Skip to Main Content

Purdue Extension shares insights about organic certification

Despite rapid growth in consumer demand for organic products that outpaces domestic supply, certified organic land accounts for less than 2% of U.S. farmland and even less in Indiana. Purdue Extension’s Organic Agriculture educators are working with farmers to understand and address the common challenges and perceptions that accompany organic farm transition and certification.

Purdue Extension received funding from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program of the United States Department of Agriculture (NCR-SARE) to perform a research and education study to support Indiana grain farmers with organic transition. Led by Michael O’Donnell, Purdue Extension organic and diversified agriculture educator, and Analena Bruce, assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire and former Indiana University postdoctoral researcher, the team surveyed Indiana grain farmers and identified barriers. The publication, Supporting the wider adoption of organic certification for Indiana grain farmers, shares the findings of over 300 farmers, ranging from those who use only conventional agriculture methods to those already using organic methods.

“The idea was to get a better understanding of farmer perceptions of the opportunity, challenges and barriers around transitioning to organic agriculture. It was interesting to me, an Extension educator who directs organic programs, to look at those results and think how this informs my extension programming,” said O’Donnell.

Challenging production problems identified are production loss due to weed pressure, certification ineligibility caused by GMO pollen drift, and crop damage and contamination caused by pesticide drift. Conventional farmers noted that a lack of successful organic farmers in there is is a major obstacle because they have limited opportunities to speak with someone who has successfully transitioned.

The study also identified opportunities for further research and investment in education and outreach programs for Indiana farmers. Notable opportunities include policy initiatives to address concerns about imported organic grains market competition and new Extension programs to support organic farms.

“This project highlights a need for increased funding for research and Extension efforts to better support farmers with production-related challenges along with critical policy initiatives. I encourage farmers to become aware of the challenges facing the organic industry so they can provide input to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a federal advisory board that represents organic farmers nationwide,” O’Donnell said.  

Farmers can participate at the NOSB fall 2020 meeting, held online beginning Oct. 20. The public is encouraged to submit written comments or register to make an oral comment by Thursday (Oct. 1). More information about the NOSB fall meeting can be found at

Featured Stories

Alex Dudley holds a black vulture; Alex is pictured through a hole in a rock formation; Alex holds her camera in front of a forested mountain landscape.
Meet FNR Outstanding Senior Alex Dudley

From her research on black vulture ecology in the Zollner lab and on digital forestry under Dr....

Read More
Yellow flowers against a leafy green background
April Showers Bring May Flowers to Jules Janick Horticulture Garden

The sweet smell of hundreds of blossoms draws pollinators and people alike to the Jules Janick...

Read More
Dr. Rob Swihart, Bob Burke and others at an HTIRC meeting in 2016.
FNR Remembers Alumnus, HTIRC Advisory Committee Member Bob Burke

Robert Dean “Bob” Burke, who received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue...

Read More
John Couture in Martell Greenhouse at the Wright Center.
John Couture named University Faculty Scholar for multifaceted research in plant and insect ecology

John Couture has been chosen as a 2024 University Faculty Scholar for his exceptional research...

Read More
Bob Auber presents from a screen titled "A Day in the Life." In the foreground, there are two graduate students watching.
‘Plants to people:’ Bob Auber’s path from the Center for Plant Biology to oncology

On Friday March 22, Bob Auber returned to Room 116 in Whistler Hall to stand behind a podium in...

Read More
Measuring soil in a field
New Indiana Organic Network to engage farmers in statewide soil health census

A Purdue University interdisciplinary team is establishing a network of organic farmers to...

Read More
To Top