World events may slow the growth of the domestic organic market

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WASHINGTON – Organic is no longer a niche market. Such sentiments were expressed by several stakeholders from the organic industry at the recent annual agriculture forecasting forum of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One of these stakeholders, Ryan Corey, vice president of economics at Mercaris, a data mining and trading platform for the organic industry, said during the Organic Outlook forum session that sales of organic products have grown 9% year-on-year since 2009. compared to the annual. the growth rate of sales of conventional food products by only 3% over the same period of time. Mr. Corey also noted that in 2020, many categories of organic products grew by about 11%, and organic meat, poultry and fish – by almost 25%. And despite limited access to food, high inflation and the consensus that organic food has a price tag that is typically 10-30% higher than conventional mass-produced food, consumer demand for organic food remains positive .

Consumer demand for organic products, Mr Corey said, is driven by many factors.

“Today’s consumer is looking for foods that provide more than just food,” he said. “They’re looking for things that have other benefits, whether biological or social. Organic ticks are a lot of these boxes. ”

Mr. Corey also commented on the growth of organic crops. From 2020 to 2021, data collected by Mercaris showed that U.S. acres of organic field crops grew by 7.1%, to about 3.6 million acres, as a result of the expansion of oilseeds and legumes. Soybean production is expected to be a record year with a projected harvest of 9.4 million buses, Mr Corey said. Corn, the largest and well-established crop in the organic industry, had the lowest growth compared to last year. Mr Corey does not expect the maize crop to grow much larger as the soybean market is expected to pump out acres to meet growing demand. In addition, Mr. Corey mentioned that conventional corn farmers have started using chicken manure, a conventional fertilizer used by organic corn growers, making it less affordable and more expensive.

Although organic corn may not have the greatest expansion, organic corn is, for the most part, self-sufficient domestically. Other organic crops, however, rely on imports to meet U.S. demand, especially in the soybean bull market. But finding countries that meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, and given current developments in Eastern Europe, access to organic products from abroad is becoming increasingly difficult.

India, for example, supplied 38% of organic soybean meal to the U.S. in 2019-20, Mercaris reports. On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Organic Soybean Processing Company filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that the Indian government was selling organic soybean meal at a lower fair price. The United States has moved from importing soybean meal, equivalent to 15.5 million buses, to just 1.5 million buses, Mr Kuri said.

The countries of the Black Sea region, including Ukraine, have also been partners in the export of organic crops, including soybeans, but the current war in the region has complicated the situation.

“There is a big difference between a short-term hurricane and a long-term war,” said Jennifer Tucker, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.

There are about 1.1 million acres of organic field crops in Ukraine, and denying access to these crops would be a significant loss to the global organic crop market, Ms. Tucker said.

American farmers have the opportunity to respond to the growing demand for organic products, but the transition from conventional farming to organic farming is a difficult process. Amy Bruch, owner and operator of Cyclone Farm, Inc., said the process includes a waiting period of 36 months since the last application of synthetic fertilizers / pesticides, which could thus reduce farmer production. In addition, there are standards and practices established and enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program that must be followed for products to have a USDA certified organic label.

Pest control on organic farms is one of the most challenging tasks and requires a holistic approach, said Gabriel Hughes, risk manager and entomologist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Service (APHIS).

“Organic farmers need to think creatively about finding, identifying, isolating and reducing pest damage, rather than just preventively and continuously spraying large layers of chemicals before problems even arise,” Mr Hughes said.

“Organic farming is not one or two practices on your farm, but a whole systemic approach,” said Ms. Bruch, adding that it is an approach that has found a strong foothold in US consumer spending.

World events may slow the growth of the domestic organic market

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