Ardent’s organic wheat program expands to Saskatchewan

U.S. flour processor Ardent Mills’ plan to double organic wheat acres in the U.S. by 2019 has rolled into Saskatchewan.

Ardent, the joint North American flour venture of agrifood firms Cargill, CHS Inc. and ConAgra, said Wednesday it has so far expanded “Organic Initiative 2019,” which it launched in December, to seven U.S. states plus Canada’s biggest wheat-growing province.

So far this year the initiative and its Transitional Certification Assistance Program has also spread out to include growers in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming, the company said.

“Since our initial announcement, we have continued to see growing demand from restaurants and food companies for organic wheat flour for use in fresh, packaged and menu recipes,” Ardent CEO Dan Dye said in a release.

“This is a significant opportunity for growers to become a part of an emerging market and to create additional value for their crops on the path to organic certification.”

Wheat growers who join Ardent’s organic initiative are to receive access to direct support services, workshops and long-term contracts for both their “transitional” and organic wheat bushels.

The assistance program, the company said, is meant to help U.S. growers “bridg(e) the gap between certifying costs and (U.S. Department of Agriculture) subsidies.”

Ardent on Wednesday quoted the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) 2016 organic industry Survey as estimating almost six per cent of total breads and grains sold in the U.S. are organic. Sales of organic breads and grains in 2015 rose 8.5 per cent from 2014 levels, Ardent added, also quoting OTA data.

“We’re very excited to work with farmers as they transition to this growing market and to provide our customers with an assured supply in support of their new product and menu introductions,” Mike Miller, the company’s vice-president for risk management, said Wednesday.

“We know there is demand that will continue to increase well into the future. We understand the barriers our growers face when transitioning to organic.”

Ardent Mills in January began hosting grower meetings in the western U.S., working with Oregon Tilth, a not-for-profit organic certification and education agency.

The National Association of Wheat Growers in the U.S. hailed the Ardent plan in December as providing opportunities for premiums and access to an additional market and a new income stream.

“By planning and launching regional and national products, we can deliver supply assurance and scalability,” Ardent’s director of specialty, risk management, Shrene White, said in Wednesday’s release.

Since last year, White said, “we’ve added organic durum, organic cracked wheat and organic spelt to our product mix, which also includes organic whole wheat flour, organic bread wheat flour, organic all-purpose wheat flour and organic pastry flour, various ancient grains and breads made at our Innovative Bakery Resources (IBR) facility.”

The IBR arm of Ardent has operated an organic-certified bakery facility at Tualatin, Ore., just southwest of Portland, since 2012.

Ardent, which operates over 40 mills and bake-mix plants in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, said Wednesday it will “soon” have eight organic-certified milling and packaging locations plus a storage facility.

Ardent’s operations in Canada include the former Robin Hood flour mills in Saskatoon and Montreal; the former Kraft soft wheat mill at Mississauga, Ont.; the former Robin Hood dry baking mix plants at Burlington, Ont. and Saskatoon; a product development facility at Burlington; and an office at Brampton, Ont. — AGCanada.com Network

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