Last Tuesday at HQ the Skagit Democrats Sustainability & Environment Committee Chairman Steve Crider reported back to members about his successful trip to the other Washington in early April. Steve attended the policy conference held by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Although Wash DC was abuzz with tea baggers, lobbyist and those set on cutting spending and taxes, it attests to the importance of organic farmers to our health and economy that most of their requests were kept in the budget. Steve worked on the OTA’s agenda by visiting the Wash DC staffs of our Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and 2nd Congressional District Representative Rick Larsen. He also attended the meeting held by Deputy Administrator Suzanne Heinen of the Foreign Agricultural Services to promote trade in organic products.
While organic crops are a small percentage of the national food production, organic products have been a rapidly growing source of revenue and employment for almost every State in the Union including Western Washington. While revenues for conventional farm products have grown by 0.6% last year, organic farm products have grown by 16% to become a 29 billion dollar industry nationwide. Revenues for the Skagit Valley are about 12 million. The state of Washington has 1077 certified organic operations.
Two major concerns of the organic farm products industry being addressed by the trade association are regulation and enforcement of organic certification which is essential to the survival of the industry. The Organic industry also perceives a threat from organic seeds polluted by pollen from Monsanto’s GMO crops. Court challenges and changes in legislation will be needed to mitigate this threat.