Bell & Evans and Cargill to increase US production of certified-organic corn and soybeans

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Allexxandar
© GettyImages/Allexxandar

Related tags Organic feed Organic certification soybeans Corn

Family-owned premium poultry producer, Bell & Evans, is to invest US$500m in US organic-certified grains, announcing a sourcing deal with Cargill that aims to transition 50,000 acres of conventional corn and soybean production to USDA Certified Organic.

The project is set to run over five years. The crops will be used to produce animal feed for Bell & Evan’s organic chicken line.  

In 2020, Bell & Evans experienced 25% growth in organic chicken sales and projects growth of 27% in 2021 and 17-20% each year after that, through to 2024. Hence the need to increase the supply of US grown organic-certified corn and soybeans used in its organic chicken feed. 

The company will be exclusively securing its organic grain from Cargill, a long-time supplier to the chicken producer.

Under the agreement, Cargill will incentivize US farmers to transition acreage from conventional to organic management through subsidized organic crop consulting services provided by organic pioneer, Rodale Institute.

“This is the largest market-financed organic grain transition program backed by science in the world, creating a model for the rest of the food industry,”​ commented the agribusiness giant.

Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania-based not for profit organization is dedicated to growing the regenerative organic movement; it has been leading organic agriculture research, farmer training, and consumer education in the US for over 70 years. In this partnership aimed at boosting domestic production of certified-organic corn and soybeans, the organization will provide the educational support and technical assistance to conventional farmers transitioning to organic.

Only 1% of total US acreage is certified organic, yet the organic food market is a growing US$50bn. National organic food sales rose 4.6% in 2019, according to the US Organic Trade Association (OTA). 

Removing the barriers for farmers in their transition to organic

Cargill says this type of sourcing agreement helps to alleviate farmers’ most vocalized organic-transition hurdles:

  • Knowing where to start
  • Finding education and resources for successful organic land management, and
  • Having a guaranteed market after the transition period.

For growers looking to transition to organic farming Cargill says it can offer

  • Free agronomic consulting services through the Rodale Institute, including on-farm consultations, weed management guidance, and crop rotation planning
  • Hands-on certification support, including inspection preparation and recordkeeping, and access to online training and workshops, and
  • Long-term offtake agreements, competitive premiums for transitional grain and a guaranteed market outlet after a successful transition through Bell & Evans.

Trust and transparency

“We want to establish trust, transparency and loyalty with our grain farmers for the success and longevity of the program,”​ said Bell & Evans executive vice president, Margo Sechler.

In operation for 125 years, the US chicken company says it has been committed to sourcing 100% US organic grains for its organic chicken feed since inception of its organic program in 2009. Today it is one of the largest US organic grain buyers and cites control, traceability, and authenticity of the USDA organic-certified label as reasons for its commitment to domestic grain. Read more about the Bell & Evans Organic Grain Initiative here​.

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