SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With organic food growers reporting double-digit growth in U.S. sales each year, producers are challenging a proposed California pest-management program they say enshrines a pesticide-heavy approach for decades to come, including compulsory spraying of organic crops at the state’s discretion.
Chief among the complaints of organic growers: The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s pest-management plan says compulsory state pesticide spraying of organic crops would do no economic harm to organic producers, on the grounds that the growers could sell sprayed crops as non-organic instead.
“I would rather stop farming than have to be a conventional farmer. I think I am not alone in that,” said Zea Sonnabend, a Watsonville organic apple-grower with California Certified Organic Farmers, one of more than 30 agriculture groups, environmental organizations and regional water agencies to file concerns about the agriculture department’s pesticide provisions by an Oct. 31 state deadline.
At issue is a California organic agriculture industry that grew by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012. California leads the nation in organic sales, according to statistics tracked by University of California-Davis agriculture economist Karen Klonsky, who says the state is responsible for roughly one-third of a national organic industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the overall value of the U.S. organic sector at $35 billion.
The U.S. organic industry has seen a similar growth spurt nationally in the same time frame, and three out of four grocery stores in the country now carry at least some organic goods, according to the USDA. California’s $43 billion agriculture industry is the largest in the country by revenue, so what happens here matters to consumers and to the agriculture industry nationwide.
Agriculture is BIG business in Ca…
California’s top-ten valued commodities for 2012 are:
Milk — $6.9 billion Grapes — $4.449 billion Almonds — $4.347 billion Nursery plants — $3.543 billion
Cattle, Calves — $3.299 billion Strawberries — $1.939 billion Lettuce — $1.448 billion
Walnuts — $1.349 billion Hay — $1.237 billion Tomatoes — $1.170 billion