Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Organic milk articles

Here are a couple of articles about organic milk by Matt McKinney of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Got organic milk? Maybe it is, maybe not

Organic milk: It's not a black-and-white issue

The Minneapolis Woman's Club hosted a discussion about organic milk standards; an area into which the USDA is poised take action.

It's not just milk producers questioning the organic label. Many farmers believe that "organic" should mean organic. The Farmer's Legal Action Group is representing Massachusetts Independent Certification, Inc. (MICI) in their suit against U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. MICI is arguing USDA’s interpretation of the appeal rights of certifying agents within the National Organic Program violates both the Organic Foods Production Act and the U.S. Constitution. USDA is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that MICI lacks the right to bring this case and that USDA’s appeal regulations are lawful. This case could have far reaching implications for the integrity of the “USDA organic” label.


Blogger Jim Chen said...

Hi Morgan,

Congratulations on your first post. I am delighted to have you on board.

And now I get to be your first commenter. The McKinney articles reveal anxiety over the entry of larger, often corporate farms into the organic business. The older, smaller, more typically family-owned pioneers of organic farming object to entrants they consider interlopers.

Here's the problem. Organic production often costs more, per unit of production, than its conventional alternative. This can significantly increase the amount of revenue a farm needs before it can realize any return on investment. In other words, the introduction of higher-cost production methods, no matter what the motivation, is likely to promote a more rather than less concentrated market structure in agriculture.

There are those, like me, who don't particularly worry about market structure for its own sake in this business. Organic farming has uncertain environmental impact (though probably net positive relative to conventional alternatives), and it's hard to quibble with making consumers happy, unless you are concerned about potentially misleading consumers into believing that organic foods confer some sort of health benefit.

In other words, why should we worry about who practices organic farming, as opposed to how farming in the aggregate is conducted?

8/17/2006 3:35 AM  

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