OPN Connect Newsletter 4 · March 24, 2017

Weekly Top 5: Organic News You Need to Know 

1. Will Sprouts Join Albertsons?

Reports this week indicate food  retailer Albertsons is in talks to purchase natural and organic specialty retailer Sprouts. 

Albertsons needs organics to appeal to the health-conscious affluent customer, but its current stores also aren’t drawing low-end customers away from dollar-store chains or Wal-Mart.  With the German chain Aldi expanding rapidly in the U.S., and  planned arrival of European competitor Lidl this year, it’s expected that grocery price wars will be a growing factor for Albertsons and other chains. For more read the story here.

Nature Safe

2. United Arab Emirates (UAE) Makes Organic Produce Available and Affordable

A new program sponsored by the UAE government subsidizes farming equipment, provides training for local organic farmers and introductions to supermarket buyers.  The program is run by UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

The new program’s goal is to ensure that local organic produce is available and affordable around the country. 

The organic UAE brand, which is mostly in line with European organic standards, is now available in Union Co-Ops around the country and in Lulu Hypermarkets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  For more details, click here.

Organic Ag Products

3. EWG Suggests 2018 Farm Bill Reforms Will Help Organic Keep Pace with Growing Demand

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group suggests if Congress makes modest reforms to current programs in the 2018 farm bill, American farmers would be in a better position to meet the demand for organics by increasing the number of organic farms and the amount of organic acreage. 

Among key suggestions included in the report:

  • Reforming the Conservation Stewardship Program to create bundles of conservation practices specifically to help producers who want transition to organic.
  • Reforming the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative to provide organic and transitioning producers with the same level of support as those in the general funding pool.

    For the full EWG report, click here.
Ocean Mist

4. National Organic Program (NOP): Sunset 2017 Amendments to National List

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), as part of its oversight for the National Organic Program, renewed 187 substances in the recent 2017 Sunset Review of the National List.  These substances will continue to be allowed for use in organic agriculture until March 15,2022 when the next required five-year review is scheduled. 

The list includes both natural substances which are prohibited and synthetic substances which are allowed for organic use.  AMS recommended 11 substances be removed and welcomes comments from growers and the public until April 19.  For more or to comment, click here.

5. The Boston Red Sox ‘Green Monster’ Really IS Green!

A 5,000 square foot organic garden in the midst of Boston’s Fenway Park  will grow over 7,500 pounds of organic produce atop Red Sox landmark home.  Green City Growers, which  created and manages the third base side rooftop farm,  harvests the organic produce which is served during games at the EMC restaurant and concessions  throughout  the park. 

Another Green City Growers’ garden graces the roof atop Whole Foods in Lynnfield, MA, the first major grocery chain to offer its customers “rooftop produce”, with selections ranging from basil and sage to tomatoes and kale.   Garden offerings are also used in merchandising the produce department as well as in Whole Foods’ prepared meals.

Christopher Grallert, a partner in Green City Growers, says, “We take under-utilized urban spaces and transform them into interactive, integrated gardens that are used for activities, education, events and provide hyperlocal fresh organic and utilitarian products.”  Learn more here.


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