Want some more bad news? You’re in the right place. Food blog La Vida Locavore discovered something that indicates the new Republican majority on the House Agriculture Committee intends to massively de-emphasize organic agriculture. And with nothing more than a bit of organizational gerrymandering.
The Agriculture Committee has such a huge mandate (everything from farm subsidies, to conservation, to forestry and nutrition programs) that it breaks its different responsibilities up among a set of subcommittees. Up until now, organic agriculture was overseen by the Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. Well, upon taking power, the Republican leadership has installed arch-conservative and possible birther Rep. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) as chair of that subcommittee, expanded its purview to include nutrition programs and food stamps, and dropped the word Organic entirely from the subcommittee name — it’s now simply the Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture, even though organic agriculture remains among its responsibilities.
You can argue that the old subcommittee system itself de-emphasized nutrition by making it one of a dozen priorities of another subcommittee (although you can also argue, as many have, that it makes no real sense to have the Agriculture Committee oversee nutrition policy in the first place, as it leads to large conflicts of interest). Still, this latest move from Republicans may in fact be a fairly effective attack on organic ag. Congress uses names of committees to announce priorities, so it would be a mistake to ignore such a bold move.
For those of you keeping score at home, let’s add another win for industrial ag’s ongoing attempt to beat back the rise of organic ag.