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CropTalk: When Choices Meet Opportunity

February 2020

Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

When you think of non-GMO, one word that may come to mind is opportunity. For Gregory Brawner and his family’s farm, that is exactly what non-GMO represents for them.

In the early 2000s, Gregory’s father took a leap of faith by switching his dairy operation to organic. With an unstable market for dairy, he had to think creatively not only to ensure the survival of his farm but to secure a thriving future. The switch to an organic dairy also resulted in a grain operation focused on organic, non-GMO, and waxy products.

“My dad made the switch in order to have more stability,” said Gregory. “I think he was getting burnt out on conventional dairy. He discovered the organic opportunities and was able to transition our cows over. It allows my parents space to breathe a bit because it offered a more stable milk price.”

On the grain side of their farm, the Brawners raise non-GMO and certified organic yellow and waxy corn. Most of their organic crop goes to feed for their dairy. Any remaining grain and all of their non-GMO crops are sold to specialty markets.

“The market is very strong with non-GMO,” said Gregory. “There is still a need out there. If the market presents itself with premiums as it has, we will keep catering to that. It is just a matter of finding the buyer and meeting their requirements.”

Gregory said one of the reasons his family made the switch to non-GMO was to eliminate the possibility of crop contamination; however, there were many other benefits with this market.

“The main reason why we decided to raise a non-GMO product versus a GMO product was the premium opportunity,” he said. “When I first got out of school, you could get a $0.60 premium on corn. Today, a guy is looking at least at $0.20 on top of that on corn and $1.35 plus on beans if raising non-GMO.”

Not only is there an opportunity with the premium price on non-GMO products, but Gregory said their farm is also able to cut back on seed costs. While Beck’s offers a variety of high-yielding choices, non-GMO hybrids are not always released at the same time as the traited version. In Gregory's experience, typically a hybrid is offered as a non-GMO product soon after the traited version is released.

“We planted 6589 for the first time last year and got 255 bushels to the acre,” said Gregory. “It was our highest yielding field and was an extremely good yield for us. I don’t know that we could have planted another GMO hybrid that would have outyielded that product.”

The Brawners have been able to continue growing their farm. Even though the dairy is the main focus of their operation, Gregory said income-wise, it is a fifty-fifty split between the dairy and grain operations.

“In a year like 2019 when prices are low, and the weather we experienced, we have to capitalize on anything we can,” he said. “Beck’s gives producers an opportunity to look at different choices, whether that’s a choice between genetic stand-outs or between the type of product you are going to plant. It is important – whether a farmer does it or not – to at least have the opportunity to look at other product options.”

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Author: Ashley Heyen

Categories: CropTalk, 2020

Tags: CropTalk, non-gmo, community talk

Ashley Heyen

Ashley Heyen

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