Organic product sales totaled around $50 billion and now account for more than five percent of total food sales in the United States, according to an industry survey. As the demand in Illinois grows, advocates are pushing for more support for organic farmers in the 2018 farm bill.
Farmers who wish to grow organic products must become certified through strict United States Department of Agriculture standards. Transitioning any farm ground is a three-year process, which prohibits the use of any pesticides, fertilizers and other restricted substances. Farmers may not label their products "organic" until the 36-month transition period is completed.
U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) serves on the House Agriculture Committee. He said those standards should be protected.
“It’s a certain set of standards that they have to meet as a grower to be able to use that organic label," said Davis. "We have to use that same process for what a GMO label means, so that our consumers, when they’re in the stores, they understand when it says ‘organic’ or it says ‘non-GMO’ they know exactly what standards have been met.”
Davis said this will be addressed in the 2018 farm bill.
The House version of the bill includes a $10 million increase for organic research but eliminates funding for organic cost-sharing programs, which is important for those obtaining or renewing certification.
The current farm bill expires next month.