By Matthew Wilde, WCF Courier, December 16
It appears the federal government will finally deliver something to producers: Help. Congress has proposed hundreds of millions of dollars for organic farmers and consumers in the farm bill currently being debated.
To boost organic production, the House and the Senate have each proposed the industry receive a bigger piece of the farm budget.
The House passed a $286 billion, five-year bill in July. It includes $365 million for grants and research into such things as pest and disease management --- crucial for an industry that doesn't allow man-made chemicals --- and marketing and education. The House wants to spend $22 million in new funding to help farmers transition to organic agriculture and $3 million for organic marketing data collection and publication.
Senators, though, are still debating their version of the bill. The Senate wants to spend the same amount of money on grants and research and to help farmers get certified. Plus, $30 million for farmers market promotion and $24 million in new money for technical assistance to address export barriers for specialty crops. The Conservation Security Program would be funded and made nationwide instead of helping certain watersheds under the Senate version.
"It will reward organic farmers, who will prosper from payments for conservation practices such as long-term crop rotation ... including (planting) perennial prospect forages. Those are two key issues we're looking at," said Kathleen Delate, organic agriculture expert at Iowa State University.