Abnormally high feed costs, partly the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are ruining organic livestock producers and federal relief payments are vital to keep farmers in business, said organic trade groups and businesses. “A perfect storm of trade disruptions, international conflicts and acute drought conditions has created a situation no farmer could have planned for or foreseen,” said the 13 groups in a letter to lawmakers released on Monday.
Led by fruits and vegetables, organic food has been a steadily growing part of U.S. grocery sales for nearly two decades. Americans bought $57.5 billion of organic food last year, around 6% of the grocery market.
In a letter to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations and Agriculture committees, the groups said “limited disaster aid…will allow farmers to reorganize their production goals and plant for a new reality in organic feed production.” The letter did not suggest how large the aid package should be. Producers have relied on imports of foreign-grown feed for organic livestock because U.S. output has been insufficient for the expanding market for organic meat, eggs and dairy. Organic feed is required for the production of organic livestock.
“This economic disaster is afflicting organic farmers and we urge Senate and House Agriculture committee leadership to work with USDA to craft an ad hoc disaster relief payment for organic livestock producers,” said the letter. “The alternative is that many of them will leave organic livestock and never come back.”
Warfare in Ukraine has disrupted shipments of organic feedstuffs from Eastern Europe. Disputes over organic certification of ag exports from India also have constricted supplies. And the United States imposed anti-dumping duties on organic soybean meal from India this year.
“All of agriculture is facing supply chain and inflationary pressures, yet organic supply and trade is unique when assessing the factors that have caused abnormally high organic feed costs,” said the letter. “While feed inputs have climbed for organic dairy, poultry and hog farmers, the organic farm gate and retail marketplace for organic meat, eggs, chicken, turkey and pork has also risen but not as significantly or quickly enough to keep pace with these unbearable feed costs.”
For example, the price of organic soybeans rose to $40.52 a bushel in May, more than double the price in January, according to a company that tracks organic prices. Prices “are still over $31” this fall, said the trade group letter.
“Organic milk buyers say they cannot increase pay to a level that can help organic dairies cash-flow their operations,” said Ed Maltby of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. “After six years of a pay price that is significantly lower than the costs of production, producers have no reserves left.”