Support Industry on Organic Rule Implementation
Organic agriculture goes beyond simple conservation measures and alternative pest and weed controls. Ecological health is the primary consideration. Supporting organic agriculture is one way to meet U.S. government goals for reducing pesticide use and pollution.
The organic industry has grown over the past decades from a handful of farmers experimenting with ecological food and fiber production to ten billion dollars’ worth of U.S. sales a year.
In 1989, the organic industry requested federal legislation to create and enforce a single set of national standards. As a result, the 1990 Farm Bill included the Organic Foods Production Act, and in 2002, USDA is finally fully implementing the National Organic Program. During the past 12 years, the organic industry has been focused almost entirely on implementing these stringent federal standards.
Despite historic debate during the creation of the 2002 Farm Bill, funding for agriculture remains oriented toward supporting commodity prices. Very little authorization is given for organic research and development. Though organic production represents only a small percentage of acreage farmed in the U.S.—just 3/10 of one percent in 2001—funding for organic farming is proportionately even less. Out of $75 billion in the six-year 2002 farm bill, only about $20 million is targeted for organic production in this year’s agriculture appropriations bill.
The organic industry would like funding targets that accurately represent the place of organic production in America. Even the lowest figure, reflecting the percentage of organic acreage in the U.S., or 3/10 of one percent of the 2002 farm bill authorization, would mean $37.5 million per year, or almost twice current appropriations. This would allow fairer support for a unified research program, an increased presence in cooperative education, reasonable marketing and promotion, and the integration of organic agriculture throughout USDA’s programs.
As an expanding industry in an otherwise sluggish economy, and as an industry that protects and conserves valuable soil and water resources and helps meet the government’s pesticide reduction targets, the organic industry deserves considerable more financial and administrative support.