Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is The Obama Administration Acknowledging The Worth Of Organic Agriculture?

As America continues to face its worst economic situation since the Great Depression, the Obama Administration acknowledges that the organic agriculture and trade industry lends a generous hand in improving our nation.

The Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report June 11, 2012 commending the industry on its success. The report stressed the immense contributions of the organic industry within the U.S. agricultural economy and its part in expanding opportunities for agricultural production—two major points to highlight in the upcoming Farm Bill season, which is up for renewal next year.

“The organic sector is fueling jobs and rural livelihoods at an astounding rate,” said Matt McLean, Organic Trade Association (OTA) board president and, CEO and founder of Uncle Matt’s Organic. “Organic is also creating an important economic opportunity for rural Americans through new business opportunities generated from the recent organic equivalency trade arrangements with Canada and the European Union.”

McLean also noted that the U.S. organic food industry is a significant component of President Obama’s efforts to boost agricultural exports. For instance, the Administration successfully negotiated organic food equivalency agreements with Canada and the European Union.

Moreover, the organic industry has in fact created a plethora of opportunities for rural Americans. The report boasted that the industry grew by 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.4 billion in sales and created more than 500,000 jobs in 2010, the latter according to an OTA report in April. In addition, the number certified organic operations grew 6% from 2009 to 2011.

According to crop values issued by the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, it takes sixth place for the value of production, right after wheat and cotton and directly before almonds, peanuts and rice. The report called organic farming the “fastest growing sector in organic.” Despite this prominence, some believe the American government should focus more on the growing agriculture sector.
“As the 2012 Farm Bill debate continues in the Senate this week, elected officials should remain cognizant of the fact that the organic industry has thrived providing jobs, supporting rural livelihoods and advancing in entrepreneurial spirit despite very modest investments in research, development and promotion compared to the support provided to other agriculture sectors,” said Christina Bushway, OTA’s CEO and executive director. “U.S. farm policy should level the playing field and provide the organic sector access to the same opportunities and benefits long afforded to others so that our industry can further contribute to moving the economy forward.” - Whole Foods Magazine

Today, President Obama will announce investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire. Home to some of the most diligent and self-reliant Americans, rural communities and our nation’s agriculture industry are vital contributors to employment and exports from the United States.  Strong and secure rural communities are essential to creating an economy built to last that rewards hard work and responsibility, not outsourcing, loopholes, and risky financial deals. While the security of the middle class has been threatened by the irresponsible financial collapse and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, rural Americans continue to come together to buckle down and make ends meet. The values that have helped hard-working, responsible families weather the storm continue to move our economy forward.  As a result, while there is still work to do, a new report released today details the progress that has been made in the agricultural economy.

“As we continue to fight our way back from the deepest economic crisis in generations and build an economy that lasts, rural America is helping to lead the charge,” said President Obama.  “On farms and ranches; in towns and communities across this country, rural Americans know that we are stronger as a people when everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.  Those are the values we need to return to, and as long as I’m President, my Administration will continue to give our rural communities the support and investment they need to show us the way.”

Last August at the White House Rural Economic Forum, President Obama announced a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, at no cost to tax payers.  Today, President Obama is announcing that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in these businesses through the Small Business Administration’s SBIC program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016. These investments will continue to help finance, grow, expand, and modernize rural small business operations across the country.
Additionally, the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are releasing a joint report today, which notes progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and details steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs and growth in rural America.

Highlights from the report include:
Innovation: Innovation in U.S. agriculture has kept America’s farms among the most productive in the world.  U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion in 2011. Adjusting for general inflation, real farm income in 2011 recorded its 3rd highest level in the last 50 years.

Exports: While many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus, with record levels of farm exports at $137.4 billion for fiscal year 2011. Yet, it is clear that still more can and should be done to boost agriculture exports. The President’s National Export Initiative has opened new markets for U.S. agricultural products and services and contributed to a historic level of agricultural exports.  Once fully implemented, free trade agreements passed under this Administration with Korea, Panama, and Colombia are projected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by $2.3 billion per year.

Clean Energy: The Administration has pursued polices that promote domestic energy alternatives like biofuels, bioenergy, and wind power to provide new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest managers.  Pursuit of an all-of-the-above clean energy and energy efficiency strategy saved Americans a projected 6.5 billion kWh – enough energy to power over 590,000 homes for a year and nearly doubled the amount of installed wind energy generation in the U.S. over the past three years from about 25,000 MW in 2008 to 47,000 MW in 2011.

New Industries: The Administration has supported new industry diversification within the agricultural economy.  The retail value of the organic industry grew to $31.4 billion in 2011, up from $21.1 billion in 2008. The number of operations certified organic grew by 1,109 – or more than 6% – between 2009 and 2011.

Community Investment: The rural economy has been strengthened by investments in over 6,250 new community facilities.  Additionally, over the last three years, 12,000 USDA grants and loans have been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses. - Official White House Press Release

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