United Fresh, OTA Cheer House Passage of Farm Bill

By Meg Major

The House of Representatives’ passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (commonly known as the Farm Bill) clears the way for the Senate to consider the bill, which includes numerous priorities the Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been seeking for more than two years.

“We are pleased that the organic industry received strong bipartisan support in the Farm Bill that cleared the House of Representatives,” said Laura Batcha, OTA's CEO/executive director. “It is a new day for organic, with new champions joining traditional supporters of organic.”

Batcha added that the Farm Bill’s movement through Congress “demonstrates that the consumer-driven, farmer-powered organic sector…is an important part of the U.S. agricultural community. It is a victory for organic farmers, businesses and consumers. We now look forward to Senate passage of the Farm Bill and to these provisions being enacted into law.”

Increases Funding to Enforce Standards

The provisions in the bill passed in the House include allowing organic farmers, distributors and marketers access to the same agriculture research and promotion programs available to conventional farmers by authorizing USDA to consider an application from the organic sector for its own check-off program, as well as clarifying that the current exemption from conventional check-off programs apply to all certified organic operations. In addition, it provides increased funding for the National Organic Program to enforce organic standards, improve technology and negotiate international trade agreements, as well as funding for organic research, data collection and certification cost share.

Meanwhile, members of United Fresh Produce Association extended thanks to the House of Representatives for passing the Farm Bill by a vote of 251-166. The Farm Bill conference report provides an overall increase in investment of 55 percent over 2008 Farm Bill funding levels in critical produce industry initiatives and programs.

During the debate on the House floor, Rep. Jim Costa (Calif.-16) cited bill provisions that provide “dramatic investment in specialty crops" as a reason for his support of the conference report. Rep. Suzan Delbene (Wash.-1) agreed and urged support for the bill, in part because of the "unprecedented investment in specialty crops."

Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president/CEO, lauded the diligence of House members in their ongoing support of the Farm Bill. “We appreciate the leadership and hard work provided by House Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and other members of the House in support of this bill. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues later in this week to ensure this bill also passes the Senate,” which he said might bring up the conference report as early as tomorrow.

If the Senate follows the House action as expected and passes the report, it will then be sent to the President for his signature.

United Fresh is launching a grassroots campaign this week calling on produce industry leaders from across the country to contact their members of Congress to encourage them to vote "yes" on the Agricultural Act of 2014.

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