Young farmers see opportunities growing non-GMO
Twenty-something farmers building processing facilities for non-GMO soybeans
The growing demand for non-GMO corn and soybeans is creating opportunities for farmers to profit, and some young farmers aim to capitalize on those opportunities.
Wants to build non-GMO soybean processing facility
Kade McBroom, a fourth generation farmer in Quilin, Missouri wants to build a non-GMO soybean processing plant in his area.
McBroom, who is 26, farms about 3200 acres with his father, growing rice, corn, soybeans, and a small amount of wheat. He has been growing non-GMO soybeans for the past seven years. He earns a premium selling them to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Now he and several other farmers want to tap further into the fast-growing non-GMO market by building a facility to process value-added products such as non-GMO soybean meal for animal feed.
McBroom believes the ground is fertile for more non-GMO production in his area. He and several other farmers have been growing non-GMO soybeans for several years. “Farmers around here are proving that non-GMO soybeans can yield as well as GMO,” McBroom says.
Glyphosate is a “useless chemical” in southern Missouri
Another factor favoring non-GMO is that glyphosate, used with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO soybeans, is being rendered ineffective by herbicide resistant weeds. “Glyphosate is a useless chemical. It will kill grass but not weeds,” McBroom says.
Still, McBroom says it can be difficult to convince farmers to grow non-GMO. “There is a myth in the farming community that non-GMO is old technology. It’s like talking to them about outdoor plumbing,” he says.
Non-GMO farmers also face logistical challenges. Some grain elevators will only take non-GMO soybeans at certain times. As a result, farmers must store soybeans on their farm. “This deters some farmers from growing non-GMO,” McBroom says.
Having a processing facility in his area would change that. “They could get a premium in their backyard, and we could attract the growers. They’ll stick to it,” McBroom says.
Their facility in southern Missouri’s Bootheel region would also be conveniently located near major cities including St. Louis, MO and Nashville and Memphis, TN.
McBroom and his colleagues are researching markets and are leaning to processing soybeans into meal for animal feed and oil. They already have a potential buyer for soybean oil in North Carolina-based Whole Harvest.
McBroom estimates his group will need about 25,000 acres of non-GMO soybeans to supply the processing facility. “It’s a very doable number,” he says.
McBroom sees the growing demand for non-GMO. “Cargill and ADM have increased the non-GMO premium to $1.75 (from $1.50), and they are trying to get more farmers to grow non-GMO. You can definitely tell there is a market demand for non-GMO.”
He is excited about the processing facility. “Hopefully we can make it work and make it popular to grow non-GMO soybeans.”
Launched non-GMO feed business
Like McBroom, 25-year-old James Frantzen comes from several generations of farmers; he is the fifth. His father, Tom, is a well-known and respected organic hog farmer in northeastern Iowa. Frantzen grew up on his family’s organic farm and then purchased his own farm in 2009 in Elma, Iowa. There he grows organic corn, soybeans, small grains such as wheat and oats, hay, and pasture while raising beef cows and hogs.
Frantzen has also earned a name for himself. Organic Valley honored him with an award that recognizes the best young leaders in sustainable agriculture.
In addition to farming, Frantzen has operated his family’s organic feed business. But in the past year, his customers have also requested non-GMO feed, so he launched a non-GMO feed business.
“There was an opportunity (to sell non-GMO feed), and it has been a good opportunity,” Frantzen says.
His new business, Riverside Feeds, LLC, is benefitting from the strong demand for non-GMO feed for hogs, beef, dairy cows, and poultry. Riverside is processing 30 to 35 tons of soybean meal per week, and that volume is likely to increase.
“I’m handling more than I was six months ago. I have a lot of trucks delivering feed. Now I need another person to answer the phone,” he says with a laugh.
Demand for non-GMO feed has accelerated since Whole Foods Market announced last March that foods sold in its stores containing genetically modified ingredients would require labels by 2018. This has caused many companies that sell to Whole Foods to have their products non-GMO verified.
“Yes, we’ve gotten more inquiries since Whole Foods’ announcement,” Frantzen says.
Riverside Feeds sells non-GMO feed to customers in seven states. Customers are primarily beef, hog, dairy, and poultry businesses.
Reproductive problems with GMO feed
Frantzen has gotten calls from large hog operations that want non-GMO feed because GMO feed is causing reproductive problems in their hogs. “I can’t meet their demand; I don’t have enough feed right now. But it’s interesting to hear that, and this type of problem is a big deal now,” he says.
Frantzen sees more farmers growing non-GMO corn and soybeans, and thinks there is a need for a non-GMO farming conference. “It would be a great opportunity for farmers to meet with marketers and grain buyers and to attend workshops on non-GMO grains and feeds. It’s definitely something that’s needed,” he says.
Frantzen believes he has entered the non-GMO market at the right time. “Non-GMO labeling is the next big trend. I’m in the right place at right time.”
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