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Cotton Farmers Going Organic

America's cotton farmers are following the green. More than one million new acres were devoted to organic agriculture production in 2005, according to statistics released late last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The director of the Organic Trade Association welcomed the news but said the government still needs to do more to encourage farmers to switch to organic production. The organization will lobby the incoming Congress to make investment in organic agriculture part of the upcoming Farm Bill.

"Consumers are demanding more and more organic products for their families, and farmers are working to meet that demand," said Caren Wilcox, executive director of the OTA.

She noted the USDA's data also showed that the number of certified organic operations increased just slightly in 2005, and that farmers "face significant hurdles" in making the transition from conventional to organic production.

"Organic farmers need access to the same resources USDA provides to conventional farmers: research, market data, risk management tools, and import/export information," Wilcox said.

A study by OTA earlier this year found the number of farmers planting organic cotton in 2005 shot up by 37% over the prior year. Acreage planted in 2005 totaled 6,577 acres of mostly upland organic cotton, an increase of 19 percent over that planted in 2004, according to OTA.

Plantings in 2005 included 5,020 acres of organic upland cotton and 530 acres of organic pima cotton. Most was grown in Texas, with limited acreage in California, New Mexico and Missouri.

According to the latest available statistics for U.S. organic production from USDA's Economic Research Service, there were at least 8,445 certified organic farms (of all types) in the United States in 2005, up from 8,035 certified organic farms in 2003.

The 2005 operations represented slightly more than 4 million acres under organic management, up from 3 million acres in 2004 and nearly 2.2 million acres in 2003.

For the first time, all 50 U.S. states had some certified organic farmland.

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