Organic wheat commands premium prices over conventional

Organic wheat is selling for 500 percent higher than conventional wheat and there is no indication it will drop soon.


Jay Crandall, a grain commodity merchant with Wetaskiwin Co-op, said the little organic wheat that is available is selling into the milling market for $20 a bushel, or $735 per tonne.


This year, organic feed wheat is selling for $16.50 per bu., or $610 a tonne, if it is available, compared to $585 a tonne last year. 


At the same time, conventional feed wheat is selling for $4 per bu., or $147 per tonne last year.


“The spread is very extreme this year,” said Crandall, who finds organic wheat for his customers. 


“The wheat market is very short.”


Wheat is the main feed in organic poultry rations. 


Crandall said increases in organic oat and barley prices are not as extreme but show no sign of following conventional prices’ downward slide.


Organic barley is selling for $8.50 per bu., or $390 per tonne, compared to $2.70 per bu., or $124 per tonne, for conventional barley.


Organic oats are $6.50 per bu., or $420 per tonne, compared to $2.50 per bu., or $162 per tonne for conventional oats.


“There are very extreme price differences this year,” said Crandall.


The price of organic soybeans imported from the United States hasn’t dropped from last year, nor has organic flax cake.


Crandall expects barley prices to soften over the next few months when farmers start to sell their grain, but he believes wheat prices will stay high.


He attributes the high price of wheat to two main factors:


  • Last year’s cold, wet spring made it almost impossible for organic farmers to plant wheat, forcing them to switch to shorter season crops.

  • Many farmers who still have wheat in their bins were reluctant to sell it before the end of the year because they want to spread out their income after high grain prices last year.


Wade Hoculak, an organic farmer from Star, Alta., and president of the Alberta Organic Producers Association (AOPA), said he was ready to seed 300 to 400 acres of wheat last year, but the wet spring forced him to change his plans. Organic farmers missed their seeding window because they needed to till their fields several times to control weeds, he added.


“Not all organic producers are reaping the rewards,” he said.


“$20 a bu. wheat is an anomaly. That typically isn’t going to last.”


Hoculak added that the dwindling number of organic farmers will affect the amount of organic grain available in Alberta. AOPA has 90 to 95 members. 


“A lot of organic farmers are retiring,” he said.


Crandall said organic wheat producers won’t sell him grain for $12 to $13 per bu., a price he thinks is fair.


“No one is willing to sell at those prices.”


Ron Hamilton of Sunworks Farms raises organic beef, chicken, pigs and laying hens near Armena. He is concerned what the high cost of feed will mean for his bottom line. 


“It’s good for grain farmers,” said Hamilton, who paid $660 per tonne for 10 percent protein wheat for his last load of organic feed wheat.


“The feed costs are almost to 50 percent of the cost of raising the animals.”


Recent high prices for conventional grain enticed many organic producers to return to growing conventional crops with fewer rules and regulations.


He said he has started to work with conventional farmers to grow organic grain on one or two quarters. 


He also works with conventional farmers to switch hay fields into organic grain production. Grain from that land can be sold as organic if the field has not had added fertilizer or pesticide for three years and the conventional farmer is mentored by an organic farmer.

16 Responses

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  1. As an organic farmer, this article makes me very optimistic for the future of organics. It is sad to think that hard working conventional farmers are not making as much profit off of their grains. The public is demanding higher quality food, and more and more people are turning to organics. Sounds like a great time to start transitioning to organic farming. Anyone interested in the concept of organic farming, please feel free to contact me. (306) 927-2695.

    • France on

      As a mother of three, I am so grateful that there are organic farmers like you and although organic is more costly to purchase, GMO’s are not an option. Thank you, and all organic farmers, for all your hard work.

  2. April Reeves on

    This is why I don’t grow any GM products. They just don’t pay the same or have the ease of tending to smaller crops for the same profit at the end of the day. I don’t grow organics, but I grow in-between: the clean conventional route where the market demand is higher than supply. Also, I can sell to anyone: no one turns non-GM away. We need more articles like this WP! Way to farm Nicole Davis!!

  3. Jeanne Lee on

    good, i’m willing to pay the difference because I support organic farmers and my local farmers, dairymen(or women) etc…they don’t get government subsidies like the big AG…so yes they should be charging a premium

  4. Denise Henley on

    I don’t mind paying a little more for organic! I totally support the organic farmers, keep up the good work, you are appreciated. :)

  5. Reading the other comments on this page, it’s unbelievable. Did anyone who posted a comment actually READ this article? You all make it sound as if you see this as a good thing; that organic wheat farmers are doing fine. If this article makes anything clear, it is the exact opposite.

    Here’s a couple quotes from the article you might have missed:
    - Hoculak added that the dwindling number of organic farmers will affect the amount of organic grain available in Alberta. AOPA has 90 to 95 members. “A lot of organic farmers are retiring,” he said.
    - Crandall said organic wheat producers won’t sell him grain for $12 to $13 per bu., a price he thinks is fair. “No one is willing to sell at those prices.”


    This only proves that organic farming isn’t something market forces will tolerate. Why pay five times more for less grain when you could get it cheaper buying GMO or traditional crops? Sure, your organic wheat sells for a premium, but if you can’t sell it, what’s the point? This is yet another example of the unsustainability of organic farming. You all want to support organic farmers, but those rising costs are passed on to you, the end consumer.

    After doing a little price checking online, as far as I can tell, the price of a whole chicken raised on organic feed is around three to four times more expensive per pound at retail compared to a whole chicken raised on non-organic feed. I think you can see where I’m going with this. Organic farming is a luxury industry producing luxury products, and it will exist only as long as it doesn’t price itself out of the market, which given the information in this article, looks to be sooner, rather than later.

    • …And?…
      Ken sounds very privellaged to be producing his grain to break even.

      The approach used to be to try to give the soil rest and to grow what was needed by people. Now there are no more people if you ask commercial farmers, just consumers.

      Organic farming puts a face on food, not a corporate logo. And that costs more money. It wouldn’t t hurt some of these big business Ag types to find out what externalities and full cost accounting is.

      • So what?

        Who cares if organic farmers put a face on food? Promoting something as “Organic” is just another form of brand awareness. Your flinging around of accountancy lingo doesn’t change the fact that organic farming uses more resources (land, energy, time), to produce less. Any half decent accountant can see the inefficiency.

        I suggest you read this: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-great-organic-myths-why-organic-foods-are-an-indulgence-the-world-cant-afford-818585.html

        As for what used to be done, there is a good reason why we don’t follow those practices anymore. A growing population meant that older methods of farming were too inefficient. With a world population that by 2050 is expected to grow by another 2 billion people, more efficient and environmentally sound methods of farming need to be explored. The alternative is the rich west eating their free-range chicken and bread made from organic wheat while the poorer countries of the world starve. That’s not an acceptable solution to me, nor should it be to anyone with an ounce of compassion, especially since there are 1.2 billion people living in the world right now that don’t know where, or when, their next meal is coming from. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same amount of people as the entire population of India.

        I’ll be the first to admit that as a privileged western society, we waste a lot more food than we should. It’s a great shame upon us, given there are more starving people on this planet than ever before.

        However, organic farming is (on the whole), neither environmentally friendly, nor economically sustainable. The current organic food craze is just a few people trying to generate revenue using an old holdover method of food production that has been largely left behind, but still has managed to retain a small niche in the market.

        • Martin on

          Sour Grapes Ken,

          You speak as if GMO foods are free and clear of any health issues what so ever. Look into the science . There is a growing number of concerns related to BT products as its designed to explode the stomach of insects. The research is showing its causing leaky gut in humans. The truth in time will come out. In meantime, Organics has attempted to offer an alternative to the consumer. At the heart of it is supply and demand. How many Organic Wheat producers in Canada? If your unhappy with the price of conventional Wheat, Look to the almighty Harper goverment for eradicating the Wheat Board.

          • Martin – There is no proof that GMO crops have ever caused illness. Bt targets insects not humans. Often something toxic to one creature is lunch to another. I would suggest that people look at other things in their diets – too much sugar, too much fat, too much of everything. First-world “problems” – food is just so plentiful and processed food is so easy! Processed is fine sometimes as long as we mostly eat whole foods, fruits, veggies, grains, meat sometimes.

        • richard o'neill on

          Sounds to me like Ken is a little angry….and envious…..If intelligent citizens wish to eat food unadulterated by agrotoxins that is their prerogative. If they wish to pay a little more for that privelege thats their choice. If farmers wish to produce food in such a manner and receive a significant premium for that effort, kudos to them……The entire mythology around feeding the world that Ken holds so dear is a sham perpetrated by agribiz and the ivory tower…. There have been and always will be a billion undernourished citizens of the planet….Compounding this fact are a billion affuent people who have decided to eat themselves (and the disease care system) to death with obesity…… Please stop talking about the imperative of farmers needing to feed the world until you have reconciled the cold hard facts.

          • Envious? Of what? I’m not a farmer, and I’m not trying to sell overpriced grain on a market that won’t that won’t tolerate it.

            I will admit, that as a western society, we are wasteful when it comes to food. But how does it make sense to further compound that wastefulness by switching to archaic farming processes that produce on average 25-30% less grain per acre than modern farming methods?
            Read: http://www.producer.com/2013/11/can-world-afford-luxury-of-organics/

            On one hand you say, western societies are wasteful, and that’s why there are starving people. But then you say that it is our right as “intelligent citizens” to support an inefficient farming process, pay more for less product, and try to promote it as better than modern farming methods? That is the very definition of hypocrisy. Organic farming is not a “right”, nor is it the solution to the world’s food shortages. It is a right to be well fed with nutritious food, not have some western hipster drinking his fair-trade coffee and eating his organic rye bread tell you that you should grow organic because it’s going to “save the earth, man”.

            I’m willing to admit, some things that organic farming does are environmentally beneficial.
            Read: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2012/120904.html

            However, organic farming is also not going to save the earth either, in fact, it is harming it in other ways.
            Read: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-great-organic-myths-why-organic-foods-are-an-indulgence-the-world-cant-afford-818585.html

            As for your jab about GM crops being “agrotoxic”, I think the scientific evidence may be a tad stacked against you on that one. For every one debunked study on GM crops being dangerous, there are at least a hundred studies that say otherwise. But that little invective shows that you are decidedly in the camp of the anti-GMO lobby, since you are using their parlance.
            Read: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/
            (The second page has a link to a list of independently funded studies that vet GM crops as safe.)

            You think I sound angry? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m tired of arguing with people who would rather close than ears, cover their ears, and say, “It’s not my problem and I won’t let any new ideas change that”. That kind of thinking is very short sighted. Who’s to say how many more hungry people there will be in another eight years? Maybe you, or your children or grandchildren will be one of them. You think that sounds scary? I think starving should be a powerful motivator for anyone to accept a proven safe technology to prevent it. But go ahead, protest, attack the forward thinking people who are likely going to wind up feeding you anyway in the future. Then maybe you’ll show a little gratitude.

  6. richard o'neill on

    Thanks for the info Ken…and your opinions… You state that organic agriculture is an “archaic farming system” that produces less. In my experience in agriculture its not how much you produce or even how much the product is worth…..but rather how much “sticks” ($). That would be the economic basis for organic agriculture… and why it will continue to succeed. It is an internally optimized approach to agriculture that puts control in the hands of those who produce the wealth rather than those who only manipulate it…..If that is archaic, so be it………You continually refer to feeding the starving masses but the fact is that the starving masses have never been fed…..and sadly probably never will. Throwing even more technology at what is really a social/political/moral problem is doomed to failure Being mesmerized by technology does not equate to progress. Holding up population explosion as some kind of mantra ( 9B 2050 ) is suicidal in my opinion. Can you tell me how, when all major ecosystems on the planet are under severe duress that adding another 2B inhabitants is somehow a marvellous technological feat? How is it that being at war with nature is somehow going to translate to human health and vitality (witness a broken global health care complex). Does ending up as another bacterium in an overpopulated petrie dish sound the noble outcome that humanity has all dreamed of? The question is not how do we feed 9B people but rather how do we contain unrestrained population growth such that all people can obtain a sufficient daily caloric intake….. The beautiful thing is that when peoples bellies are full then tend to reduce breeding as an “old age security program”…….and thats a fact.

    • Clearly you didn’t read a single article that I posted. Your arguements are based on vague hypotheticals, where as mine are based on actual facts and projections. Frankly, you don’t know what you are talking about, and I highly doubt you have any “experience” with agriculture. You talk about profits. Extracting wealth from the populace. That’s the talk of someone who’s only looking out for his wallet, not what’s best for everyone. Organic farming is a success? Hardly. Organic food sales comprised on average 4% of the food sales in the USA last year. Now, that’s just the price, but what these figures don’t reveal is how much actual quantity of food was bought. This is significant, as organic food costs more than conventionally produced food.

      You think that, what, it isn’t a problem that the number of hungry people in the world is only going to grow? If you are an expert economist, you would know from historical example, that the health of a country’s economy stems from its agriculture. Countries that can’t feed their populations have poor economies. Hungry people do not work. It doesn’t take a genius to see that encouraging poorer nations to use GM crops to feed hungry people will have the effect of improving the economies of those nations because there will be more people able to work instead of scrounging for their next meal all day. Granted, improving a third world economy isn’t as simple as three square meals a day, but it is a solid foundation from which to build from. But then again, the ones who don’t want their wallet dented will do everything they can to call foul, because if we fix the problem, it might redistribute some of the wealth away from these lobbying groups who have made an industry out of fear-mongering, covering themselves with the cloak of “healthy eating”, and “enviro-friendlyness”.

      Unrestrained population growth? Where are your numbers coming from? Oh that’s right, you don’t have any. Did you know the world population growth rate has actually been decreasing since the 1960′s? Read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_growth#human_population_growth_rate

      Not to mention, if we feed these starving people, won’t they stop breeding? Didn’t you yourself say, and I quote from your post, “The beautiful thing is that when peoples bellies are full then tend to reduce breeding as an “old age security program”…….and thats a fact.”? How does archaic, only 70% efficient organic farming accomplish that?

      The simple fact of the matter is that technologies are tools we use to solve problems, and improve our lives. Just letting people die from starvation because “there are always going to be hungry people” isn’t a humane solution at all.

      The problem isn’t technology, but it is people. Greedy people who don’t want something new and scary to take away their piece of the pie. Just like horse breeders who protested against the steam engine, there will always be people who get hit economically by new technologies, and others who have their rose-tinted view of the past, ignoring that those methods were abandoned for a reason.

      I’m not arguing with you anymore, Richard, because you are too inflexible to see any benefit in GM crops and too short sighted to see the effect of a growing number of hungry people on the rest of the world. I, at least, am willing to admit that there is a middle ground between organic and GM crops that can be explored. In fact, I don’t understand why environmentalists and the health food crowd aren’t happy about the idea of specialized crops that can be grown with high yields on fewer acres, using less fertilizers, are drought-resistant (requiring less water), pest-resistant (requiring less pesticides) and can retain more nutrients (golden rice). It’s better for the planet, it’s better for us in the long run.

      • richard o'neill on

        Ken you tell me you do not want to argue, but you keep on arguing. You tell me my assertions are vague and hypothetical but you have failed to refute anything I have said with anything but negative emotion….. Sorry pal, Organic Agriculture is a $33 Billion (usd) trade in North America alone with a 12% annual growth rate…..and thats precisely why its such a threat to you and your friends in agribiz. Furthermore I have never met an organic farmer looking for a handout from the taxpayer. Sadly, industrial agriculture is dependent on them…fully…completely……….Your fascination with ideological terms like progress, efficiency, productivity completely ignore the fact that they have all been achieved at the expense of environmental degradation (watershed contamination with nitrates, phosphates, agrotoxins), eutrophication of lakes, hypoxic dead zones in the oceans. (“Agriculture is the largest contributor to non point source pollution in the world” (National Research Council of America, Alternative Agriculture, 1988) Further wonders generated by blind subservience to agri technology include BSE, BST, CJD, CWD, neonicotinoids, organophosphates, antibiotic resistance, weed and pest resistance, species extinction, acute and chronic human health conditions……Yeah, we’ve become the canaries in our own mineshaft…..And you wonder why people are skeptical of a belief system that purports to feed the world, clean up the environment, and keep farmers viable…….but never really succeeds with any of them. If thats your kool aid, drink up!

        • I totally agree with you, Richard.
          Speaking of species extinction, you will have to look really hard this summer to find any bees around(or monarchs), thanks to the introduction of insecticide Bt corn, neonicotinoids, and RR pesticides.
          There are ever increasing pesticide residues in our food, as the battle against superweeds and resistant pests escalates. Now the biotech industry is engineering an even more pesticide- tolerant GM crop.
          Isn’t it time to admit this experiment is not working out the way the, biotech, agrochemical and GM seed companies had hoped?
          Read the signs. You are going the wrong way!

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