Organic production: a difficult business for small farmers

Americans reportedly have a growing appetite for organic food, but small US farmers say that can't compete with large and corporate producers when it comes to delivering the goods.

Meeting certification standards for organic meat is difficult, and there a range of other issues facing producers including heavy workloads, a lack of qualified farmhands, high fuel costs, and regulatory gripes in particular.

Tilth Producers is an organisation promoting organic and sustainable farming that includes more than 400 Washington growers.

Tilth Producers spokesperson Nancy Allen says, "There is this whole groundswell of local organic agriculture, but it takes people willing to commit their lives to it. It seems larger farms are more likely to stay with the process."

Small farmers are also concerned about the livestock identification program, where livestock would be tracked with electronic ear tags or chips.

Supporters of the National Animal Identification System say it will protect the national herd by quickly enabling investigators to trace diseased animals. They say the program would also help safeguard public health by ensuring tainted meat could be pulled from store shelves, and protect export markets by assuring trading partners that the US has a rigorous safety system in place.

But others in agriculture worry the NAIS amounts to unnecessary government intrusion that will place an undue burden on farmers.

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