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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Organic Trade Association (OTA) here is encouraging Congress to strengthen and support organic agriculture by incorporating provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill for this burgeoning sector.
Although retail sales of organic products now total $15 billion annually, OTA said the industry and its organic agriculture base need to keep up with growing consumer demand and overcome hurdles that face organic producers.
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Currently the organic sector receives only a tiny fraction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget, according to OTA.
"OTA is releasing an ambitious and comprehensive plan to advance organic agriculture," said Caren Wilcox, executive director of OTA, whose members represent all segments of organic production, distribution and sales. "We need to ensure that organic farmers have access to all resources available to farmers through the USDA. In many cases, organic is not receiving a fair share of current dollars appropriated for research, for conservation, for risk management -- all current programs that benefit other aspects of agriculture. We ask Congress for equality for organic farmers."
For example, said Wilcox, there currently is little federal data or market research available about organic farms. "Our farmers need access to the same resources USDA provides to conventional farmers -- research, market data, risk management tools, and import/export information," she said. "When conventional farmers decide what to plant for the upcoming season, they have reams of cost, production, and market data to influence their actions. Organic farmers have none of these critical resources. As a result, they farm at a distinct disadvantage."