Today’s American organic sector is making a positive difference for all of us and has become an integral part of our lives. Indeed, organic agriculture, regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, benefits farmers and consumers, businesses of all sizes, rural and urban communities – in Michigan and across the country.
Senator Debbie Stabenow recognizes the importance of organic to Michigan and our nation as a whole. Through her leadership of the last two National Farm Bills – as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee during the development of the 2014 Farm Bill and as a senior member of the agriculture committee that drafted the 2018 bipartisan farm bill that was recently approved by the Senate – Senator Stabenow has distinguished herself as a champion of organic farmers and organic consumers.
Organic farming is now practiced in all US states. In Michigan alone, there are over 750 organic farms and businesses. Organic allows family farms in Michigan and all of our rural areas not just to survive, but to thrive. It offers farmers of all types a healthy and profitable option.
Beyond the farm, this creates opportunities for a wide range of businesses, from organic processors to organic delivery services, from organic feed mills to organic restaurants. And these organic farms, suppliers and handlers create jobs and help local economies. Studies show that organic “hotspots”—counties with high levels of organic agricultural activity—boost rural economies, increase median household incomes, and reduce poverty levels.
Consumers are eating more organic than ever. Organic food sales in this country now total nearly $50 billion. A recent study showed that 83% of all Michigan households sometimes choose to buy organic food — not every trip to the grocery store, but when choosing organic makes sense for their budget and family.
Considered a commodity class, organic ranks fourth among the country’s food and feed economies with more than $6.2 billion in farm gate sales in 2015, according to government statistics. No longer a niche market, today’s organic must be part of any serious discussion on agricultural and food policy.
The 2018 Farm Bill that the Senate recently passed provides a historic investment in organic agriculture and ensures that organic farmers can continue to meet the unique challenges they face. It continuously increases and funds organic research, essential to the success of organic agriculture. It further encourages organic farming by sharing the cost of transitioning to organic farming. It is taking steps to prevent non-organic foods from being sold in this country as organic by tightening the global trade monitoring system, removing data and technical loopholes that allow fraud, and approving other preventative measures to ensure consumers get what they are. pay when they buy organic.
None of this would have happened without Senator Stabenow’s critical commitment to advancing organic agriculture in Michigan and across the country. Senator Stabenow received the Organic Trade Association Public Service Award in 2014 for her outstanding and critical support of the organic industry throughout her career. His leadership led to a historic new emphasis on organic priorities in the 2014 Farm Bill that has since continued in 2018 legislation.
Laura Batcha is Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.