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For Immediate Release Holly Givens
Survey: Farmers want strict organic standards maintained
GREENFIELD, Mass. (Aug. 30, 2004) — Farmers taking part in a survey conducted by the Iowa State University Organic Program in collaboration with the Organic Trade Association (OTA) voiced strong support for maintaining high standards for organic production and processing to ensure consumer confidence.
"Consumers will be reassured to learn that organic farmers-the ones who truly make organic products possible-believe in producing products organically that meet high standards," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of OTA, the business association representing all sectors of the organic industry in North America.
Launched in late 2003 with support from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the survey was designed to determine the impact of the National Organic Program (NOP) on Iowa farmers. Sent to over 400 farmers in Iowa, it yielded results from 120 individual surveys. Kathleen Delate, associate professor in the Organic Agriculture Program at Iowa State University's Departments of Agronomy and Horticulture, oversaw the project.
"It was an exciting project—working with OTA and our enthusiastic Iowa organic farmers—to help determine how the National Organic Program is affecting organic farmers," Delate said.
Thirty-seven percent of those responding felt NOP has helped in standardizing organic regulations. Some respondents also indicated that national organic standards have made it easier for beginning organic farmers and easier to find organic grains for livestock. Farmers reported that in general, the NOP rule has not drastically changed organic certification requirements developed by private and state certification agencies from 1973 to 2000.
The overall average of acres farmed, including organic and conventional acreage, was 775 acres, although 51 percent of respondents farm 200 acres or less. The highest organic acreage reported was 1,050 acres. Asked what their biggest challenges were to getting their organic products to market, 37 percent of the farmers checked "finding a market which will pay value-added costs of organic products." Interestingly, 31.5 percent chose "growing enough product to meet demand for organic products."
When asked specifically about NOP, farmers said the new requirements for keeping logs concerning compost and the necessity of obtaining organic seed were their key concerns. Some respondents reported the challenges of doing paperwork for organic certification, as well as marketing, competition, increased workloads, more difficult farm practices and enforcement.
Respondents indicated the following factors are needed to improve the long-term economic sustainability of organic farms:
- More support of small farmers and less subsidization of large corporate farms
- More research dedicated to the harmful effects of genetically engineered crops
- More efforts to increase consumer awareness and demand for organic products
- Stricter standards for livestock housing
- Increasing cooperatives and creating viable cooperative structure
- Finding ways to reward producers more, such as via higher prices and contracted prices
- Making certification less complicated and expensive.
Nearly 40 percent (38.3 percent) of those responding said they plan on increasing their organic acres, with the majority saying they planned to increase their acreage by up to 25 percent.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the business association representing the organic agriculture industry in North America. Its 1,500 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others.
Headquarters: 60 Wells Street, P.O. Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302 USA ( (413) 774-7511 Fax: (413) 774-6432 ( e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ( web site: www.ota.com
Legislative Office: 600 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22304 USA ( (202) 338-2900
August 30, 2004
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