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
|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 organic,
- a simulation tool that will allow farmers to plug in a variety
of farm variables and evaluate the economic benefits of transitioning
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.