The launch of the Organic Initiative 2019 last year followed rising demand from food companies and restaurants for organic wheat flour, said Ardent Mills, which has partnered with non-profit certifier, educator and organic agriculture advocate Oregon Tilth for the initiative.
“This is a significant opportunity for growers to become a part of an emerging market and create additional value for their crops,” Ardent Mills chief executive officer Dan Dye said when he announced the initiative in December.
Stating there had been a “groundswell of interest”, the company said it understood the barriers faced when farmers moved some or all of their crops to organic.
Meetings in western states
Three meetings are being conducted this month to help farmers learn about the initiative. The first was held this week in Fargo, North Dakota, and the remaining two are on January 22 in Fort Morgan, Colorado; and January 27 in Pocatello, Idaho.
“We’re eager to work with farmers as they transition to this growing market and to provide our customers with an assured supply,” said Mike Miller, Ardent Mills vice president of risk management.
“We are certain current demand will continue to increase well into the future.”
Farmers who join this effort would have access to direct support services and workshops, in addition to long-term contracts for transitional and organic wheat bushels, added the company.
Demand outstrips production
According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2015 State of the Organic Industry Report, production of organic food in the US is not keeping up with demand.
“Supply shortages are one of the greatest challenges facing the industry today,” it states. “Organic food sales currently make up 4% of total food sales, while acreage devoted to organic agriculture is less than 1% of total U.S. cropland.
“There is a huge opportunity for rural communities to fill this demand,” it concluded.