At a time when U.S. farm numbers are stagnant, the organic sector continues to grow, said a recent report by the USDA. There were 14,217 certified organic farms that sold $7.55 billion worth of organic commodities last year. The number of farms was up 11 percent from the previous year, and total sales were up 23 percent, according to the agency’s Certified Organic Survey.
Consumer demand for organic food is booming, with sales topping $43 billion a year, creating the opportunity for importers to claim, fraudulently, that their goods deserve the premium attached to organics, according to a report by the office of the USDA's inspector general (OIG). "Without controls in place at U.S. ports of entry to verify the authenticity of organic import certificates, non-organic products may be imported as organic if unscrupulous parties are willing to use fraudulent organic import certificates," says the OIG.
The millennial generation is "choosing organic" and as they become parents, the market for organic food will boom, says the Organic Trade Association, based on a survey of U.S. households. "Over the next 10 years, we’ll see a surge of new organic eaters and consumers – the Millennial parents of tomorrow and their children," said Laura Batcha, chief executive of the trade group.
In a challenge to the Trump administration's drive to erase Obama-era regulations, the organic food industry accused USDA of unlawfully delaying animal welfare rules that give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than allowed at conventional operations. Livestock groups and their allies in Congress have alternated between ridiculing the organic livestock rule and trying to scrap it.
Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator for the National Organic Program at the USDA, said he was stepping down Sept. 30 after eight years in the position, and moving back to his home state of Washington while he considers new opportunities.
With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state. (No paywall)
After shutting down row-crop use of dicamba for the rest of this growing season, Arkansas has appointed a 21-member task force to look for a long-term solution to the nearly 900 complaints about the herbicide this year. "The task force will attempt to reach consensus on a set of recommendations for the use of dicamba products n Arkansas as quickly as possible in order to provide certainty for the 2018 growing season," said the state Agriculture Department.
After buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Amazon will meet this week with organic ranchers to discuss how the company might distribute their meat, says Reuters. One of the ranches, White Oak Pastures from Blufton, Georgia, sells $2 million annually online of frozen beef, duck and lamb, but is hopeful that teaming up with Amazon will improve its reach.
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.
The USDA's National Organic Program said it revoked the certification of a Turkish company because it exported soybeans certified as "organic" to the United States that had been treated with pesticides. The action came after the Washington Post last month revealed that significant imports of both corn and soybeans had been labeled organic when they were not.