Renewable Farming

Successful organic farmers full of enthusiasm for 2016 and beyond

More than 300 farmers packed into the convention center at the AgriEnergy Resources conference in Illinois Jan. 26.

Many of them are highly profitable organic growers. Others are “transitioning” toward organic. 

The financial attraction is clear: Organic feed grade corn ranges from $9 to $11 per bushel. Soybeans, $19 to $23. 

(Here’s a link to a Jan. 20 PDF report on organic grains from USDA.)

Organic growers who’ve learned over the past several years how to upgrade their soils are finding that managing weeds is not as impossible as they first imagined. They go for clean fields, considering that “Neighborhood cosmetics” is important to show that they’re not infesting the locality with weed seed.

Three of these growers, whom we’ve known for several years, also wanted to chat privately about their land buying search.  

Several market forces are making land ownership more alluring to certain established organic farmers:

1. They’ve proven their ability to raise 200-bu. organic corn and 50-bu. organic soybeans at modest expense.

2. Many have livestock and specialty crop enterprises blended into the corn-soybean and cover crop rotations; these add to profit levels and make partially tillable farms more useful to them than to the strictly cash-grain grower.

3. In north Central Illinois, the market price of farmland with a productivity index of 100 to 120 along with some woodland or pasture has eased back surprisingly sharply. One organic farmer spoke of offering $3,000 per acre for land with some CRP ground and some tillable ground. The CRP would almost cover mortgage payments after 20% down. On the tillable land, he’s sure of raising corn yields of nearly 200 bu. after two or three years of upgrading the biological foundations in the soil.

4. Fixed rate mortgages below 4% are available for good credit risks.  Interest payments at 4% on $3,000 per acre land is $120 per year.  Cheap, relative to rent.

5. The average age of organic farmers attending the AgriEnergy meeting appears substantially younger than the farmer populace in general. So these producers are looking toward accumulating equity in land that they can improve and upgrade.

6. New weed control technologies and cover-crop knowhow make weeds less of a fear factor.

7. Demand for organic feed is mounting in the Midwest.  One organic grower told us two big layer houses were being planned for his area.

One small indicator of organic demand — an organic grower started a small dairying operation and is selling organic farm-made butter — for $8 a pound!

The photo below shows about a third of the crowd at the AgriEnergy conference as Mardel Robinson started introductions.

AgriEnergy conference crowd Jan. 26 at Timber Creek Inn, Sandwich, IL