The demand for organic crops in the U.S. is climbing, but American organic farmers are not necessarily reaping the benefits.
Farmers that switched to growing organic crops to take advantage of growing consumer demand are disappointed that the U.S. is still importing so much grain from overseas, particularly Turkey, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
With the rising popularity of crops grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically engineered seeds or select fertilizers, many domestic farmers switched to organic methods during the past few years.
Michael Konen, farmer from Illinois told WSJ that when he converted to organic methods eight years ago, he could sell his corn for $11 to $16 more per bushel than the conventionally-produced varieties. Now, the influx of imported corn has driven his profit margins down, and organic corn only brings in $4 to $8 more per bushel.
Imports of organic corn alone nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to Department of Agriculture data, jumping from 300,000 metric tons to 550,000.
The strong U.S. dollar makes imported agricultural commodities — not just organic produce — a cheaper option for U.S. food manufacturers than buying domestically produced grains. Domestic farmers are also concerned that foreign organic farmers in Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, Romania and India, are not held to the same rigorous standards.
A January, 2016, USDA report said European “uncovered fraud or unapproved production methods in organic products from Turkey” and that some farmers “have been using fraudulent organic certificates.”
The USDA sent a special auditor to Turkey as well as Ukraine last fall to inspect the region’s organic farming practices, Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of USDA’s organic department, told WSJ.
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