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Get involved: food and agriculture issues

Sound Consumer | March 2002

by Bonnie Rice, Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network

WSU shows new support for organic farming

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) reported recently that only 151 out of 885,863 (0.02 percent!) available research acres in the nation's land grant college system are certified organic.

Like most, our land grant — through Washington State University — has largely ignored the needs of organic growers in research, teaching and extension programs. Recently, however, organic agriculture has made inroads at WSU.

The Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network is working closely with WSU to develop an organic farming program. Recently, WSU organized its first meeting on organic agriculture, to present a program proposal to faculty. WSU agreed to ask Congress for funding for the organic program. The Dean of the College of Agriculture committed to having certified organic research land at all research and extension centers throughout the state. WSU and the Network also are working on a funding proposal for the organic program that would be submitted to the state legislature for 2003-04.

The proposed program includes research, teaching and outreach, as well as a full-time organic farming coordinator position. Priorities include organic seed production, sustainable livestock production and marketing, the effect of production practices on food quality, and organically acceptable pest and weed control.

Recently, several high-level administrators at WSU have expressed support for the organic program, signaling a huge change from where things were not long ago. WSU is waking up to the important role that organic production plays in Washington agriculture and to its duty to respond to the needs of all sectors of agriculture.

Please write to U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Representative George Nethercutt (who serve on agricultural appropriations committees in the Senate and House, respectively) by April 1 and urge them to support funding of the "Organic Cropping Research and Education for the Northwest" program at WSU in the 2003 budget.

Send a copy of your letter to WSU President Lane Rawlins, who will decide what will be included in WSU's state budget request in 2003, by April 1. Use a cover note urging him to include the "Enhancing Organic and Biologically Intensive Agriculture in Washington State" program in the University's 2003-04 state budget request.

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