MWA: Murray Wise Associates

Midwest Organic Acres on the Rise

Certified organic acreage in the predominately grain-producing states of the Midwest has been on the rise in recent years. While still a minuscule percentage of overall grain production, organic crops have had a growing impact.

This should come as no surprise, considering declines in commodity prices coupled with increasing demand for organic foods. Some producers have converted cropland to organic production, partially as a result of the large price difference between organic and conventional crops. They’ve also turned to specialty crops, such as white corn, in contrast with standard grain crops.

With low commodity prices, farmers are looking to grow whatever will make the most per acre on their ground, whether that’s a specialty crop or whether it involves converting the land to organic production.

However, don’t expect farms to convert to organic en masse. To be a certified organic farm, a farming operation must first fight through transitional years when it is essentially producing an organic crop for a conventional price – a risky proposition by any means.

Still, it’s worth noting that many farmers have successfully converted to organic operations and are bearing the fruits of that transition.

In the past decade, more than 10,000 acres in Illinois have been successfully converted to organic production. With organic corn prices being nearly triple conventional prices and with weather cooperating the past two years to achieve high yields, there have been many success stories.

While the vast majority of grain produced in the Midwest will continue to be conventional, the market for domestic organic grain will keep on growing, especially with concerns about the integrity of imported organic grains.
This increase in demand will continue to have farmers thinking about potentially transitioning acres in order to produce the most profitable crop they can.

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