Future of federal help for local organic farmers hazy
February 12, 2018 05:33 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Chances are if you live in the metro area, you've seen Heidi Eleftheriou's raspberry jams sitting on grocery stores shelves.
Based in New Mexico, Eleftheriou says she's been working on her own raspberries since 2001. They're grown close by in Corrales, and they are 100 percent certified organic – something that's important to her.
"Before all the chemicals came out, everybody was organic," she said.
Eleftheriou said those chemicals can get into the air we breathe, as well as the soil and our drinking supply, sparking a domino effect where everything we eat or drink is affected.
"They don't go away once you dump them on the ground," she said.
But abiding by a strictly organic code is also a more expensive lifestyle; the certifications cost hundreds of dollars. Federal funding doled out by the state Department of Agriculture has helped lessen the financial blow for those farmers.
But there is uncertainty in the air. Without that money, Eleftheriou said she worries the number of local organic farmers will dwindle.
"I don't want to see the program go away from New Mexico because there are farmers that will just say, 'I can't afford to bring in a certifier,'" she said.
Currently, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture has enough money left to help certify about 40 farmers. But last year there were 90 applicants trying to get a slice of the pie.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture isn't taking the funding away entirely, but rather funneling it through the Farm Service Agency instead. FSA officials confirmed the change is happening, but couldn't provide details on when or whether they will be able to fund the same number of New Mexico farmers as in years past.
It's money that Eleftheriou says benefits everyone – farmer or not.
"We have to keep our Earth clean," she said, "our food clean."
Updated: February 12, 2018 05:33 PM
Created: February 12, 2018 04:43 PM
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