Organic Food As a Fast-Growing Segment of US Agriculture

Lately organic food is gaining popularity, the trend being stable for at least five years. The recent research conducted by the Food Marketing Institute provides proof that majority of American citizens buy organic food at least once a month.

This segment of US agriculture shows rapid growth. Only in 2007 organic food retailers earned more than 20 billion dollars. The annual growth of organic dairy industry is estimated to be 18 percent by the year 2010.

Let us have a look at the main idea beneath organic food production, i.e. using materials and practices that could improve the ecological balance of natural systems. We cannot be absolutely sure that organic products are free of residues yet there are best practices involved in production that are directed at minimizing pollution from air, soil and water. And organic food production is controlled y strict state and federal standards, too.

Thus mostly people tend to treat organic food as that which is devoid of fertilizers or pesticides. Nonetheless the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) labelled food as organic if it is 95 percent pure.

Sometimes products contain only 70 percent of organic materials or even less. This kind of food cannot be called organic but it can be labelled “made with organic ingredients”. Thus you should differentiate between these forms of products at the supermarket.

De facto non-organic practices in the USA release more than one billion pounds of pesticides. The USDA’s tests prove that organic products contain three or four times less pesticide residues than in conventionally produced fruits and vegetables.

And conventional practices in agriculture can result in water contamination. According to Environmental Working Group’s research that was conducted back in 1955 across the Corn Belt, in Louisiana and Maryland, scientists concluded that tap water pesticide contamination was at health risk levels. The solution was in organic farming methods, as well as developing the soil.

It is important to notice that the term organic has another meaning than organic. Sometimes food producers seeking higher sales and good reputation make tricks by labelling their food as natural as it does not comply to organic food standards.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows using the term natural for food that does not contain any added colourings, artificial ingredients or synthetic substances.

That is why more and more non-organic producers try to present their products as good for health and thus, in 2008, about one third of all new US food and beverage products were labelled with the word “natural”.

Why Sustainable Agriculture Remains Relevant in the New Economy

Allan Savory and Bren Smith, who spoke in the 35th Annual E.F. Schumacher Lectures that was entitled Cattle & Kelp: Agriculture in a New Economy, suggested that a new approach should be taken towards agriculture.

This was in view of the fact that the current approach is not sustainable in the long run due to the prevalent issues of declining soil fertility, soil erosion, drought and super pests.

Many innovative companies have also been using agricultural technology to make agriculture sustainable, and have acknowledged the fact that this sector plays a crucial role in the new economy.

Agriculture remains relevant today for several reasons. It is widely perceived as the key to feeding the estimated nine billion individuals in the world by 2050, and will also help to increase the number of jobs.

1. Sustainable agriculture may be the solution to prevent a looming food crisis.

Price volatility and high food prices will result in a food crisis, which places food production issues and agricultural growth back on the development agenda.

Both Savory and Smith have developed agricultural models that are based on natural systems. Smith pioneered the development of restorative 3D ocean farming; this farming model was designed with the aim of mitigating climate change, restoring ocean ecosystems and creating jobs for fishermen while also ensuring that communities were supplied with healthy, local food.

There are also several companies who are using agricultural technology to prevent a food crisis. According to The Economist, the products and services that these firms are developing will significantly contribute to increasing food yields and quality, which is needed to feed the nine billion individuals living on this planet by 2050.

2. Sustainable agriculture will be able to create jobs in the new economy

According to Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, the agricultural sector has four times the power to create jobs and reduce poverty in Africa as compared to other sectors.

Essentially, agriculture can help countries to diversify their economies, be less dependent on food imports, increase jobs, and revive rural areas.
In the United States, despite the fact that agricultural revenue and export opportunities have been high, rural areas have been losing their population. If this were to continue, these areas will lose their economic stability and many of its national assets.

However, if the trend is reversed successfully, the economy as a whole can benefit from long-term growth. Rural areas will also prosper. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is therefore investing in the perceived areas of opportunity for agricultural growth; these include supporting new and beginning ranchers and farmers, local and regional food systems, as well as the economy.

In conclusion, it is crucial that countries place greater importance on their agricultural sector. Africa, which is currently leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has more than 70 percent of its farmers utilising information and communications technology. Additionally, its agricultural and agribusiness industry is projected to hit a net worth of US$1 trillion by 2030.

This highlights the need for other countries to improve their agricultural sector, as it can help to decrease food imports and increase job opportunities for their citizens, as well as improve the state of its economy overall.