By Lacie Dotterweich, former staff member
Organic farming in Iowa is on the rise, and proving to be an important economic opportunity for small to mid-size farmers. This growing industry is significant for our state because it gives farmers an important and often untapped avenue to continue farming and make money. In a tough farm economy, strong and viable economic opportunities such as this are a valuable option for farms.
Demand for organic products is growing at such a high rate that consumer need is exceeding domestic supplies. The U.S. is now spending more than $1 billion a year to import organic products. This rise in demand gives Iowa farmers a good opportunity to jump in on the higher price premiums – up to three times as much as conventional products.
Organics can be a boon to rural communities, as well. Rural economies suffer when farms consolidate in small communities. The growing organic market presents a viable opportunity to keep small to mid-size farmers in production.
Many Iowa farmers are already growing and producing organic products. In the past five years, the number of organic producers has increased by 31 percent, and the state ranks sixth nationally in largest number of organic farms. Farmers in Iowa also saw a 43 percent increase in the value of organic commodities produced, from $72 million in 2008 to $103 million in 2014. This $100 million market is mostly from producing organic corn, soybeans, and milk.
Transitioning to farming organically is a long process, however there are options for federal financial assistance. Those interested in the higher prices should consider programs to ease into this great economic opportunity.