Chemical ag group upset about White House organic garden

Jill Richardson reported at La Vida Locavore that a group promoting the use of chemicals in agriculture is lobbying First Lady Michelle Obama not to make the White House garden organic. They want the White House to "consider using crop protection products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire U.S. economy."

Jill posted the full text of the Mid America CropLife Association's letter to the first lady.

It's notable that conventional farming advocates were unconcerned about First Lady Laura Bush's insistence that White House chefs cook with organic food. Former executive chef Walter Scheib wrote that Mrs. Bush was "adamant that in ALL CASES if an organic product was available it was to be used in place of a non-organic product." It's fine for the Bushes to be closet organic eaters, but very different for the Obamas to promote growing food without pesticides or herbicides. I think Americans will be surprised by how much one organic garden can produce.

More important, as Think Progress noted, the Bush administration's agriculture policies repeatedly sought to water down organic standards. That hurts organic growers, not conventional growers. It remains to be seen how far President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will go in rewriting organic regulations. If I were the Mid America CropLife Association, I would probably also be trying to assure the first lady not to fear chemical-based "crop protection technologies."

Anyone with an interest in food or agriculture policy should bookmark La Vida Locavore and check it regularly.

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The Obamas will grow vegetables on the White House lawn

Populista passed along a link to great news from the New York Times:

On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn't like them) but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family's meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, "My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities."

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It's just below the Obama girls' swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, "whether they like it or not," Mrs. Obama said laughing. "Now Grandma, my mom, I don't know." Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: "Isn't that lovely. You missed a spot."

Urban gardens are becoming more popular, and I'm happy that the Obama will set a good example at the White House.

Thanks are due to Michael Pollan for putting this idea forward in an "Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief" in the New York Times Sunday Magazine last October. Obama read Pollan's piece and paraphrased points from it in an interview with Time magazine.

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