Currently, organic corn is selling for about $12.50 a bushel, more than triple the cash price for regular corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that organic sales have more than tripled between 2002 and 2010, and continue to climb.
According to an analysis of U.S. trade data released April 15 by the Organic Trade Association and Pennsylvania State University, imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming. As a result, imports to the U.S. of Romanian corn rose to $11.6 million in 2014 from $545,000 the year before. Soybean imports from India more than doubled to $73.8 million.
Could this be why there continues to be more and more interest in transitioning to organic acres? To keep business within the United States?
The current market trends point towards a niche market where demand far surpasses supply. Meaning the future is very bright for organic growers and those looking to transition, but there are a few things one should consider prior to taking the leap.
Organic is a labeling term for food or other agricultural products that have been produced according to the USDA organic regulations. These standards require the use of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices which support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The USDA recognizes four categories in organic production – crops, livestock, processed/multi-ingredient products, and wild crops. We focus mostly on crops – corn, soybeans, forages, edible beans, produce, etc.
Operations with more than $5,000 in annual organic sales must be certified. The USDA National Organic Program publishes the USDA organic regulations, with substantial input from the public and the National Organic Standards Board. These regulations must all be met prior to receiving the USDA organic seal that indicates a product is certified organic. If a product is not certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agent (ACA), a USDA organic seal can not be used.
Producers looking to become certified organic must change the way they approach farming. During the 3-year ‘transition period’, they must keep detailed records of all substances applied to the land, provide a detailed description of their farm including the organic products grown, and a written Organic System Plan describing the practices and substances they intend to use to a USDA-accredited certifying agent. An inspector will then conduct an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation to be sure the applicant complies with USDA organic regulations.
Organic farmers typically rely on practices such as crop rotation, green manure, cover crops, composting, intercropping, biological control, sanitation, and tillage to control weeds and pests. They must show that they protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity, and use only approved substances for fertility inputs, pest management, and processing aids. Synthetic substances are prohibited unless specifically allowed, and non-synthetic (natural) substances are allowed unless specifically prohibited. The use of genetic engineering is prohibited under the USDA organic regulations. Their philosophy is to feed the soil and it will in turn feed the plants which then feed us.
With the current agricultural trends, we’ve been seeing a lot of interest in organics, especially among those handing the reigns to the next generation. Agriculture is a forever evolving industry, and for some people organics is the next step.
Don’t let the 3-year transition period scare you. There are many great organizations out there ready to help you through the process such as the USDA National Organic Program. And us for questions regarding fertility programs. We want to help YOU, yes YOU, grow your operation for years to come. For more information or to view our inventory of products for organic farming, click here.
We hope the information provided will let you decide ‘will organic work for me?’