USDA, Kimberton Agree Organic Industry Economy Is Strong
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in March new figures showing the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, and one local organic concern with its finger on the pulse of the local industry agrees.
“We have been experiencing strong growth in customers interested in locally grown and organic products,” said Terry Brett, founder and owner of Kimberton Whole Foods.
“Our customers are aware of the benefits and the impact they have on our community when shopping for local and organic products,” Brett said in an email. “We will continue to support and seek out local sources for organic products wherever possible.”
According to the USDA, there are 25,108 certified organic operations in more than 120 different countries around the world – 844 of these in Pennsylvania.
“Consumer demand for organic products has grown exponentially over the past decade,” Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary said in a USDA news release. “With retail sales valued at $35 billion last year, the organic industry represents a tremendous economic opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. New support in the 2014 Farm Bill will enhance USDA’s efforts to help producers and small business tap into this market and support organic agriculture as it continues to grow and thrive.”
The USDA helped an additional 763 producers become certified organic in 2013- an increase of 4.2 percent over 2012. Overall the number of certified organic growers and businesses has increased 245 percent since 2002.
The USDA keeps a list of certified US organic operations As the growers are listed by state, not county, and Chester County does not publish an organic farm figure, it is difficult to pin down a number for Chester County. The web site http://www.farmerspal.com/organic-farms/region/chester-county-pennsylvania/page/1/ lists 14 organic operations in Chester County, but the number is likely much higher.
The USDA has signed major trade agreements on organic products with Canada, the European Union and Japan. USDA is also helping organic growers access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education and mitigate pest emergencies. Also, the 2014 Farm Bill includes supportive provisions for the organic community.
Brett said the money to support organic farmers is a very small percentage of the entire farm bill and does not match the percentage increase in organic production and sales.
“The funding of these initiatives is a significant step in the right direction,” he said. “The initiatives which will most directly support local and organic farm operations are the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. The inclusion of Organic Crop Insurance for organic crops by 2015 is also a major advance for larger organic producers.”
Information about USDA resources and support is on the USDA Organics Resource page here.
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