Merkley, Snowe Amendment to Help Organic Farmers Approved by Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Senate adopted the organic crop insurance amendment sponsored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. The amendment, which will improve crop insurance for organic farmers, will be incorporated into the farm bill as it heads for a final vote in the Senate.    

“Oregon is a leader in organic farming, and our farmers deserve crop insurance that reflects the high value of the crops they produce,” Merkley said. “There are more than 500 organic farms in Oregon, and that number is expanding rapidly. Today’s vote is an important step toward a crop insurance model that works for this growing segment of Oregon’s farmers.” 

“Organic farming is a vital industry in Maine, and it is critical our farmers, and those across the country, have an insurance mechanism in place that can adequately and fairly cover the crops that are being produced at increasing rates,” said Senator Snowe. “This bipartisan amendment ensures that organic farmers are not put at a disadvantage in terms of crop insurance and levels the playing field for a farming industry that is intricately woven throughout our great state.” 

Organic farmers currently pay a higher premium for crop insurance than non-organic farms, but when they need their insurance, they receive reimbursements at the same lower rate as non-organic farms. In the 2008 farm bill, Congress directed USDA’s Risk Management Agency to collect data and establish the appropriate price for the various organic crops.  However, in four years, USDA has only done this for four of the dozens of organic crops on the market. 

Senator Merkley’s amendment would require USDA to set appropriate payment levels for organic farmers within three years. The amendment is endorsed by the following organizations:

National Farmers Union
National Organic Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Oregon Tilth
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Trade Association
Organically Grown Company
Tilth Producers of Washington
California Certified Organic Farmers
Northeast Organic Farming Association
Florida Organic Growers
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
New England Farmers Union