Gap growing between supply and demand for organic foods
The Farm Belt isn't going organic fast enough to keep up with surging consumer demand, forcing makers of organic foods from milk to deli meats to look abroad for key commodities while struggling to recruit skeptical farmers at home.
The U.S. is the world's largest producer and exporter of corn and soybeans, but organic supplies, which are used largely as animal feed for production of organic meat and dairy, are hard to come by here. Federal data show organic food producers are turning to China and India for organic soybeans, as total U.S. imports of those kinds of beans doubled last year and could surpass $100 million in value this year.
Food companies say fewer corn and soybeans farmers are adding organic acres, with some even returning to pesticides and processed fertilizer after trying organic production.
"We are not keeping up. You have seen a slowdown in the transition of acres," said George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the U.S. Limited new supplies, he added, mean its dairies pay higher prices for feed, making producers less profitable as organic retail prices can only climb so high.