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01.06.2018 |

In High Demand, Organic Soy and Corn Farmers Stand to Win

The United States is importing more organic corn and soybeans than it’s producing, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Despite a steady increase in demand for organic products among consumers, U.S. crop growers have been reluctant to make the switch from conventional crops, even if it could mean higher profits for farmers struggling with low commodity prices.

“Corn, soybeans and cotton have pretty much the lowest (organic) adoption level of any crop we grow in the U.S.,” said Catherine Greene, an agricultural economist at the USDA Economic Research Service. “We’re orders of magnitude lower in the adoption level of feed grains than we are for many of the fruits and vegetables.”

But soybeans and corn, the two crops that dominate much of the agricultural landscape in the Midwest, have become lucrative organic imports since the USDA implemented the National Organic Program in 2002.

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“We have had three large farms convert from conventional to organic in the last five years,” said Jim Traub, a merchandiser at Clarkson Grain Company near Cerro Gordo, Ill. “In 1992, we did not know what organic meant.”

Clarkson Grain Company processes both non-GMO and organic corn and soybeans. Farmers who sell non-GMO soybeans to Clarkson, even without the full organic distinction, have access to Japanese markets, where Midwestern beans are used in tofu, soymilk, and other food products.

Traub said it’s a relationship Clarkson has had with a Japanese trading company for more than 20 years that provides growers a $1.50 premium per bushel compared to genetically modified beans. Farmers who grow non-GMO corn see a premium of about 75 cents.

The price for organic corn and soybeans is even higher, paying farmers two to three times what they might make on a bushel of conventional grain.

But Traub said making the switch to full organic is not a quick and easy transition.

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