WisBusiness: Farm bill to be key topic at Organic Conference

By Gregg Hoffmann

LACROSSE – The 2007 Federal Farm Bill will be a key topic when more than 2,000 people gather for the 18th annual Midwest Organic Farming Conference at the La Crosse Center, Feb. 22-24.

Conference participants are expected to urge Congress and the USDA to develop federal farm legislation that improves support for organic and sustainable agriculture.

“We’ve got an important opportunity this year to pass a Farm Bill that better meets the needs of consumers, Midwestern producers and the environment,” said Faye Jones, director of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), which sponsors the conference.

Jones said assistance for farmers making the transition to organic production should be a priority in the bill. Other priorities should include expanded support for organic agriculture research and education and full funding and implementation of the Conservation Security Program.

That annual convention is expected to draw people from 41 states and seven foreign countries. It is the nation’s largest organic farming conference.

“Every year, organic agriculture grows in size as well as expertise,” Jones said. “The conference is a great place to learn, cultivate and share ideas.”

More than 60 workshops – ranging in topics from business planning to production methods and alternative energy – are on the agenda. The conference also features more than 130 exhibitors, including buyers, suppliers and certification services.

Sandra Steingraber, author of The Organic Manifesto, will serve as one of the keynote speakers.

Other keynote speakers include Ken Meter, Regional Foods analyst and director of the Crossroads Institute, and Johari Cole-Kweli, a farmer and community development advocate from a historic African-American farming community in Pembroke, Il.

On Feb. 22, MOSES will host the annual Organic University. Courses offered include organic dairy production, holistic management, biodynamics and others.

Wisconsin is considered a leader in organic farming, with Organic Valley in La Farge, several other cooperatives and multiple organic farms. More are still needed, according to Jones.

“With the demand for organic food still way ahead of the current supply, it is abundantl clear that we need more Midwestern organic producers, whether it’s for dairy, meat, poultry, produce or livestock feed and grain,” Jones said.

More information on the conference can be obtained at www.mosesorganic.org.