EXPANDING U.S. ORGANIC PRODUCTION
Consumer demand for organic products is growing rapidly, at over 10 percent annually. This growth in demand is encouraging, but domestic production of organic crops is not keeping pace. The result is that an increasing percent of U.S. organic food is imported to meet consumer needs. Currently, the most acute imbalance between demand and domestic supply is in organic grain production. Recent trends reveal a significant surge in U.S. imports of organic feed grains, most of which are used as feed for organic dairy, poultry and other livestock operations.
The jobs and environmental benefits associated with organic agriculture are significant, but active steps need to be taken to ensure that our country and citizens reap those benefits. If we continue to rely on increased imports of organic products to meet growing consumer demand, we are being negligent by undercutting U.S. organic farmers and relinquishing those economic and environmental benefits to other nations.
The National Organic Coalition has created a white paper to explore in greater depth the challenges limiting domestic production of organic crops, as well as policy and market-based tools that could help to address those challenges.
Challenges that limit domestic organic production include:
- Organic farmers face unique costs relative to their conventional counterparts.
- Organic grain production lags behind, despite favorable returns.
- Consolidation within the organic industry, a rise in organic imports, and contracts that disadvantage farmers may be limiting the economic viability of domestic producers.
- Access to land and capital is especially challenging for new farmers who want to farm organically and for existing farmers seeking to convert.
- Genetic drift from genetically engineered (GE) crops may interfere with and limit domestic organic production.
Because the challenges of growing U.S. organic production are multi-faceted, so too are the solutions. Increasing funding for organic research, ensuring access to regionally adapted seeds that are bred for organic systems, maintaining the integrity of the organic standards, and providing organic farmers with additional risk management tools are key solutions to increasing domestic organic production. The National Organic Coalition has developed a comprehensive list of policy recommendations that we will advance with the current Administration, the USDA, Members of Congress, and in the 2018 Farm Bill.
For this list of policy recommendations and a more detailed analysis of challenges and solutions, see the Executive Summary for NOC’s white paper on Expanding Organic Production in the United States or the full white paper.