It's been nearly a year and a half since the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its proposed 2007 Farm Bill. Now, it's 2008, and the massive package of subsidies and incentives has been kept alive by two extensions while Congress mashes out a compromise acceptable to all parties.
Luckily for the food industry, the roughly $100 million devoted to development of organic agriculture has survived the repeated conferences, compromises and trade-offs. Caren Wilcox, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said that the legislation still contains measures funding research, data collection and transition to organic production; a stipulation to eliminate crop insurance premiums for organic producers is also intact.
“There are not very significant differences between the organic components in the House and the Senate versions of the bill,” she said. “Most of our requests appear in pretty good shape, as we understand it.”
Keeping the entire package in the bill intact has been a priority for supporters, who say the individual components are highly interactive; each one must be retained for the organic program to be successful.
The unofficial deadline for approving the five-year farm plan is Memorial Day weekend. After that, Wilcox says the bill will likely need a long-term extension, as the summer recess, presidential nominating conventions and fall campaign season capture most of Washington's attention.