organic sector is already struggling to keep up with record-breaking consumer demand for organic foods and beverages.
Organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. With an estimated 527,000 jobs created in 2010 alone, it is the fastest growing sector of agriculture. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand. Your leadership on behalf of organic certification cost share assistance through an expanded AMA program plays a critical role in that effort.
We thank you for your excellent work and that of your excellent staff member, Adrienne Wojciechowski. We look forward to working with you to support the Senate position on this matter and to ensure that it is included in the final farm bill.
Sincerely,National Organic Coalition Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Other sustainable agriculture organizations