Iowa farmers are growing more organic corn, soybeans, hay and oats. According to a new USDA report, this creates a 30% spike in the state’s organic acres over the past three years.
Iowa had 779 certified organic farms last year with 133,691 acres. Those figures include 47 more farms and 30,555 more acres than recorded in 2016, the year covered by the most recent previous survey. This means the state now ranks sixth nationally for the number of organic farms, leading the nation in producing organic corn and soybeans, at 13% and 15% of the total, respectively, and provided 30% of the organic oats produced nationally.
Paul Mugge, who grows organic corn and soybeans in northwest Iowa, told the Des Moines Register: “What could be better for our little communities, schools and churches, if there are 10 of me on 300 acres (as opposed to) one guy farming 3,000 acres?”
Organic crops are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and genetically modified seeds, and prices for organic corn and soybeans are generally twice those for conventional crops, Mugge said.
A half-dozen years of falling commodity prices, with farmers struggling to post profits, have prompted some traditional farmers to shift to organic growing, said Gary Huber, president of the Iowa Organic Association.
U.S. sales for organic fruits, vegetables, meat and milk jumped 31% last year to $9.93 billion, an increase of $2.37 billion, the USDA says.