Thursday, April 19, 2018

U.S. is world's largest corn grower but imports organic corn

The U.S. is the world's biggest producer and exporter of corn, but it's a net importer of organic corn. The number of acres planted with organic corn increased by 28 percent between 2015 and 2016, to 214,000 acres. But that number is still less than 0.5 percent of the total corn planted in the U.S. Why? It isn't because of profit margins: farmers who plant organic corn get about 30 percent lower yield than with conventional corn, but the organic stuff sells for twice as much. Leo Mirani of The Economist explains the three main reasons more U.S. farmers don't grow organic corn:

Growing organic takes a significant investment of time and money. A field must be cultivated with no chemicals or contamination for three years before crops produced on it are certified organic. "In effect, that means putting in all the effort required for organic crops with none of the payback," Mirani writes from Norfolk, Neb.. "Moreover, it often means buying separate equipment rather than risking contamination through shared use with machines handling the conventional crop."

Growing organic is riskier, too: non-organic pollen drifting from nearby farms can pollinate the organic crop and render it uncertifiable. Weather and weeds are a bigger threat without conventional fertilizers and herbicides. And growing organic takes more work, which is both more expensive and sometimes harder to find.

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