AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment to the bill that will increase funding for organic transitions. It should come as no surprise; in fact, we have talked about it already this morning, that the demand for natural pesticide-free and chemical-free foods has been increasing dramatically in the United States. In fact, the Department of Agriculture says this part, this sector of the industry, is growing at 20 percent per year.
And yet funding for a critical government program to help farmers make the transition to organic farming has remained quite small and flat year after year.
The Organic Transitions Program is a competitive grants program established as part of the Cooperative Research and Extension Service. The national program has been very important to organic farming, to organic farmers and farms, and to fund research to assist the farmers in overcoming the barriers and making the transition into organic production.
This will help farmers, and it does today, help farmers optimize management of organic matter, soil fertility, research in pests and in crop health. Farmers have been funded to implement pest management programs for use in blueberry production. Another study has been funded to look at organic weed suppression.
Organic agriculture, indeed, is coming of age. But still, there is a need for research under the Department of Agriculture to help in the transition. Despite the surge in demand for organic products, the research into the transition, the research to assist the farmers in making the transition into organic farming methods has been holding steady at just under $2 million for the last several fiscal years. Well, spread over 50 States for agricultural research and extension services, obviously that is not keeping up.
So today I am offering with my colleagues from Iowa, Oregon and Wisconsin, Mr. Leach, Mr. DeFazio and Mr. Kind, an amendment to increase the funding of the organic transitions program from $1.8 million to $5 million.
I am very much aware of the hard work that the chairman and the committee have put into squeezing every dollar out of their bill to get the best effect. However, I must say I was startled to find that the funding for this important program was not increased a bit even though this sector of agriculture in the United States is growing at 20 percent a year, and the demand for this very program is growing very rapidly.
So this amendment has the enthusiastic support of the National Organic Coalition, the Organic Trade Association, the northeast and other chapters of the Organic Farming Association, and many in the farming community.
And without this additional organic research funding, the farming community simply will not be able to keep pace with the ever-growing demand for pesticide-free and chemical-free organic agricultural products.
I hope my colleagues will join me in favor of this amendment. I ask for its approval.
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Mr. HOLT. The gentleman from Wisconsin, I am sure, is fully aware of the fact that the Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research and Extension Service has been one of the things that has made agriculture in America great and has made it successful.
What we are talking about is a highly competitive grant program under that service. This is not any give-away. This is something that advances the understanding and advances the agricultural science. The chairman makes it sounds like we are talking about a whooping amount of money, $5 million. We are talking about agricultural services all over the country; every State is involved in organic agriculture now. This is an important increase, but this is not a whooping, prohibitive increase.
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