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Organic farming going strong

The number of certified organic farms and acres is on the rise in Minnesota according to a new Minnesota Department of Agriculture report.

The Status of Organic Agriculture in Minnesota report provides detailed information about the economic performance of organic farms, organic consumer and market data, environment and human health topics and an inventory of state and federal programs directed toward organic agriculture.

Highlights of the 55-page report prepared for the Minnesota legislature include:

The number of certified organic farms in Minnesota increased 42 percent between 2000 and 2008.  Organic acreage in the state increased 88 percent during the same period.

 Consumer appetite for organic products has continued to grow, even during the recent economic downturn.

Most (78 percent) Minnesota organic farmers started their careers as conventional farmers.

Organic farmers are optimistic about the future of organic agriculture and of their farming operations.

Weed control and production costs remain top concerns of organic farmers, while weed management, soil health and nutritional studies on organic foods are their top research priorities.

The report also includes comprehensive recommendations about efforts and activities that would aid the continued growth and development of this agricultural sector, including expansion of processing and distribution capacity, assistance to farmers during the period of transition from conventional to organic production, enforcement of organic standards to protect the rights of organic growers and consumers, and identification of organic farming practices that provide the greatest environmental benefits.

Organic agriculture is governed by a comprehensive set of federal regulations that prohibit the use of genetically modified seeds, antibiotics and hormones.

 The regulations also prohibit the use of most synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and require practices that conserve soil and water and promote animal welfare.

"Certified organic" is a verified claim, which means an independent organization reviews records and inspects each farm at least once a year to make sure farmers are complying with the national organic standards and consumers are getting what they pay for.