Organic food demand is so booming that multiple efforts are underway to support the acquisition of organic farmland. Even Costco is getting in on the action by offering to help farmers buy land and farm equipment. People’s huge appetite for organics has been ignored by Big Ag for so long that land to grow food organically in the U.S. is rather scarce. Currently, organic farming acres make up less than one percent of total U.S. farmland. Instead of growing our own, we’re importing a bunch of organic corn, soy, and other products every year.
This trend of people wanting organic products seems to be growing, too. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that in 2014, certified organic operations in the U.S. had reached an astonishing number of 19,474, while a total of 27,814 certified organic operations exist around the world. Other studies report that another 3,000 farms are transitioning to organic. The word is out – individuals everywhere are quickly switching to organic.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says:
“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market. USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”
Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, says that the way things are now, the company simply can’t keep up with the demand for organic food, which is why the company is offering to ‘help’ farmers. Though this bodes well for organics overall, it could put small family farms in the crosshairs of big business again, which hasn’t been an auspicious enterprise for organic farmers thus far.
Other retailers are trying their own methods to keep up with organic product demand. They offer loan programs for suppliers to upgrade equipment or offer financial incentives such as advance payments or long-term contracts. But helping farmers buy land to grow organics, as Costco has, is unusual in the industry.
Even General Mills is trying to get a piece of the organic product pie. General Mills recently announced that it will double its organic acreage with a goal of acquiring 250,000 acres by 2019. In the same year, the company plans to achieve $1 billion in sales from organic and natural products. General Mills is now the second largest purchaser of organic fruits and vegetables in North America.
Ardent Mills is also expanding its organic acreage – with a plan to double its organic wheat acres in the U.S. from 260,000 to 520,000 by 2019.
The tide hasn’t just turned for organic food lovers – It’s a whole new wave of opportunity.
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