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Senator Jon Tester Calls for $80,000 in Support for Any US Farmer Willing to Make the Transition to Organic

  • U.S. senator's legislation calls for bigger payout for farmers switching to organic
    Legislation calls for each farmer receiving up to $80,000 to help with transition
    Sustainable Food News, Sept 6, 2007
    Straight to the Source

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U.S. Senator, and organic farmer, Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Wednesday introduced legislation calling for assistance to American farmers, who want to begin farming without fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Tester said the legislation is aimed at helping farmers voluntarily make the switch from traditional farming techniques to certified-organic farming by providing up to four $20,000 annual payments to farmers whose land has not been previously certified as organic.

"Making the switch to organics shouldn't be a make-or-break decision for family farmers," Tester said. "It should be a decision that ultimately saves them time and money while increasing the value of the stuff they grow."

The conversion process can take three years, resulting in a temporary decline in crop yields and production. And, farmers can't sell their chemical-free crops for higher premiums until they're certified as organic.

The disbursement would allow farmers to pay for technical assistance, conservation management to protect the environment and wildlife and animal welfare, according to the legislation.

Under Tester's legislation, farmers who receive organic conversion assistance must sign contracts with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. They must also verify that they're complying with the certification process every year. Tester said the legislation is being included for consideration in the upcoming 2007 farm bill.

Tester, one of only two farmers in the U.S. Senate, stopped using chemicals on his 1,800-acre farm near Big Sandy nearly 20 years ago. He made the switch to organic farming because the chemicals made his wife ill, and because it increased the value of his crops. Montana has more acres of organic wheat production than any other state.

"Organic farming is a good deal for Montana's farmers and ranchers," Tester said. "It's a win-win for agriculture in our state. It's good for the land and it's good for folks who want to sell their crops for higher premiums."

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