Facing sky-high crop prices, some in the organic livestock business are beginning to look for organic grain growers willing to sign long-term contracts to supply feed. This kind of vertical integration, which is common in the conventional meat industry, runs counter to the independent spirit of many organic farmers. But tight supplies and the soaring cost of organic corn and soybeans may force changes.
Organic products are one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry. Sales of organic food totaled almost $17 billion in 2006, and production of the grain and soybeans needed for organic livestock has failed to keep up with the demand for milk and meat.
Soybeans in particular are in extremely short supply. Organic soybeans were selling for more than $25 a bushel on average in the upper Midwest in mid-March, an amount about double the price of a year earlier. Organic corn prices were averaging just less than $10 a bushel, up from about $6.50 a year previous.
* Des Moines Register April 5, 2008