USDA’s new $300 million for organic farming doesn’t go far enough, critics say

The announcement this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide $300 million in funding to support farmers transitioning from conventional agriculture to organic farming does not go far enough, according to organic industry advocates.

“For so many years consumers have driven the growth of organic, yet the dollars that our government deployed were insignificant in comparison to the support of traditional farming systems,” said Pam Marrone, who develops organic plant protection products referred to as “biopesticides.”

Marrone and other industry players said that while the funding is a step in the right direction, the dollar amount will do little to shift farmers away from a system that uses roughly 450,000 tons of pesticides on 390 million acres of conventional farms each year. “This equates to approximately 2.5-5 pounds of pesticides on every applied acre,” she said, adding that pesticides amount to about five percent of farm expenditures.

Advocates also say the U.S. must transition to organic faster for many more reasons: decreasing reliance on fossil fuel and synthetic fertilizer and getting away from depending on increasingly fragile foreign supply chains.