A Washington State University research pilot study examined whether or not consumers are willing to pay extra for organic cotton apparel.

Western Farm Press reported, “As consumers become increasingly conscious of how their purchases influence labor practices and use natural resources, some make product choices that show concern for people and the planet.”

This was one of the first pilots to “use a type of experimental auction methodology to evoke the true price a person will pay for a product.”

Joan Ellis, associate professor of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles at WSU, says, “If the consumer is not willing to pay, then everything upstream – the growing, processing, distribution and selling – has no ramifications.”

By sampling two large university classes, the pilot revealed, “Students who believe organics are of a higher quality were willing to pay more for both organic and conventional cotton t-shirts.”

Eliis says, “The pilot study’s traction definitely shows an interest in consumer behavior and marketing implications for organic apparel.”

O. A. Cleveland, Jr., Mississippi State University Extension economics professor emeritus, says, “The same conditions that took the cotton market to its highs in late January remain in place.”

Delta Farm Press also reports, “U.S. organic cotton growers enjoy healthy demand for their products, largely due to the positive, long-term relationship with buyers.”

According to a 2010-2011 report conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the U.S. organic cotton market will continue to grow if “encouraged by consumer demand, price premiums, and regulatory shifts that will ease marketing restrictions for organic cotton products.”

For more information regarding the National Organic Program, visit the National Agricultural Law Center National Organic Program Reading Room here.