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Daily News Blog

30
Sep

USDA Releases Funds to Support Organic Research, Promote Local Food

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2014) Though the Agricultural Act of 2014, or “Farm Bill,” was one of missed deadlines and years of debate (sustainability was not a big winner), there were small victories in support of organic research and local food systems. According to The New York Times, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin releasing some of this much needed funding, with $52 million to start in the promotion of local and organic food.

pregnant market coloradjustSecretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has come out in strong support of local food systems, such as food hubs and farmers markets. “These types of local food systems are the cornerstones of our plans to revitalize the rural economy,” said Mr. Vilsack to The New York Times in a telephone interview. “If you can connect local produce with markets that are local, money gets rolled around in the local community more directly compared to commercial agriculture where products get shipped in large quantities somewhere else, helping the economy there.”

While eating local is surely important, putting an emphasis on buying products that are both local and organic provides the most benefits for the economy and the environment surrounding local communities. A 2007 survey by Mambo Sprouts research services found that consumers are torn between buying local and buying organic food, but in the end want both. The results showed that 36.1% of natural product consumers said they would choose local produce over organic items, while another 33.3% indicated the opposite. The remaining respondents said they were unsure which to choose, but overall, consumers reported a preference for food that was both local and organic.

It is critical that consumers speak with their local farmers and suppliers. Just because a farm is not certified organic does not mean consumer’s should avoid purchasing from their products. However, without certification, the claim of organic holds very little weight since it has not been verified by a third party. Beyond Pesticides encourages concerned residents to talk to their local farmers about why their farm is not certified, and make your own decisions about whether you feel comfortable with their growing practices. As the Rodale Institute notes, organic and local is the “gold standard,” but when in doubt choose organic.

Many retailers across the country are providing “gold standard” products, recognizing that local conventional farming can also contribute to contamination of the local environment. Owner of local D.C- area organic market (MOM’s Organic Market) and “gold standard” advocate Scott Nash rightly questions whether only buying local is to “Support Your Local Dead Zone?” In New Mexico, La Montañita proudly touts their food as “fresh, fair, local and organic!”

In addition to supporting local agriculture, financial support will also flow into research on organic practices. USDA indicates that, over the next five years, $125 million will be spent on organic research and $50 million will go into conservation programs.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for maintaining strong organic standards that build consumer confidence in the organic label. The Organic Foods Production Act places an emphasis on input from various stakeholders in the organic community, and it is critical that consumers raise their voice in order to Keep Organic Strong. The National Organic Standards Board, a diverse group of organic stakeholders which vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming, will be meeting on October 7, 2014 in Louisville, KY to discuss changes in organic regulations and farming practices. Consumer input in this process can make an enormous difference. We encourage organic shoppers to read Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to review the items before the board, and provide a unique public comment that incorporates your own personal experiences.

For further information about why buying organic products is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: The New York Times

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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One Response to “USDA Releases Funds to Support Organic Research, Promote Local Food”

  1. 1
    TonyIsSupreme Says:

    That’s the USDA I want to believe in. I hope this isn’t just greenwashing. If this is for real . . .

    Keep up the good work, USDA — you and your children and grandchildren will never regret any positive steps you take.

    And folks, we need to THANK our regulatory agencies for any positive changes we see.

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  • Archives

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