Organic Soy

Revised, November 2017

Overview

Organic soyfoods have experienced the fastest growth of all consumer food segments during the past 10 years. This phenomenon is driven by the fact that soymilk and meat analogs have made substantial improvements in versatility and have been recognized for their health attributes. Once reserved as a staple for “true” vegetarians, organic soy products are now finding their way onto the shopping lists of more traditional consumers.

Production

In 2016 organic soybeans were produced on 124,591 acres in the United States, compared to 94,841 in 2015. Iowa reported the largest number of acres planted to certified organic soybeans that year: 20,547. That same year, Minnesota had 13,893 acres planted in organic soybeans, and Michigan had 10,815 acres.

Frequently, the organic market specifies 'Vinton' and other varieties of food-grade soybeans. These varieties are used primarily in the production of tofu, tempeh, soya nuts and a host of other products and are generally grown under contract.  

Market

Total U.S. sales of organic foods in 2015 were $43.3 billion, up 11 percent from 2014 according to the Organic Trade Association. According to the USDA AMS, the sales of organic commodities totaled $6.2 million in 2015.

Growth in both organic and non-organic soyfood products is now resulting in competition between these two products. There is some additional competitive pressure from other organic oilseed products such as flax and sunflower.Organic soybeans are experiencing a unique competitive situation because they are currently the beneficiaries of the success of their biggest competitor, non-organic soybeans. As soyfoods continue to become more widely used in all types of foods, both conventional and organic beans benefit from the expanded consumer usage. Originally only used for tofu, soyfood uses are expanding daily.

This growth creates new market opportunities for small-scale producers serving local and niche markets, right up to large-scale production operations meeting the commodity-sized volume demands from mainstream food processors. Market opportunities will likely continue to develop for organic soybeans for use in food production, but there will also be increasing demand from the feed industry in supporting the needs of organic livestock production.

Organic soy prices tend to be variable. In July 2012, organic feed-grade soybean prices averaged between $26-$27 per bushel and organic food-grade soybean prices averaged $27 to $29 per bushel, according to the Organic Price Report provided by the Rodale Institute.

Management

The USDA has put in place a set of national standards affecting all food labeled “organic,” whether it is grown in the United States or imported. These standards, released in 2002, can be found at the National Organic Program Web site, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/. The National Organics Standards detail the methods, practices and substances that can be used in producing and handling organic crops and livestock, as well as processed products, and establish clear organic labeling criteria. The standards prohibit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, genetic engineering methods, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge for fertilization. After 2002, food labeled “organic” has been produced using the highest organic production and handling standards in the world.

This type of certification provides certified producers some market protection against rapid entry and exit into the market by non-certified operations trying to capitalize on volatile organic premiums. Organic soybeans must meet both food-grade criteria standards as well as the requirements of the National Organics Standard.

Financial

Organic Crop Production Enterprise Budgets – Iowa State University, Ag Decision Maker

Making the Transition from Conventional to Organic – Iowa State University Ag Decision Maker

Sources

Organic Agriculture, ERS, USDA.

Organic Agriculture: 2007 (United States), 2007 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2009.

Soybeans and Oil Crops, ERS, USDA.

Soyfoods Council

Organic industry Structure, Phil Howard, Michigan State University, 2008.

Market Trends, Organic Trade Association (OTA).

National Organic Program, AMS, USDA - Organic site including policy, rules and regulations, certification process information and certifying agents.

Organic Agricultural Products: Marketing and Trade Resources, National Ag Library, USDA..

Organic Grain Buyers, North Carolina State University - This list provides the contact information for organic grain buyers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and several other states.

Organic Trade Association - Membership-based organization representing the organic industry.

Soybeans and Oil Crops, ERS, USDA.

Accredited Certifying Agents, NOP, AMS, USDA.

Organic Production, Soy Organic Research, Iowa State University Extension - Research and educational material on organic production.

Links checked July 2018.