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Opinion

Transitioning from chemical to organic agriculture

The Philippine Star

(Second of two parts)

Starting in 2022, following the Supreme Court’s Mandanas case ruling, LGUs’ share in national tax revenue will increase by 27 percent. LGUs should now devote at least 10 percent of their increased Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for agriculture and fisheries programs, with at least one-fourth of the IRA earmarked for organic agriculture.

Another equally important need of farming communities is the acquisition of basic equipment, tools and suitable small machineries. Organic agriculture is labor intensive. To lighten farming work, each village must have a foundry shop so that farmers can repair, improve and even manufacture farm tools and equipment locally. Regrettably, many farmers have neglected the traditional growing of health-enhancing vegetables. The DA and LGUs must revive “Bahay Kubo Cropping” and provide farmers with planting materials and training. Farmers should have cattle or carabaos to serve as farm power and as sources of manure for composting. An appropriate subsidy and/or credit support program will encourage these actions.

The third crucial factor is significant investment in research, development and extension (RD&E) on organic conversion technologies, which tackle the transition processes and procedures to facilitate entry into the conversion stage (zero chemical inputs). Pure and adaptive research on organic agriculture in transition also needs funding by DA and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Additionally, motivating farmers to shift to organic agriculture necessitates an education campaign among consumers on the benefits of organic products. Consumers must regain awareness of the real costs of chemical agriculture to our health and planetary ecosystem.

This calls for the Planetary Health Diet (PHD), which consists of safe and health-promoting foods mainly from vegetables, fruits, herbs, pulses and green salads. We must be guided by the basic principles of organic agriculture (health, ecology, care and fairness).

Conscientizied consumers must demand healthy and safe food that will lead to changes on the supply side (more farmers raising crops and animals organically).

A vigorous nationwide campaign must target government, educational and other food consuming institutions. The Sagip Saka Law authorizes government agencies, including LGUs, to directly procure organic products during disasters or pandemics for feeding programs for schoolers, the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities. Business corporations may also provide their employees with organically grown foods.

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Leonardo Montemayor is a former agriculture secretary and currently board chair of the Federation of Free Farmers. Teodoro Mendoza is a retired UP Los Baños professor and expert on organic farming systems. Pablito Villegas owns and operates an organic and eco-tourism farm in Malvar, Batangas. — Leonardo Q. Montemayor,Teodoro C. Mendoza and Pablito M. Villegas

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