Weekly Top 5: Organic News You Need to Know
1. Organic Fresh Produce Sales Topped More Than $15 Billion in 2016
Organic fresh produce sales topped more than $15 billion in 2016 and are responsible for nearly 40 percent of all organic food sales according to the Organic Trade Association's (OTA's) 2017 Organic Industry Survey released Wednesday at OTA's Annual Policy Conference.
Organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in 2016, reflecting new sales of almost $3.7 billion from the previous year. Organic food now accounts for more than five percent -- 5.3 percent to be exact -- of total food sales in this country, another significant first for organic. The $15.6-billion organic fruits and vegetables sector held onto its position as the largest of the organic food categories, posting an 8.4 percent growth rate, almost triple the 3.3 percent growth pace of all fruit and vegetable sales. Organic fruits and vegetables now make up almost 15 percent of the produce that Americans eat, according to the study.
OTA's 2017 Organic Industry Survey was conducted and produced on behalf of OTA by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ). The survey was conducted from February 2, 2017, through March 31, 2017. More than 200 companies responded to the survey.
2. Rodale Kicks Off Organic vs. Conventional Veggie Comparison Trials
Rodale Institute planted potatoes, winter squash and snap beans for its new Vegetable Systems Trial (VST), a long-term, side-by-side comparison of biological-based organic and chemical-based conventional vegetable production systems. Sweet corn will be planted right after Memorial Day, while other crops to be grown in the trial include butternut squash, lettuce, and green beans.
The goal for the project is to develop economically viable vegetable production systems that improve soil, plant, human and environmental health through the application of regenerative organic management techniques.
Nonprofit Rodale pioneers best practices at its organic farm research center sitting on 333 acres of farmland in Kutztown, Pa., where it receives over 15,000 visitors annually. The group provides outreach to farmers, policymakers, and the general public on animal health and behavior and trends in production using different breeds. To learn more, click here.
3. Duncan Family Farms Employs Falcons as Bird Abatement
Duncan Family Farms, a 100% organic grower specializing in baby lettuces and greens, kales, beets, chards and herbs, is using an innovative method for bird abatement at their Goodyear, AZ farm: falconry. They have collaborated with Falcon Force, who use a team of trained falcons to intimidate and scare off nuisance birds such as the horned larks and pigeons that frequent the area.
For nearly all vegetable growers, small birds can be a problem—they not only eat seeds after they've been planted, but can also shed feathers or defecate in the fields, triggering additional food safety measures. Falcon Force uses the natural predator/prey relationship to deter the nuisance birds long term—their main goal is to chase the nuisance birds away and not kill them. An additional benefit of the trained falcons flying in the fields is that native predator birds will also leave the area to find new hunting ground, meaning they are less likely to kill a prey bird in the field and cause a food safety issue or product loss.
Falcon Force was at Duncan Family Farms in Goodyear through the end of April and Duncan has plans to continue the relationship at other growing locations with different bird abatement challenges such as large migratory birds like ducks and geese. To learn more, visit duncanfamilyfarms.com.
4. Why Congress Should Make Organic Agriculture a National Priority
A recent article from The Hill shares reasoning why organic agriculture should be made a priority in the United States as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue gets settled into his new role and Congress is talking about agriculture policy and listening to stakeholders. At a transitional moment such as this, the article points out it’s important to remember that organic agriculture leads to more profitable farms and job creation.
A study from Pennsylvania State University shows that when there is a density of organic operations, annual median household income increases by more than $2,000 and county-level unemployment goes down. Additionally, researchers at Washington State University examined 40 years of studies to analyze the comparative financial performance of organic and conventional agriculture and found that organic crop production is 22 percent to 35 percent more profitable than its conventional crop counterpart.
To read the full article and learn more about the organic areas that need support, click here.
5. The World’s First 100% Organic Country
The Republic of San Marino wants to become the first entirely organic country in the world. It was announced by Augusto Michelotti, Secretary of State for Agriculture, during a recent press conference held in Fiorentino.
"We are currently creating the laws that will enable us to cultivate organic produce on our entire territory.We are talking about the fresh produce and livestock sectors. We will also need to train operators. It won't be easy, but it would be great promotion on an international level," Augusto Michelotti shared.
To learn more, click here.
“The demand for organic produce is only going to keep growing and I don’t think we’re going to see a halt to it.”
- Ashleigh Lombardi, Braga Fresh Family Farms
OPN caught up with Kathleen Merrigan, former United States Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for “In Their Words”. Kathleen provides insight on new USDA leadership, the Organic Farming Research Foundation and future policy opportunities.Read More
Over the past 14 months, Raley’s has pushed the envelope on its organic produce section testing the limits and pushing sales to new heights.
Michael Schutt, who basically built the category for the retailer beginning in 1995, said this new effort has been educational and given him a strong appreciation of the desires of his customers. And though, as a chain, they have backed off the pedal a bit, he remains very bullish on the future growth of the category.Read More
By Mindy Hermann, RD
With demand for organic produce continuing to grow, players throughout the supply chain seek to better understand the organic shopper. Several organizations pose questions about organic attitudes and beliefs in their annual surveys. Taken collectively, the survey results paint an informative picture of today’s consumer of organic fruits and vegetables.Read More