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Published February 01, 2011, 09:25 AM

Organic agriculture group will hold its winter conference

Advocates of sustainable agriculture say its future remains bright in this era of rising land, crop and livestock prices.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Advocates of sustainable agriculture say its future remains bright in this era of rising land, crop and livestock prices.

“There’s a place for value-added products,” says Karri Stroh, executive director of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture, based in LaMoure, N.D.

The organization holds its annual winter conference Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 at the Ramada Plaza Suites in Fargo, N.D.

More than 50 exhibitors and 400 attendees are expected.

Featured speakers include Jared Zystro with the Organic Seed Alliance, Kevin Murphy with Washington State University and Steve Campbell with Artisan Beef Genetics.

Topics range from organic community gardens and weed management systems to farm-to-school programs and plant variety improvement.

“We try to offer something of interest to all our members,” Stroh says.

Most of the 31-year-old association’s members are in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. It also has members in Iowa, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Developing sustainability

The association says it’s “committed to the development of a more sustainable society through the promotion of ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable food systems.”

Stroh, who became the association’s executive director in late 2010, helps to manage her family’s organic small grain farm, direct market poultry production and livestock operation near Tappen, N.D.

She says organic agriculture continues to grow in the region.

In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, North Dakota had 164,000 acres of organic cropland acres, the third most in the nation, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

California was first with 430,000; Wisconsin was second with 171,000 acres.

Minnesota had 133,000 acres, Montana 132,000 acres and South Dakota 85,000 acres.

Organic ag, farm bill

Organic agriculture has concerns about how it will fare in the 2012 farm bill, given potential cuts in federal ag spending, according to an article in the Organic Farming Research Foundation newsletter.

Three important organic programs run out of funding next year, the newsletter says:

- The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, which funds research on organic ag systems.

- The National Organic Certification Cost-share Program, which helps certified organic farmers and handlers offset the costs of certification by providing a small reimbursement.

- The Organic Production and Market Data initiatives, which funds USDA’s collection of data on the organic sector.

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