5, 2003 -- CropChoice news: If it weren't so dangerous,
the chicken fight going on in Congress would be laughable.
Representative Nathan Deal, a Georgia Republican, slipped
a paragraph into a $397 billion spending bill that would allow
farmers to give livestock nonorganic feed but call their meat,
eggs and milk "organic" anyway. That would clearly
violate the new United States Department of Agriculture standard.
Specifically, the provision, which was suggested by a Georgia
chicken farm that contributed to Mr. Deal's campaign, prohibits
the government from requiring that organic livestock producers
use organic feed.
Show your support for organic farming.
Let your member of congress know that you
want the rider allowing farmers to feed
livestock nonorganic feed and still call
their meat, eggs and milk organic anyway
repealed and the integrity of the organic
here for everything you need to make a difference.
This is just the kind of provision, inserted at the last
minute with Speaker Dennis Hastert's consent and without debate,
that makes you wonder what else lies hiding in the darkly
lit byways of the spending bill, passed by the House on Feb.
Given the bitter Congressional politics of recent months,
Mr. Deal could not have expected the speed with which a bipartisan
coalition formed to attack his chicken deal, a group that
includes fellow Republicans, major food corporations and the
agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman. But then this is exactly
the kind of issue that creates cost-free bipartisanship. Everybody
but Mr. Deal gets a chance to look good.
And yet, his stealth paragraph, threatening as it is, may
indirectly aid the cause of organic agriculture by alarming
its Congressional supporters. Senators Patrick Leahy and Olympia
Snowe have introduced legislation, co-sponsored by more than
50 other senators, that would kill Mr. Deal's provision. And
Mr. Leahy and Representative Ron Kind have announced the creation
of an organic caucus, designed to protect federal organic
standards, which took effect last October, from other assaults.
There is a substantive point to be taken from Mr. Deal's
effort to help out a local chicken farm. Too few farmers are
raising organic grain for feed, especially in a market glutted
with heavily subsidized conventional grain. Mr. Deal's provision
became law when the spending bill was signed, and it must
be repealed. Congress should look for ways to stimulate organic
grain production rather than encouraging livestock producers
to cop out, thereby confusing consumers and undoing the years
of work it took to create the U.S.D.A.'s organic standards.
This commentary ran in the Editorial/Op-Ed section of
the March 5, 2003 New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/opinion/05WED4.html