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Framing Organic

Too often, we frame what we are unfamiliar or threatened by in the negative. Take organic agriculture as an example. “Organic farmers don’t use herbicides.” “Organic farmers don’t use petrochemical fertilizer.” “Organic farmers don’t plant GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops.”
Well, negative Nelly, organic farming is less about what farmers “don’t” do and more about what they actually do and why they do it.
The USDA National Organic Program defines organic agriculture as “a production system managed by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”
Organic production methods minimize the use of purchased off-farm inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides while maximizing on-farm practices that promote naturally occurring ecological relationships.
In other words, organic farming practices are founded on the science behind biodiversity crop rotations, building healthy soils, cover crops, compost, intercropping, companion planting, biological pest control, and more.
Organic farmers use these practices and others as preventative measures in the struggle against weeds, diseases, and pests with an eye towards soil health, plant nutrition, and the environment. It sounds like they’re doing a lot, doesn’t it?
National sales of organic food products surpassed the $50 billion mark in 2019.
2020 was a banner year thanks to the pandemic, but Covid aside, the organic industry boasts continued growth every year for the last three decades.
Consumers consistently choose organic if small price differences exist between organic and non-organic products, but they are also interested in supply chain transparency, environmental responsibility, and human and animal welfare concerns.
How do you know you are buying organic? Take a look at the label, or better yet, ask the farmer. But if they are busy, take a second look at the label.
Products with the “Certified Organic” or the USDA-certified organic seal have been grown on farms certified according to National Organic Program (NOP) standards. Farms selling less than $5,000 of organic agricultural products annually are exempt from certification and may identify their products as “organic,” but not “Certified Organic,” and must comply with organic production and labeling standards.
The certification process can be costly, but through November 1, the USDA accepts applications for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) for farmers obtaining or renewing organic certification under the NOP.
Certified operations may receive up to 50 percent of their certification costs covered through the program.
The funding will be complemented by an additional $20 million for organic and transitioning producers through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. OCCSP applications can be submitted to the FSA county office.
The November 1 deadline is quickly approaching, so don’t delay.