On any given day, farmers have access to government-compiled information about supply, demand and pricing of nearly 500 conventionally grown domestic and international fruits, vegetables and ornamental and specialty crops. But until the Rodale Institute developed the New Farm Organic Price Index, organic farmers relied mostly on intuition and guesswork to price their crops.
"What's been missing for the seller/producer is a sense of what his or her peers are receiving for their organic produce," said Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, Calif. "This attempts to take the first national step in the right direction."
When the New Farm Organic Price Index goes live on March 27, it will track the price of about 40 organic fruits and vegetables, meats, grains and dairy products. The index, known as OPX, will compare the price of organic goods to the price of similar conventional products.
Greg Bowman, editor of NewFarm.org, where OPX is published, said the index was developed to give organic farmers an edge in price negotiations, and to provide evidence of the price premium organic products receive in the market. The index may also encourage farmers to diversify their operations. "Organic farmers need crop rotation," he said. "The index will show them what organic wheat, rye and oats bring, and that should help to diversify the stream of supply."
Scowcroft praised Rodale for initiating the index, but said the U.S. Department of Agriculture needs to step up and provide the same level of pricing service to organic farmers it provides to conventional growers. "The Economic Research Service should provide this service, which they do for every conventional farm in the United States," Scowcroft said. "There is tax support for conventional production. As organic farmers, we want our fair share of the resources."
Organic production accounts for about 1.5 percent of the nation's agricultural economy. "[USDA] should devote 1.5 percent of the resources to it—it would be 1.5 percent more than they devote to it now," Scowcroft said.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 3/p. 14