Helping organic producers achieve fair market value for their production.

The demand for clean, nutritious foods free of chemicals, additives, hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives has been taken seriously by many U.S. farmers. More and more are converting to organic production systems to meet the growing demand for clean foods in the U.S. However, large corporations seeing the phenomenal growth in the demand for organic foods have jumped into the fray, taking over much of what was good about carefully grown, artisan, handcrafted organic meats and produce grown by small family farms in the U.S. and turning it into yet more corporate, mass produced food, but with a higher price tag. Since homegrown supply couldn’t possibly keep up with demand, most corporate food giants have gone offshore to import foreign organic meats, fruits, and vegetables, animal feeds, and ingredient items so they could capture market share quickly and inexpensively. Unfortunately, most of these imported organic products are not clearly identified as such leaving consumers to believe they’re purchasing U.S. grown organic products which actually originated in China, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, or Australia.

The effects of this rush to organics, regardless of the source, are threefold:

  1. Consumers are misled into thinking they’re buying U.S. grown organic products and believe they are helping small, independent family farms in the U.S. when they buy organic. But, the USDA Organic seal may be applied to any qualifying organic product processed in the USA, regardless of where it originated. This is misleading to consumers who often make organic purchases partly to help support our family farm infrastructure in the U.S.
  2. Organic standards, rules, and inspections differ from country to country. The U.S. has some of the strictest standards in the world and generally, a tight verification procedure executed by third party inspectors. This is not the case for many of the countries mentioned above, where whole villages may be certified organic and verified by the very people who stand to gain the most as a result of organic certification. The result: U.S. producers are held to more rigid, more costly-to-administer standards making it almost impossible to compete with organic foreign imports. And consumers are being fooled into thinking that an organic tomato grown in China is equivalent to an organic tomato grown in the U.S.
  3. The economic price pressures put on U.S. organic producers to compete with these foreign imports is tremendous forcing many out of business who have been organic producers for years, if not decades. We all agree that fair trade for coffee growers in Colombia is a proper and humane goal. Should we not equally support the men and women who have made growing clean, certified organic foods in this country their life’s work by also providing them a standard of living above the poverty level?

Why MOPC was formed

Organic producers in Montana and surrounding states realized that individually they’d soon be swept up into an “organic commodity” system not dissimilar to the existing commodity model. In the current commodity system, farmers have virtually no control over the pay price they can receive for their agricultural products, regardless of what their cost of production may happen to be, or what their individual circumstances are. So, after several years of development, a number of these producers got together to consolidate resources and start negotiating fairer prices for their production. Thus, in February 2007, the Montana Organic Producers Co-op was born.

How we strive to achieve fair market value for our members

  •  Relationship marketing
    MOPC is a member of OFARM (Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing) and works closely with other organic co-ops across the country sharing information, contacts, and supply to meet buyers’ demands and contractual obligations. This national and international resource is invaluable to the individual farmer who is largely cut off from these sources of information and sales contacts.
  • Education
    Our member producers need continuing feedback on yields, grades, newest organic methods of solving everyday problems to continually improve and enhance soil fertility, which is pivotal to all organic production. MOPC strives to attain this information for its members so they can fine tune their operations, generating better and better products which support better farm gate prices.
  • Information exchange
    MOPC monitors a number of information sources for pertinent data or current events which could affect organic agricultural production or marketing. This information is disseminated to members for their own use as they see fit, and sometimes incorporated into the operational workings of the Co-op.
  • Networking
    We believe that collaboration between farmers, instead of competition, is the key to the salvation of the independent family farm in the U.S. To that end, MOPC attempts to make it easy for member producers to source, or sell, what they need to others within the Co-op, or tap into resources available through other organic co-ops across the country. By tapping into existing organic resources, experience, and expertise, we are all in a better position to produce the quality products demanded by the marketplace without employing short cuts or marginal production protocols. This allows us to spend more time in the productive work of excellent farming rather than in the stressful work of trying to survive.
  • Farm policy
    MOPC makes every effort to keep members appraised of legislation which can affect organic farming, and offers a forum for producers to speak out on the issues. Most government agricultural programs favor large corporate farming interests leaving little, if anything, for independently owned family farms, particularly organic ones. MOPC is a member of a number of farm policy-monitoring organizations to help members voice concerns and affect the legislation that affects them.