As demand for organics grows, Americans buy more food imports

U.S. consumers' demand for organic produce is growing by 20% a year, and while U.S. farmers struggle to catch up.
By Rick Docksai | Dec 02, 2018
Demand for organic produce is growing by 20% a year in the United States, and the U.S. farm sector is scrambling to keep up, according to the Department of Agriculture. Agency data indicates that imports from overseas are a large and growing source of organics for the U.S. marketplace.

Anna Casey of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that the United States get approximately three-quarters of its organic soybeans and half of its organic corn from overseas. Much of this produce is actually feed for organic livestock and poultrythey have to eat organic in order to be sold as organic, she explained.

U.S. farmers aren't able to meet all the demand, partly because transitioning from conventional farming practice to organic is difficult, according to Casey. She said that farmers cannot legally get organic certification until their land has been completely free of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers for three years. They must also learn a variety of new farming techniques, such as crop rotation and practices for land and water conservation.

"While the price premium is much higher for growing organic, a lot of people are reluctant to go through that three-year transition period," she said. "It also requires a shift in perception and it requires gaining some new knowledge of organic farming."

But many U.S. farmers that Casey interviewed said that they see the benefits of moving toward organic farming and are taking on the challenge. She expects more farmers will do so in the coming years as the slim profit margins of conventional farming push more interest in organic crops as a more lucrative alternate route.

 

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