It's not well known, but organic farmers – like their conventional farming neighbors – depend on plastic to grow a lot of produce. "It's spread over the ground as a form of mulch to suppress weeds, conserve water and aid plant growth," reports Lisa Elaine Held in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with NPR's The Salt.
Farmworkers face the greatest risk of adverse health effects from exposure to pesticides, says a report released today by the nonprofit Organic Center, which studies the environmental and health effects of organic food and farming.
Americans purchased a record $45.2 billion worth of organic food last year - half of it in fruit, vegetables, dairy and eggs - as organics took a still-larger share of U.S. spending on food, said a survey commissioned by the Organic Trade Association. Sales of organic food more than doubled in the past decade and now account for 5.5 percent of grocery sales.
As the National Organic Standards Board opened its semi-annual meeting this week, the USDA announced two appointments to the group’s 15-member board.
Two months after an advisory board voted to deny organic certification to aeroponic agriculture, the USDA said aeroponic crops remain eligible for the organic seal. "USDA will consider this [advisory] recommendation; aeroponics remains allowed during this review," said the Agricultural Marketing Service in a bulletin to organic growers.
Eleven months into the Trump administration, the Agriculture Department decided it lacks statutory authority to implement the livestock welfare rules that is wrote for organic farmers, and will announce today that it is killing the regulation. Groups representing conventional agriculture cheered the decision, which was disclosed at the end of last week, while the organic industry and its allies in Congress said USDA disregarded public sentiment and "could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative."
With demand for organic food outrunning U.S. production, state agriculture departments frequently have too little money and limited expertise to help the sector grow, says a report by the Berkeley Food Institute. It recommends states dedicate more money and personnel "to keep up with the growing organic market" and include organic agriculture in "state pride" programs that trumpet local products.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing Northern California's first district, joined a bipartisan effort to increase funding for the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). The bill, originally sponsored by Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Dan Newhouse of Washington, and Jimmy Panetta of California, seeks to renew OREI and increase its funding to $50 million per year.
The booming U.S. demand for organic food is fueling a rapid expansion at the ground level, with more farms turning organic and growers devoting more land to feedstuffs for organic cattle and poultry, says Mercaris, which monitors the sustainable agriculture sector. "We look forward to seeing imports edge downward in coming years" as domestic corn and soybean production increases.
The tech-investment firm SoftBank Vision Fund says it will spend $200 million to help the indoor farming startup Plenty expand around the globe. Currently the company has two farms, one in San Francisco and another in Laramie, Wyoming, but it wants to scale up, tapping into population centers around the world.