Organic Food Producers Face Challenges Going "Mass Market"; Holistic Management International Offers Solutions

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The organic food business (especially dairy) is facing real challenges as it sheds its niche status and goes "mass market." There are concerns about having enough acreage to sustain increased production and possible pollution from animal waste. However, there are also solutions to these challenges, as Holistic Management International's COO Peter Holter explains.

This past year there was discussion in the news media about how the organic food business - especially the dairy industry - is facing real challenges as it sheds its niche status and goes mass market

The organic food business (especially dairy) is facing real challenges as it sheds its niche status and goes "mass market." There are concerns about having enough acreage to sustain increased production and possible pollution from animal waste. However, there are also solutions to these challenges, as Holistic Management International's COO Peter Holter explains.

"This past year there was discussion in the news media about how the organic food business - especially the dairy industry - is facing real challenges as it sheds its niche status and goes mass market," says Peter Holter, COO of Holistic Management International (HMI). The 25-year-old non-profit works with stewards of large landscapes (farmers, ranchers, government agencies and other non-profits) to make their lands healthier, more productive and more profitable.

The challenges include the current inability of organic dairy producers to keep up with consumer demand; concerns about insufficient acreage to expand organic production; worries that the manure, methane and carbon dioxide more cowherds can produce will pollute our water and air; and large numbers of people leaving farming or ranching due to poor financial returns. (Employment experts have predicted that the farming and ranching sector is predicted to lose 150,000-200,000 more jobs in the next five years.)

Holter, whose organization has a contract with Horizon Dairy to reconfigure facilities in Idaho, New Mexico and Maryland to surpass the USDA's mandated national organic standards, says that there are solutions to these challenges and that the negative trends can be reversed. He suggests that we:

1. Convert agricultural production to organic methods. This eliminates the use of chemicals that hurt land, animal and human health.

2. Shift our paradigm to view land as a partner instead of as only a resource. HMI has found that it is possible to achieve great yield from land - even with small amounts of rainfall - by working with natural processes. People who use Holistic Management report a 300 to 400 per cent increase in yields from land - and even more in profits - by working with natural processes on the exact same acreage they have always farmed or ranched.

3. Change our mindset to recognize that the problem is not with the cow per se, but with our industrialized feeding system and animal-management methods.

4. Eliminate feedlots and allow animals to graze on pastures in a controlled manner. Confining animals causes manure, methane and carbon dioxide build-up. Controlled grazing allows animals to release their manure into the soil with more even distribution. When their hooves work the soil, manure is more quickly absorbed - increasing the soil's organic matter, fertilizing it and making it healthier. A larger base of healthy soil absorbs more carbon dioxide, and the amounts of methane released into the atmosphere are reduced.

Holter suggests that when people learn how to farm or ranch in partnership with their land they can actually make "white-collar" income, and have meaningful work supplying much-desired products to a growing population. Global issues of poverty, hunger, disease and desertification are creating additional pressures to produce healthy foods and restore lands to health. Therefore, we may have reached the "tipping point" of recognizing that it is possible to go back to the land if we partner with it in a way that benefits the environment and the animals and generates good economic return.

People wanting more information about Holistic Management International and its programs may contact Holter at (505) 842-5252.

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