UW finds strategies to increase number of organic grain farms in Wisconsin

March 5, 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.

"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, assistant professor of plant pathology at UW-Madison, and faculty affiliate of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

"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," she explains.

UW-Madison professor Erin Silva
Erin Silva

"Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2015 Status Report" highlights possible strategies to increase the number of farms and acres producing organic grain in our state. Examples of these strategies, gleaned through interviews with organic business owners, include education and technical support; programs and policies that reduce risk during the three-year transition to organic farming; and pooling products, information and resources through farmer networks.

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.

Other observations from the report include:

"Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2015 Status Report" is prepared by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.