Fighting organic fraud in the Finger Lakes

There were 392 certified organic farms in New York state in 2005.

That number had jumped to 1,050 by 2015, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said there are certainly more today as consumer demand continues to increase for organically grown food.

While Schumer applauded that exponential growth during a visit to Penn Yan on Friday, he said that demand has created an issue that is hurting local and New York farmers — organic fraud.

“Organic farming is a great industry, but it’s under threat. Like every industry, you are finding people who want to cut corners,” Schumer said at the Birkett Mills, which has been in business since the late 1700s and milling organic grain for about 20 years. “That is what we are finding now.”

Schumer was joined by Penn Yan and Yates County officials, Birkett Mills staff including company President Jeff Gifford, and local organic farmers. Together they called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with the Office of the Inspector General to immediately address organic fraud.

Schumer pointed to the efforts of Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, pioneers in New York state organic farming who started the movement about 20 years ago in the Penn Yan area. They own Lakeview Organic Grain and attended Friday’s event.

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