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USA: Report recommends gearing agricultural policy to organic farming

The Organic Farming Research Foundation set up in 1990 has published a report on “Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity”. The report clearly summarizes the benefits of organic agriculture and formulates the goal of changing the US government’s agricultural policy.

Farm Bill to be reformed in 2012

This will be basically determined by the Farm Bill, which is to be newly formulated and decided by the end of 2012. The Bills reformed approximately every five years. The Organic Farming Research Foundation, which not only advocates more research in favor of organic farming, sees an urgent need for action on a new orientation of agricultural policy. There are currently only 14,500 organic farms, but almost three times as many would be needed by 2015, namely 42,000. The reason is the distinctly growing demand for organic products, which can only be satisfied at present by increasing imports.
Six points pro organic agriculture
The result of the report is the formulation of six points that support the ecologization of agriculture:

> Human health: : The US Department of Health’s Cancer Report to the president shows that the use of pesticides is responsible for causing cancer of the lungs, breast, stomach, bowels, brain, central nervous system, ovaries/testicles, pancreas and kidneys. Organic agriculture does not contribute to this hazard.

> Creation of jobs: : Despite the biggest economic recession in the USA for 80 years, more and more new jobs are being created in the organic sector. According to one survey, 96% of the organic farms wanted to maintain or increase the number of employees last year. An organic farm employs an average of 61 people over the whole year, compared with only 28 for a conventional farm.

> Support for the economy: Organic farmers achieve higher revenues and profits from their farms. This is shown by various individual studies on dairy farms, soya farmers and fruit producers. 78% of the organic farms intend to expand their activities in the next five years, which will appreciably boost the economy at local level.

> Water and soil: Studies at the University of Minnesota have shown that 41% less water is lost in irrigation for alternative farming methods – including organic farming – than for conventional farming. A study over twelve years shows that the nitrogen lost by being washed into the subsoil can be reduced by half.

> Birds and bees: A two-year study in Nebraska has determined that more birds and species of birds live on organic farms than on conventional farms. Another study determined that 50–100% of the necessary pollination in a field of organic water melons was assured by local bees, whereas bee colonies had to be obtained from outside for the conventional farm.

> Slowing down climate change:5–15% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions produced by the combustion of mineral oil products could be combined in the soil through farming, if the relevant plants were grown, e.g. legumes. Soils with a high humus content also store rainwater much better, according to research findings in Iowa. In the first hour of rainfall, five to seven times more water was stored than usual. In terms of energy consumption, it was determined that organic farming needs only 39% of the primary energy consumption for the main crops in the USA, which is mainly explained by no longer using energy-intensive synthetic fertilizers.

5 decisive points of a new agricultural policy

The study advocates five priorities that should determine future support measures in a newly orientated agricultural policy.

  • Stronger support for research in organic farming
  • Introduction of fair and suitable methods of risk minimization, e.g. for compensating for crop failures
  • Satisfying the demand for organic food, e.g. by placing public contracts
  • Introduction of a conversion programm and
  • Financial compensation for the agri-environmental achievements of organic farming

“It is time politicians recognized the achievements and many benefits of organic farming and for these to be implemented in a standard procedure to ensure better support for organic farmers and the organic sector as a whole in the future,” is the conclusion of the study on "Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity“.

The original of "Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity" can be found here

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