Sept. 16 1997
Dear Santa Barbara Organic Farmer,
Recent proposals by both the State and Federal governments are threatening
to require that we spend more and more time filling out forms,paying
fees,and handling the requirements of an ever growing bureaucracy
established to regulate "Organic". there is something wrong when those who
are trying to straighten out agriculture are being taxed and burdened with
inspections and paperwork while those who continue to pollute and deplete
are subsidized and allowed to continue,
Many of those who supported the move to have the state and federal
governments police our movement and those who sought approval from Uncle
Sam have quickly realized that they made the proverbial deal with the
devil. Unfortunately it is too late to stop the weels of bureaucracy, we
will need to gather together (in the way that this movement was originally
built) and ask ourselves some difficult questions.
The undersigned invite you to a meeting at 7:00 pm Monday October 6, in the
Music Room of the Montessori school located at 401N. fairview ave. (across
the street from the Goleta Public Library and Fairview Gardens). Please
park in the back parking lot, walk through the gate in the middle of the
fence. there is a map on the gate showing the location of the Music Room.
Please come join us to both educate ourselves on how the new legislation
will effect us and to seek ways that we can help each other through the
mire this will create.,
------Hey Hey whats that sound every one look whats going down!---------
I grow organic and am certified by CCOF and also have to pay the state of
>>>Ca. to sell organic soon the feds will also tax us to sell organic and
>>this is way too much regulation.
>Do you think organic certification should be eliminated completely?
Obviously I can't speak for Sal, but he is one of the people who pays
my salary in working for the organization that certifies him. Our
members believe in certification, otherwise they wouldn't join. And
most are painfully aware of the fraud of which you speak. Our members
overwhelmingly supported the state and federal law under the
assumption that fraud would be sharply reduced, benefitting both
consumers and legitimate organic producers.
However, at this point certification in California and most of the
rest of the country is optional for those who label their product as
organic. Registration fees did not go to enforcement the first year or
two ('91-'92) and were instead commingled with the general fund in the
state at the time of fiscal gridlock. This led to growing discontent
among our members toward the law. While the funds were restored to the
program, and things improved, many of our members are still
disappointed with what they are getting for the hundreds of thousands
of dollars they contribute to the California registration program on
top of what we charge them to be certified.
Even when certification becomes mandatory for producers who sell more
than $5,000 worth of product, people will still have the choice of
whether to label their product as organic or not. However, the
prospect of the Federal government collecting user fees from growers,
and from certifiers who will have no choice but to pass those fees on
to the growers,
The question then becomes who should bear the cost, and are organic
farmers paying their fair share or more than their fair share for
doing what they believe is the right thing.
>Who should pay for this?
Here's an idea. How about a tax on pesticides? Unfair, you say?
Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Not if you consider .... and hold on to
your chair 'cause i'll say it only once .... that organic farmers use
pesticides. That's right. Only a small handful of the vast array of
pesticides that are out there, and really never as the only means of
crop protection. Most of them are relatively innocuous, like soap,
Bt, garlic. Yet in California, the mil tax on a pound of any of those
products is the same as the tax on, say, aldicarb, methyl bromide or
Even in simplistic terms, why should farmers pay the same tax on
Category III pesticide (the least acutely toxic) as they do on those
in Category I (the most toxic)? If a given pesticide causes relatively
few injuries, is not persistant on food or in the environment, and
causes relatively little collateral damage, pound for pound, where is
the justice in taxing that the same as a product that contaminates
groundwater, depletes ozone or inhibits cholinesterase in nearby
Our members wanted to see the mil tax applied to funding the
enforcement of the organic act, but the legislature received enormous
pressure from the agrichemical complex to lower the mil tax during the
last legislative session. We were one of the few voices among
agricultural producers who favored maintaining the mil tax and fought
the efforts to cut it about 25%.
>But do you think consumers would want to pay the same
>price for your goods if they weren't certified organic?
>After all, isn't that what being
>organic is really all about? People who truly care about the environment are
>willing to make sacrifices. That's why many consumers of organic products are
>willing to pay a higher price for those goods.
When people buy food produced by methods that pollute water and air,
poison farmworkers, kill wildlife and leave higher residual levels of
carcinogenic pesticides, they are getting more than what they pay for.
They have this choice, and choose overwhelmingly to buy non-organic
instead of organic food. Yet most consumers, when surveyed, don't want
to cause this kind of destruction.
To use economic jargon, organic farmers internalize many if not most
of these internal costs. That makes their costs of production higher
and therefore requires that they receive a higher price in order to
remain economically viable. Organic food is not perfect, but IMHO it
is our best alternative. It is not that organic food is too expensive,
it is that conventional food doesn't reflect the full cost of
Production methods for all farmers will improve if we stop penalizing
those who protect the environment and make the polluter pay.
Sal said ---I don't think organic growers should have to pay one extra cent
to grow and sell their organic food as organic.