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Consumer Driven, Farmer Powered: Vital Farms supports organics in Washington, D.C.

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Last week in Washington, D.C., Matt O’Hayer, owner of Vital Farms, lobbied on behalf of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) standards for farmers and animals in Washington, D.C. Ashley Swaffar, (below, with Matt) represented Heartland Egg, one of our farmer partners in Arkansas.

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Farm Bill Status?

In a critical move toward the formulation of AN ACTUAL Farm Bill (which includes funding for things like farm subsidies, crop insurance aid for farmers and funding for food stamps, among other things), the Senate Agricultural Committee passed their version of the 2013 Farm Bill. We are still waiting on the final draft of the House version before the actual bill will become law.

Fun facts about organics we learned at the conference:

– Organic crops and food are ranked #4 in the food/feed crop production of farm values.  (Larger than cotton and peanuts combined)

– Organic agriculture is now a $35 BILLION a year industry with a growth rate of just over 10% last year

– 81% of US families are now buying organic products

– Organic food and farming generates more than a half million American jobs

– More than 17,750 organic farms, ranches and businesses are certified organic in the US

Highlights of the conference

While in D.C., Matt and Ashley heard from many important figures in food and agriculture, including the FDA’s head of food safety, Mike Taylor. Taylor addressed organic standards as they coexist with food safety standards. He mentioned pastured egg production four separate times during his speech.

Gary Hirshberg, (below) the founder of Stonyfield Yogurt and the National Chairman of Just Label It  also spoke at the conference. He said that 1.2 million people have signed their petition to label genetically modified foods. A failed attempt to put this labeling campaign into law in California is not stopping this group from making every effort to get a labelling law on the books in the rest of the U.S.

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**Side note: On May 10, the Vermont House of Representatives  voted 98 to 42 to pass H.112, a bill requiring the labeling of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This marked the furthest any such legislation has moved in the United States. The bill will now move to the Vermont Senate when the legislature returns in January 2014. (USDA).

On May 14, in front of the OTA, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (below) discussed his vision for U.S. organic agriculture and the USDA’s efforts to ensure its continued success.

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“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture and helps farmers receive a higher price for their product as they strive to meet growing consumer demand,” said Vilsack. “These new options will extend the safety net provided by crop insurance and provide fair and flexible solutions to organic producers. Coupled with the new guidance for agencies to support this growing sector, USDA recognizes that organics are gaining market share and is helping boost this emerging segment.”

For additional information about the USDA National Organic Program, visit www.ams.usda.gov/NOP.

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