The Rodale Institute’s U.S. Organic Grain Initiative

The Lempert Report
February 15, 2021

Rodale, was one of the most influential publishers of health & wellness magazines and books.

J.I. Rodale in 1942 started Organic Farming and Gardening magazine and the rest was history. He led the organic movement up until his tragic death in 1971 and then his son Robert took the helm and grew the company and its influence on the industry and consumers. Their best known title, Prevention, became the bible for health oriented baby boomers. After Robert’s also tragic death, in a car accident in Russia, his wife Ardath then led the company for 17 years and the company continued to expand. When she stepped down the company began to falter and today, after a couple of sales, it is a mere shadow of its former self. Why is this background important? The Rodale Institute, which was always an independent organization from the publishing business is making headlines once again with a new partnership with Bell & Evans poultry and Cargill to invest $500 million to transition 50,000 acres of conventional soybean and corn crops to be USDA Certified Organic. This is a big deal. Remember to convert to organic isn’t easy – or cheap. It's a gradual process to clean the soil which means you have a number of years where you are not able to have the yields necessary – that’s where the $500 million becomes important. Not only to subsidize the farmers, but also to gain some great PR for Cargill – a very unlikely partner. Since Cargill, a company that is seen as embodying the industrial-scale, chemical-dependent agricultural systems which J.I. Rodale set out to disrupt. Organic product sales have more than doubled over the past decade to hit $55 billion in 2019, but here’s the issue: certified organic cropland has not kept pace. Organic production accounts for just one-half of 1 percent of all U.S. acres. Which has created an opportunity to cheat and mislead farmers through imports of grains that are labeled organic, but in reality are not organic. The  Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been working to address that fraud.

  “We’re trying to transition as many acres and farms and farmers to organic as possible. In order to accomplish that, we need partnerships,” Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Moyer told Civil Eats. “We recognize that in order to transition these farms and these acres, we have to overcome some barriers, and partnerships can help us do that.” I applaude the partnership – and while some may be critical, its small steps like this that can make our food system better – and help bring big agribusinesses into meeting the wants and desires of today’s – and tomorrow’s shoppers.