December 16, 2003:
A few months back our New York columnist, Mary-Howell
Martens, wrote about the increasing level of “sneaking
non-compliance” that’s taking place in regard
to organic certification. She blamed the problem on lack of
education and community support, and wrote:
|In order to
accomplish all these goals in the coming year we
are seeking an editor/manager to add to our staff.
“The very best solution is strong proactive education
and a supportive local organic community. A farmer is much
more likely to comply to the letter of the law if they understand
how the standards will make them better farmers …. Unfortunately,
NOP rules prohibit both certifiers and inspectors from ‘consulting’
or providing information about overcoming barriers for certification.
This has meant that the usual channels of accurate certification
information and education have largely dried up.”
We’re pleased to announce that some new channels of
education and support will be coming soon! The Rodale Institute®
and The New Farm® staff have been awarded more than $3
million in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) to be used to develop:
- an online training course for farmers transitioning to
- a simulation tool that will allow farmers to plug in
a variety of farm variables and evaluate the economic benefits
of transitioning to organic
In addition, the Rodale Institute will be able to use some
of this money to develop an expanded Organic Price Index™
(OPX) to include prices from an additional 13 markets around
the country. The goal of the OPX™ is to present comparable
price data for organically and conventionally grown products
for commercial crops, specialty crops, and underserved commodities.
As always, we welcome your thoughts on what products we should
add to the mix as we investigate sources for additional pricing.
The RMA funding will finally allow us to develop the transition
to organic course we’ve been promising for the past
year. Hundreds of you have written, asking when it will be
ready. There’s obviously a great deal of interest, and
now we’ll be able to complete it in 2004 and offer to
all of you, free of charge, as an interactive, self-directed
and comprehensive course in the basics of organic production,
marketing and record keeping. The course will include detailed
case studies of over a dozen actual farms that have gone through
transition in the last five to ten years, ranging from California
to New England, and from cotton and peanut farmers to grass-based
livestock and vegetable and fruit operations. The final take-away
from the course will be the essentials of a farm plan that
you can take to your certifier.
The budgeting and planning simulation risk management tool
will help farmers examine the relative economic benefits of
organic versus conventional production systems over time.
The tool will provide multi-year analysis of a farm’s
yields and economics and allow producers the ability to experiment
with changes in key production variables to determine if organic
production techniques are right for their operation.
“The simulation model and the on-line training course
will provide farmers with critically needed tools to assess
the benefits to their farms and farm operations by converting
to organic production techniques,” Anthony Rodale, Chairman
of The Rodale Institute. Plans are to have the simulation
tool available through NewFarm.org. by the Fall of 2004.
This partnership with the USDA will allow us to build on
the work which we have already started on the website. The
RMA’s goals in this program are directly in step with
our plans to develop tools that will help all farmers evaluate
organic and sustainable production practices while reduce
their production risks.