California to be the first organic state?

With all the controversies around pesticides, herbicides, and other -cides it would be good for California to accelerate its move towards organic farming and become the first fully organic state in the U.S. I know it will take time, but better to once again be on the leading edge rather than wait for a major scandal in the agrochemical business to drive a call to rush towards organic food.

My suggestion for lawmakers are the following:

  1. Remove Section 11501.1 of the California Food and Agricultural Code. Section 11501.1 was written by the agrochemical industry (yes, corporations often provide text for laws and regulations!) and says that individual counties and cities in the state cannot have stricter standards than what state law provides. Removing it will allow cities and counties to make their own decisions, so the transition can happen over time. This will be a slow process, but it is a way for politicians to show they are looking ahead, and lets cities and counties respond to constituents’ concerns.
  2. All “-cides” must be proven by independent scientists to be safe before entering the market.
  3. No desiccants are allowed in California.
  4. No spraying of crops are allowed the last month before harvesting. This will remove some toxins at least.

If we are to make California the first organic state in the U.S., a time- and goal- based strategic plan is needed. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Planning for the transition. We need to educate farmers, and that means partnering with organic organizations, agriculture students, colleges and universities. We need the drafting of well thought-out proposed laws (that include backup plans for emergencies).
  2. Much of the agriculural land in California has been abused for years. Insect, soil, and plant diversity is out of balance. Buffer zones and some wild areas here and there will need to be included as balance is restored. During the first couple of years, spraying will be allowed if absolutely necessary.
  3. Farmers are going to need financial support during the transition as well as education and practical support. Current water policy favoring the large landowners in the Centeral Valley as well as farming subsidies will need to be altered to meet the changing needs. Cooperatives of farmers, experienced organic growers, and consumers may be a way to keep the growing and distribution system together during the transition.

The major obstacle to this plan is the economic clout of the agrochemical business and their sway over politicians at every level of government. We can be sure donations to politicians will skyrocket the moment this plan is suggested. Their next move will be to hit all the media with a food-security alert message to farmers and to the general public, saying that we can’t have farming without -cides. Yes we can! This is California! We can do anything!