September 27, 2023

Strawberries being picked by farmworkers in Moss Landing in 2019. (Randy Vazquez file from the Bay Area News Group)

In Monterey, Over the past ten years, organic farming has increased dramatically. In the three years between 2016 and 2019, there were 17% more certified organic farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2019 Organic Survey. Nowadays, almost all grocery shops provide the kinds of goods that were formerly only found in health food stores.

Due to financial constraints, many organic farmers are unable to acquire the essential technical help and mentoring despite the increase and rising demand for their goods. In order to level the playing field for all organic producers, Rep. Jimmy Panetta filed legislation this week that he thinks would remedy this issue.

Jimmy Panetta, a member of Congress

The Opportunities in Organic Act, which I co-authored with Rep. Alma Adams, D-North Carolina, aims to lower costs for organic producers, provide access to new markets and resources, and offer farmers assistance and training.

The costs of organic certification are a barrier for many farmers, and areas with smaller organic sectors have limited access to organic-specific technical assistance, Panetta stressed in a news release. Despite the fact that there are programs in place to support organic agriculture and research as well as the conversion of farms from nonorganic to organic.

Despite the growing demand for organic agricultural goods, some growers are having trouble using these prospects because of financial and technical obstacles, according to Panetta. “I’m delighted to have written and introduced this legislation, which will remove those obstacles by expediting payments for organic certification and providing organic growers with the education, connections, and resources they require to succeed. We can make sure that our farmers are maximizing the enormous opportunity that exists in the organic market by extending programming and services for these growers.

Several organic farms may be found in Watsonville and northern Monterey County, which are both parts of Panetta’s 19th District.

To avoid costs from deterring farmers, the measure would specifically update compensation for organic certificates, with cost-share payments covering up to $1,500. Additionally, it would give resources for collaborations at public institutions, including assistance for education, outreach, and market growth, as well as funding for nonprofit groups to help with organic transitions, particularly for farmers who are socially disadvantaged and live in underserved areas.

Adams, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, said in a statement that “organic agriculture is growing in North Carolina, but farmers seeking to join this market face barriers in transitioning their operations to make the most of this opportunity.” The Opportunities in Organic Act of 2023 would make it simpler for farmers to sell wholesome, environmentally friendly food. This act supports the transition to organic farming for smaller-scale, starting, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Additionally, it increases the ability to provide producers with crucial technical help, with a focus on organizations that support socially disadvantaged farmers and have a track record of effective, farmer-focused work. Farmers seek to expand their markets, feed their families, and create thriving ecosystems, communities, and soil. I’m honored to work with Rep. Jimmy Panetta to spearhead the Opportunities in Organic Act of 2023, which makes that work a reality.

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, Donald Payne Jr., D-New Jersey, Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Andrea Salinas, D-Oregon are among the co-sponsors. A parallel measure has been submitted in the Senate by Democratic senator from Vermont Peter Welch.

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