The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to its 2007 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on Tuesday increasing funds for the USDA Organic Transitions research program from $1.8 million to $5 million for the next fiscal year. Offered by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the amendment passed on the House floor by a resounding voice vote.
The Organic Transitions program provides competitive grant funding to research, education and extension projects that help farmers address the challenges of modern organic production and marketing. "We must take steps to help this industry improve and allow these competitive grants to assist in the process," said Rep. Leach, a Republican from Iowa's 2nd district.
With the House working to cut nearly $100 million dollars from 2006 spending levels for agriculture programs, the increase for organic research was particularly significant. Several members of the House rose to speak in support of the bill, including Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH); and Representatives Holt and Kind.
"It should come as no surprise that the demand for organic, pesticide-free foods has skyrocketed in recent years," said Holt, a New Jersey Democrat. "This amendment is good for farmers and good for consumers," he added.
"The broad support for the amendment was likely a result of so many members of Congress hearing directly from constituents about the importance of this program," said Brise Tencer, Legislative Coordinator for the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). Many members of OFRF's Organic Farmers Action Network, along with colleagues in the rapidly growing organic industry, contacted their Representatives to urge them to support the amendment. The four-month-old Network is comprised of more than 500 farmers who have chosen to receive updates and action alerts on public policy issues that pertain to organic agriculture.
The Senate will now develop its own version of the 2007 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The two chambers will then reconcile differing provisions of the legislation in a conference committee. If the Senate includes the same $5 million for the Organic Transitions program in its version, the change is very likely to be included in the final bill forwarded to President Bush later this year for his signature.
A full list of organic program appropriations for the 2007 fiscal year is available online at www.ofrf.org/policy. OFRF will provide updates and action alerts on this site as the Senate bill moves forward.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation was founded in 1990 to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming practices. Working organic farmers from across the United States comprise the majority of OFRF's Board of Directors.
Brise Tencer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (831) 426-6606
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