ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Organic "Power Brokers" Hit D.C.

We're outing the power lobbyists of organic farming!

But first a few questions.

Do they work on the famed "K St." corridor in Washington, D.C.? No. Are they on a first-name basis with senior lawmakers in Congress? No. Do they have a big Washington association behind them filled with former administration officials and congressmen? No. Do they stay at expensive hotels in town? No.

Actually, they're farmers who had to stay in a hotel way out in Maryland.

Left to right: Tony Azevedo, Double T Acres, Stevenson, Calif.; Kathie Arnold, Twin Oaks Dairy, Truxton, N.Y.; Maureen Knapp, Cobblestone Valley Farm, Preble, N.Y. all certified organic farmers.

As Azevedo says: "We go in the front door and get a nice reception but I imagaine that there's other people going in the back door."

Azevedo and others were in town suggesting that Congress allocate more money for organic farming in the current round of the farm bill -- at least to a level commensurate with its growing role in agriculture. The Modesto Bee had a good piece on the issue. The farmers seek

- a $50 million-a-year grant program to assist farmers in adopting organic practices (which would be a new program)

- $5 million annually to help farmers offset the cost of attaining organic certification (refunding an existing program now out of money). This is the only subsidy specifically for organic farmers, amounting to a grand total of $500 per farm, to offset the costs of organic certification.

- a $25 million-a-year organic farming research program (about double the level currently).

Right now organic food is about 3 percent of the food supply. So if it were to get 3 percent of the $2 billion USDA research budget, that figure would amount to $60 million. Azevedo and others don't think that will happen. They even worry that the $25 million they're seeking now is a long shot.

How much does organic research get now? About $12 million in total, according to Mark Lipson of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.