This vote was on an amendment that would have eliminated federal assistance aimed at helping farmers transition to organic agriculture and use sustainable land management techniques.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that authorizes federal programs that assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Toomey’s amendment would have eliminated the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Certification Cost Share and Agricultural Management Assistance programs. The programs help farmers pay for the process of being certified as an organic farm, and provide assistance for farmers who want to conserve water or soil or establish other environmentally friendly land management practices.
Sen. Toomey argued that the assistance for organic farmers was no longer needed because the organic industry had taken off in recent years. Producers in this booming sector could afford to foot the bill for their certification, he argued.
“I have nothing against organic farming, but it is a $31 billion industry. It has had a 50 percent growth rate just since 2008,” Sen. Toomey said. “This is a great market. There is a great deal of interest in organic products, but I think these large producers can pay for their own certification.”
Opponents of Sen. Toomey’s amendment argued that obtaining certification as an organic farm was a costly process that deterred many producers from entering the organic market. Federal assistance can help farmers clear that hurdle and help meet the growing demand for organic products, they said.
“These programs are highly effective and have helped farmers across the entire country, which is why they have widespread bipartisan support,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said. “The farm bill is about fairness, equity, job growth, and protecting farmers. Eliminating these vital programs runs counter to these fundamental goals.”
The Senate defeated Sen. Toomey’s amendment by a vote of 42-57. Voting “yea” were 41 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 5 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to eliminate federal assistance aimed at helping farmers transition to organic agriculture and use sustainable land management techniques.