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Organic Consumers Association

Government Agencies and U. of Minnesota Sign Pledge in Support of Organic Agriculture in State

  • Organic Consumers Association, May 30, 2008

On Wednesday, May 28, at a ceremony in St. Paul, a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was signed by multiple agencies of the State of Minnesota, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota, in what was described as a “commitment to Minnesota’s organic agriculture sector”.

In the Memorandum, the signatories agreed to assist all levels of the organic supply chain, from producers and processors to distributors and consumers, by working collaboratively to share information resources and also by supporting research and educational activities such as “field days” to demonstrate production and conservation practices, and to showcase the economic potential of organics.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, there are about 560 certified organic farms in the state, and acreage devoted to organic production is now more than double that of 1997. In addition, there are 171 certified organic handlers operating in the state.

Signers of the MOU also agreed to support a “Minnesota Organic Conference”, to be held annually, by providing resources such as funds, speakers, and publicity.

The nation’s first “state-level organic MOU” was formed in 2003 by five Minnesota state agencies. With the new Memorandum, the commitment gas been renewed, now with twice the number of signatories.

To see a copy of the MOU, click here.
http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic/mou.htm

Minnesota Memorandum of Understanding on Organic Agriculture

This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is entered into by the undersigned
Minnesota-based state, federal, or tribal agency(ies) or publicly-funded
institution(s) of higher learning (hereinafter referred to as Partners). The
Partners are engaged in compatible activities to enhance the productivity,
profitability and environmental responsibility of the traditional and
nontraditional agricultural and rural sectors in Minnesota. Areas of Partner
responsibility and expertise include production, processing, marketing,
natural resource conservation and management, land use planning, community
development, education, and research. Effective cooperation can aid
significantly in advancing the missions of the Partners to include reaching
underserved clientele in Minnesota.

I. AUTHORITY

This MOU is entered into in accordance with Minnesota Statute 31.94 subd (d)
(3-5) which outline statutory duties of the Commissioner of Agriculture to
direct programs of the department to work toward the promotion of organic
agriculture in Minnesota, to inform agencies of how state or federal
programs could utilize and support organic agriculture, and to work with
appropriate organizations to identify opportunities and needs as well as
ensure coordination and avoid duplication of state agency efforts regarding
research, teaching and extension work relating to organic agriculture; as
well as in accordance with the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act,
as amended (Public Law 74-46, 49 Stat. 163, U.S.C. 590a-f); which
established the Soil Conservation Service to conserve soil and water
nationwide by providing technical assistance to farmers and ranchers among
other things.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Organic Sector Growth and Development

Organic agriculture is experiencing a significant growth from both farmers
and consumers. The USDA and trade groups have tracked organic sales growth
at nearly 19 percent per year since 2000. Land in certified organic
production has more than doubled in Minnesota since 1997, and as of 2008,
the Minnesota Department of Agriculture estimates that 560 certified organic
farms are in operation in Minnesota, along with 171 certified organic
handling operations. Through ecologically-based farming methods that
emphasize soil and livestock health, farmers are producing food and other
products for which a growing number of consumers will pay more. Preserving
the identity of organically grown foods and agricultural products through
processing and handling is crucial, and creates opportunities for new
on-farm, rural, and tribal business enterprises in Minnesota to sell to
local, regional, national and international buyers. It is the intention of
the MOU Partner organizations to undertake complementary efforts that will
help Minnesota farmers, Minnesota-based business enterprises, and Minnesota
consumers make the most of the opportunities presented by this rapidly
growing sector.

B. MOU Partner Organizations

A state, federal, or tribal agency or publicly-funded institution of higher
learning may join this MOU as a Partner at any time by submitting a signed
and dated joining statement to the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture.
The statement must describe the organization¹s interest in joining the MOU
and include one or more examples of how the organization anticipates
fulfilling the responsibilities set forth in section IV. The Minnesota
Department of Agriculture will provide the MOU document and maintain a
current list of Partners on its web site at www.mda.state.mn.us

C. Areas of Need

Opportunities for cooperative organic agriculture efforts among Partners
exist in a number of areas cited in a 2006 report to the Minnesota
Legislature entitled The Status of Organic Agriculture in Minnesota. These
areas include:

1. education and information,
2. marketing and promotion,
3. business development,
4. regulatory support,
5. technical and financial assistance,
6. policy and program support, and
7. research.

III. PURPOSE

The purpose of this MOU is to establish a framework for cooperation among
Partner organizations and agencies on organic program activities that
involve the conservation of natural resources, expansion of economic
opportunity, and enhancement of consumer choice specifically related to
products grown and processed organically in Minnesota.

IV. RESPONSIBILITIES

A. The Partners agree to work collaboratively to provide assistance to
organic producers, processors/handlers, and buyers/consumers in the State of
Minnesota as follows:

1. To support time and efforts of staff in organic professional
development, service delivery, and outreach efforts, both on behalf of the
Partner itself and in collaboration with other MOU Partners.
2. To formally notify all employees about the organization¹s status as an
MOU Partner.
3. To prominently acknowledge the organization¹s status as an Organic MOU
Partner on its organizational web site.
4. To encourage and support organic research, demonstrations, and field
days to showcase production practices, conservation measures, economic
performance, and other considerations related to organic production.
5. To support an annual Minnesota Organic Conference by providing funds,
speakers, and/or other resources, and to encourage selected staff to attend
the conference for professional development.
6. To share information about organic conferences, newsletters, and
training opportunities.
7. To appoint and empower one staff person to participate in MOU-related
discussions and decision-making on behalf of the Partner and attend an
annual meeting of Partner organizations.
8. To contribute a summary of the Partner¹s MOU-related activities and
other topical content, as appropriate to the Partner¹s technical expertise,
for inclusion in the Status of Organic Agriculture in Minnesota report to
the Minnesota Legislature, which is compiled by the Minnesota Department of
Agriculture on a biennial basis.

B. It is understood by the Partners that:

1. This MOU is neither a fiscal nor funds obligating document. Any
endeavor by any party that involves the reimbursement, contribution of
funds, and transfer of anything of value between or among the parties will
be handled in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and procedures.
Such endeavors shall be outlined in separate agreements; shall be made in
writing by authorized representatives; and shall comport with appropriate
statutory authority. This MOU does not provide such authority.
2. This MOU in no way restricts any party from participating in similar
activities with other public or private agencies, or organizations, and
individuals.
3. Each party agrees it will be responsible for its own acts and results
thereof and shall not be responsible for the acts of the other parties and
the results thereof. Each party therefore agrees that it will assume all
risk and liability to itself, its agents or employees, for any injury to
persons or property resulting in any manner from the conduct of its own
operations, and the operations of its agents or employees, under this MOU,
and for any loss, cost, damage, or expense resulting at any time from
failure to exercise proper precautions, of or by itself or its own agents or
its own employees, while occupying or visiting the projects under and
pursuant to this MOU. The Federal Government¹s liability shall be governed
by the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. 2671-80), and
the State¹s by the Minnesota Tort Claims Act (Minnesota Statute §3.736).

V. DURATION

This MOU shall become effective upon the date of signature and continue in
effect until April 30, 2013 or until modified or terminated. This MOU may be
modified or amended upon written consent of all Partners. Any party may
terminate its commitment to the MOU with 30-day written notice to all other
parties.

VI. PROVISIONS

A. All activities and programs conducted under this MOU shall be
administered in accordance with the requirements of title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975,
the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations enforcing nondiscrimination
requirements, and departmental rules and regulations. Compliance ensures
access to all aspects of program delivery of benefits and services to the
public without regards to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex,
age, disability, marital status, familial status, parental status, sexual
orientation, or because all or part of an individual¹s income is derived
from any public assistance program.

B. All activities conducted under this MOU shall be in compliance with the
Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-690, Title V, Subtitle D).

Accepted at Saint Paul, Minnesota on May 28, 2008 by the following (signed
document on file):

Gene Hugoson, Commissioner, for Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Mark Holsten, Commissioner, for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Brad Moore, Commissioner, for Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Perry Aasness, State Executive Director, for USDA ­ Farm Service Agency
(Minnesota)

John Beckwith, Acting State Conservationist, for USDA ­ Natural Resources
Conservation Service (Minnesota)

Duane Voy, Deputy Director, for USDA ­ Risk Management Agency (Minnesota)

Steve Wenzel, State Director, for USDA ­ Rural Development ­ (Minnesota)

Al Levine, Dean, for University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural,
and Natural Resource Sciences

Bev Durgan, Dean, for University of Minnesota Extension

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