Friday, July 22, 2016

Demand for organic is on the rise, but making the switch is costly and time-consuming for farmers

Consumer demand for organic products is on the rise, but obstacles for farmers to be certified organic is creating a shortage of producers, Leah Messingers reports for The Guardian. Organic sales in the U.S. reached $13.4 billion last year, up from $12.8 billion in 2014, according to research group Euromonitor. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture says only 1 percent of U.S. cropland has been certified organic. (Getty Images by Nick David)

The problem is that "the time and expenses required to get organic certification present major roadblocks for increasing the amount of organic farmland in America," Messinger writes. One California farmer who was recently certified organic said "he spent three years working to demonstrate the use of eco-friendly pest and soil management practices and paid between 10 to 20 percent in higher labor cost. Yet he was unable to convince processors that pack and ship his harvest to pay more for his fruit—which he was already cultivating by using the organic standards set by the federal government—during that period."

"The USDA, which sets the organic standards for certification by public and private organizations, requires farmers to show their changing practices by forgoing the use of prohibited products, such as certain synthetic pesticides, for three years," Messinger writes. "This time frame allows the changes in the chemical and biological properties of the soil to take root. During this transitional period, farmers can already be growing fruits and vegetables organically, but they cannot increase the prices to the levels commanded by harvests from certified farms." Food giants say "more farmers would switch to organic if they could get financial help during the three-year transitional period." (Read more)

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