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Organic Foods Growing Up

June 7, 2007

More and more food shoppers are going organic. Enough so that the government has decided to track and report the prices of organically-grown grains. University of Minnesota Ag specialist Gigi DiGiacomo says it's designed to meet the needs of a growing market.

"Organic farmers will use it on a daily basis to price crops: corn that they're selling through a broker, soybeans that they're contracting for with a processor. Processors will use it, as well, to find out what the average purchasing price is."

She notes that it will create opportunities for beginning farmers, help Minnesota's rural economy, and meet a growing consumer demand for products grown without pesticides and other chemicals.

DiGiacomo adds that while organic products may be more expensive and difficult to find, an increasing number of shoppers are interested. And, it's more than a nutrition issue.

"When you purchase an organic product, your are buying not only something that could potentially be better for your health, but it's something that is definitely better for the environment. Without the applications of chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, I think that our land benefits from that. It's better for the ecosystem, all the way around."

Sales of organic foods are growing at 20 percent a year, so DiGiacomo believes the reports may make more farmers consider going organic.

"If we can put those prices out there, if we can show farmers what's happening in the organic marketplace, and make it easier for them to transition to organic, then they're going to be able to provide consumers the products that they're looking for. So, the organic price reporting means more market planning for farmers. They can make more well-informed decisions, and that means more choices in the marketplace for consumers."

The University of Minnesota is collaborating with the Ag Department's Market News Service to collect organic commodity market prices for the Upper Midwest.

The organic grain report is available online at www.marketnews.usda.gov/gear/browseby/txt/GX_GR120.txt.

Jim Wishner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - MN