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Organic farms

Obama proposes to significantly cut funding for organic conservation programs

Friday, February 18, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: organic farms, Obama, health news

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(NaturalNews) Last year 44 North Dakota farms and ranches were able to either convert to organic, or improve organic production methods, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). But these and other programs that promote organic conservation are threatened by proposals from the Obama administration to significantly cut or eliminate the budgets of these programs, all while the administration continues to support the multibillion-dollar federal subsidies for genetically-modified (GM) cash crops like corn and soy.

This year, the USDA allocated a modest $50 million to EQIP for its Organics Initiative, which offers a 75 percent share of the cost of implementing organic conservation methods to qualifying farmers, and a 90 percent cost share to those pursuing organic conversion who have limited resources or are "socially disadvantaged." The program helps hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers and ranchers every year convert to or improve upon organic production methods, which results in better food for all.

But if the Obama administration has its way in the 2012 federal budget, EQIP and other organic conservation programs could be all but gutted of a significant proportion of their funding in future years, which will greatly cripple the growth of the organic sector.

Farming is a tough business, especially when considering that billions of taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize crops like corn, soy, and cotton -- most of which are now GM varieties -- and make them artificially inexpensive in the marketplace. Organic farmers, on the other hand, face significant challenges both in converting to organics and operating a successful business in the midst of the artificial food subsidization scheme.

Programs like the Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (OTIRP), for instance, which funds research into organic agriculture, play a critical role in helping organic farmers to be successful and meet market demand. The programs also beckon minimal budgetary requirements every year. And though House and Senate appropriations bills were able to preserve $5 million in funding for OTIRP in 2011, the Obama administration has proposed eliminating the program altogether.

Organic programs represent a very small drop in the bucket of overall USDA expenditures. They require far less than farm subsidies, for instance, which propagate unhealthy, GM food. But instead of working to promote organics, the Obama administration has made it clear with its budget proposals that, despite all of its pre-election campaign rhetoric, it is an enemy of organics and a friend of Big Agriculture.

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