The organic food segment finds itself at a tipping point in the United States. It’s more popular than ever – and there are no signs it will fade anytime soon.
According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. consumers snapped up a record $55.1 billion worth of organic food in 2019, and the number of U.S. organic farms grew by 39% in the past five years.
The organic food market has enjoyed an average of 10% annual growth for the last half-decade, and natural food sales now account for 5.5% of all the retail food sales.
Even Congress recognizes the growing popularity of organic foods – it’s one of the few bright spots in an otherwise maligned House Farm Bill that passed in early 2018. Among other things, according to OTA, the Farm Bill provides for:
Essential tools and funding for the improved oversight of international trade to ensure the integrity of organic throughout the global supply chain.
Increased funding for the flagship Organic Research and Extensive Initiative program to help ensure organic farmers can continue to meet the unique challenges they face.
Full funding for the Organic Data Initiative, the USDA’s organic data collection program that provides accurate market and production information for the organic industry.
Like most markets responsible for so much revenue, the organic food business
has seen increased regulatory scrutiny over the last several years. But unlike
most industries, organic stakeholders welcome more regulation. After all, tighter rules lend more credibility to organic suppliers and manufacturers in the eyes of consumers.
So the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back some Obama-era organic regulations – involving animal welfare, pet food manufacturing, and beekeeping – have not gone over well with stakeholders.
The OTA challenged the USDA from pulling an already approved rule governing improved organic livestock standards in an ongoing lawsuit. The suit “argues that USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act by failing to consult with [National Organic Standards Board] on the rollback of the final organic standard, and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards developed by industry and following the established rulemaking processes. The suit also argues that USDA issued its repeated delays without the required public process and that USDA ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards. Those arguments still stand.”
The fight for more stringent organic standards – demanded by both the industry and consumers – appears to be far from over.
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