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Organic Industry Calls for More Focus on Organics in Next Farm Bill

Organic farm bill title to solve undersupply?
By Lorraine Heller
FoodNavigator-USA - Montpellier, France, 1/27/2006
http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/ng.asp?n=65401-ota-organic-farm-bill

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has called for a national
action plan for organic food and farming to be included in the next farm
bill, something that could result in increased production of organic
ingredients.

The OTA said the provisions it is seeking within the 2007 Farm Bill will
carry benefits at all levels of the organic industry, and could contribute
to solving undersupply of certain commodities.

"The 2007 Farm Bill is the key piece of legislation coming up that can
influence organic agriculture and trade for years to come. We envision that
all sectors of the organic business community can benefit if we work
together on a Farm Bill that addresses the entire organic value chain," said
Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director.

Farm bills, regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and renewed
every five to six years, are a collection of laws that set the overall
direction of the nation's agriculture.

The legislation set out in a farm bill aims to provide a safe and affordable
supply of food through programs that promote US agriculture. The bills
typically contain provisions for commodity prices, agricultural trade and
crop insurance, amongst others.

"Organic agriculture is growing in the US and we feel there need to be
certain provisions for organic farmers in order to encourage production.
This will make more organic ingredients available to food manufacturers,
although at this point we can't suggest any numbers," an OTA spokesperson
told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

Indeed, organic food manufacturers are currently facing tough supply
conditions for certain commodities, particularly dairy products, meat and
oranges.

And according to Organic Monitor, which provides business research
consulting on the global market for organic goods, undersupply in the
organic market is resulting in shelves remaining empty, companies
withdrawing from the market and others looking internationally to supplement
supply needs.

"Increasing volume of organic fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, beans, and
herbs are being imported into the US. Finished products are also imported to
meet consumer demand for all things organic," said Organic Monitor last
month.

The OTA's 2004 Manufacturers' Survey reveals that the organic foods industry
reached $10.8 billion in 2003 and has grown at an average rate of 19.5
percent per year since 1997. But according to Organic Monitor, a shortage of
supply is stifling sales.

"Nearly all market sectors would grow at much higher rates if sufficient
supply was available. For instance, lack of organic milk has caused many
retailers to have empty shelves throughout the year," it said.

The USDA is currently reviewing the OTA's proposal for the next farm bill,
along with a further 4,348 comments that were received.

In 1990, the farm bill set national organic standards for the food industry,
although these were not actually implemented until 2002, according to the
OTA.

The association is now calling for a separate organic section in the new
bill, which will consist of four major provisions.

These include the establishment of a National Organic Agriculture
Initiative, which the OTA claims is necessary to provide overall policy
direction for the nation's increasing organic production. This would be
similar to directives that already exist in a number of other countries,
said the OTA.

For example, in 2004, the European Commission published a European Action
Plan for Organic Food and Farming, which provides an "overall strategic
vision for organic farming's contribution to the common agricultural
policy."

The OTA is also calling for an Organic Production Office, which would "be
responsible for coordinating communication between all USDA organic programs
to ensure the maximum amount of cooperative effort."

A third provision sought is for the enhancement of existing legislation.
"Although progress was made in funding organic production in the 2002 Farm
Bill, some items can be improved, and almost all need to be re-authorized,"
said the OTA.

Finally, the OTA is asking for the expansion of certain USDA agency programs
to meet the needs of organic producers and the organic trade in general.