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Minnesota and Federal Agencies Partner To Build Organic Agriculture Growth
(April 23, 2003)
The Minnesota Deprtment of Agriculture (MDA) joined four state and federal partners on April 21 in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which the organizations agreed to work together to enhance the productivity, profitability and economic opportunities of Minnesota's organic agriculture industry. This organic partnership is the first of its kind to occur anywhere in the country, according to MDA.

The MDA, the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and the Minnesota offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA Farm Service Agency each provide important services to organic farmers in the state. MDA Commissioner Gene Hugoson said the MOU should increase the impact of each agency's organic programs and foster innovative partnerships in future efforts.

"Organic agriculture is an important and growing part of Minnesota's farm economy," Commissioner Hugoson said. "We each do our part to help Minnesota maintain and build on its leadership status in organic production. By more closely coordinating our efforts, each of us will have a greater impact than we would have working individually."

The MOU partners recognize that organics are a choice preferred by a growing number of farmers and consumers, and will undertake complementary efforts to assist organic producers' efforts to improve profitability, identify new market opportunities, and conserve natural resources. The agencies will focus on activities including: developing and implementing conservation farm plans for organic crop production; providing staff support for organic professional development, service delivery and outreach efforts; sharing information about innovative organic programs taking place in other states or countries; and encouraging the use of demonstrations and field days with organic field operations to showcase conservation and organic production.

Minnesota is the fifth top leader in certified organic acreage in the nation and is the top producer of organic corn and soybeans, according to the MDA press announcement. The partnership will help foster the state's continued growth in the organic industry.

Two recently published studies suggest that organic food has health benefits. A University of California at Davis study, published in the February 26, 2003 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2003, 51(5):1237-1241), finds greater nutritional attributes in organically grown food compared with produce grown conventionally. The research suggests that the beneficial qualities in organic food may result from the lack of insecticides and herbicides used.

Another study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found additional benefit to eating organic by examining levels of metabolites of organophosphate pesticides in children who ate conventional foods compared with children who ate a diet of organic food. Children with organic diets contained significantly less metabolites of these toxic pesticides in their blood and urine.

To make sure your food is organic, look for the USDA Organic label.

For more information about the Minnesota agreement, contact Michael Schommer at 651-297-1629 or Meg Moynihan at 651-297-8916. For additional information on issues surrounding organic foods, see Beyond Pesticides' webpage on organic.