Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Organic Wines and Vines: Gains in the New Farm Bill - Regaining Lost Ground and Not Much More

California farmers overall got a lot of bennies from the new farm bill passed several days ago but while it might seem like ground is being gained, in most respects, it was more a matter of lost ground being regained for organic farmers.

The subsidy to offset the costs of organic certification is back, after having been taken away in recent years. This enables farmers to get a rebate of 75% of the costs of certification up to $750 per producer. This makes the number of these subsidies available increase tenfold to $11.5 million. But that's small potatoes for the organic food industry, which generates $35 billion in sales. 

Meanwhile most of the crop subsidies continue to go to commodity crop producers and not fruit and vegetable producers.

On the good news front, there is continued $20 million in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, a competitive grantmaking program that funds organic research - not exactly a win since it's already in operation with $18-19 million a year budgets.

The bill also allots $5 million for the Organic Data Initiative that gathers statistical data on organic production. 

According to the Wine Institute, the wine industry in California alone has a $34 billion economic impact. 

With organic vineyards being 3% of the state's vineyards - or 3% of the $34 billion - organic vineyard owners and vintners contribute $1 billion in economic impact - at a minimum, as most of their wines are in the higher echelon wines. 

Why aren't they being better looked after in our farm bill?

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