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Organic Trade Association applauds bipartisan bill to boost rural economic development through organic agriculture

*Media Alert*

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
December 18, 2017
) — 

The Organic Trade Association on Monday applauded Representatives Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Peter Welch (D-VT) for introducing the Organic Farmers Access Act, which would expand eligibility for organic production in certain rural development programs and help enable organic agriculture to be a key rural development tool in revitalizing our rural areas.

The legislation would “assist and incentivize organic agriculture” by expanding its access to, and eligibility for, the following rural development programs:

  • Rural business development grants;
  • Locally and regionally produced agricultural food products;
  • Value-added agricultural product market development grants.

The organic industry is a bright spot in the U.S. farm economy. U.S. organic sales have grown to $47 billion in 2016. Organic has averaged double-digit growth over the last five years, making it the fastest growing sector of the U.S. food industry.

Conclusive research now links economic health at the county level to organic agriculture, and shows that organic food and crop production–and the business activities accompanying organic agriculture–creates real and long-lasting regional economic opportunities.

Organic hotspots kick start rural economies—counties with high levels of organic agricultural activity whose neighboring counties also have a high level of organic activity—boost median household incomes by an average of $2,000, and reduce poverty levels by an average of 1.3 percentage points. 225 counties across the U.S. are identified as organic hotspots.

Statement from Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO, Organic Trade Association:

“Organic agriculture has directly contributed to the regrowth and economic success in many rural areas across the U.S.  We commend Representatives Sean Duffy and Peter Welch for recognizing the benefits that organic production brings to local economies. The Organic Farmer Access Act would expand opportunities for organic businesses and farms in rural development programs administered by the USDA, acknowledging that organic is a high return on investment for federal programs to stimulate economic development in rural America.”

Statement from Congressman Duffy:

“Small and medium-sized farms are truly the bedrock of many Wisconsin communities. For generations, these farmers have produced top-quality products that are consumed around the world and now, Wisconsin boasts the second highest number of certified organic operations in the country. That’s particularly exciting for Wisconsin because recent research shows that organic agriculture creates long-lasting economic benefits. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Organic Farmers Access Act, a bipartisan bill to expand the eligibility of organic agriculture for rural development and agricultural loan programs. By giving organics equal access grant programs, we can ensure that all of our farmers have the tools at their disposal to pick a production style that’s right for them without any penalty.”

Statement from Congressman Welch:

“Organic farming is vital to the rural economy, particularly in Vermont. It is essential that producers have the resources they need to transition to organic production. The Organic Farmers Access Act will assure that small farmers in Vermont and across the country can be a part of the organic farming success story.”

Additional quotes

Kevin Cleary, CEO, Clif Bar & Company

“As a company continuing to build out our organic supply chain we’re making considerable investments in research, education, and infrastructure for organic farmers. The Organic Farmers Access Act will improve the public-private partnerships that farmers need to increase access to organic markets and build infrastructure for rural communities.”

Britt Lundgren, Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, Stonyfield Organic:

“We applaud Congressman Welch for introducing The Organic Farmers Access Act. Organic agriculture is spurring the rural economy in New England, saving thousands of small family farms across our region. Stonyfield is proud to be a part of the success in developing vibrant and healthy rural communities. Congressman Welch’s leadership is critical in ensuring the next farm bill makes key investments in organic that will benefit farmers, businesses and consumers.”

Statement from Organic Valley Cooperative:

“We applaud Representative Sean Duffy for introduction of the Organic Farmers Access Act.  At Organic Valley we know organics can be an economic engine for rural communities –  that is our experience and that is the experience of thousands of our farmer-members here in Wisconsin and across the U.S.  Having farm policy that supports organic throughout USDA’s rural development programs is smart and strategic.”