US Rep Urges USDA to Address Organic Certification Costs

US Rep Urges USDA to Address Organic Certification Costs

US Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) is co-chair of the House Organic Caucus, and in that capacity, he recently expressed concerns about recent changes to the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA’s) Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) | https://riponadvance.com/stories/newhouse-urges-usda-to-address-organic-certification-cost-share-program-changes/ |. 
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Bipartisan Letter 
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Rep. Newhouse and 38 colleagues, including US Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) in sending a bipartisan letter to US Department of Agriculture | Learn more on Commonshare | Secretary Sonny Perdue. 
The letter explains that the change in the reimbursement rate “was not anticipated by stakeholders, and we believe it directly contradicts the intent of the overwhelmingly bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 which reauthorized and funded OCCSP.” 
FSA Announcement
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The FSA announced on August 10th a Notice of Funding Availability for Fiscal Year 2020 OCCSP funding. The letter explained that the FSA made an administrative decision to reduce the reimbursement to 50% of eligible costs up to $500 per scope instead of the current 75% up to $750 per scope.
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The 2018 Farm Bill 
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According to the lawmakers, the 2018 Farm Bill provided $24 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation to OCCSP for fiscal years 2019-2023. There was also supporting language directing the USDA secretary to use all available carryover funding from fiscal years 2014-2018.
The lawmakers said that Congress’s intent was for producers and handlers to be “eligible to receive the maximum amount of assistance as permitted by law, and any changes to the reimbursement rate were not expected at the time of enactment.” 
Washington State has the 4th-highest number of USDA-certified organic | Learn more on Commonshare | farmers, ranchers, processors, and distributors in the country. Rep. Newhouse’s own district represents the highest number in the state. 
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Covid-19 Impact 
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The lawmakers argue that with the spread of Covid-19 and the dramatic impact on the supply chains and workforce, organic producers are already struggling – and have had little luck receiving assistance through other USDA programs. They had seen the OCCSP as a reliable form of support – thus the importance of the letter. 
For Newhouse and his colleagues, the conclusion is clear: the USDA should use all authority and funding to help provide assistance to the nation’s organic farmers and ranchers. 

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