Organic farmers face a unique set of challenges, many of which revolve around the critical issue of labor. As I delved into the CCOF Labor Survey, a common theme emerged—a call for a guest worker program that supports the needs of both farmers and farmworkers. CCOF members vocalized the need for a guest worker program that is accessible, especially for small-scale farmers, and that supports the livelihoods of farmworkers.
Organic Transition Grantee Alejandro Salazar installs an irrigation pipe by hand with his daughter, Fatima Salazar.
Labor is one of the challenges we hear the most about. Organic producers make a commitment to grow and raise food using ecological methods, and one of the trade-offs is that organic farms have higher labor demands to maintain such practices. To dive deeper into the challenges organic producers are facing, I’ve surveyed organic producers across crop type, scale, and geography.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation is hosting a series of public meetings to hear feedback on their strategic plan. This plan will set their agenda for the next five years, and organic is not mentioned at all. In fact, the Department intends to create new certifications for sustainable pest management—making farmers jump through more hoops. Please consider joining a public meeting and telling the Department that organic certification is the sustainable pest management certification.
California Assembly Bill 408—the Climate-Resilient Farms, Sustainable Healthy Food Access, and Farmworker Protection Bond Act of 2024—was passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee on July 3, 2023. The bill, which is authored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) and Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael), proposes a $3.4 billion bond to fund programs that support resilient agriculture and healthy food access in California.
The bond would be used to fund projects in four areas:
A good meal is transformative. The light crunch of a fried latke smothered in tangy applesauce roots me in my cultural inheritance and branches me outward. Preparing this salty–sweet comfort food, I get to know local growers at the farmers’ market and appreciate each season’s bounty. My organic potatoes and apples regenerate soil and water health and safeguard against harmful pesticides. Good food grounds us in our bodies and connects us to the people and world around us.
National Organic Program Deputy Administrator Dr. Jennifer Tucker provided an overview of organic compliance and enforcement during CCOF’s At-Large Chapter meeting on June 7. The meeting was held via Zoom and a recording may be viewed on CCOF’s YouTube channel.
In addition to hosting field hearings across the country, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture is soliciting public input on the 2023 Farm Bill through an online portal. Comments will be accepted through Friday, June 16, 2023.
Applications for Committee Membership Are Currently Available
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross has announced the Department’s first historically underserved and small farm advisory committees to support equity and inclusion throughout the organization’s programs, policies, and services. Application periods for both committees are open through June 30, 2023.
Watsonville farm-working families continue to advocate for organic agriculture to protect the health of their children. At a city council meeting last month, community members advocated for all farms near schools to transition to organic and to stop spraying pesticide.
New grant funds are available to expand livestock processing capacity through the USDA Local Meat Capacity Grant (Local MCap) program and Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grant (IAG) program. Applications are due on July 19, 2023.