We (i.e., organic farmers and their associations) have had mixed results over
the years with allowing alternative treatments for organic farms when the
eradication-frenzy takes hold. With apple maggot and some other pests, we
have been able to convince the authorities that an alternative set of
(mandatory) controls would meet their objectives. This required a lot of
persistence with the regulators, a lot of scientific homework, a fair amount
of political pressure, some coalition-building with traditional agricultural
interest groups (e.g. farm bureau), and in some cases the threat of economic
liabilities incurred by the state (more on that in a moment). Anyway, there
is some precedent for "organic compliance agreements" which satisfy the
eradaicators and allow organic farms to not be sprayed with synthetic
The big failure here, of course, has been the various campaigns against the
Mediterranean Fruit-fly. On this issue, the economic and political stakes
(i.e., trade with Japan) are so high that alternatives have gotten virtually
no consideration. Despite strong scientific evidence (and common sense
conclusions) that the pest is here to stay and will never be "eradicated",
and despite vigorous public protest by affected municipalities (certainly a
much more potent political force than organic farmers) the spraying proceeds
without much hesitation every year or so in some part of the state.
Until last fall, there had not actually been an organic farm that was in a
med-fly spray zone. I don't know how that situation turned out in the end
(it may still be unresolved since the sprayed fruit was citrus and the fruit
may not even have been budded yet).
An obscure but important aspect of this debate is: can produce from organic
farms sprayed by the government in these programs can still be sold as
"organically grown"? It's a tough call. Do you force growers to lose their
market and perhaps their livlihood because of a situation beyond their
control? When we overhauled the state law in 1990 we tried to write it so
that the produce could *not* be sold as organic, thus creating a situation
where the state would be liable for damages. However, when push came to
shove last year, the state issued an opinion that produce could still be sold
as organic if it met the requirements for residual contamination beyond the
grower's control. That is, the law allows organic foods to have up to 5% of
the EPA tolerance for a given pesticide. It is of course illegal to actually
use a synthetic pestice to grow or process the food, but if the food is
contaminated by circumstances beyond the grower's control (which does indeed
happen in our mad modern world), it can still be sold as organic if it meets
this test. This is a long-standing feature of most state organic laws and I
beleive that Texas' organic rules include something similar.
We tried in 1990 to exclude application of this exemption in the case of
mandatory spray programs, but it hasn't stuck legally yet. Which many
organic farmers and condumers probably agree with. In 1990 we took the
position that yes, although its not their fault, the grower should be
punished in the marketplace and the government should then compensate the
grower. In the context of the time, it seemed the right position to hold,
and it has worked (to get alternatives accepted) in a couple of low profile
cases. But this imposes a real burden on the grower to pursue such
litigation, with an uncertain outcome. (Also, in the case of med-fly, the
state indemnified itself against all damage claims from the spraying).
So I guess we wanted to have the threat of economic damage to growers,
without actually forcing it to come to that. In any case, the politics and
economics seem to rule the situation. Scientific credibility is important,
but probably not sufficient in the end. It seems to me that the Texas
organic cotton boomlet has some fairly strong economic arguments on its side.
It's potentially a huge new market for the state's growers and clearly is
viable from an agricultural standpoint. Now if, in fact, this whole thing is
a hidden agenda to get rid of the organic cotton movement, then the strategy
needs to be a bit more confrontational.
as you suggest, private property arguments ought to be pretty strong too.
Can you put Farm Bureau on the spot with this one? Get some of the
conservative-type groups to step up to the plate?
One other useful issue may be the state budget. Are they paying for this
with general funds? Welfare for King Cotton?
Finally, if you get some momentum going your way, try for the full
aikido-flip and push for state support of non-chemical solutions for managing
Good Luck to you and the T.O.G.A.
[On April 1, email@example.com wrote...
>The state of Texas wants to start a Boll Weevil
>Eradication Program, spraying malathion on ALL cotton crops. The >organic
>cotton growers have no choice in this matter, as a matter of fact, >the
>just yesterday told the organic cotton growers that if the bill passes >the
>state senate and the organic cotton farmers don't allow the state to >spray,
>the state will declare them a PUBLIC NUISANCE and destroy their >crops!!!!
>The organic growers are fighting this based on property rights, not >any
>issues 'cuz property rights is what they understand in legalese. The >state
>says if the state has to destroy the crops, the organic cotton >growers will
>not be compensated.
>I'm upset because if organic cotton is sprayed in Texas, it'll go the >way
>"organic" in California- which is to say California has the same >malathion
>policy, so it's not really organic.]