I’m Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko’s Creamery, a leading brand in the rapidly growing plant-based sector. At Miyoko’s we make butter and cheese from milk made from plants such as nuts, seeds, and oats.
Today we see a rapidly growing shift among consumers towards plant-based products for reasons of health and the environment. As an example of this, is that plant-based milks now have 15% market share in the fluid milk category.
And this tide is rising quickly for plant-based burgers, butter, and cheese: all are categories that have been growing at a rate of 20-50% annually. As this trend increases, what does it mean for farmers who have been feeding America? How can we help bring traditional farming operations, including dairy, into this burgeoning new fiber-rich economy and not leave them behind? Luckily, there are lots of opportunities.
Crops such as oats and peas, fiber-rich, are facing a huge shortage as demands for these plant proteins grow. The demand for peas is expected to quadruple by 2025. And plant-based companies are scrambling to secure a supply chain. In addition, many of these crops are imported from Canada and other countries instead of being cultivated here in the United States.
Many plant-based food producers, including us, import raw materials from as far away as Vietnam and China because we can’t find ample sources here in the United States. There is far more demand by plant-based companies for fiber-rich crops than supply.
At Miyoko’s, as one solution to this problem, we have initiated a farm transition program that will help a dairy farmer convert to growing key crops that will become part of not only our supply chain, but our innovation platform where we’re discovering new ways to make plant proteins every single day.
We, along with several non-profits, have launched programs to help farmers producing more conventional protein sources convert their operations to producing mushrooms, grains, legumes, tree nuts, seeds, all protein and fiber-rich foods that can easily be turned into innovative and sustainable plant-based foods for the future.
But we can’t do it alone. While my company is providing financial support and other resources to the farmer, we’ll need a lot more help to support farmers who want to make that transition.
We all read too many stories of bankruptcies and suicides by farmers. Let’s help them stay on the land they love and let’s help them be successful by rethinking food production and growing fiber-rich foods. And let’s create a government program that provides them with the resources to become successful partners in this new paradigm for a sustainable future of food. Let’s liberate the American farmer and let them take power back into their own hands.
We are able to procure a number of ingredients from the United States, but it is limited. The types of crops that we need actually are grown abroad. There is a crop that we believe would be fantastic to grow in the United States. It fits our climate, and we’re trying to move our supply chain for this ingredient from China to the United States. We have contacts also with downstream processors that can help process these raw materials, and we believe that this is a fiber-rich and protein-rich crop that can be utilized not just by us but other companies as well.
AFA RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONGRESS AND THE USDA
- Establish farm transition programs
- Make fiber-rich foods default production choices
- Encourage restorative agriculture practices
- Educate the public
- Increase accessibility