WASHINGTON — Rising sales of organic soybean imports might be a reason for U.S. growers to consider producing their own, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Organic soybean import sales rose to $183.6 million in 2014 from $110.2 million in 2013, according to a study released April 15 by the Washington-based association. Organic soybeans and organic corn are primary ingredients in feed in the U.S. organic dairy, poultry and livestock sectors, according to the O.T.A. U.S. organic feed-grade soybeans sell for about $25 per bus while U.S. organic yellow feed corn sells for about $14 per bus, according to the O.T.A.
A majority of U.S. growers plants bioengineered/genetically modified corn and soybeans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 30, 2014, estimated 94% of all planted acres of soybeans in the United States were biotech varieties and 93% of all corn acres planted in the United States were biotech varieties.
Edward Jaenicke, associate professor of agricultural economics at Pennsylvania State University, conducted the O.T.A. study, which used data from the U.S.D.A. and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Imports of organic products reached $1.3 billion in 2014 for products tracked in 21 categories. Organic growers in the United States exported more than $550 million worth of products tracked in 26 categories.
“This important study is a ‘help wanted’ message for American farmers,” said Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the O.T.A. “This report is the first of its kind, and it yields some key findings to help guide the organic and non-organic farm community, public policymakers and all organic stakeholders in making future industry investment decisions.
“It shows substantial missed opportunities for the U.S. farmer by not growing organic, whether to meet the demand outside the U.S. or to keep up with the robust domestic demand for organic.”
Soybeans trailed only coffee as the most imported organic product. Sales of organic imported coffee reached $332.5 million in 2014, which was up from $253.3 million in 2013. Sales of organic imported honey were $46 million, which ranked sixth and was up from $13.2 million in 2013.
A phytosanitary regulation for almonds has led to a spike in organic imports, according to the O.T.A. Organic almonds ranked seventh among imports with sales of $40.4 million in 2014, which was up from $16.7 million in 2013. Organic yellow dent corn import sales ranked 10th at $35.7 million in 2014, which was down from $36.6 million in 2013.Apples ranked as the leading organic export with 2014 sales of $116.3 million. Produce took up the top seven spots for organic exports as apples were followed by lettuce (not head), fresh grapes, spinach, strawberries, carrots and cauliflower.