In part one of the blog, The Future of Organic: Relevance and Scalability, we considered the perspective and insight from Laura Batcha the CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Bob Quin Organic Farmer Quinn Farm and Ranch, the Founder of Kamut International and co-author of Grain by Grain, Jeff Moyer Chief Executive Officer at the Rodale Institute, and Thomas Cierpka the Deputy Director of IFOAM Organics International. They were on stage together at ExpoEast in Baltimore, Maryland, talking about the relevance and scalability of organics. At the end of part one, we left off with the question, “Is the food chain being replaced by the word food system where there is no longer interest in interdependence?” and an answer by Laura Batcha the CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) expressing that this work might be more successful in advocating at the state level.
Now in part two of the blog, the panel discusses questions about the health aspect of organic production, organic processed food, and encouraging consumers to know more about healthy soil and what they eat.
People seem to be starting to get the health aspect of organic. Protecting your health and family seems to be the number one driver for consumers. The microbiome may be a unifying idea that everyone is willing to pay attention to.
What is the message to consumers, higher quality food, lower quantity? What is in the consumer’s mind that is pulling on the supply chain?
You have to look at who is doing the purchasing. Younger consumers are aware of health topics. These are allies in the messaging platform. No matter where someone is searching on their devices, they are getting bombarded with information about the microbiome link between soil and personal and planetary health. The US farm bill takes place every five years and takes two years to happen. No one has a state farm bill until June of this year, 2019. Pennsylvania passed the first state farm bill. It was well-received, and currently, thirty other states contacted them on how they did it.
Their state government came up with six pillars. One of them was transitioning to organic. The government in Pennsylvania saw farmers were struggling, and the organic transition is an economic benefit to all. The bill gives credibility to state agencies and money to help educate, purchasers, for example, in the poultry industry, the ability to create long term contracts. The Pennsylvania state farm bill helps marry what consumers are doing and the nutrient density of what is happening in the field. Farmers come to Jeff and say no one ever comes to me to talk about producing nutrient-dense foods, but rather ask for tons and tons of the cheapest possible food. Farmers don't get paid for quality.
If farmers are asked to produce quality or for the environment and they are told they are going to be rewarded for these, that is a different farming model. This is especially attractive to younger farmers, which is key considering there is six times the number of farmers over 65 years old versus those under 35 years old.
As part of the organic standards, we don’t talk about the processing method. Anything can be put in food as long as you watch what you put in it is organic. This seems to be part of health and cultural issues. Concerns are coming from consumers about their food. For example, glyphosate, competing labels, and complementary labels.
How do we work to get consumers to desire to know more about their food?
The Organic Trade Association has just finished nine months of quantitative research, with three thousand consumers. This was not a survey, but rather concepts of people's preferences. We strove to look at generational, ethnicity, locations, etc. The Caucasians are the slowest adopters of organics. Millennials are the heaviest consumers driven by their concern for people and the planet. They get the connection between soil health and people.
Young people are getting this. Hispanics are the heaviest users of organic within their population. Overall the chemical message is the strongest that we can't skip over the need to stop using chemicals in order to stop killing the microbes. She thinks all is great as long as it is organic, that we shouldn't chase after or overvalue anything. If we let go of organic in search of any other attribute, we have lost the value.
Organic should be regenerative because it would make it so organic food comes from healthy soil. This is the smoking gun to healthy health.
How can we simply message that?
IFOAM follows the idea that we need only one label, and that will resolve the problem. Other labels will then fade out. In Germany, there is transparency. You hover your cell phone over the package, and it streams the source of every ingredient, who produced them, and who brought them to the company. In a supermarket, if it says free from something you know it is. No one is using this opportunity in the United States. It is helpful when you can track every product and see everything. Why is that? Speaking of organic as a whole, it is not only healthy food; it is so much more. That is what should come to the consumers' minds.
In closing, is there anything that you would like to add?
He is excited about going from 0% of the land being organic to now. There is currently a 6% growth rate. In another forty years, the market will be 100% organic, and we will be done. We need the next generation to walk through the door that we opened and finish the job. Your children and their children will end the great American chemical ag organization.
Doing Our Part
To help create and support change in the Ag industry, YieldOrganic through its product lines the Ag Marketplace and Ag Connections we are facilitating the connection between organic farmers, brands and buyers to remove the barrier of growing, marketing and selling Non-GMO, organic and regenerative crops. Connecting with organic farmers, brands and buyers can be easy through YieldOrganic.