Factors Affecting Organic Food Products

Organic products are defined by the USDA as being products grown and produced under strict regulation promoting a system of biodiversity and with low residue, minimizing pollution in the air, water and soil. Various factors influence organic food products, and these include labeling and certification guidelines, governmental policy and costs.

Labeling and Certification

The USDA is the gatekeeper for accreditation and certification for organic products, and companies that plan to sell products labeled as “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients” must pass a USDA certification process. Companies that handle and repackage organic products are also required to become certified. Retail companies that sell packaged organic products or that prepare organic ready-to-eat products on the premises are not required to be certified.

Producers intending to become certified must present a three-year history of substances applied to the land being farmed and must maintain an Organic System Plan and track production for five years after certification. Inspectors conduct annual reviews of certified businesses to ensure continued compliance. This involved process may prevent some producers from choosing to switch to organic.

Policy

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) published the report on the development of organic policy. It states that in 2002, the USDA established guidelines for organic products to address concerns about products identifying themselves as organic. Two USDA funded programs help alleviate the cost burden of certification on farmers and producers seeking organic certification. The 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act continued those programs and focused funding on helping farmers transition to organic farming. Other government agencies have also established working groups to support organic agriculture and other sustainable farming practices. Despite federal assistance, the cost of organic farming and production seems higher than that of conventional farming.

Cost

Consumers purchasing organic products can agree that organic produce costs more than conventionally produced equivalents. The New York Times reports that organic food costs are rising so high that even committed organic purchasers are questioning them. The report credits the increased operational costs for the entire food production industry, including the expenses of fuel, transportation and rising demand. Producers defend the prices as reflecting their costs, and the report states that manufacturers are struggling to maintain profits despite the increased retail prices. Manufacturers may begin abandoning organic processing in order to stay profitable, and consumers may begin prioritizing certain organic purchases over others, the Times reports.

About this Author

Kimberly Schaub is a nutritionist, writer, and cook whose passions have led from serving in the United States Air Force (2005-2006), to R&D for Day by Day Gourmet (2009) and into professional writing for publications since 2006. She has been published in Pepperdine’s “Graphic,” “That’s Natural in Pueblo,” and “Pike Place Market News.” Schaub earned her Bachelor of Science in nutrition at Pepperdine.