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WI Still Leads the Nation in Organic Dairy, Beef Production
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 03/06/2015

While the $35 billion U.S. organic industry continues to expand at a brisk pace, organic grain production is not keeping up with the growing demand for organic livestock feed and value-added food products, according to a new report on Wisconsin organic agriculture.

The 'Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2015 Status Report' highlights possible strategies to increase the number of farms and acres producing organic grain in the state.

"Although organic grain premiums are strong, significant barriers prevent the transition of farmers and acreage to fill the need for more organic grain," says Erin Silva, a report author and assistant professor of plant pathology at UW-Madison. "The three-year-long transition from conventional to organic production, when farmers pay the extra costs of organic management without receiving premium prices, is one example of a barrier that might deter a grain farmer from switching to organic production."

In Wisconsin, there is high demand for organic livestock feed because the state leads the nation in organic dairy and beef production. Nearly three out of four organic farms in Wisconsin market livestock and poultry, compared to about half of all organic farms nationwide.

The report also notes that Wisconsin continues to rank second in the U.S. for the total number of organic farms, behind only California. There were approximately 1,250 certified organic farms in Wisconsin in 2013, which represents 77 percent growth since 2005. The state is also second in the nation for the number of farms in transition to organic production, which indicates continued growth in this industry.

Wisconsin ranks fourth in the U.S. for organic vegetable and melon farms, and second for organic oilseed and grain farms; and is fourth in the nation for organic product sales, valued at $122 million.

The report was prepared by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

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