Sink or Swim
if you were on a ship that was sinking, would you climb in a lifeboat and start rowing, or would you throw the lifeboat overboard to lighten the load? This seemingly easy-to-answer question has given Congress a hard time in the form of ‘What to do with sustainable agriculture programs now that the economy is failing?’
Times of relative hardship underscore the very reason why sustainable agriculture is important. Food systems that are environmentally responsible, local, and independent are better able to endure. That’s why it’s sad that programs designed to help farmers and communities achieve sustainability - conservation and organic programs - have been among the most heavily targeted recipients of budget cuts. Why throw the lifeboats of our country’s farming future overboard?
Thankfully, there are those out there who know how to swim.
Jim Bronec is a certified organic farmer from Canby, Oregon. His farm, named ‘Praying Mantis Farm’ after a friendly encounter with the namesake insect, has been in his family for three generations.
Like many organic farmers, Bronec got his organic certification with help from a USDA cost sharing program. He also does cover cropping studies with researchers from Oregon State University thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). Since he uses some of the very programs at stake, Bronec knows firsthand how important they are.
That’s why last spring, when Northwest farmers were hitting the spinach fields, Bronec was on his way to Washington, DC to sow seeds of a different kind.
Working with our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NCAP sent Bronec on a Mr. Smith mission to help save organic and conservation programs. Bronec was eager for the opportunity.
“There are cuts happening all over the place,” he said. “So I wanted to make sure my legislators knew how people depended on these programs. I wanted to put a human face on it,” Bronec says.
In the months since his trip, he’s continued working with NCAP to reach out to other farmers and give them a voice on the issue. He spoke to one group of Oregon farmers in September at NCAP’s first ever Food and Fun in the Field event, and will present in February at our annual Grower’s Own conference in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“It’s all about priorities. What are we going to prioritize? Sustainable agriculture and land conservation? Poor farming techniques? War? The only way to set our national priorities straight is to contact your lawmakers. You don’t have to go to DC to do it, you can catch their ear any way you can, but they need our input.” -- Jim Bronec