Organic farm profits fall

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The larger the organic farm, the better it's doing. At least that's what a new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture seems to indicate.

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The department surveyed 41 organic farms and found that median net income for the farms fell almost 40 percent from the year before, to just over $38,000 per farm. But the big farms did all right. The top third of the organic farms surveyed averaged incomes of over $120,000 each, and they tended to be the larger farms in the survey.

Overall the report says 2011 was a strong year for many organic farms. But profits for dairy farmers were down. That's because their cost of feed has risen sharply, said Meg Moynihan, an agriculture diversification specialist for the department.

Organic corn is selling for as much as $16 a bushel, soybeans are about $25 a bushel. Moynihan said the high feed cost "really eats into" the money farmers earn when they sell their milk.

Moynihan said demand for organic milk, meat and grains though remains strong, and that's helping boost the industry. She also said organic farmers are paying attention to Congress. They're waiting to see if lawmakers pass a new farm bill, and how the organic sector fares in that legislation.

Typically, organic farmers benefit from parts of the bill, like conservation programs.