The organic food industry has had a pretty drastic rise over recent years and a lot of this is down to people caring more and having more awareness about what exactly they are putting into their bodies. But it doesn’t all seem to be smooth sailing, with the U.S. organic market reportedly making over $81 billion in annual sales, big food conglomerates are now seeking to inhibit this growth by proposing a “check-off” program that would require all organic producers to pay fees for the promotion of organic food.
Why would they be doing this you ask? As surely everyone eating healthier is a good thing. Well not for them as the rise of organic is undoubtedly having an effect on their profits. In fact the farm policy analyst group Cornucopia Institute have suggested, “This corporate attempt and controlling organic agriculture is a malevolent scheme to siphon money away from organic family farmers while providing little or no benefit.”
Where the real issue arises is that schemes like these and ones such as “Got Milk?” can have a beneficial effect on independent farmers, it tends to benefit the large companies who have jumped on the organic bandwagon more. In fact organic farmers have had to pay into similar check-off programs for years and in no way do these programs emphasise the importance of organics. It’s like paying someone else’s rent on a home, it’ll help them but it doesn’t have any benefit on you.
Fortunately there have been new guidelines set out in the Farm Bill, allowing organic farmers to opt out of this program and cut their costs, which is great because this in turn helps to cut the cost for the consumer too. Of course this is if the large conglomerates don’t create their own mandatory program to replace it.
Unfortunately organic farmers appear to have little voice when it comes to expressing their views and industry observers recently found that after ‘Townhall’ listening sessions occurred around the country, these check-off programs received no support, yet it was reported to congressional staffers that there was unanimity of support in the organic community for their scheme.
Now this alone seems disgraceful and it has bee reported that these large groups have even been ”robo-calling” organic farmers in order to urge them to support an organic check-off program. It is a form of propaganda that we aren’t used to seeing anymore and is even more of an insult when these programs only benefit the corporate machines and not the individual organic farmers.
The fear is that organic farmers will be mislead with half-truths and sound bites that are already being used by the OTA to get their way. Already Ed Maltby, the executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Products Alliance, is referring to the robo-calling as “a one sided propaganda campaign”. Many feel the real reason this scheme is trying to be put in place is to disparage the idea that organic is better than conventionally produced food, what do you think?