Organic Consumers Association

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Organic Farm Leader Jim Riddle Seeking Common Ground With Donald Trump, Conservatives

While organic farming groups are moving an arm's length from President Donald Trump's views, from immigration to an agriculture secretary nominee, Jim Riddle is leaning in to the new administration with a corn-huskers' handshake. 

Riddle, a 60-year-old who grew up on an Iowa farm and now raises berries in Minnesota, says there's an unclaimed common ground between organics and conservatives.

His own perspective is certified organic. For 20 years he was an organic inspector, one of those folks who show up at least once a year to determine if certified farms really do merit the federally approved organic label by avoiding harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds, among many other strictures.

After co-founding a farmers market, he served five years on the National Organic Standards Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since then he has been appointed chair of Minnesota's organic advisory board. This weekend he comes to Dayton as a keynote speaker at the 38th annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. He'll talk 3:45 p.m. Friday at the Dayton Convention Center. More information online.

Politics were heavy in the air when we talked to him by phone two weeks ago.

"In part, I want to talk about how organic values are conservative values," he said. "At its core, organic farming is pro-life. From the ground up, it's about keeping things alive - the seeds, the soil health, pollinators and wildlife. It embraces all species at all levels of farming.

"And I also want to say that organic farming is really free-market farming. It's farming the land in response to consumer demand. The demand for organic products is skyrocketing by double-digits each year. But because organic crop rotations are more complex methods, there typically aren't government subsidies. That matches really well with the conservative agenda.

"The organic community went to the government and said it wanted standards that protect the word organic, and it worked really well. We're really a model for self-regulation with clear, strong, transparent standards and protection of the word organic."

Riddle believes organic food corresponds to the perceived conservative values of heightened personal responsibility.

"We are what we eat," he said. "If it's junk, you have lots of health problems. If you eat clean and live a smart life, your health improves and you're less of a cost to society."

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