USDA Study Targets Market Barriers for Organic Farmers

Posted on 01/13/2010 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the release of Breaking Down Market Barriers for Small and Mid-sized Organic Growers, a report developed by the California Institute for Rural Studies, focusing on marketing challenges faced by organic fruit and vegetable farmers in California and their potential commercial buyers.

The report cites grower difficulty in getting organic price premiums, inconsistent supply of product available to commercial buyers, locating and accessing markets, lack of price information, and meeting buyer requirements as the greatest barriers to the successful marketing of organic produce grown on small and mid-sized farms.

Recommendations on breaking down these barriers for farmers, buyers, policymakers, organizations, and researchers are also presented in the report. They include developing more direct relationships between organic producers and customers; hosting workshops on marketing, food safety, working with wholesalers, online marketing and organic transitions; and expanding preferential purchases of local and organic foods by public agencies.

“The report shows small- and medium-sized growers face unique problems,” said Rayne Pegg, Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which funded the study and oversees marketing and grant programs aimed at the small producer, as well as overseeing the National Organic Program. “The Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative is zeroing in on many of these marketing barriers and is already exploring ways to address them.”

Thanks to additional funding in the 2008 Farm Bill, AMS has expanded its Market News price reporting on organic commodities and raised the cap on monies it can reimburse organic producers and processors for certification expenses (to $750 annually). Through its partnership with the Food and Nutrition Service, AMS is working on ways to get more locally grown foods into the school lunch program. AMS is also co-sponsoring three food safety workshops in 2010 for small producers in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the last two of which are aimed at organic producers.

AMS also published a series of publications aimed at the small and mid-size food producers that highlight recent changes in supply chain management practices (in packaging technology, vendor selection, merchandise preferences, quality control, etc.) in order to help these producers become more successful at supplying retail customers.

Breaking Down Market Barriers for Small and Mid-sized Organic Growers can be found on the AMS website at

Categories: Organics