Organic Farmers Testify at Farm Bill Listening Sessions

Photo, left to right: Grant Brians, CCOF Board of Directors member; Laura Batcha, OTA; Melody Meyer, UNFI; Sam Farr, retired Congressman; Karen Ross, California Secretary of Agriculture; Mark Lipson, organic farmer & OFRF senior policy and program specialist.

CCOF-certified farmers and CCOF staff presented testimony at two farm bill listening sessions convened in California last week.
 
A listening session in Modesto on August 5 attracted an audience of over 250 to present their farm bill priorities to members of the House Agriculture Committee Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pennsylvania), and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock). Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) also listened to the testimony.
 
Tim Schultz of Lundberg Family Farms drove down from Chico to make comments in support of organic research funding and sufficient support for the National Organic Program (NOP) to maintain strong organic enforcement. 
 
Cindy Lashbrook of Riverdance Farms in Livingston pointed out that organic farmers asked for the national organic program because of competition from farmers claiming to be organic when they weren’t. She also requested NOP funding “that grows with organic farming.” Lashbrook also spoke in support of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
 
Mark Lipson, senior policy and program specialist for the Organic Farming Research Foundation, expressed organic solidarity with all farmers and spoke in favor of organic research. CCOF also supported organic research, NOP funding, and the Organic Certification Cost Share
Program.
 
On August 10, a smaller but just as passionate crowd gathered in Salinas to present their farm bill priorities to House Agriculture Committee members Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota). Retired congressman Sam Farr made an appearance, and California’s Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross was also present.
 
Organic speakers in Salinas included Javier Zamora of JSM Organic Farms in Aromas; Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association; Steve Koretoff of Purity Organics in Kerman; Melody Meyer, vice president of policy and industry relations, United Natural Foods; Grant Brians, CCOF board member and owner of Heirloom Organic Gardens in Hollister; and Phil Foster of Foster Ranch/Pinnacle Brand in San Juan Bautista. 
 
Other issues raised at both farm bill listening sessions were the need for a unified farm bill that includes sufficient funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, support for agricultural export programs, and the need for agricultural research and conservation programs. 
 
As they prepare to draft the 2018 Farm Bill, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled one more listening session for August 30 in Decatur, Illinois. They will also accept written comment via email to HouseAgListens@mail.house.gov. Video of the Modesto hearing is posted online
 

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