Organic Versus Conventional Divide Not Helping Agriculture

Organic Versus Conventional Divide Not Helping Agriculture

June 24, 2014

By Todd Fitchette; Farm Press Blog

I’m sure there’s much more to this than meets the eye - there always is. To the not-so-casual observer, the recent petition by 20 organic farm and consumer groups related to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) seems a bit hypocritical.

PR Newswire is reporting that 20 groups petitioned USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack “to protect the authority and permanence of the NOSB,” whatever that means.

Folks are apparently upset that the NOSB, created by Congress in the 1990 farm bill, does not have dictatorial control over organic policy and federal law. Instead, its stated purpose is to advise the USDA. Good enough.

Apparently it’s not.

Organic proponents apparently want their own control of all things organic, absent the kind of oversight conventional farming has.

Two of the petitioners include the Center for Food Safety and “Beyond Pesticides.” While the center’s name sounds sublime enough, the other group’s politics are front and center in the title.

It would seem that this petition is less about an egregious act committed by the USDA and more about fear mongering.

Can’t we all just grow up and have an adult conversation about food policy in America without the fifth-grade accusations?

Maybe America’s agricultural self-sufficiency breeds these kinds of ad hominem attacks that paint conventional farmers as evil and organic farmers as lazy. Isn’t there room at the dinner table for everyone, regardless of their chosen diet and the amount of money they choose to pay for produce?

The organic food industry certainly has a place in America’s free market. If people value what organic growers produce, they’ll buy it, plain and simple.

If folks choose to buy produce and meat produced conventionally, after it has been subjected to government oversight and inspection, then maybe I’m not going to worry so much about the chemicals used to kill pests in the California-grown tomatoes that become my bottle of catsup.

What does it matter if my Iowa-grown corn has a Bt gene in it that helps resist pests? Does it taste good and can I get it for a reasonable price?

American agriculture has too few people involved in it anymore for groups to balkanize each other and argue over issues that are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

Right now, nearly a million acres of farmland in California is fallow since the water which could have been used to irrigate a portion of that land was allowed unobstructed access to the Pacific Ocean during a severe drought. This happened since agriculture is not as politically effective as its antagonists. It’s really that simple.

Maybe it’s time for a little national pride in the fact we can produce 100 percent of our food needs in this country since we are blessed with the soil and climate and the technology to achieve it.

It sure beats the alternative of having to import much of our food supply because we can’t grow it ourselves.