Monday, July 31, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Celebrates 20 Years Of Leadership, Sustained Growth In PA Organics Industry

During a visit to the Pennsylvania Organic Farm Fest at Centre County Grange Fairgrounds, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding last Friday recognized Pennsylvania Certified Organic for helping make the Commonwealth one of the nation’s leading states for organic agriculture.
PCO, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited organization that certifies operations as organic, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“Your vision and leadership have contributed to the tremendous growth in organic production and the strength of agriculture,” said Secretary Redding, recognizing PCO founding members. “The transparency and accountability of the organic standard give consumers the assurance they want and expect when they buy a product labelled as organic.
“PCO founders showed tremendous foresight in recognizing growing consumer interest in where and how their food was produced, anticipating a trend that has exceeded 13 percent annual growth. You have been an excellent partner with department in nurturing the industry as a natural resource, and helping to develop the industry to be sustainable over the long term.”
Pennsylvania ranked third in the U.S for organic sales with $313 million in 2014, the last year for which data are available. Contributing to that overall ranking, the state ranks first in egg production, second in mushroom sales, third in turkey production, fourth in organic crops and fifth in milk sales, to the USDA’s 2014 organic sales survey.
Twenty-four Pennsylvania counties are considered “hot spots” for organic production and sales nationwide.
The USDA sets standards for what can be sold as organic, but relies on organizations like PCO, to inspect and certify operations. PCO serves businesses in 16 states and the District of Columbia, ensuring that consumers know what they are getting when they purchase products labelled as organic.
The agency educates and certifies growers, processors and handlers of organic crops, wild crops, livestock and livestock products sold in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
The Department of Agriculture supports organic farming through a number of programs, including the Organic Cost Share program, which reimburses livestock, crop, and processing operations for a percentage of their certification costs.
From 2015 to 2016, the program provided $703,840 to 798 organic farm operations to help defray the annual cost of certification.
For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Certified Organic website.
Information on sustainable farming is also available from the PA Association For Sustainable Agriculture website.

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