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The Role of Contracts in the Organic Supply Chain: 2004 and 2007


  • Dimitri, Carolyn
  • Oberholtzer, Lydia
  • Wittenberger, Michelle


Organic food products are excellent candidates for contract production and marketing because they are produced using a distinct process and are in high demand. This report summarizes survey data on contracting in the organic sector, addressing the extent of contracting, the rationale for using contracts, and contract design for select commodities. The central survey data were collected from certified organic handlers (intermediaries)in the United States who marketed and procured organic products in 2004 and 2007. Contracting is widespread in the organic sector, and, in 2007, firms used contracts most frequently to secure organic products essential to their business and to source products in short supply. Large firms were more likely to use contracts for procurement, and these firms contracted for a larger share of their procurement needs. Nearly all contracts required suppliers to provide evidence of organic certification. Firms using contracts rarely assisted suppliers with obtaining organic certification or the transition to organic. Most contracts include provisions regarding quality, and quality verification was an essential component of these contracts. Prices were determined in a variety of ways and, in some cases, depended on delivered quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Dimitri, Carolyn & Oberholtzer, Lydia & Wittenberger, Michelle, 2010. "The Role of Contracts in the Organic Supply Chain: 2004 and 2007," Economic Information Bulletin 102762, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersib:102762

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McBride, William D. & Greene, Catherine R., 2008. "The Profitability of Organic Soybean Production," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6449, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    2. Hueth, Brent & Ligon, Ethan & Wolf, Stephen & Wu, Steven, 1999. "Incentive Instruments in Agricultural Contracts: Input Control, Monitoring, Quality Measurement, and Price Risk," Staff General Research Papers Archive 5237, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    3. Dimitri, Carolyn, 2002. "Contract Evolution And Institutional Innovation: Marketing Pacific-Grown Apples From 1890 To 1930," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(01), pages 189-212, March.
    4. Brent Hueth & Ethan Ligon, 1999. "Producer Price Risk and Quality Measurement," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(3), pages 512-524.
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