(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2008) The U.S. Senate is proposing to cut $2 million per year from the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s premier organic research program, and the Bush Administration is threatening to cut a whopping $8 million, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation. The move comes after months of grassroots pressure recently delivered a much-needed fivefold increase in mandatory OREI funding, from $15 to $78 million over the next five years, in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Beyond Pesticides has long supported organic methods as the solution to pesticide pollution, with organic agriculture being the centerpiece of the conversion necessary to protect human health and the environment, including slowing global warming. Data shows that organic agriculture sequesters atmospheric carbon while chemical-intensive practices are a major contributor to carbon loading. In addition, the reduced pressure on global warming associated with organic agriculture occurs through the drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage (approximately 75% less than conventional agriculture) as well as the significant increase in carbon sequestration in the soil (approximately 1000 lbs. of carbon per acre). See Beyond Pesticides’ organic page.
Let the Appropriations Committees Congress know that it is essential to expedite the transition to organic agriculture in the U.S. and research funds are an essential tool. Tell members of the committees to keep funding for OREI at the level mandated in the Farm Bill — $18 million for 2009.
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative funds highly critical research important to the improvement of organic farming systems. While the organic share of the retail food market is currently about 4%, total USDA spending for organic agriculture research and education was just over 1% of all of the department’s research and education spending in FY2007. The increase in the 2008 Farm Bill still falls short of a fair share for organic research and education, but it is a strong down payment towards achieving that goal.
Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic, synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.
Organic agriculture research is crucial in giving farmers the tools and information they need to address production challenges, improve farming systems, and ultimately meet the growing consumer demand for organic products.
Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.
Ensure that the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative remains fully funded in the FY09 Budget. Ask Congress to keep funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative at the level mandated in the Farm Bill – $18 million for 2009.
It is helpful for you to send a unique message to your member of Congress (House and Senate Appropriations Committee members) even if it is short and precisely explains that you would like to see full funding for organic research to assist in the broader transition to organic agriculture. Longer messages can rely on talking points provided by Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).
1) Call or fax the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who come from your State. The members are listed at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/members.cfm. If you click on the Senators website link, you will find on their homepage a link to email them directly.
2) Call or fax the members of the House Appropriations Committee who come from your State. The members are listed at: http://appropriations.house.gov/members110th.shtml. If you click on the U.S. Representative’s website link, you will find on his/her homepage a link to email them directly.
3) If you prefer, after identifying your Member of Congress, you can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 866-340-9281, ask to be transferred and leave a voice message.
With each person, ask to speak to the staffer who handles appropriations. If you get their voice mail, leave the following message, or something in your own words that makes the same points:
MESSAGE: My name is ____. I am a constituent [or live in your state]. I would like to see full funding for organic research to assist in the broader transition to organic agriculture. This funding is critical to farmers’ livelihood, consumer access to organic food, farming methods that are protective of the environment and those who work on the farm. Please support full funding ($18 million for 2009) for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, as authorized by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill.
For more information on organics, visit Beyond Pesticides Organic Food program page.