on the whole organic issue

Del Williams delannw at dlogue.net
Sat Dec 16 11:35:51 EST 2000


Claire,

Every employee at a company or government entity can not be held responsible
for the decisions of administration.  Our local newspapers ran the same USDA
organic story assuring consumers (farmers?) that the USDA label doesn't mean
that organic food has any superiority over pesticide/herbicide/chemical
fertilizer grown food.

Personally, I think that the message will stand on its own merits or,
perhaps, demerits.  Knowledgeable consumers are clear on the meaning of the
message.  While the USDA isn't making any claims for organic food it isn't
clarifying its own reasoning in the labelling and certification process for
organics.  The newspaper article leads the reader to believe that the USDA
had to step in and come up with a national standard because so many
different standards were used by local certification organizations.  Too bad
that the writers of the articles didn't explain a comparison of standards
and how they differ from the USDA standard.  And too bad that local
certification agencies aren't distributing press releases on the same topic.

In my experience here in Illinois, if it were not for the assistance of an
USDA employee, I would have had a terrible time finding the standards for
organic certification.  Illinois does not have a state certification agency.
A Farm Service Agency employee from the USDA gave me a stack of information
to help me learn what to do and whom to contact.  It was the only local farm
agency that helped me find this information.

I am personally grateful to him and his efforts for all of the folks he has
helped.  I'm sure it is not every producers' experience across the state and
across the country.  I feel fortunate to have him.  Extension services were
not at all helpful on the same count.  Rather to the contrary but I am still
a willing supporter of the extension service.  They have been a wealth of
information on growing, plants, integrated pest management, pest id, disease
id, etc...  Gee, they even let me participate in a summer education session
for big farmers (just cuz i asked if I could).

So, I take it all with that grain of salt and try to support the people and
services that are pertinent to what I do.

At the same time, I let my thoughts be known.  There are plenty of
supporters even in the midwestern chemical waste dump of plant production.
You need a big smile, a glint in your eye and the occasional apple pie for
the potluck dinner.  Usually, I bring a large salad of organically grown
mesclun greens and tomatoes.  I get so many compliments on my salads!

In the end, it is better that producers pull together.  What a tough time
for American agriculture.  Like manufacturing, there are too many forces at
work to move farming to other countries.  Corporate animal and food
production seeks to undermine the family farmers.  These are my neighbors
and it is my community.  I am conflicted.  Would I rather see fields of corn
and soybeans or subdivisions and malls?  I'll take the plants.  Frankly,
chemical farmers seem to be far more judicious in their use of chemical

contaminants than the average homeowner.  And, farm families understand that
all of us will have to tolerate the stink of animal manure amendments.  Bad
for us when the adjoining 1000 acres get sprayed with hog or cattle manure.
Good for me when I bring in the manure for my compost.  Could we get away
with that when a subdivision is next door?

So anyway, Claire, you know who you are.  I don't think ayone here means for
you to take it personally.  Same for you extension people with the
University of Illinois or whatever state or university.  I know I make
plenty of disparaging comments there.

In the spirit of growers of animals or plants.  We oughta stick together.

And that is my holiday wish to you all.

Del Williams
Farmer in the Del
Organically Grow Vegetable and Herbs
in Clifton, Illinois, USA





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