By: Violet Batcha, Communications Manager
Hooray! The organic industry is cheering about the United States Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement that it will spend $52 million in support of organic, local and regional food systems.
But how loud should those cheers really be?
Any increase in government spending in support of the organic industry is a huge win as the organic industry has been historically underrepresented in farm bills and USDA budget outlays. But, while $52 million may seem like a big number, when you break it down and put it in context it may not be quite as impressive as the headline sounds.
Of the $52 million awarded in grants that USDA is touting, only $20 million is dedicated to helping organic producers and processors, while the rest is going to programs that support the growth of local and regional food systems.
This is less than 0.014% of USDA’s total ($140 billion) budget outlays for 2015.
The $20 million in grants will be awarded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative, which falls under USDA’s Research Education and Economics department.
The total REE budget for 2015 is $2.9 billion of which $1.5 billion is allotted to NIFA. So, spending for organic is only a little over 1% of the total NIFA budget. Similar programs under NIFA like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative received $80 million in funding compared to organics $20 million.
So, let’s all take a moment to appreciate this huge win for the industry but keep in mind that government spending to help grow the organic industry is still only a miniscule portion of the total agricultural budget.