Consumer demand for organic food is rising at an incredible rate, up 11% in 2014 according to the Organic Trade Association. This translates into increased revenue for producers, but also the challenges of keeping up supply. The cost of becoming USDA certified organic on top of the operating costs the organic farmer faces can be intimidating. Organic farmers take these challenges head on to deliver a product they believe in to the consumer. The weight of these costs though seem to be creating some waves and possible rifts in a growing industry. Many farmers are rallying a call to action to consider the often intensive work they have committed to producing their product, and this to be marketed more favorably. The inclusive focus on conventional methods by traditionally organic retailers in regards to sustainability as well as the innovation of non-traditional organic methods are under fire. First we’ll take a look at the changing relationships with distributors and retailers.
Grocer Whole Foods, who has been traditionally as an advocate for the organic community, is now under scrutiny. Whole Foods with their Responsibly Grown program seem to be focusing on the sustainability of products their offering and not solely highlighting the organic vs. conventional aspect of food sourcing. “Organic is an incredibly deep standard, and at Whole Foods we celebrate that in very consistent, long-term ways,” said Mr. Rogers, who worked for more than three years to put the program together. “But the organic standard does not cover water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare, and all of these topics are really important, too.”
Below is an outline of this program:
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF RESPONSIBLY GROWN?
- Reward farmers who work hard to protect human health and the environment.
- Prohibit the most harmful chemicals; measure and reduce the rest.
- Provide shoppers with an at-a-glance Good, Better or Best rating for sustainable farming practices.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
This system was developed to address some of the serious challenges facing agriculture today.
- An estimated 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used worldwide each year.
- Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s accessible fresh water.
- Since 1960, an estimated one-third of the world’s farmable land has been lost through erosion and other degradation.
- Agriculture accounts for 10–12% of the world’s human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.
- Pollinators are crucial to more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, yet bee and butterfly populations are in serious decline.