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Organic Caucus Formed in US Congress

USA: ORGANIC FARMING RESEARCH FOUNDATION APPLAUDS LAUNCH OF CONGRESSIONAL ORGANIC AGRICULTURE CAUCUS

5 June

The newly formed Congressional Organic Agriculture Caucus held its initial meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2003. The Caucus was formed as a bipartisan association of United States Representatives whose mission is to "enhance availability and understanding of information related to the production and processing of organic agricultural products."

The formation of this coalition of sixteen Democrats, five Republicans, and one Independent is truly groundbreaking for organic farmers nationwide. "Organics is one of the fastest growing sectors in agriculture," said Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA 17th), who authored the nation's first comprehensive organic standards while he was a member of the California state legislature in 1990. "With new organic standards now in effect, consumers are demanding greater availability and farmers are seeking solutions to their organic production problems. This Caucus will give us the chance to discuss ways of enhancing the standard to make it workable for producers and consumers."

"The formation of this Caucus is a major step towards getting organic farmers their fair share of federal agricultural resources," says Bob Scowcroft, Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). "Organic farmers and their supporters should call their representatives and ask them to join the Caucus. When it comes to Capitol Hill, there is strength in numbers," he added

OFRF assisted in organizing the initial meeting that launched the Caucus by briefing attendees on recent developments in organic agriculture. Speakers presented trends in industry growth, research, and the successes and obstacles that organic farmers are facing in the field. The speakers included Cathy Greene of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, Laurie Drinkwater of Cornell University, and Steve Ela, a Colorado organic farmer and the vice president of OFRF.

While most of the attendees were Congressional staffers, also present were members of the press, organic activists, USDA staff and Congressmen Sam Farr, Ron Kind (D-WI 3rd)), and Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th). Each of the Congressmen who attended spoke eloquently about the growing importance of organic agriculture.

"The Organic Caucus will play a critical role in getting Congress actively engaged in this very important growing segment of the agricultural marketplace, and I fully expect that this Caucus will be instrumental in ensuring that Caucus members continue to effectively work together and receive timely updates on organic issues," said Congressman Walsh, a Republican from New York who is one of six founding co-chairs of the Caucus and has been a strong supporter of organic agriculture.

Caucus members have already demonstrated interest in working together on
issues: a bipartisan group of 14 Caucus members recently signed a letter circulated by Congressman Kind endorsing specific 2004 funding levels for federal programs of importance to organic farmers. Other members of Congress have joined the Caucus simply to better educate themselves on issues that are important to organic farmers in their district.

For more information on the Organic Agriculture Caucus, contact Troy Phillips, Office of Congressman Farr, 202-225-2861; Ron Anderson, Office of Congressman Walsh, 202-225-3701; or Darin Schroeder, Office of Congressman Kind, 202-225-5506. To view the current list of Caucus members or the letter on recommended funding levels for federal programs endorsed by 14 Caucus members, visit OFRF's policy web page at: http://www.ofrf.org/policy/index.html

The Organic Farming Research Foundation was founded in 1990 to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming practices. OFRF's mission is to sponsor research related to organic farming; to disseminate research results to organic farmers and to growers interested in adopting organic production practices; and to educate the public and decision makers about organic farming issues. Visit the Foundation on the web at http://www.ofrf.org


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