In 2012 Horton says North Carolina farmers grew approximately 12,000 acres of organic grain crops with much of that acreage being in a double-crop system. It’s a small, niche part of the overall agriculture picture in the state, but it is growing and profitable for most growers, he adds.

Prices for organic grain have traditionally been higher than conventional grain crops, and in some cases significantly higher. Organic corn, for example, was double the price of conventional corn for several years. 

That gap narrowed this summer with high conventional prices, but has grown again as organic corn approached $15 per bushel in November.

In terms of yield differential there seems to be about a 25 percent yield risk with organic versus conventional corn, the North Carolina State University Specialist says.

“I think growers can make money with organic corn at $7-8 per bushel, and anything above that is extra profit,” Horton adds.

“With soybeans, I think were still losing 25 percent to 30 percent in yield with organic versus conventional planting. The big difference in yield loss risk with soybeans, I think, is not so much with genetics as with weed management,” Horton says.

“Growers seem to have less yield differential between conventional and organic wheat.

“Genetics is not a problem with wheat seed and most organic growers seeded at a higher rate, which seems to help them manage weed problems and other production problems.

“For grain growers who would like to set aside a few acres for organic production, they might try 100 acres of corn and soybeans to go along with 1,200-1,500 acres of conventional crops,” Horton says.

“And keep an eye on marketing your organic crop.”

Marketing organic crops varies a lot by commodity. Corn has been simple, while organic wheat has been a challenge for some growers. 

The problem is not one of price, but rather how long the crop has to be stored.  Most of the buyers will only take a truck load or two at a time.