We love what we do, and we love sharing that excitement with all of you. We couldn’t be more proud to offer you super-premium, soy-free feeds that support your family, community, and world. With New Country Organics’ birthday being today, we thought it would be nice to tell you about all the new and exciting things happening in organic agriculture, and how you (yes you!) are making a huge impact in how organics are improving, growing, and expanding both locally and globally.
A huge funding boon for farmers interested in becoming organic
Becoming an organic farmer, as many of us know, isn’t always easy. There’s a lot of thought and procedure going into organic farming that runs very differently from conventional agriculture, and when your livelihood is staked on producing a crop there’s not a lot of margin for error even when you’re just starting out. This makes the switch from conventional to organic very intimidating for a lot of producers. Luckily, the USDA just launched a 300-million-dollar new organic transition initiative to help conventional farmers switch to organic with better support and fewer risks.
Some of the highlights of this new initiative include funding for: extensive mentor networks; workshops on agricultural practices and certification processes; financial and technological support for producers following new organic management conservation practice standards; additional support for crops in high demand; marketing support for new organic producers; and a number of other programs. This impressive array of new programs being implemented will encourage farmers that have been hedging on becoming organic to commit to the transition, as well as enticing more staunchly conventional farmers to reconsider their stance. Overall, not only will this improve market supply, which is currently far outstripped by demand, but it should also improve market stability as more and more farms enter the organic market. This initiative could not have happened without the long-term, ongoing support of people like you in the organic community and shows that the organic movement continues to gain traction.
Even better welfare for animals in organic systems
More than a few people were greatly disappointed when, in 2017, many of the more rigorous organic standards concerning animal welfare were withdrawn. Fortunately, the outcry and frustration of organic consumers quickly (for the speed at which legislation moves, anyway,) resulted in not only a proposed reversal of that withdrawal, but further improvements for animal welfare in organic systems. Under this new proposal, not only do organic animals have to have continual outdoor access, but they must have actual dirt and vegetation under their feet. Concrete patios would no longer considered sufficient to qualify as outdoor access for organic certification.
Further, the legislation requires better support for species-specific natural behaviors, including improved space requirements, as well as supporting more humane transport, slaughter, and euthanasia procedures among many other great policies. The proposal was published on August 2022, and the public comments were closed in November 2022. The USDA is still reviewing those comments from all appearances, but as there was overwhelming public support for the rule there’s no reason we shouldn’t see the final rule published this year.
Better enforcement of organic standards means everyone has to play by the same rules
A final rule that did get published recently thanks to overwhelming public support was on strengthening organic enforcement. This affects certifiers more than producers, but in general will do a better job of making sure organic consumers are, in fact, receiving organic products. Supply chain traceability and fraud prevention are highlighted as essential in this final ruling, and as such certifiers will spend much more time ensuring regulations are being followed and perform more regular inspections. On the producer side, this mostly means slightly more documentation of procedures, whether that’s growing, transporting, or handling goods, but shouldn’t really result in any changes for the vast majority of folks making organic products.
This will more heavily affect foreign organic producers as well, as they’ll be required to follow more stringent documentation practices to make sure the products coming into the US are genuine, including requirements for direct USDA involvement beyond paperwork. Given recent hesitation about foreign organic products due to a few people slipping past the previous safeguards, these rulings, while being more labor intensive, should close the holes in our safety nets and restore some of the lost trust in organic products.
Organic yields are rapidly growing
One of the most prevalent arguments people see supporting conventional agriculture over organic is that organic yields are lower than conventional. It doesn’t look like that argument will be debatable for long. While organic yield performance vs. conventional is hotly debated for a number of reasons and factors, recent studies have also shown that organic crops now consistently outperform conventional crops about 20% of the time! This is thanks in part to improvements in organic agricultural sciences, but the largest impact is made by the spread of information within the organic community. Better knowledge of best practices for crop rotations and diversification, trap crops, fertilization, best crops for the farm’s growth zone, and more has made all the difference for a huge number of producers.
The biggest take-away from the 2022 USDA Agricultural Organic Outlook Forum was that just substituting organic products for conventional ones isn’t the answer to producing high yields in organic crops. Rather, organic farming is a whole methodology and practice unto itself. This is knowledge we’ve seen many established producers keen to share with folks just entering the realm of organic agriculture and is shown time and time again to make the biggest difference for those newcomers. To everyone sharing knowledge, tips, and tricks: Keep it up! You’re on the forefront of making organic agriculture the best it can be, and finally making the crop yield argument obsolete!
The organic market is growing at an incredible rate
In 2021 and 2022, despite the continuous chaos in the global supply chain and economic strain on families from all walks of life, organic sales grew a full 14%! There’s more than 5 million acres of organic farmland in the US alone, now, and we couldn’t be more excited to support these farmers in producing quality, healthy, pesticide and herbicide free, non-GMO foods. In fact, New Country Organics, despite our small size, is directly responsible for about 1/1000th of those 5 million acres! Many of our customers and organic suppliers have also talked about having a boom in their local organic groups, both on social media and at real-life events. Between the increased demand and the increased supply of organic goods, the organic market outlook is both more stable than the conventional market outlook and set to see even more growth in the coming year.
Part of this growth is that the organic community has had a wealth of recent reports on the benefits of organics to help educate and welcome new people to the community, and part of it is that with all the changes everyone has faced, we’ve all had to take a step back and consider what’s really important to us. For a lot of people, that meant re-evaluating their choices as consumers and making the wonderful decision to purchase more organic goods for the health of their families and the earth. To all of you purchasing organics for the first time: Welcome! We’re so excited to share all of our knowledge for healthy organic living. To everyone who has helped build this community up so that these newcomers have the opportunity to learn: Thank you so much for your support and dedication! You’re the reason so many people have shown such interest in organics, and we’re looking forward to learning and growing more with you!
Happy earth day everyone!
USDA. 2022. USDA to Invest up to $300 million in New Organic Transition Initiative. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/08/22/usda-invest-300-million-new-organic-transition-initiative
Federal Register. 2023. National Organic Program (NOP); Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/08/09/2022-16980/national-organic-program-nop-organic-livestock-and-poultry-standards
Agricultural Marketing Service. 2023. National Organic Program (NOP); Strengthening Organic Enforcement. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/01/19/2023-00702/national-organic-program-nop-strengthening-organic-enforcement
Organic Trade Association. ORGANIC LIVESTOCK & POULTRY STANDARDS (OLPS) 2022 PROPOSED RULE. https://ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/OLPS%20Proposed%20Rule%20Summary_Final%208-9-2022.pdf
USDA. 2022. 2023 Agricultural Outlook Forum Program. https://www.usda.gov/oce/ag-outlook-forum/2023-aof-program
The Business Research Company. 2023. Organic Food Global Market Report 2023. https://www.reportlinker.com/p06284597/Organic-Food-Global-Market-Report.html?utm_source=GNW