Commentary: Organic subsidies go to negative marketing

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While subsidies to conventional farmers generally go toward production costs, organic subsidies invariably go toward the marketing of the organic sector at the expense of the conventional sector in the form of unfounded and highly negative attacks on modern, science-based, “industrial” agriculture.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) is in reality nothing more than a bureaucratic branch of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. No, not the USDA’s Research, Inspection, Nutrition, Safety, Risk Management or Conservation services. America’s NOP is, from start to finish, all about marketing, not about providing a measurably-improved product.

Private, for-profit and not-for-profit certifying agents act on behalf of the USDA, and are supposedly enforcing the rules of the NOP. But in addition to collecting annual up-front application and inspection fees from farmer- and processor-clients, these agencies also collect a royalty from each sale made under their watch, based on 1.5 percent to 3 percent of the gross revenue from each sale. And it is through this royalty mechanism that any and all of the money that the federal government “invests” into things like loan guarantees for farmers who convert land to organic production, organic research, extension and education, accrues to anti-GMO, anti-pesticide, anti-large-scale farm activists. None goes to production, much less actual research.

Organic farmers should continue to be allowed to qualify for the same subsidies as conventional farmers do based on what products they produce, but the organic movement as a whole should be made to stand on its own through the power of the free market. Otherwise, if these organic subsidies continue, at least call them what they are: marketing and political subsidies, and very negative ones at that.

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