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By Casey Wooten
A bipartisan trio of House lawmakers were set to introduce legislation late May 16 that would boost Department of Agriculture funding for research into organic farming.
Sponsored by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), the bill would increase authorized funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative from $20 million to $50 million per year, more than doubling what Congress authorized in the 2014 farm bill. The initiative provides grants for research projects meant to boost organic production or promote organic products in new markets.
The bill is the first in a series of agriculture-related measures Pingree plans to introduce as Congress works on appropriations legislation and the next farm bill, set to be completed in 2018.
A statement from the three lawmakers said they would introduce the organic research bill late May 16, after press time.
“Organic Research and Extension Initiative funding has been critical in solving problems and developing ways for farmers to increase productivity, prevent loss, and streamline their operations,” Pingree said in the statement. “But insufficient funding has led to many unmet research needs and missed opportunities.”
Andy Colvin, deputy director of communications for Pingree, told Bloomberg BNA in an email that Pingree also plans to reintroduce two food waste bills, the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act, some time in June.
The Food Recovery Act would provide incentives and legal protections for businesses that want to donate food and would provide funds for public awareness campaigns about food waste.
The Food Date Labeling Act would streamline expiration labels on food products, creating a “best if used by” label and an “expires on” label for most items. Currently, most food makers use a patchwork of voluntarily enforced labeling phrases.
The organic research bill drew the backing of many organic agriculture groups, including the Organic Trade Association and National Organic Coalition.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), which advocates for organic farmers, praised the bill in a May 16 statement.
“Consumer demand for organic goods is booming, but because of a lack of investment in critical support and research programs, farmers have struggled to keep up with demand,” the NSAC said.
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