Organic Consumers Association

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Organic Food Industry Gains Clout On Capitol Hill, Causing Tensions Within Congress

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WASHINGTON - The organic food industry is gaining influence on Capitol Hill, prompted by its entry into traditional farm states and by increasing consumer demand.

That's not going over well with everyone in Congress.

Tensions between conventional and organic agriculture boiled over this week during a late-night House Agriculture Committee debate on farm legislation that for decades has propped up traditional crops and largely ignored organics.

When Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., a former organic farmer, offered an amendment to make it easier for organic companies to organize industry-wide promotional campaigns, there was swift backlash from some farm-state Republicans. One lawmaker said he didn't want to see the industry get a free ride and a second complained about organics' "continued assault on agriculture."

"That's one of the things that has caught me and raises my concerns, is that industry's lack of respect for traditional agriculture," said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. He was referring to some organic companies' efforts to reduce the number of genetically modified crops in the marketplace.

At the same time, Scott acknowledged that he and his wife buy organic foods.

Growing consumer interest in organics has proved tough for some Republicans on the committee to ignore. Eight Republicans, most of them newer members of the committee, joined with all of the committee's Democrats in supporting the amendment, which was adopted 29-17.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican who owns a farm equipment business and a nonorganic corn and soybean farm, said she supported the amendment not only because helping organics is good for agriculture but because many of her constituents eat organic foods.   
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