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Why organic food is cheaper, becoming more widely available

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Consumers can expect to find more organic food available at traditional groceries, and can expect to see the margin between conventionally-grown products and those carrying the organic label begin to shrink.

The Star Tribune reports that the price drop comes as big players in the supermarket sweepstakes go mainstream with what had been regarded as niche productd. Wal-Mart and Target both got on the organic bandwagon in a big way; in the past month both discounters announced the addition of more than 100 new organic and natural products to beef up the organic presence in their supermarkets. Later this year Wal-Mart plans to introduce the organic Wild Oats line as its private label and the chain promises prices will be comparable to ­conventional counterparts.

Co-ops, which have long stocked organic lines, are also expanding. New locations are in the works for Lakewinds, Seward, Mississippi Market and the Wedge. Whole Foods has recently opened four additional locations in the metro area, and the CEO said additional competition has prompted the chain to lower prices.

The newspaper quoted a research firm that found that children continue to be a ­ trigger for buying organics, as parents become more concerned about the health impact of hormones, antibiotics and pesti­cides.

Sales of products labeled natural and organic grew 7.5 percent in 2012, twice the overall growth rate of conventional food, according to the Organic Trade Association.U.S. organic food sales were $35 billion in 2013, but that was still less than 5 percent of total at-home food sales.

The Associated Press reports that Wisconsin has made significant gains in the number of organic farms in the state, and now ranks second only to California for the most. Wisconsin counted a record 1,180 organic farms in 2012., according to the U.S. Agriculture Department's Organic Agriculture Status. Most of the Wisconsin organic farms are dairy farms. Wisconsin is home to Organic Valley, the nation's top seller of organic milk and Harmony Valley Farm, both located in Vernon County. Another major farm, Driftless Organics, is in neighboring Crawford County.

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