Agencies promote organic ag

Minnesota officials hope a recently signed memorandum of understanding will give the state's organic agriculture an extra boost. Ten state and federal agencies signed the memorandum of understanding, pledging to continue efforts to support and ad...

Minnesota officials hope a recently signed memorandum of understanding will give the state's organic agriculture an extra boost.

Ten state and federal agencies signed the memorandum of understanding, pledging to continue efforts to support and add to Minnesota's organic agriculture sector. Minnesota, which currently is ranked sixth in the nation for organic growth and first for acreage of organic crops, has 421 certified organic farms.

"The organic agriculture market is growing and we want to help support that market. It's a win-win situation when you think about it because the DNR views organic agriculture as a sustainable form of agriculture that also allows for natural resources to thrive," says Wayne Edgerton, the Department of Natural Resources ag policy coordinator in St. Paul.

"Agriculture is a major part of the Minnesota landscape, not only in providing food, but also being a steward of our natural resources," says Wayne Anderson, policy director at the Minnesota Polluction Control Agency. "The organic model of agriculture is representative of the ethic that Minnesota is famous for. We are happy to signal our support through this partnership agreement."

The Minnesota DNR tends privately owned land, much of which is farmland. DNR views these pieces of land as highly important, not just for the landowner but for the natural resources coexisting around the land. The DNR acquires certified organic farmland, which is rented on share basis to organic farmers around the state.


"With the expansion of organic farming, there will be benefits of cleaner water, erosion control and reduced chemical runoff," Edgerton says. "Farmers even use animals as their barometers for their organic crops. Some have become quite knowledgeable about natural species, such as birds and frogs or toads. Many look to the meadowlarks or numerous species of amphibians. That's how intertwined natural resources and (organic) farming are."


The memorandum increases organic programs, builds future innovative partnerships and benefits Minnesota's economy, farmers, enterprises and consumers. The 10 agencies, along with other MOU partners, assist organic producers, handlers and consumers within the state of Minnesota. The memorandum formalizes state, federal and nonprofit organizations and helps promote organic agriculture within the state, while supporting organic farmers and their businesses.

"The agreement acknowledges that there are many models within the agricultural community," says CoriAhna Rude-Young, public information officer for MPCA. "The organically grown model supports those that want to put an emphasis on pollution prevention approach. It all starts with maintaining healthy ecosystems to the greatest extent possible and then puts agricultural knowledge and skill to work to provide healthy foods for society. A partnership of so many agencies means that this system will be supported from all sides."

Those agencies that have signed the memorandum -- Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Farm Service Agency of Minnesota, Natural Resources Conservation Service of Minnesota, Risk Management Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, University of Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station and University of Minnesota College of Food, and the Agriculture and Natural Resource Science -- agree to exchange information regarding organic research and practices and promote demonstrations, conservation measures and economic performances toward organic agriculture in Minnesota.


The Minnesota Organic memorandum is not the first of its kind; in 2002, five Minnesota agencies formed the first state-level organic memorandum in the nation. The 2008 partnership renews and doubles those signatures.

USDA FSA of Minnesota signed the first organic memorandum of understanding in 2002 and continued with its support for organic agriculture by signing the 2008.


"Partnerships such as the Minnesota organic memorandum of understanding play key roles in getting information out to producers," says Perry Aasness of FSA. "FSA wants to work to support organic agriculture, but that doesn't mean we don't support or acknowledge the other sectors of agriculture."

Any state, federal or tribal agencies or publicly funded institutions of education can join the partnership agreement by submitting a statement to the Minnesota commissioner of Agriculture at any time.

"Producers will always have this network of support," says Adam Czech, public information coordinator for Minnesota's Rural Development office. "We work everyday to help out the agricultural community. Our signatures on that document hold our feet in the fire, so to speak, to help them out."

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