What do the next 30 years look like for organic foods?
It has been 32 years since the Organic Foods Production Act became law and this week organic farmers are in DC for a conversation on what the next 30 years should look like.
Organic sales are currently growing two times faster than the overall food market, and organic farmers have expanded by 39 percent, even while the overall number of farmers in the U.S. fell by 3 percent, according to the organic trade association.
USDA Undersecretary Jenny Moffitt says that the department is focused on helping farmers transition as demand grows.
According to Moffitt, “It’s really part of our efforts to build more and better experiments for American farmers by helping to navigate the transition process and to support robust products that are transitioning to organic. This initiative is expected to provide support for farmers transitioning to organic production, as well as support for existing organic farmers, as well.”
Last year, USDA announced $200 million dollars to support organic transitions, but Moffitt acknowledged there is more needed.
“We’ve clearly heard the need for technical assistance from practical technical assistance.... as I mentioned, local field days, field visits, business development so forth, by people who know and are trusted by the organic industry, and that is a very important piece of that,” she adds. “We’ve heard the need for conservation assistance, crop insurance support; we’ve heard the need for an increase in organic expertise to help as well.”
Former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan followed Moffitt in the program at the Organic Trade Association Conference and respectfully gave the department a “C” grade, saying that she wants to see more out of the organic team she helped build.
“To me, organic is the original climate-smart label and I think it’s time to amend the seal due to the rule-making needed to attach to that label. Let consumers know that this is meaningful to the planet’s health, to their health,” she stated.
Merrigan said that she is anxious about the climate conversation and the role of organic ag: “I don’t see organic necessarily seated at the table in a very real and meaningful way and USDA is on the brink of and has already put out a lot of new money, and I worry that new money will disenfranchise the organic world.”
She also called on attendees to support young people interested in organic agriculture, who will one day be the future of the $62 billion dollar organic food industry.