[First published in Worcester Telegram] Many of us in Western Massachusetts are fortunate to live in an agricultural bubble, surrounded by farms offering organic strawberries, broccoli and, well … too much kale. But as Representative McGovern knows, this isn’t reality for the rest of the country. Most food grown in the U.S. doesn’t come from Community Supported Agriculture, but from large farms whose crops have been fumigated, dusted and sprayed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It doesn’t have to be that way. What if large-scale growers cut back on the most egregious synthetic chemicals and instead relied more on ecological solutions to pests and disease? This isn’t pie-in-the-sky. In California, after methyl bromide, a toxic fumigant, was finally phased out in 2016, strawberry growers are using a number of non-chemical alternatives to manage pests, from disinfecting soil with heat and oxygen depletion to building up healthy soil microbiomes. But large growers are not likely to experiment with more ecological solutions unless supported by federal research funding to establish best practices. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension program, USDA’s flagship on-farm research program, does just that, but the president has proposed cutting its already-tiny budget by nearly 30 percent. Less money for these agroecological practices means a less certain future for us all. I urge Rep. McGovern, as he works on the next Farm Bill, to prioritize SARE funding. Let’s make foods grown with fewer chemicals available to all citizens of our country, not just those of us fortunate enough to live here in Massachusetts. July 25, 2017.
Protect Sustainable Agriculture from Budget Cuts