Organic requires infrastructure for continued growth

Organic agriculture needs government resources to build infrastructure to continue to increase its market share and meet the growing consumer demand for organic products, Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Company, Inc., testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Clarkson serves on the board of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), which represents the organic business community in North America. He testified today on behalf of OTA.

"I know from my own experience with my company that U.S. farmers are not keeping up with consumer demand for organic products," Clarkson said. "Today, U.S. demand for organic grains and oilseeds could easily support a doubling of organic production acres. Organic prices generally double conventional prices and offer higher net farm incomes than those available to conventional farmers. Despite buyer preference for domestic organic production, it is the foreign farmer who seems to be responding to the U.S. demand."

Based in Cerro Gordo, Ill., Clarkson Grain supplies grains, oilseeds and related ingredients for foods and feeds. The company's processed grain can be found in tortillas, breakfast foods, snack bars, cosmetics, baby food, salad dressing, chocolate, soymilk and animal feeds.

"The U.S. government does not collect import data on organic goods, but imports must be substantial," Clarkson told the agriculture panel. "OTA wants to enhance the ability of U.S. farmers to provide as much organic food, fiber and other organic products as possible for our country. The Farm Bill is an opportunity to grow this segment."

The OTA Farm Bill plan focuses on four priorities:

  1. Fostering conversion to organic agriculture and trade
  2. Eliminating hurdles to organic agriculture and trade
  3. Initiating and funding organic agriculture and economic research
  4. Maintaining and enhancing current agency programs

For details of OTA's 2007 Farm Bill plan, see http://www.ota.com/DraftFarmBillOutline.html.

U.S. organic food sales reached almost $14.6 billion in 2005 and occupied about 2.5% of the retail marketplace. The fastest growing organic product categories include meat, dairy and condiments. Fruits and vegetables represent the largest dollar value category in the organic sector. Organic pet food is also a fast growing category.

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