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Organic Food Production in Wisconsin Grows Steadily

Report: Wisconsin Can Thrive on Organic Agriculture
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/14/2003

Organic food sales in the United States have grown 20 percent or more
annually for the past decade and remain strong. A new report details the
growth of organic agriculture in Wisconsin and the nation, and encourages
state investment in this value-added marketing strategy.

"Wisconsin has the third-highest number of certified organic farms in the
nation, but our state government and universities provide relatively little
support for organic farming," said Matt Mariola, a graduate student at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of the report. "Strategic
public and private investment in organic agriculture and marketing could
result in economic growth for our state."

Entitled "Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2003 Status Report," the report
was released jointly by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural
Systems and Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

According to the USDA, Wisconsin ranks first in the nation for organic
livestock production, with 22 percent of the nation's total organic milk
cows. It ranks second in the nation for acres of organic hay and silage, and
third for acres of organic corn, soybeans, oats and barley. Although organic
crops and livestock represent just a small fraction of Wisconsin's total
agricultural production, organic production grew 92 percent from 1997-2001.

The success of Organic Valley in La Farge demonstrates the economic growth
potential of the organic food industry in Wisconsin, according to Mariola.
Organic Valley's sales grew from $9 million in 1995 to $125 million in
2002-an increase of more than 1,200 percent. In late 2002, when milk prices
fell to as low as $11 per hundredweight, Organic Valley was able to pay
their farmers nearly twice this figure.

Surrounding states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan are investing in
organic marketing, research and extension to support entrepreneurial growth
in this value-added industry. Wisconsin's state government recently pledged
support for organic farming and food systems. Governor Jim Doyle's "Grow
Wisconsin" agenda for agriculture includes a goal for Wisconsin to become an
international leader in organic food production, processing and marketing.
The report adds support for such an investment initiative.

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