January 18, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- via Agnet from
a press release: In testimony before the Vermont
House and Senate Committees on Agriculture held in the
Senate Chamber tonight, Vermont dairy farmer Travis Forgues,
a member of the Organic Valley Family of Farms cooperative's
Vermont pool, called on Vermont "to become a champion
of the new organic era."
"Consumer demand for organic milk is booming and
Vermont should step up to the plate to meet this demand.
Organic can be a lifeline for Vermont's struggling family
farms. It can bring our children the future we want
to them to have," said Forgues, 29, a father of
two, who milks 70 cows in partnership with his father,
Henry, on 240 acres in Alburg, VT.
In his testimony on "The Current Status of Agriculture
in Vermont," Forgues announced record pay prices
for the members of his organic pool. "Organic Valley's
Vermont pool members are getting an average of $23.36
per hundredweight of milk, well over the conventional
farmer pay price of $11.85* per hundredweight,"
said Forgues. "In 2002, our Vermont pool sold 18
million pounds of Organic Valley milk and 9.5 percent
of it went into our own locally- produced line, Organic
Valley's New England Pastures."
Consumer Demand Drives Sales
Regional consumer demand for organic milk is strong
and growing. In 2002, consumer demand for organic milk
grew 28% to $10 million in the Boston market and 20%
to $3 million in the Hartford/Springfield market, the
two major markets in the region.
Similarly, Organic Valley grew 75 percent to $1.8 million
in the Boston market and 40% to a 7.6% share in the
The organic category has been growing steadily at 20
percent, and organic milk, with a 27+ percent annual
growth, is driving the growth of the category. The implementation
of the National Organic Program in the U.S. this October
further established the organic market as one that is
here to stay.
"The ultimate support for organic is coming from
consumers who want organic products for their families.
Parents in New England know that choosing organic is
an easy way to protect their children --- just like
seat belts or bicycle helmets," said Forgues.
Strong consumer demand has prompted great growth for
Organic Valley in New England. In the last year alone,
the co-op brought on 12 farms in Vermont and 10 in Maine,
for a regional total of 61 organic farms; added 940
cows being raised organically for a regional total of
2,575 cows; and added 2,350 acres in organic production
for a total of 6,525 acres in the region.
Forgues emphasized that sales and pay price cannot
be Vermont's only measures of success and he recommended
following the Organic Valley model:
"Vermont should measure success by looking at
how many farms we've been able to save, how many acres
of land we've gotten into the organic system, how many
jobs we are supporting in rural communities, how many
rivers we've helped not be polluted with agricultural
run-off, and the health and environmental benefits of
not using pesticides, hormones and antibiotics."
Organic: Saving America's Family Farms
The viability of organic as a solution for small family
farms has a number of proponents. Among them is Willie
Nelson who was interviewed in the Fall/Winter Rootstock,
Organic Valley's grassroots magazine.
Said Nelson, "Organic farming is the ultimate
answer... I think organic farming is the only way out
for us because we have to get rid of the pesticides.
We need to get rid of the chemicals. We have to go back
to Mother Nature's way of doing things, and until we
do that we're going to continue to go down in every
way possible. In farming, if it's not sustainable, we
shouldn't be doing it."
Similar support was generated by environmental activist
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the late Senator,
who said: "Organic farming has the vision for building
the sustainable, rural communities our nation needs
to protect our natural resources. As industrial agriculture
destroys our rural communities, organic farmers offer
a true return to community centered food production.
They buy locally and reinvest in their communities.
Thriving farms and town are essential for the protection
of the local environment. Organic Valley provides a
market for independent organic farmers, increasing their
ability to survive in today's economy."