By MATTHEW D. ERNST
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released 2011 certified organic crop production data this fall, and corn again leads organic acreage in this region.
With 13,689 acres harvested in 2011, Michigan is the leading producer of certified organic corn for grain and silage among Farm World states. Ohio harvested 8,281 acres; Illinois, 7,453; and Indiana, 2,109 acres of corn for grain or silage.
This year’s acreage is not yet reported, but organic corn acreage is projected similar for 2012, while lower corn yields will likely reduce the total organic corn harvest in the Midwest.
Organic corn acres are important for supplying the two major consumers of certified organic feed crops produced in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan: Certified organic dairy and poultry farmers. Organic corn typically commands as much as a 25 percent premium above commodity corn prices, and that spread appears to have held across much of the Corn Belt as prices increased this year.
Indiana had the highest acreage reported for certified organic pasture in 2011, at 4,416 acres. Indiana had the second-highest certified organic dairy cow population of this region, with 3,346 cows at the end of 2011.
Ohio reported the highest regional certified organic dairy cow population, with 6,721 cows. Michigan’s organic dairy herd peaked at 2,343 cows in 2011, and the state had 3,629 acres of certified organic pasture. Illinois and Kentucky reported ending organic dairy inventories just over 700 dairy cows in each state.
Soybeans and alfalfa are common poultry and dairy feedstuffs. Food-grade soybeans also play an important part in the organic market. In 2011, Michigan harvested 11,699 acres of organic soybeans. Illinois harvested 6,633 acres, and Ohio harvested just over 5,634 acres. There were 945 acres of organic soybeans harvested in Indiana in 2011.
There were about 3,700 acres of alfalfa harvested for dry hay in each of Michigan and Ohio in 2011. Illinois reported 3,000 acres of organic alfalfa last year, while Indiana organic producers cut 1,411 such acres for dry hay last year. Drought in 2012 was likely to have reduced hay yields, if not area harvested, this year.
Most organic farmers follow some form of a corn/soybean/small grain rotation for field crops. But in Indiana, in 2011, only a small area of wheat and oats were harvested: 113 acres of wheat and 221 acres of oats. Michigan harvested more than 8,000 acres of wheat; Illinois, 2614; and Ohio, 190.
Illinois led the region in oat production for 2011, with 2,570 acres harvested. Ohio growers harvested just over 1,000 acres of oats, and Michigan reported 649 acres in 2011.
Ohio was the only state in this region producing enough certified organic barley and buckwheat to be reported in 2011. There were 868 acres of barley and about 100 acres of buckwheat harvested. A substantial amount of certified organic spelt is also harvested in Michigan, with some also produced in Ohio, for a Michigan processor.
Certified organic field crop acreage is much less in Kentucky and Tennessee. Most organic acreage in the two Southern states was not specifically reported by NASS because so few farms are planting certified organic field crops in those states.
Expansion of certified organic farming there, according to producers and certifiers, has tended to favor much smaller produce operations targeting niche and local direct markets.
But next year, in western Kentucky, a new demonstration project will provide research and technical assistance for producers interested adopting organic grains. Kentucky’s Agriculture Development Fund has funded a grant program, up to $5,000, for producers to purchase equipment or developing market infrastructure for organic grain production.
“When we asked where the needs were in Kentucky for organic, organic grains were at the top of the list,” said Mac Stone, who coordinates the project in Kentucky State University’s College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems.