Farmers can’t afford to go organic, so a new half-measure—certifying crops in transition—aims to solve the problem. Will it help, or just muddy the waters?
February 28th , 2017
by Joe Fassler
There are two stories to tell about the state of organic agriculture in the United States. The first is a success story, the inspirational tale of a fringe industry that—in less than two decades—has transformed into a $43-billion-dollar powerhouse. It’s the story of an industry that grows by double digits year to year, long the fastest-growing sector of the overall food market. And it’s the story of a marketing term that’s gained broad recognition in American households, a kind of byword for health and wholesomeness at a time when those characteristics seem to matter more than ever.
But there’s another story here, too. And to tell that one, you only need a single stat:
Less than 1 percent of all U.S. farmland is certified organic.
In other words, organic hasn’t come all that far from its roots. It’s still a fringe movement of sorts, just a tiny sliver of the overall pie.
The 1 percent figure isn’t due to sluggish demand. Quite the opposite: consumers want more organic food than domestic farmers can currently supply, which forces retailers, feed companies, and packaged food manufacturers to bridge the gap with organic imports from other countries. This supply imbalance varies from region to region, crop to crop, but it’s especially drastic in commodity grains. In 2016, 50 percent of our organic corn and 80 percent of our organic soy had to be imported from countries like India, Ukraine, Turkey, and Romania. Until farmers can catch up, imports will continue to prop up American organic, making it seem more robust than it is.
Please click here to read the full story.