Organic foods continue to be the fastest growing and very profitable segment of agriculture in America, Europe and Japan. In the United States in 2003, sales of organic agricultural products exceeded $10 billion dollars. The US market for organic agricultural products is projected to reach a value of $30.7 billion by 2007.
To make an organic claim, producers (farmers) and food processors (handlers) must follow regulations published by the USDA, and if making over $5,000 in sales, must be certified by a USDA accredited certifier. Currently, there are 54 certifying agents throughout the country comprising various state and private entities and 41 foreign certifying agents.
In October 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented these new regulations mandating that any organic agricultural product meet the USDA National Organics Program requirements, guaranteeing consumers purchasing organic products the highest quality organic agricultural products.
For more than a decade, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has worked with the Northeast
Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) to certify organic producers and handlers. In September 2003, NJ legislation passed allowing the Department to establish rules and regulations for a New Jersey Organic Certification Program. The certification program incorporates all of the USDA’s National Organic Program regulations, and also provides farmers who are transitioning to organic production the ability to market their products under the new “Transitional Sustainable” label. In doing so, farmers will not have to wait the required 36-month “free of prohibited materials” requirement to realize the increased prices this niche market supports. Under the National Organic Program, States also have the option to establish State Organic Programs separate from certification programs. State Organic Programs are required to conduct enforcement actions of the organic regulations at the state level.
In support of the marketing of organic products, the Department’s Jersey Organic proposed rules are awaiting publication and public comment. Organic price cards will be distributed to help promote New Jersey’s organic products directly to area retailers.
Over the last several years the Department received USDA funds to help offset the costs of organic certification. In 2006, the Department will continue to promote and administer cost sharing of organic certification fees for eligible operations, preparing informational brochures and fact sheets, and fully integrating organics into the Department’s promotional program. The proposed regulations for the State Organic Certification Program and the Jersey Organic marketing program are targeted for simultaneous publication in the near future.
7.0 ORGANIC STRATEGIES
7.1 Promote Cost-Sharing
65) STRATEGY – Continue outreach efforts to educate growers and handlers about federal funds available to help offset organic certification costs. Through a cost-sharing agreement with the Department and USDA, each operation is eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of its certification costs, not to exceed $500.
7.2 Improve Marketing
66) STRATEGY – Continue to promote New Jersey grown organic products as distinct from, and of higher value, than competing products by establishing the Jersey Organic brand. Continue to integrate organic products into the Department’s Jersey Fresh Marketing Program using a Jersey Organic logo.
67) STRATEGY –The NJDA will continue to support the branding of Jersey Organic through our website as well as point-of-sale materials developed and distributed to Jersey Organic retailers, community markets and restaurateurs.
68) STRATEGY – Strengthen and coordinate existing efforts of the marketing program with the promotion of organic products to area restaurants.
7.3 Educate Growers About Regulatory Requirements
69) STRATEGY – Distribute fact sheets outlining the legal and regulatory requirements for production and sale of organic products, including livestock and livestock products. Make the fact sheets available on the NJDA website and distribute to handlers and retailers of organic produce.
70) STRATEGY – Continue working toward USDA accreditation of a State Certified Organic program to guarantee consumers the highest quality organic agricultural products. The program also provides farmers who are transitioning to organic production and are in the process of completing the three-year qualifying period the ability to market their products as transitional sustainable.