Sask. organic sector leading the country

By Nigel Maxwell
January 31, 2018 - 2:00pm

The Canadian organic sector was responsible for more than $5.4 billion in retail sales in 2017, and much of that success can be traced back to Saskatchewan, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

There are 824 certified organic farmers in Saskatchewan, and 29 per cent of all certified organic land in Canada is based in Saskatchewan.

Marla Carlson, Executive Director of SaskOrganics, said she is quite proud of what they have accomplished.

"When you compare us to non-organic farming in the province, we're small but when you look at us in the context of the organic sector in Canada, we're a significant player," she said.

On Monday, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced the government will provide the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) the necessary funds to cover costs associated with the 2020 Canadian Organic Standards review. The review is done every five years to ensure production methodologies reflect current practices and technological advancements being employed by the organic industry.

Carlson said it's an important announcement for the organic sector.

"It's the foundation of our industry and if we don't keep up with the renewal process, you know we fall behind our competitors in competing countries and lose some of our competitiveness," she said.

Carlson said she has seen huge growth in Saskatchewan's organic sector, just from 2014-2015, they gained 10,000 organic acres. She said she has also seen interest at trade shows nearly double. When asked why she thinks farmers are making the switch, Carlson said they are attracted to the bigger returns.

"For flax the average price us around $36 per bushel and that compares to the conventional price of $14 or $15 per bushel," she said.

Lorne Schroeder is an organic beef producer in the Leroy area. He sold his dairy farm in 1998 and made the move to organics when it was still considered a niche market.

"It was a tremendous learning curve to transition to organics, both in marketing and in production, and the farther we went along, the more we got engaged in the philosophies and principles of organics, and sustainable agriculture and good stewardship of the environment," he said.

Schroeder said the biggest advantage to being an organic farmer is you can do it on a smaller scale but the prices are higher so you can make a living on a lot less acres.

"My conventional neighbours are tremendous farmers and tremendous managers but oh my goodness the high capital costs and the stress of the high inputs," Schroeder said

MacAulay also announced $72,500 for the Canadian Organic Growers for the development of a user friendly guide to the Canadian Organic Standards. This guide will provide organic producers, processors, handlers and manufacturers in Canada as well as those wishing to enter it, a clear understanding of what is required to become a certified organic producer in Canada.


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