Fredericksburg-based poultry producer Bell & Evans has a new incentivized pricing plan to help farmers transition to organic grain production.
The Bell & Evans program follows a January announcement by the Wolf administration of the High Performance Farms Initiative, a voluntary initiative to implement incentives for the organic grain transition that was joined by Bell & Evans.
The program offers farmers premium pricing for grains, as well as financial assistance during the transitional period, which takes three years of production without prohibited substances.
Following the switch to organic, Bell & Evans would then offer contracts for organic grain products with terms up to ten years (though the contracts can be shortened as farmers wish). This contract includes transportation of product directly from the farm to an in-state processing plant. Open enrollment for the program ends on April 1, 2020.
The offer comes amid a wave of enthusiasm for organic food in America. Scott Sechler, the owner of Bell & Evans, wants to “help Pennsylvania become the number one organic producer in the country.” Today more than 40% of Bell & Evans production is organic.
According to a 2019 Pew Research report, Pennsylvania had 803 certified-organic farms in 2016. Only California, Wisconsin, and New York had more, putting Pennsylvania in fourth.
For farmers, a transition to organic requires purchasing seed from certified suppliers and keeping non-organic products separate from organic ones. They must additionally follow the regulations of the US Department of Agriculture, which include rules forbidding the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic fertilizers, artificial substances, and growth hormones.
According to the FAQ page, Bell & Evans is putting no limits on the amount of acreage that can be enrolled in the program. On-farm training will be offered to participants, as well as other regional meetings
There are varying levels of organic certification depending on the ingredients used to make a product. To get the coveted organic seal, producers must use 95% or more individually-certified organic ingredients.