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Organic Wool Facts!

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What is organic wool?
In order for wool to be certified as “organic,” it must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production. Federal requirements for organic livestock production include:

  • Livestock feed and forage used from the last third of gestation must be certified organic;
  • Use of synthetic hormones and genetic engineering is prohibited;
  • Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited, and
  • Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.

Organic livestock management is different from non-organic management in at least two major ways: 1) sheep cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice, and 2) organic livestock producers are required to ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze.

Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. The Organic Trade Association has developed standards that apply to the processing of organic wool.
How much organic wool is available in the United States and Canada today?
In 2005, M+R Strategic Services undertook a survey for the Organic Trade Association concerning organic wool production and markets in the United States and Canada. Responses to the survey indicated that 19,152 pounds (8,705 kilos) of organic wool were grown in the United States and Canada in 2005. Specifically, 18,852 pounds (8,551 kilos) of grease wool (shorn, without any cleaning, scouring or further processing) were produced in six U.S. states and 300 pounds (136 kilos) were produced in Ontario (see Tables 1 and 2).

New Mexico, with 15,300 pounds (6,940 kilos), was the leading producer of certified organic wool in North America, representing 81% of U.S. and 80% of North American organic wool production, followed by Montana (2,400 pounds), Maine (520 pounds), Ontario (300 pounds), Vermont (200 pounds), and New Jersey (132 pounds).

Table A: Amount of Organic Wool Produced in 2005 in the U.S.

State Producers Total Pounds of Wool
Colorado 1 300
Maine 5 520
Montana 1 2,400
New Jersey 1 132
New Mexico 2 15,300
Vermont 1 200
Total 11 18,852

Table B: Amount of Organic Wool Produced in 2005 in Canada

Province Number of Producers Total Pounds
Ontario 1 300
Total Canada 1 300

Which breeds of sheep are used in organic wool production?
The lead breeds identified in the survey by number were: Columbia, Navajo-Churro, Rambouillet, Rambouillet/Suffolk Cross.

Others include: Border Leicester, Cheviot, Cormo, Dorset, Karakul, Icelandic, Southdown, Suffolk, Tunis, and unspecified crosses.

How is organic wool used?
Organic wool can be used in any application in which conventional wool is used. Some of the organic wool products most widely available today: baby clothes, blankets, coats, knitting yarn, socks, sweaters, and throws. As the market for organic wool products grows, so too are applications expanding for its use.

Why does organic wool cost more than conventional wool?
The cost of organic wool is more than that of conventional for several reasons:

1) Organic wool producers receive a higher price at the farm gate as their costs of production are higher, primarily associated with higher labor, management, and certification costs;
2) The organic wool industry is very small relative to the overall wool industry and does not have the economies of scale and resulting efficiencies of its conventional counterpart, and
3) Federal organic standards for livestock production prohibit overgrazing. If the price of wool is low, the difference cannot be made up by simply increasing production per unit of land, as is commonly practiced by many livestock producers.

(c) 2005 The Organic Trade Association


Written by 4evergreenliving

November 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Green Energy – Beyond The Bailout

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As I write this the US Congress is still working out the details of the $700 billion bailout which is supposed to be a fix-all for all things gone wrong on Wall Street because of foolish and greedy investments in mortgage-backed securities. If the bailout passes muster, and is signed off on by President Bush, things won’t return to normal – whatever that is – right away. The bailout won’t automatically pull the nation out of its economic slump, The bailout is meant to keep the nation, always hungry to borrow more money to buy stuff, borrowing even more money so it won’t slide into an economic abyss.

Speaking of borrowing, Congress has also approved a $630-billion budget bill that includes a loan package for US automakers for up to $25 billion to retool to build vehicles that get at least 25 percent better fuel economy than their competitors. It’s the largest federal aid ever offered to the US auto industry. Automakers will pay it back at the low rate of 5 percent. The money won’t be immediately available: the US Department of Energy will have to review requests to make sure that automakers comply with the 25 percent better fuel economy rule. The reviews could take up to 18 months.

The loan package seems geared to tooling up to build cars like the Chevrolet Volt. Hopefully in the next administration and the next Congress either an incentive package, or regulations, or both, will be passed that will ensure that hyper-fuel economy vehicles are sold in the millions and become more than just niche vehicles. Thousands of 100-plus miles per gallon (or per gallon of gasoline equivalent) vehicles will do little if anything to cut our dependence on imported oil or make cuts in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to cars and trucks: the sales figures for units sold have to be in the millions each year.

Congress has also deliberately ignored its annual reinstatement of its ban on drilling on the US Outer Continental Shelf – effectively opening it up for drilling. So in the same bill Congress offers low interest cash for automakers to build more efficient cars and cut oil addiction while at the same time Congress offers new oil reserves to keep the addiction going. (Treat the addiction, but keep the drug flowing.)

Fortunately any new oil found in the Outer Continental Shelf won’t reach the shore for a decade or so. By then it may not be needed depending on who occupies the Oval Office.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “The increase in CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards signed into law by President Bush (in 2007) will have four times the impact on oil dependency as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and fourteen times the impact as drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf. The addition of Senator Obama’s conservation proposal to the increased CAFE standards would have 21 times the impact of opening up drilling in protected offshore areas and 6 times the impact of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The impact of opening drilling in either area will be zero for close to a decade. Even when these regions attain peak production in close to twenty years, the potential impact on gasoline prices will still be negligible.”

While Washington is playing with the nation’s economic future, its environmental future goes ignored. This week the Global Carbon Project found that worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide are escalating. Emissions from fuel burning and cement production increased by 3.5 percent per year from 2000 to 2007, nearly four times the growth rate in the 1990s.


Center for Economic and Policy Research

Global Carbon Project Figures
(A factsheet detailing the 2007 data for the Global Carbon Project, a joint international project on the global carbon cycle.)

Written by 4evergreenliving

September 30, 2008 at 9:14 pm