Organic food is more expensive than conventional food, right?

After all, the evidence is right there in your local produce aisle. Those organic strawberries could set you back almost twice as much as conventional ones.

But did you know that organic food doesn’t need to cost more?

And that there are hidden costs to those conventional berries?

The Farm Bill

There are many factors that raise the price of organic food,  and one of the biggest is unfair government farm subsidies.

The first Farm Bill program was introduced over 80 years ago as part of FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act to help Depression-era farmers. Times have changed since 1933, but the Farm Bill hasn’t changed much with the times – even with the passage of the 2014 iteration this past February.

Modern-day subsidies proponents argue that farmers need a government safety net because agriculture is a tough, unpredictable industry and the nation’s food supply is dependent on family farms staying in business.

But critics say too much of the money goes to wealthy farmers and corporate agribusinesses.

There are two major issues at play when it comes to farm subsidies and organic and healthy foods.

1 – Organic farmers only get about 1% of the Farm Bill subsidies. The allocation of Farm Bill funds doesn’t come close to reflecting what the American people want. Retail sales of organic food rose from around $3 billion in 1997 to a whopping $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA. And 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic.

The demand for organics keeps rising as the public becomes more educated about the health risks of conventional food and farming. If organic farmers received a bigger slice of the subsidies pie, and more conventional farms began organic practices, together they could meet these rising demands. Organic food prices would drop, and more people would have access to foods free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals.

2 – Conventional farms that produce “junk food” or non-food crops get the largest government handouts of all. Such “commodity crops” as wheat, GMO soybeans, cotton and corn are energy, water, and fertilizer intensive. And they’re are used mostly to produce meat, processed foods and ethanol.

According to CalPIRG’s “Apples to Twinkies” report, from 1995 to 2010 almost $17 billion tax dollars subsidized four common food additives: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, and hydrogenated soy oils. So our tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients instead of nutritious fruits and vegetables, which get a tiny fraction of farm bill dollars.

Giving Organics a Boost

Demand for organics has never been higher, but our government continues to subsidize conventional crops.

The good news is that organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all saw modest improvements with the 2014 Farm Bill.

It’s time to keep the momentum going. Time to bring the Farm Bill into the 21st century and give organic farming a bigger boost! Farm subsidies reform is a win-win for people and the Earth – healthier food and a healthier environment.

Take Action!  Two things you can do right now to boost the organic scene:

1 – Buy organic whenever possible. The higher the demand, the bigger the support for organic farming.

2 – Stay informed about farm subsidies and organics. Sign up for updates from the Organic Consumers Association and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Listen to EarthScope Radio for timely environmental news. Watch some of the latest critically-acclaimed food documentaries. The next Farm Bill won’t get passed for a few years, but your local government has probably already started weighing in on it. If you know your stuff, you can contact your state rep, let your voice be heard…and be part of the change!