Organic farming gets new respect

April 19, 2007|By McClatchy-Tribune

WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers are giving organic farmers more respect these days. Manuel Vieira hopes that translates into more tangible help, as well.

Vieira grows yams and sweet potatoes organically near Livingston, Calif. He speaks English with the accent of his native Azores Islands and wants Congress to step up its organic investments. "I would like to see more [attention] from the Congress, from the government, paid to the people like myself who are trying to have better food, and a better life," he said yesterday.

And then he made history.

Vieira joined other farmers in what was billed as the first-ever House hearing devoted solely to the subject of organic agriculture. For the first time, a congressional subcommittee has the words "organic agriculture" in its name, and lawmakers are recognizing that the $14.5 billion-a-year industry is not simply a fringe player.

"This broad acceptance and perception of quality is a far cry from where organic food was 20 years ago," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat.

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