U.S. Importing Organic Feed to Satisfy Domestic Demand
Consumer spending on organic food products has tripled over the past ten years, reaching a value exceeding $35 billion in 2014 according to industry estimates, reports The Chicago Tribune. However, U.S. production of organic and specialty feed and grain to supply the country’s dairy, hog, poultry, and egg producers for the production of such foods is not keeping pace with demand. In response, U.S. buyers are leveraging the currently strong dollar and are turning to overseas suppliers.
U.S. imports of organic corn (mainly from Romania and Turkey) tripled last year to 303,645 tons, with imports in January and February jumping five-fold year on year. Imports of organic soybeans (mainly from India and Ukraine) increased 45% to 317,284 tons last year with imports in January and February double what they were a year before, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Due to their niche nature and high demand, the spot price for organic feed corn averaged $8.06 per bushel for the week ending March 26 compared to $3.7475 for traditional corn, while organic soybeans averaged $17.04 per bushels for the week ending April 9 compared to $9.5775 for mainstream soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Despite the growing demand and significantly higher prices, the challenges associated with switching a traditional grain farming operation to an organic one have hindered growth.
Programs such as the U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration and the Sustainable Food Lab are working with farmers to help them during the transitional phase, while the USDA announced it was expanding its crop insurance options for operations that were transitioning to organic production. Meanwhile, Clarkson Grain is building a certification program that will pay farmer a premium for their organic crops after only one year of organic production systems being in place.