LA CROSSE, Wisconsin, February
26, 2005: The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education
Service (MOSES) kicked off a new public education campaign this
weekend at its 16th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference
in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The “Help Wanted: Organic Farmers”
campaign is designed to draw attention to the need to expanded organic
production and increase the number of organic farmers in order to
satisfy the rapidly growing consumer demand for organically produced
food. A record 1750 people attended the 2005 conference. It is the
largest organic farming conference in the United States.
According to MOSES Director, Faye Jones, the purpose of the campaign
is to raise awareness in the farm community that there is a genuine
consumer-driven need for more organic food production, especially
dairy, beef, poultry and cash grain. Jones says, “Consumers
have been driving retail sales of organic food up and up and up.
. . . vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, chicken, beef, pork, you
name it. Now is the time for the farm community to step up and meet
this demand. We need to realize that there are some important economic
opportunities here in the Midwest, particularly for organic livestock
producers and for those that raise the certified organic grain that
these animals eat.”
Retail sales of organic foods have grown
at 20% per year since 1990. Industry projections by the Nutrition
Business Journal call for 2004-2008 annual growth to be 15.6% for
organic dairy, 39% for organic beef, and 48% for organic poultry.
At a campaign kick-off news conference Friday, Wisconsin Secretary
of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen, noted
that the Mississippi River Valley region has been at the center
of the organic and sustainable agriculture community. He said, "It's
clear that we need more people producing organically. What is hopeful
is that you don't have to learn the lessons of organic farming on
your own anymore. The infrastructure and network are out there to
get you the resources you need."
MOSES has prepared a "Help Wanted: Organic Farmers”
information and resource packet for farmers interested in making
the transition to organic production. It is available through the
organization’s website www.mosesorganic.org
or by calling MOSES’ Spring Valley, Wisconsin office at 715-772-3153.
Also speaking at the news conference was George Siemon, co-founder
and Chief Executive Officer of Organic Valley Family of Farms, the
nation's largest organic cooperative. Siemon noted the growing consumer
demand for organic products and said, "The market is calling
out to farmers, and this is a rare moment where farmers can be financially
very well rewarded as well." The prices that organic farmers
have received during the last decade have generally been50-100%
higher than their conventional counterparts.