Import/Export

Yet another reason to eat deliciously local rather than dogmatically organic: According to an article in the environmental magazine Grist titled “Filling Their Sales,” until recently the United States exported more organic produce than it imported. Now the value of U.S. imports exceeds exports by a ratio of eight to one.

Why? Because we have to import those organics. Not to put fresh produce on the table, but to feed our nation’s hunger for organic ketchup, organic mac ’n’ cheese, and organic Rice Krispies.

With 20 percent annual growth in the organic market, U.S. farmers just can’t keep up. Instead of more small conventional farmers making the transition to organic (a process that is expensive and can take several years) to meet the demand, big farmers just keep getting bigger. Even in California, less than 1 percent of agriculture is organic.

California’s organic farmers are steadily getting bigger. But that’s a losing game. As growth in the fresh-produce market cools and the processed market heats up, the big players will gain more pricing leverage, squeezing organic farming’s already razor-thin profit margins. Seen from that view, it’s no wonder imports are booming and domestic acreage has leveled off.

Buy American! Support your local farmers’ market.

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