Growth in U.S. organic sales has averaged 10 percent annually over the last five years, but the number of U.S. organic farms are not keeping pace, growing at about 2.5 percent annually. This data was presented by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the National Organic Coalition (NOC) at the 2016 Midwest Organics and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference.
"One of the things we’re really struggling with in the organic sector right now is this imbalance between demand for organic and domestic production," said Steve Etka, legislative director for the NOC. "As we do our work in Washington, what can we do to increase and encourage more domestic production of organic?"
Adopting organic practices can help producers, processors and handlers access new customers and markets
Adopting organic practices can help producers, processors and handlers access new customers and markets as well as comply with regulatory policy. Etka outlined the following organic production challenges that need to be addressed in order to meet demand:
- Pay price — a stable, sustainable price to cover extra costs
- Research to address production challenges
- Conservation programs
- Access to seeds and breeds adapted to farmers’ needs
- Assistance with certification costs
- Risk management options
Research is a critical piece of the solution, according to Etka. Between 2010 and 2014, only 0.1 percent of Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding went towards organic research, and despite being designed to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry, only 2 percent of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) went to organic research, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.
"Programs like AFRI need to do a better job of funding organic,” said Etka. “We’re trying to work through members of Congress to put pressure on the USDA about the need to do a better job. As I say some things that are critical of the USDA, I do think that this administration has been more supportive than any we’ve seen to date."