We are all weary of news on the proverbial cliffs, sequester and budget cuts from our beloved last Congress. In the waning hours of 2012 they narrowly averted the fiscal tax abyss by signing the American Taxpayer Relief Act. While this is just a stop gap for another looming precipice the irony is that a nine month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill was tacked on as an afterthought. The real loser in this scenario is the organic food and farming community. Mandatory funding that that was originally in the 2008 Farm Bill has no “base line” now and was not authorized for funding.
Funding was eliminated for the Organic Data Initiative (ODI) which was just beginning to collect much needed price and volume information on organic agriculture. This data helps serve organic farmers with insurance claims and crop planning. Additional programs left dangling without resources are the organic research and extension initiative (OREI) and certification cost share. Both are critical to the growth of organic agriculture.
As we move forward into this government landscape of lack and we look at our organic industry growing at 9% last year it should make us take pause. Ours is an industry with great vitality that has the ability to really change the world from the soil and water to the health of our bodies. We need funding for data and research. We need funding to assist new farmers to transition their soil into organic acreage. Its obvious to me our current and near future Congressional leaders will not take care of these ultimate needs.
It may be time our industry takes matters into its own hands! It is time for the organic community to step up and create a research and marketing program that is self-funded from within our community. A small stipend from each stakeholder can grow into a very robust pool of resources that in turn can educate, promote and nurture our organic community. The Organic Trade Association has created a platform of discussion on this subject and it behooves everyone involved to listen and participate in the discussion.
What better time to create funding for our community than now. Our $31 Billion industry is growing and producing jobs. According to the OTA 94% of all organic operations intend to maintain or increase employment in the coming year. Let’s invest in the future of our health, economy and our businesses. Together we can make this happen.