Organic Farming Faces Growing Pains as Demand Skyrockets


WASHINGTON – Bob Quinn of Big Sandy initially had a hard time finding a market for his organic grains in 1986, when he began growing them on a few acres before going completely organic during the next five years.

Today, organic is one of the hottest sectors in the multibillion-dollar food industry.

Because of “extreme competition” and short supply, the 67-year-old farmer said he’s getting paid four to five times more than conventional farmers for wheat and several times more for the peas, alfalfa, hay and barley he grows on 3,400 acres.

“From what I’ve seen during the last 30 years, the future of farming is organic,” Quinn said. “It’s the best way to ensure the profitability and viability of the family farm.”

Currently, a bushel of hard red winter wheat — used to make bread — is about $5 a bushel compared to more than $22 for organic wheat, he said.

Organic food sales have risen by double digits annually as the public consumes more fruits, vegetables, pastas, dairy and meats raised and grown without pesticides, genetically modified crops or antibiotics, among other stringent requirements.

Despite the organic farming’s booming growth — organic food revenue has tripled over the past decade to a record $36 billion last year — it remains a small fraction of the $630 billion in total supermarket sales in 2014 reported by Progressive Grocer Magazine.

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Source:  Great Falls Tribune



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