Organic Consumers Association

Minnesota Organic Partnership


April 22, 2003
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Filed at 2:23 a.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- In one of the first partnerships of its kind, five
state and federal agencies agreed to bolster hundreds of Minnesota
farmers' successful venture into organic growing.

``Are there ways in which we can coordinate what we're
doing so that we could, in essence, get more bang for the
buck?'' state Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson asked
Monday, before signing the agreement.

Officials hope the partnership will increase productivity
and profitability through programs that teach farmers about
the fiscal and environmental benefits of organic crops.

The partnership aims to accelerate the organic-growing
trend in Minnesota, which ranks sixth in the nation. From
1997 to 2001, acreage increased by 62 percent to more than
103,000. The state also ranks first in acreage for several
organic crops, including corn, soybeans and rye. Minnesota
has 421 certified organic farms.

But industry experts say Minnesota won't stay at the
forefront without putting more resources into organic

``The average farmer has very little assistance in getting
started in organics,'' said Ron Desens, an organic farmer
from Litchfield and a member of the state's Organic
Advisory Task Force, which advises Hugoson. ``You really
have to learn (organic farming) from other farmers.''

With that in mind, Desens said the task force suggested
that state and federal officials get more involved so
Minnesota's organic industry continues its growth spurt.

The partnership includes the state Agriculture Department,
the University of Minnesota and its Extension Service, and
the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm
Service Agency.

Bill Hunt, state conservationist with the USDA, said that
the task force opened his eyes to how the federal
government could help.

``We found out that in many instances we were not providing
the types, and quantity, of technical and financial
assistance as we should to these producers,'' he said.

Specifically, Hunt said that agriculture officials haven't
adequately educated farmers to the conservation aspect of
organic farming, which includes rotating crops and avoiding
artificial pesticides.

``This is the right thing to do to protect our resources,''
he said.

Greg Reynolds, an organic farmer in Delano, said that many
regular farmers are struggling with low prices. However,
organic producers receive nearly double the price for their

If nothing else, Reynolds said, the increased involvement
of the state and federal governments will dispel a stigma
that has dogged organic farmers.

``There's an image of the hippie-fringe guy smoking dope
and not making any money, and, the fact is, it's
profitable,'' Reynolds said.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

By Janet Kubat Willette
Agri News staff writer

Minnesota's organic industry gained ground last week when five agencies
inked a first-of-its-kind partnership agreement.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota and
its Extension Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the
Farm Service Agency signed an agreement pledging to work together to
better serve organic farmers and those who want to enter the organic

"It's really groundbreaking," said Jim Riddle of Winona, who chairs the
MDA organic advisory task force and serves as secretary of the National
Organic Standards Board. "It's the first such agreement in the country
where you have a state agency, university and Extension, and federal
agencies agreeing to cooperate and provide information to (organic)
producers, and more importantly I would say, conventional producers
wanting to transition to organic."
Organic agriculture has grown 20 percent a year for the past 12 years,
Riddle said.

The partnership agreement isn't a commitment of funds, Riddle said,
instead it signals employees in the different organizations to work
together to support the state's growing organic industry.

National Campaign For Sustainable Agriculture
P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, New York 12566

Phone: 845-744-8448
Fax: 845-744-8477



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