Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

Maureen Wilmot's picture

Last week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation released a report addressing the need to reduce the use of fumigants in conventional strawberry production. This is old news for organic farmers. Fumigants are gaseous pesticides that are injected into soil before strawberries and other crops are planted, primarily to control fungal pathogens and nematodes. This practice is not allowed in organic production. OFRF has been funding research to determine alternative methods for controlling these pests for organic farmers for more than three years.

Our modest grants to Dr. Carol Shennan at the University of California at Santa Cruz to study weed and disease management in organic strawberry production have been instrumental in leveraging federal awards of $2.6 million from the Organic Research Education Initiative (OREI) and $218,000 from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.  

One of the key points in the California Department of Pesticide Regulation report is the need for more research to develop alternatives. Also last week, the National Organic Standard Board voted to phase out the use of the antibiotic Tetracycline in organic fruit production. It is used as a last option to fight fire blight, the highly destructive bacterial disease. When it is necessary to use the antibiotic to save a tree and perhaps an orchard, the organic farmer sprays when the tree has blossoms, not when fruit is present.

The NOSB reiterated the importance of continued research on alternatives for fire blight treatment. Both of these findings call for continued research on alternative methods for controlling pests and disease in organic as well as nonorganic farms. They come at the same time that we see drastic cuts, if not outright elimination, of federal funding for organic research.

Organic research is important on so many levels and benefits all farmers, not just organic farmers. It’s time to put our tax dollars to work and demand significant federal funding for organic agriculture research. 

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