Note: Date has been extended until February 17, 2015
Tell the USDA: You Support the Organic Exemption from Federal Check-off Programs
The 2014 Farm Bill allows all organic farmers and businesses to pull assessed monies out of conventional check-off programs. In December, the USDA issued proposed rules to set this process up.
A strong response from organic farmers and businesses will let the USDA know this exemption is important to organic agriculture, and these rules need to be put in place as quickly as possible. The instructions below will guide you on how to submit comments. Here are talking points:
These rules give the same opportunity to farms and businesses with split operations (organic and non-organic) as 100% organic operations were granted in the 2002 Farm Bill to request a refund on organic sales assessments. This change corrects unequal treatment of organic certificate holders set by the 2002 Farm Bill.
This exemption will provide a level playing field. It allows organically certified farmers and handlers to use check-off monies to benefit their own operations and future, similar to the benefit that non-organic operations receive from being assessed under the Commodity Promotion Law.
Organics is less than 5% of agricultural production and requires very specific research and marketing. Farmers and handlers carry out a high percentage of direct-to-consumer and other marketing, or conduct research on their own farms.
The exemption process should be as efficient as possible. Information on certified organic operations is now available in real time so certificate holders should only need to apply once for an exemption from the check-off, not every year. Commodity boards can be informed by the NOP when the operation loses its organic certification.
Organics should have a blanket exemption from all Research and Promotion programs.
For Marketing Orders, the organic exemption should be the marketing portion average of all AMS Marketing Orders.
Comments must be postmarked no later than February 17, 2015
They can be electronically submitted at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=AMS-FV-14-0032-0038 Click on "Comment Now" on the right side of the page.
Submit written comments to this address:
Docket Clerk, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program
Agricultural Marketing Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0237
Example of how to start your letter:
Re: Proposed Rule regarding Exemption of Organic Products From Assessment Under a Commodity Promotion Law: AMS-FV-14-0032-0001 (Dec. 16, 2014) (Federal Register Number 2014-29280) (79 Fed. Reg. 75006 et seq.)
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on USDA’s Proposed Rule regarding Exemption of Organic Products From Assessment Under a Commodity Promotion Law.
I fully support the proposed rule mandated by a bi-partisan vote by both houses of Congress.
Example of how to close your letter:
I thank USDA for the speed in developing this proposed rule and urge them to proceed to a final rule as quickly as possible, with immediate implementation.