We all know that campaign trails are paved with promises, and while it’s difficult to remember them all, the folks over at PolitiFact reminded us of one that’s especially timely: Obama’s 2008 promise to support sustainable agriculture by helping farmers with the costs to comply with national organic certification standards, and to reform federal crop insurance rates, “so they do not penalize organic farmers.”
Timely, because the Senate is right in the midst of debating the all-important 2012 Farm Bill.
PolitiFact says Obama fulfilled the first part of his promise. The USDA did indeed help with the costs of compliance by reimbursing organic farmers more than $6 million through cost certification share programs. And a report released by the White House this morning showed that the number of operations certified organic grew by more than 6 percent between 2009 and 2011.
But the issue of crop insurance, which currently favors industrial growers of corn and soybean, doesn’t work for organic farmers.
“For most crops, USDA does not pay organic farmers at the organic price after a loss, even though organic farmers currently pay a higher premium for crop insurance than non-organic farmers,” says the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
That means that second promise by Obama has yet to be met.
So what would the organic camp like to see happen as the Farm Bill keeps moving forward?
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is urging lawmakers to adopt the Merkley Amendment, which would make crop insurance more accessible to organic farmers, and allow organic policies to pay out at the organic prices.
“The administration has supported a lot of the legislation we’ve promoted over the years, and in general, are fans of organic,” Udi Lazimy, national policy organizer for OFRF tells TakePart. “This provision would eliminate some of the unjust obstacles that organic growers face in terms of crop insurance.”
As for Obama, while some point to the fast tracking of approval for controversial crops like genetically modified alfalfa and a policy of coexistence as a muddling of just where the President stands on agricultural issues, Lazimy says much of the work that’s been done on ag issues has been done in the halls of congress.
“The main piece of legislation comes every five years in the form of the Farm Bill. Obama hasn’t had much of an opportunity to weigh in, but when that bill reaches his desk, he will,” he says.