Organic Opportunity Highlighted in New Report


Looking to better understand consumers’ increasing interest in where their food comes from and how their food dollars can provide greater support for local food-related businesses and farmers, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis partnered to increase awareness of this opportunity for economic growth in both rural and urban communities.

“Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities” is a compilation of research, essays, and reports by community development experts from around the country. Of special note is the chapter on organic agriculture co-authored by Maggie McNeil, Senior Editor at the Organic Trade Association, and Edward Jaenicke, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State University. The chapter features success stories from areas where organic food and crop production and associated business activities have resulted in meaningful regional economic improvements. These “organic hotspots” make a strong case for fostering the transition to organic agriculture.

A few statistics from these areas:

•             On average, county poverty rates drop by 1.3 percentage points.
•             Median household income increases by over $2,000.
•             Unemployment rates drop by 0.22 percentage point.
•             Per capita income increases by $899.

So, why is it that less than than one percent of the farmland in the U.S. is certified organic? Many farmers cite the transition process as the biggest hurdle. McNeil and Jaenicke point to several factors that can facilitate the transition to organic:

•             A local organic certifier that can be actively involved in the process.
•             Local agricultural extension agents with organic knowledge.
•             Outreach and educational efforts and close ties to other organic producers.

At OFRF, we believe continued growth of organic agriculture requires investment in research, extension, and education programs that provide sound information and assistance to organic farmers. We are now actively advocating for passage of the Organic Agriculture Research Act, which would reauthorize and increase funds for USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) in the next Farm Bill. You can read more about the proposed legislation here.

Signup for OFRF’s monthly online newsletter to stay up to date and get involved in supporting this important legislation and other efforts that foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming system. 

“Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities” is available to download here.