ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - The demand for organic food is increasing so fast that American farmers have a new problem – they can’t meet demand.

The increase in demand for organic food, coupled with the number of organic farmers in America dropping, prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promise up to $300 million to recruit farmers to make the switch.

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Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Specialist, Cassie Dahl, says Minnesota is not immune to the loss of organic farmers. In 2020, there were 734 organic-certified farms. In 2021, there were 682. She attributes most of that loss to farmer retirement.

When an existing conventional farm tries to switch to organic-certified, Dahl says most new farmers struggle in the 3-year transition period.

The biggest hurdle is a three-year transition period and also a financial commitment during that time. Organic farming typically is more labor intensive, and during the transition period, farmers are not yet eligible to receive the market premium that organic fetches. Finding markets is also a hurdle. For instance, there are grain elevators around the state, but they are slow to change to be able to accommodate organic grain.

Even with those hurdles, Dahl says many farms consider making the switch.

A farmer decides to become organic for a variety of reasons; family health and well-being, ecological reasons, or even financial reasons. They look at their operations and after considering the initial investment and transition period, economically it makes sense for them to farm organically.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reports 682 organic-certified farms and 255 certified processors in the state. Dahl says the most common organic crops are corn, soybeans, and hay.

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