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DC Update, May 23, 2008

Scribes Screw up Farm Bill
The House of Representatives on Thursday May 22, 2008 again passed the House-Senate Farm
Bill Conference Report, this time by a vote of 306 to 110. The move came as lawmakers scrambled to correct a clerical error that sent the farm bill to President Bush without Title III, the trade title. President Bush vetoed the incomplete bill Wednesday and the House voted shortly thereafter to override the veto. The House will also pass a bill that just has the missing Title III in it and send that to the Senate as well. Senators, for their part, moved Thursday only to override the President's veto of most of the farm bill, which they did by the overwhelming vote of 82 to 13. Afterward, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin said no one should worry about whether or not the vast majority of the 2008 farm bill is now in effect.

Still, the trade title does contain such things as international food aid under the PL-480 program and technical assistance for specialty crop producers. And Harkin admitted the Senate would have to "immediately" deal with getting the missing title enacted into law after Congress returns from
its two-week Memorial Day recess.

Organic Dairy National Organic Program Update
Below is a brief report from the first day of the National Organic Standards Board on May 20, 2008 in Baltimore. A very weary, tired Program Leader, Barbara Robinson gave a short report on the state of the NOP which included the following:

  1. This year saw an increase in funding for NOP and the Farm Bill has given more permanence to future funding. This increase in funding allowed the NOP to organize itself into three areas (Standards, Compliance, Accreditation) and the NOP will hopefully have a total staff of 15 when all the hiring is complete
  2. The NOP website has been changed and integrated into the USDA AMS site which has brought its own problems but allows for potentially increased transparency and easier access.
  3. NOP is engaged in equivalency negotiations with Canada.
  4. NOP have been meeting with officials from Japan
  5. The material docket is moving forward and will meet the sunset requirements

In answer to a question from NOSB member and NY dairy farmer, Kevin Englebert on the status of the access to pasture clarifying rule and whether it will reflect the NOSB recommendation, Barbara Robinsons response was that it “will meet everyone’s needs.”

Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director, gave a 5 minute comment period to stress the need for the immediate publication of the access to pasture rule before any more harm is done to organic dairy and requested a proposed rule instead of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for the origin of livestock as there was a lot of comment on the issue during the comments on pasture and because we have consensus in the industry about last third of gestation as the governing principle. This will save at least 6 months in the publication of the rule and probably more time without restricting the ability to comment. Other speakers, principally members of the National Organic Coalition supported the publication of the access to pasture rule as part of their comments as well.

Kelly Shea, Horizon Organic, the only representative from organic processors at the meeting, included Horizon’s support for the minimum of 120days/30% DM as part of the access to pasture rule, the immediate publication of the access to pasture rule and not having an ANPR for the origin of livestock rule as part of her comments. Barbara Robinson responded directly to Kelly Shea and announced that she had neglected to mention in her NOP update that the NOP have decided to issues a proposed rule for origin of livestock rather than an ANPR. This should shorten the process, by how much is difficult to gauge.