FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Squeeze on Organic Farmers

by BOB SCOWCROFT

More and more Americans are buying organic food. But is our government matching this groundswell of support with federal and state agricultural dollars?

No.

Organic farmers work with nature to control pests, weeds and disease. No synthetic fossil-fuel fertilizers are used and no hormones or antibiotics are used in livestock production. By many measures, organic food is healthier for our soil, water, wildlife and the people who grow it. The Agriculture Department last year issued standards and labeling rules for organic production and marketing.

But where is the government’s support, which still flows overwhelmingly to industrial agriculture?

Most observers agree that in 2002 the organic products industry received about 1.5 to 2 percent of our nation’s food dollar. Not much, some would say. But consider this: Last year consumers spent about $10 billion on organic products. Back in 1989, one agricultural economist pegged the size of the organic industry at only $89 million. That’s growth! Clearly growing numbers of Americans are saying organic farming is important.

But the government so far fails to recognize this surging support. The Organic Farming Research Foundation has determined that certified-organic land-grant university research acreage has grown from 151 acres in 2001 to just over 496 acres_this out of a massive 886,000 acres now dedicated to agricultural research.

Five years ago, OFRF published a report identifying the number of organic research projects funded by the USDA. After running 75 key words through the USDA’s 30,000 agricultural research projects database, OFRF discovered 34 explicitly organic projects. That translates to barely over one-tenth of 1 percent of our publicly funded agricultural research projects specifically dedicated to organic production practices.

What about actual dollars devoted to helping organic growers farm and market better? The news is a bit better here. Or is it? Last year, for the first time, Congress appropriated $3 million for organic research and required that this be an annual expenditure for the next five years. Our federal budget is now $2.14 trillion. The USDA budget is $74 billion. But the total annual organic outlay, which also includes money for marketing, economic analysis and enforcement of organic standards, approaches only $8 million.

Organic farmers deserve their fair share of our nation’s agricultural resources. A commitment to organic farming by the federal government that matches the commitment consumers have made to organic food would equal 1.5 to 2 percent of the USDA budget, or more than $1 billion. Think about it. That would go a long way to encourage a way of farming that is better for people and our planet.

BOB SCOWCROFT is executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Santa Cruz, Calif. He is a member of the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz   
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
April 28, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz Díaz
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail