Monthly Archives: May 2008

Organic gets a piece of the pie

organic gets a piece

The just-passed Farm Bill contains some nice funding increases in areas that support the organic industry. The Sustainable Ag Coalition put out a nice “snapshot” of Farm Bill “wins” related to sustainable and organic ag. Wins specific to organic…


National Organic Certification Cost Share Assistance
WIN: $22 million over 5 years in mandatory funding, a nearly five-fold increase compared to the previous farm bill, to help cover the costs of organic certification for farmers and handlers.

Organic Conversion Assistance
PARTIAL WIN: A new technical and financial assistance option within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for producers transitioning to organic production.

Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative
WIN: $78 million over 4 years in mandatory funding, a five-fold increase compared to the previous farm bill (with an additional $25 million a year authorized for appropriations) to fund competitive grants for organic farming research and extension.

Organic Data Collection Initiative
WIN: $5 million over 5 years, first-time mandatory funding to fund a USDA organic data collection effort; will supplement appropriated dollars for the same program. An additional $5 million a year is authorized for appropriations.

Organic Crop Insurance
PARTIAL WIN: Sets in motion a process at USDA that should have the effect of ending the current discriminatory treatment of organic producers under the Federal crop insurance program, but will likely take several years longer than the SAC-proposed solution incorporated in the Senate-passed bill.

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Back to blogging

everyone reads The Organic Horizon

It’s planting season here in Central Illinois, but the weather has not cooperated. It’s been unusually cool and wet. Just as the soil begins to dry up and you’re a day from getting in the field, BAM! — more rain. It’s been like this all Spring and farmers are getting antsy about it. Finally last week we got our Spring cover crops in for some research trials we are doing with mustard and buckwheat. Feels good to get those in, but it is so late. Good thing it’s only research.

Last week I gave a talk locally for the Illinois Waste Management and Research Center’s, Seminar Series on Sustainability. My talk was titled, “How sustainable is organic farming.” In the talk I reviewed recent research confirming the superior nutrition, the environmental benefits and the yield potential of organically grown food.  Rob Kantor of the Environmental Almanac was there and he put out a great article that appeared in our local Sunday paper. From that I’ve received two calls requesting more talks. I just came back in from providing a comment for a local news story on local food.

Organic never sleeps.

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Bush’s support of local food

 President George W. Bush looks over a table of local food items Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, during his visit to the International Trade Fair Center in Accra, Ghana. White House photo by Eric Draper

I know I’m late on this, but it’s too intriguing to pass up.

As reported by many, President Bush, at an April 29 White House press conference, talked about a variety of issues, but said some particularly intriguing things about the current high food prices and the Farm Bill. One statement that caught the attention of a lot of sustainable ag folk’s was this…

“One thing I think that would be — I know would be very creative policy is if we — is if we would buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also as a way to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting. It’s a proposal I put forth that Congress hasn’t responded to yet, and I sincerely hope they do”

There was the usual Hate-Bush tripe flying around the blogosphere in response, but no one really seemed to know what the President was referring to — this “proposal” he put forth to Congress. Turns out it doesn’t have anything to do with the US food system. From a follow up White House press release

The President has repeatedly asked Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world. This flexibility would not only get food to people in emergency situations faster, it would also build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine.

It would also help with global warming, NOT shipping all that food across the globe. That’s just one reason why local food is a positive anywhere! So how about our own local food system? It would be “creative policy” for US as well! But that’s a whole new level of awareness yet to dawn on our federal leadership’s consciousness.

Still, what was the response from Congress on the food aid proposal? Yesterday Reuters released this

Advocates of buying food in and around the countries that need aid, instead of shipping U.S. crops, argue it will save money and deliver assistance more quickly.

“Congress failed to meaningfully address the crisis of rising food prices overseas and the need to increase the efficiencies of our food aid programs,” Oxfam America said in a statement.

But crop producers, shipping companies, and their allies on Capitol Hill have resisted the change for years, fearing it will undermine the bedrock of support for aid programs and even making things worse in countries with fragile food markets.

Wonder what the rationale for that is? Sounds like an invented concern thrown out by the people with vested financial interest in the current system. Is that always the way it is?

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US gov going organic

us gov going organic?

The General Services Administration…”helps federal agencies better serve the public by offering, at best value, superior workplaces, expert solutions, acquisition services, and management policies. On April 30th the EPA reported that the GSA has begun using organic fertilizer on the grounds of all its federal buildings in the National Capital Region.

GSA is using 100-percent organic pelletized chicken manure at 64 sites, covering 84 acres. The poultry litter is being collected by a private company and converted to usable organic fertilizer – then transported by truck to the region, and properly applied at the GSA properties.

This is the agency that tells other federal agencies how to do a better job. Wonder what they’re serving in their cafeteria?

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One of illinois’ best farmers

Organic corn from the Erisman farm

Click here and read about Jack Erisman, a large-scale organic farmer and fantastic human being.

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