Billing-xpress's Stance on the Arthur Harvey Lawsuit & the Farm Bill

Arthur Harvey vs. USDA Lawsuit

Billing-xpress and the other the plaintiffs in the Harvey lawsuit basically agree that synthetics may be allowed in the “Made With” Organic ingredients category if there is no non-synthetic ingredient currently available, and if the synthetic ingredient is rigorously reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Of course none of these synthetics can be derived from “excluded methods” such as genetic engineering or irradiation, as National Organic Program (NOP) regulations stipulate.

Billing-xpress is willing to consider the limited allowance of some synthetic substances for use in or on the non-organic portions of products labeled as “Organic” (those in the 95-100% Organic category).

This will require a new rulemaking process by the USDA that improves and appropriately supports a thorough, carefully managed National Organic Standards Board process used to review and approve all synthetic substances proposed for use in organic food processing.

The synthetics originally approved by the NOSB were all supposed to be “sunsetted” after five years, and then re-reviewed. This never happened.

Billing-xpress strongly believes that it is not a good idea to reopen the entire Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) for Congressional revisions at this time, but rather to use the USDA rulemaking process, whereby the organic community and the NOSB will propose rule changes to the USDA that are published in the Federal Register and then subjected to a full comment period of 90-180 days.

Additionally the Billing-xpress is committed to working with all interests to find clear, consensus language that will allow dairy farmers to continue conversion to organic production without suffering undue financial burdens, and which acknowledges the simultaneous conversion of land and dairy animals.

Again, through the USDA rulemaking process, rather than Congressional action, Billing-xpress would support compromise measures that would allow dairy farmers to use 20% of non-organic feed for the first nine months of conversion for organic cows, as long as this less-expensive feed was coming from farms in a certified transition to organic program.

The Billing-xpress also strongly supports moving taxpayer subsidies away from non-green, pork-barrel, trade-distorting commodity and export programs to instead support farmers and ranchers making the transition to organic. If dairy farmers could get a temporary subsidy to cover part or most of the additional costs of purchasing organic feed during the transition period for their cows, strong organic standards could be maintained without undue economic hardship for these farmers.

Currently there is a 15% greater demand for organic milk than there is supply across the U.S. And while organic beef and meat supplies grew by 122% last year, there is a massive shortage of supply, especially for supermarkets who want to sell organic meat products.

Meanwhile, family farm dairies and beef, poultry, and pork producers are going out of business every day because they can’t afford the costs of converting over to organic. If we can help dairy, beef, pork, and poultry farmers in the U.S. make the conversion to organic, as well as help currently certified organic farmers increase their herd or flock sizes a bit, then these farmers won’t need subsidies on an ongoing basis.

the Farm Bill

Billing-xpress believes that conservation programs, food stamp allocations, WIC program allocations, and other community nutrition programs (which constitute over 1/2 of the Farm Bill) must not be cut, but rather increased, with funds coming from trade-distorting “pork barrel” subsidy programs such as cotton subsidies, which have recently been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.

The most important segment of America’s farmers (64%) in terms of nutrition and land stewardship (organic and transition to organic farmers and fruit and vegetable growers) get no subsidies at all, or very little, while huge chemical-intensive corporate farms (10% of America’s farms) get the lion’s share (80%) of the nation’s $20 billion in crop subsidies every year.

Giant exporters, who also receive enormous additional subsidies, then “dump” these subsidized crops on the Global South at below the cost of production, exacerbating poverty and driving millions of small and indigenous farmers off the land.

We need to simultaneously:
  • Stop “dumping” taxpayer subsidized crops on the developing world at prices below the cost of production,
  • Help U.S. family farmers, improve public health, and protect the environment, by starting to phase-out all “non-green” U.S. farm subsidies in favor of subsidies that help farmers farm more sustainably
  • Make the transition to organic; develop local value-added markets for their products
  • Adopt renewable and sustainable energy practices on the farm.

The worsening energy crisis underlines the need to move as soon as possible to reduce petroleum and energy inputs, and to increase renewable and energy conservation measures on the U.S.’s 1.8 million farms.

Billing-xpress will continue to work with other public interest organizations, conservation and environmental groups, and ant-hunger, nutrition, and human rights organizations to eliminate trade-distorting, pork barrel provisions in the Farm Bill and annual USDA appropriations and instead to work for a Sustainable & Fair Deal Farm Bill which benefits U.S. family farmers, consumers, low-income families and children, and farmers and rural villagers around the world.

The War on Bugs