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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to the chairman of the subcommittee, and I know he has a very tough task given the allocation that he has to work with under the budget, but this amendment is not only necessary, it is fair and reasonable.

The offset would be from the facilities account which is increased even more than 175 percent from our calculation.

But the reason it is fair is because the organic industry today commands well over 2 percent of market share in this country. As my friend from New Jersey indicated, they have been growing on average 20 percent every year. The demand is growing even faster than that. Yet under agriculture appropriations funding, they are receiving approximately 0.2 percent of the funding under the agriculture bill even though they command well over 2 percent of market share.

What we are saying is that the organic industry is here and it is time to start treating them more fairly. They are growing and commanding a bigger share. Consumer demand exists, and that is why I am proud to offer this amendment with the gentleman from New Jersey, along with our colleagues, Mr. Leach and Mr. DeFazio.

I personally have witnessed this growth in my congressional district in western Wisconsin, which has more organic producers than anywhere else in the entire country. In fact, it is the home of Organic Valley which has seen their sales increase, on average, roughly 50 percent every year. Last year alone, Organic Valley had an increase by 173 in the membership of their coop, bringing their total number up to 730. Today, based on a recent communication I had with them, they have over 600 applicants wanting to join Organic Valley and the cooperative, so they can sell their organic products.

But as we know, the transition to organic is very difficult, very expensive and it is very lengthy. The transition is a 3-year period where they see a tremendous drop in income during that time period until they are certified organic. That is why I think this amendment addresses a very specific need that exists, and it is helping with the transition costs into organic by the competitive grants that this amendment would offer. The increase in funding is something that I think is long overdue.

I think we in this body need to recognize the growing strength and the impact that organic is having in the market today. But this is not a question that organic is scientifically more healthy. We are not alleging that.

What organic represents is a choice: A choice that producers get to make on how they want to work their own lands, and a choice that consumers can make when it comes time to buying products for themselves and their families, and more and more consumers are choosing organic. In fact, more and more large retailers throughout the country are choosing to offer organic products on their shelves, and this will only continue to grow. Therefore, the demand will continue to grow, and the necessity for this amendment will certainly grow.

That is why I am hoping as we move forward with the reauthorization of the next farm bill in the next session of Congress, we will be able to engage the chairman of the subcommittee and other Members of this Congress in recognizing the growing need and vitality that exists in the organic industry today, and that we will be able to do some innovative and creative things to assist organic producers, but especially those smaller producers that are making that difficult and expensive transition into organic today so that there is a place in the farm bill for short-term assistance to enable them to make it.

But we can take an important step today by supporting this amendment, again with the appropriate offset that we have identified, which is a lot less than the increase in funding under this transition program.

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, the organic industry has never come before the Congress asking for a heck of a lot. That has been the history of them. God bless them for doing so. This is one small program in the overall agriculture appropriations bill that they have come to us asking for greater assistance, because their need has grown exponentially.

We believe that with the appropriate offset we have identified, moving from roughly $1.8 million in these competitive grants up to $5 million will help relieve a little pent up pressure in that need that exists today. Because the organic industry has the potential of growing much faster and much larger than it is, even in recent years. I encourage my colleagues to support the amendment.

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