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Economy and Business


Organic feed demand in Ohio is higher than the supply
Farmers are seeing prices soar on Organic feed, making business expansion difficult
Story by SAM HENDREN


 
Organic livestock feed is becoming more expensive and hard to find in Ohio.
Courtesy of sacramento_hr
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More small farmers are turning to the production of organic meat and dairy products. But a looming shortage of organically-certified animal feed might be limiting the expansion of the organic market.

LISTEN: HENDREN ON ORGANIC FEED

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On a central Ohio dairy farm, 20 jersey cows stand patiently inside the milking parlor.

“All the milk is coming down that pipeline from the cows,” says dairyman Perry Clutts. “It goes from the cow into this big pipeline here. It gets chilled and, every other day, the milk truck comes and picks the milk up. It’s a special dedicated milk truck; organic milk only.”

Clutts is a former North Carolinian who returned to Ohio and the family farm near Circleville. Clutts designed and built a modern dairy parlor that can milk 100 cows per hour. While they are milked, the cows munch on certified-organic feed.

“They always get organic feed which means no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, no added hormones to make them produce more milk,” Clutts says.

Converting to organic farming is a lengthy process. So is obtaining organic certification, but there is a new challenge facing producers. 

Lots of livestock, not enough food
As Clutts and others scale up production of organic milk and meat, they face a looming shortage of organic animal feed. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, known as OEFFA, is a group that does organic certification. Spokesman Eric Pawlowski says there are too few acres devoted to growing organic grains and other feed components.

“Right now the demand exceeds the supply here in Ohio," Pawlowski says. "We have more of a demand than what our producers can grow."

Take the 3 million acres of corn that are grown in Ohio to feed livestock. Pawlowski calculates that less than 100,000 of those acres is certified organic.

According to another dairyman, the demand for organic feed is driving prices up.

“If you’re willing to pay the price at this point in time, you’re able to find feed," dairyman Ernest martin says. "It is a lot more expensive. It is getting harder to find.”

Martin runs a 55-cow dairy farm northwest of Mansfield. He says that several years ago, there was not much of a price difference between organic and conventional hay. But that is changing. As feed becomes more difficult to find, Martin says he has had to search for suppliers outside the Midwest and there is yet another problem.

“There’s been a reduction in organic acres, which has hurt dairy or any organic livestock producers,” Martin says.

Solving the problem themselves
It makes sense, then, that organic meat and dairy producers raise their own organic feed.

“They have seen a greater challenge of sourcing as they have been trying to grow their business if they are not already producing their own feed for their livestock, which the vast majority of our farmers do," Pawlowski says. "They view their farm as a complete organism so that the less that they have to import from off their farm, the more stable their business model is,” 

Dairyman Ernest Martin says he sees a bright spot in the not-too-distant future.

“I think that it’ll eventually straighten out again," Martin says. "With the feed prices as high as they are right now, it’s a little hard to make a profit, but I think that if we’re steady at it, I think things will turn around again."

Listener Comments:

Persistence and determination are the keys to great success. This problem is something that is not new anymore but farmers have survived and were able to get back on track soon after. This will just be another challenge for these farmers as they strive hard to be able to feed millions.


Posted by: Kristen McKenzie on August 1, 2013 4:08AM
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