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General Mills Teams Up With The Largest Organic Farmer-Owned Cooperative

June 13, 2016, 9:14 PM UTC
Photograph by GEORGES GOBET AFP/Getty Images

General Mills on Monday announced a new sourcing partnership with Organic Valley, America’s largest organic farmer-owned cooperative, which will help 20 dairy farms add nearly 3,000 acres to organic dairy farming capacity over the next three years.

General Mills has been on a mission to double the organic acreage from which it sources its ingredients by 2019, and this new partnership will help the maker of products like Haagen-Dazs and Cheerios reach that goal in time. The partnership will also provide resources and support to help more dairy farmers get their farmland approved as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new supply of organic milk will supply its yogurt operating unit in the U.S., including brands like Yoplait, Annie’s, Liberté, and Mountain High. The Annie’s brand, best known for its kid-friendly crackers, debuted its organic whole milk yogurt in the U.S. earlier this year, and the Liberté brand is transitioning to become a USDA certified organic product starting this summer.

“To ensure we are able to deliver great tasting organic yogurt offerings to our consumers, we are committed to supporting a framework in partnership. with Organic Valley that will not only ensure a consistent supply chain, but also make it easier for dairy farmers to successfully manage through the transition to organic,” David Clark, president of General Mills’ yogurt operating unit, said in a statement.

Obtaining organic status is a time- and money-intensive endeavor. It takes about three years to obtain certified organic status under USDA rules, and costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousands depending on the size and complexity of the farm operation.

Demand for organic food products has been increasing at a tremendous pace, and sales are predicted to increase 12% to 15% annually through 2018. At the same time, the supply of organic food products has struggled to keep pace. Only about 1% of total U.S. cropland is devoted to organic agriculture, according to the USDA.

General Mills (GIS) is one of the top five organic ingredient purchasers and has been investing heavily to help build the available inventory of organic farmland. It has increased the organic acreage it supports by 120% since 2009. Beyond its commitment to double its organic farm sources, it also committed to launching the Organic & Regenerative Agriculture Transition Council, a group of sustainable agricultural leaders, farmers, and industry stakeholders with the mission of finding better regenerative agricultural practices and expand the reach of organic farming.