Magazine article Amber Waves

Lower Conventional Corn Prices and Strong Demand for Organic Livestock Feed Spurred Increased U.S. Organic Corn Production in 2016

Magazine article Amber Waves

Lower Conventional Corn Prices and Strong Demand for Organic Livestock Feed Spurred Increased U.S. Organic Corn Production in 2016

Article excerpt

The small, longstanding market for organically grown food continues to expand. In 2016, the Nutrition Business Journal estimated U.S. organic food purchases at over $40 billion (about 5 percent of total U.S. at-home food expenditures). Annual sales have shown double-digit growth during most years since 2000, when USDA set national organic standards.

Converting from conventional to organic production systems requires the use of approved materials and practices in every phase of crop production. For example, most of the synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used for pest and nutrient management in conventional crop production are prohibited in organic production. In addition, farmers cannot be certified organic and receive organic price premiums for their crops and livestock until 3 years after they have adopted organic practices. These organic requirements may decrease crop yields, increase labor requirements, and slow the adoption of certified organic farming systems in some commodity sectors.

Organic price premiums help offset the cost of organic production. For example, organic corn prices are generally two to three times higher than conventional corn prices. As a result, organic corn operations are often more profitable than conventional operations once the 3-year transition period is past.

Corn and soybeans are the two most widely grown crops in the United States and are commonly used as animal feed in the livestock sector. In 2016, U.S. farmers planted 94.1 million acres of corn and 83.7 million acres of soybeans, over 90 percent with genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties. …

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