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The demand for organic products has grown so rapidly that it has grown faster than the supply in the United States.

The challenge for US farmers, does not incentivize buyers to pay higher prices; he gets enough farmers to grow organic produce.

Instead of growing to meet demand, the number of farmers starting to grow organic crops is declining. Last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it would spend up to $300 million to help more farmers make the switch.

Chris Schreiner is executive director of the organic approval organization Oregon Tilth. He said of the government support: “It feels good. He added that this is an important step in this work.

Schreiner has worked for the Oregon-based organization since 1998. He said the expansion of technical training is important because of the difference between farmland with usual or conventional methods and organic methods. Schreiner noted that a farmer told him that switching a farm to organic production was like asking “a chiropodist to become a heart doctor.” surgeon.”

The important difference is the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides and genetically modified seeds. Most conventional farms use these materials, but they are prohibited on organic farms. Instead, organic farmers have to control unwanted plants and animals with different methods. They include seasonally changing crops and planting cover crops that repel unwanted plants and add nutrients to the soil.

Crops can only be said to be organic if they are grown on land that has not been treated with synthetic products for three years. During this time, farmers can grow crops, but they don’t get the extra income that comes with organic crops.

USDA data shows that the number of conventional farms that have recently turned to organic production fell by around 70% between 2008 and 2019. Organic produce accounts for around 6% of overall food sales, but only 1% of the country’s agricultural land is in organic production. Foreign producers make up the rest.

Megan DeBates is Vice President of Government Affairs for the Organic Trade Association. She said in the United States: “There are so many obstacles that prevent farmers from doing this. jump organic. »

George Naylor holds an organic apple grown on his farm Sept. 13, 2022, near Churdan, Iowa. Naylor, along with his wife Patti, began the transition to organic crops in 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

While farmers don’t seem ready, American buyers are. The Organic Trade Association found that annual sales of organic products have nearly doubled over the past 10 years and are now around $63 billion. Sales are expected to increase by 5.5% this year.

The new USDA effort would include $100 million to help farmers learn new organic farming methods. It would include $75 million for farmers who meet new conservation standards standards. It would include $25 million to expand crop insurance programs and reduce costs. And that would include $100 million to help develop and expand markets for organic products.

Nick Andrews of Oregon State University works with organic farmers. He called the USDA effort significant.

Farmers with small holdings should find this endeavor appealing because the added value of organic crops allows more money to be made even on holdings of 10 to 40 hectares. It’s much smaller than the trading operations that supply most of the country’s produce.

Andrews said: “I’ve seen organic farmers keep families in business that would otherwise go bankrupt.”

I am Gregory Stachel.

Scott McFetridge reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional reporting from Reuters.

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words in this story

challenge nm a difficult task or problem

surgeon nm a doctor who performs operations that involve cutting someone’s body in order to repair or remove damaged or diseased parts

synthetic adj. made by combining different substances: not natural

pesticide nm a chemical used to kill animals or insects that damage plants or crops

jump nm a sudden significant change, increase or improvement

Standard v. a level of quality or achievement considered acceptable or desirable

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