Organic groups ask Congress, USDA to protect organic food and agriculture during COVID-19 pandemic
Published: June 2, 2020
Category: COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
The National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Farmers Association (OFA), recently called on Congress to include provisions in the next coronavirus relief package to help organic farmers, farmworkers, retailers, certifiers, and other businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) sent a letter to USDA secretary Sonny Perdue urging that his agency support the organic industry during this challenging time.
In a five-page letter, NOC and OFA detailed their recommendations to ensure that organic farms and businesses have the support they need to withstand the challenges they face during this difficult period. Organic farms and businesses are on the front lines and face major disruptions, including loss of critically important markets and labor challenges. These operations are adapting, but in some cases face skyrocketing expenses as they invest in equipment, technology, sanitation, staffing, and transportation to keep employees safe, to access markets, and to provide safe and nutritious food to communities.
NOC and OFA are seeking funding and technical assistance to help operations protect the health and safety of all who are involved in organic agriculture, certification, and compliance. In addition, NOC and OFA are advocating for actions that will prevent fraud and protect the integrity of the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic seal during the crisis.
In a letter to USDA secretary Perdue, OTA executive director Laura Batcha stressed the importance of the organic sector and said it is experiencing unique challenges related to certification, inspections, global trade, and shifting markets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter contained the following requests:
- Allow organic certifiers to use remote inspections when on-site inspections aren’t possible
- Release funds for organic certification cost share to certified operations
- Prioritize the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rulemaking, and ensure a timely release of the proposed rule as soon as possible
- Provide financial assistance to organic farmers from possible losses due to COVID-19
- Ensure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment flows to the food and agriculture sectors.
The full letter from NOC and OFA with detailed recommendations is available online:
The letter from OTA to USDA secretary Perdue is available online: