Michigan organic farmers want better access to federal farm subsidy money

Feb 16, 2013

Environmental and organic farming groups want a change in the way federal agriculture subsidies are handed out.

Anne Woiwode is the Sierra Club’s state director. She says a relatively small number of large animal feeding operations in Michigan have a big advantage over the state’s organic farmers.    

Woiwode says the big producers have better access to federal subsidies, in particular the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers.   The financial assistance helps agri-businesses plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land.

Woiwode says not having as much access to the program puts Michigan’s organic farmers at a disadvantage in the marketplace and forces consumers to pay more if they want organic products.

She says the aim of the campaign is to shift funding priorities away from polluting large animal feeding operations and towards organic Michigan farmers. 

“There are 50,000 farmers in Michigan. 238 of them are these massive operations that are polluting and competing unfairly with the rest,” says Woiwode. “It’s about time we paid attention to the rest of the 50,000.”

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Farm Bureau says there is nothing new in the group’s complaints about the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

Laura Campbell is the bureau’s Agricultural Ecology Manager.  She says the program’s limited funds are distributed as widely as possible.