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Daily News Blog

14
Nov

Organic Farmland Increases as Consumer Demand Skyrockets

(Beyond Pesticides, November 14, 2016) New research published by Meracris, a provider of market data and trading for organic, non-GMO (genetically  modified organisms or (GE) genetically engineered) and certified agricultural commodities, documents  an 11 percent increase in organic farmland since 2014. The number of certified organic farms grew to almost 15,000, marking a 6.2 percent increase of organic farms between June 2016 and 2014. The top five states leading the transformation to organic fields are California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York and North Dakota. California heads the pack, claiming 688,000 acres dedicated to organic farming techniques. There are now 4.1 million acres of organic farmland in the United States, and that number is predicted to keep increasing as the demand for organic products continues to rise. A recent market analysis by the Organic Trade Association found that Americans have spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016 a $4.2 billion increase from 2015.

“The organic industry is growing and with lower commodity grain prices, and farmers are looking to add value and meet consumer demands,” says Scott Shander, and economist at Mercaris. Alex Heilman, a sales associate at Mercaris says that the number of organic acres will likely increase as larger companies like General Mills and Ardent Mills, the largest U.S. wheat miller, begin launching organic programs to meet consumer demands. Ardent Mills  has indicated it will double organic wheat planting by 2019. As more and more people become informed of the dangers that chemical-intensive and monocultural agriculture pose to biodiversity,saveorganic1-271x300 there is an increase in those looking for alternatives and producers are struggling to keep up.

The percentage of crops that are organically grown is still extremely small, with U.S. organic corn accounting for less than one percent of total corn yields. Because  U.S. organic corn and soybean fields are not able to keep up with consumer demand, 25 percent of organic corn and 75 percent of organic soybeans are imported into the U.S., according to the report.

According to a report by Bloomberg, organic corn and soybean sales have doubled since last year, and countries like Romania and India are exporting their organic goods to the U.S. to fill the gap U.S. farmers cannot meet. Bloomberg points out  that organic milk sales have tripled since 2007, now accounting for 5 percent of the U.S. milk market. This uptick in sales has caused a shortage of organic feed grains, which is forcing farmers to import.

With such a high demand for organic goods, government agencies are working to increase U.S. supply. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded its crop insurance options for farmers transitioning to organic. “In the past, there has been trouble getting feed and having a consistent, affordable supply,” said Miranda Leis, feed-program operations manager for Organic Valley, a Wisconsin-based cooperative whose members include about 1,800 dairy, egg, produce and grain farms. “Now there’s considerably more availability. Prices have come down, which is beneficial for the livestock members purchasing the feed, but it’s harder for the grain farmers who are trying to make a living selling that. It’s a pretty typical dynamic and it’s a tough one.” Says George Kalogridis, the program coordinator at Clarkson Grain Company. Clarkson Grain is working on a certification program that pays farmers a premium for crops grown after one year using organic methods. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires a three-year transition to organic production practices before the USDA certified organic label can be used in the marketplace.

Markets are now beginning to respond to consumer demand —notably the demand for responsible food production that organic production and processing provide. Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. Understanding the importance of eating organic food requires an assessment of the benefits of pesticide elimination throughout the production system and the resulting protection of farmworkers, air, water, land, and biodiversity, in addition to food safety. (See Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, which captures the holistic benefits of organic food production.) This boom in organic sales and land use signals a wave of change overtaking the  agricultural and food production sector, as people become more and more educated to the negative effects that agribusiness has  on surrounding ecosystems and human health.

If you would like to know more about organic agriculture and its history, there is plenty of information on Beyond Pesticides’ website. For information on the health benefits organic agriculture has to offer, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture webpage. With an informed public, we can continue to make responsible consumer decisions to allow market forces to phase out harmful chemical-intensive farming practices.  As the Rodale Institute says, “Organic farming is not simply the substitution of approved input materials. It is the replacement of a treatment approach with a process approach to create a balanced system of plant and animal interactions.”

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Civil Eats, Take Part.

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  • Archives

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    • ALS (2)
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