I spent the early part of my early adult life buying, selling, and trading fresh organic produce. I was too busy building businesses and helping farmers grow theirs, to pay attention to pesky things like regulations or federal funding. Heck, I was so naïve I didn’t even know about the Farm Bill and its billion-dollar effect on food and farming.
Then in 2007, an entire universe of possibility opened up when I walked into the halls of Congress to advocate for organic funding in the next Farm Bill. I realized from that point forward that staying politically engaged is one of the most powerful ways to support the organic movement and the trade.
My head was once stuck in cooler.
It was the 1980’s; we were young and wild and thought working at the collectively-run Community Foods was making a real difference. I was buying zany new items like Earthbound Farms baby greens from Drew and Mayra’s van and offloading cartons of Molino Creek dry farm tomatoes.
Literally down the street, heroes like Mark Lipson and Bob Scowcroft were paying attention to the fact that we didn’t have rules or regulations or federal funding for organic production or handling.
Their political work for organic was more important than getting consumers to try new things like organic arugula or dandelion greens. It was building the foundation to make organic a legitimate and thriving part of the agricultural economy.
While I happily continued building relationships with farmers across the country and eventually across the globe, there was bigger work to accomplish.
I got it unstuck in 2007 when I became politically engaged.
When I made my first pilgrimage to Washington, I was as nervous as a bug in a hen house. Luckily, the OTA had laid out a list of asks for the 2008 Farm Bill. In heels and a suit, I marched onto Capitol Hill and delivered those requests, and behold the Senators listened!
We made some of the biggest strides in the history of organic in the 2008 Farm Bill. We secured funding for the National Organic Program, resources for data collection, certification cost share, and sorely needed monies for organic farming research.
We made a difference, the request was big and bold, and organic flourished.
In 2018 we can all make a difference in the state of affairs by being politically active.
Here are a few things you can do right now to make a difference for organic food and farming in 2018:
Did you know that organic represents slightly more than 5% of the U.S. food market? Yet only 0.5 to 0.6 percent of U.S. farmland is certified organic. America simply isn’t producing enough organic food to meet consumer demand.
A bill recently introduced by Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), The Homegrown Organic Act, (S. 2215 and H.R. 3637) would help close the gap by providing more American farmers with the tools they need to make the transition to organic farming. The bill is designed to make simple, no-cost or low-cost changes to existing conservation programs to help more U.S. producers who want to transition to organic farming.
Organic Voices has launched an action alert where you can contact your Members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the bill. If we invest in helping more farmers transition to organic, we can protect our environment and make homegrown organic food more accessible for more Americans.
Once you have identified your members of Congress, you can reach out and ask them to support three other significant pieces of bi-partisan legislation that will make organic great!
The Organic Research Act of 2017 that increases the funding for organic research, the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act which makes significant strides to improve the oversight of global organic trade, and the Organic Farmers and Access Act which expands access to rural development programs for organic.
Be sure to tell USDA that you oppose its indefensible rollback of organic standards. The ENTIRE organic sector will be negatively impacted if the final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule is withdrawn. Take action now to keep organic standards strong and consumer confidence high.
Last but definitely not least, get involved in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill discussion.
National Sustainable Ag Coalition has a great link to understanding the Farm Bill. They eloquently describe that, “The farm bill has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. This, in turn, affects the environment, local economies, and public health. These are some pretty good reasons to become involved in advocating for a farm bill that supports health and sustainability!”
Check out OTA’s Farm Bill Priorities and stay tuned to be involved in the process in 2018.
It is time organic had its fair share in the Farm Bill to advance food equity and soil stewardship and create a better future for family farms. You can make a difference!