Wednesday, July 11, 2007

About that organic garlic from China

By Samuel Fromartz, Gristmill, June 27.

Organic food has take criticism lately, because a portion is flowing from overseas. (All those food miles, all that lost support for American farmers.) Well, there's a reason that trend is underway: Not enough American farms are growing organic crops and fewer still are converting, so demand is exceeding supply. With the Farm Bill, attempts are underway to address that problem.

The organic farming community is seeking a few tender morsels off the Congressional table, to help farmers get into the organic sector. The main points are these:

  • Basic research funds. Currently organic farming research only gets about $3 million in dedicated funds out of a USDA research budget of about $2 billion. They want $15 million.
  • Certification cost share. Farmers can get up to $500 annually to offset up to 75 percent of the costs of organic certification, but much of that money has run out.
  • Transition support. The lobby is looking for $50 million per year to help farmers with the three-year transition to organic farming.

Environmental Working Group recently launched a site to gin up support on the issue and generate 30,000 signatures to lawmakers by July 15. The point is to win baseline funding for organic agriculture, so that it can be increased in the next farm bill. If the baseline is near zero, it isn't going to move at all -- not in the next bill, or the one after that -- and farmers will continue to sit on the sidelines.

Support the petition