Farmers abandoning organic farming despite lure of higher price premiums


The Internet is awash with reports claiming that organic farming is more profitable for farmers than conventional agriculture. The latest spate of posts was based on a study recently published in PNAS by Washington State University researchers who found a price premium of 22 to 35 percent over the same conventionally grown food, despite yields that were 18 percent lower for organics.

This report echoes the conclusions of a 2009 UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study, which also pointed to the “non-economic benefits” of organic agriculture–it’s supposed sustainability benefits.

But the claims of improved profitability for farmers run up against some hard facts: organic farming in the West is far from booming, even as sales of organic foods are increasing sharply, albeit from a very low base. If there’s so much money to be made in organics, then why aren’t more farmers switching?

Declines in organic farms

While the consumer demand for organic food is rising, there are 16,525 organic farms in the U.S., only 0.8 percent of all farms. Most organic farms also are small—in Washington state, 30 percent of organic farms had less than $25,000 a year in sales, while just 9 percent had more than $1 million. The USDA also has found that most organic farms tend to be smaller (which it measures by having less than $250,000 in sales).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not keep data on farms that have dropped out of the National Organic Program, and changes in data collection between 2007 and 2012 make it nearly impossible to make that kind of comparison (for now—the USDA is conducting surveys that could reveal more data this or next year).

But other studies show a wobbly, at best, support for organic farming by farmers themselves. A 2010 study by Washington State University found that organic certifications in the state dropped by 18 (to 735), while five farms became certified organic. More recent state data shows that the number of organic farms has dropped slightly again in 2013, and acreage devoted to organics also dropped.

In 2007, the California Institute for Rural Studies found that while 600 farmers entered that state’s organic program (California’s the only state with its own organic registration process), 523 farmers dropped out of the program between 2003 and 2005 alone.

Just last month the UK Guardian carried an article titled “Why are organic farmers across Britain giving up?” detailing the plight of organic farmers who are being squeezed despite the sharply higher prices paid by consumers for organic food:

Darren and Julia Quenault took their first delivery of non-organic cattle feed a few weeks ago. After nine years of organic dairy farming, they decided to convert back to conventional, and give up their organic status, at the end of last year.

The Quenaults are not alone. Even as demand for organic food remains high, the farmers producing it are falling by the wayside. … UK government figures show that while organic food sales have bounced back from the low that followed the 2008/9 financial crash, the amount of land being farmed organically in Britain continues to shrink. In 2013, the last year for which data are available, land in the process of being converted to organic fell by 24 percent, with fully organic land falling by 3.9 percent. The number of producers and processors of organic food fell for the fifth year in a row, by 6.4 percent, and the number of organic sheep, pigs and cattle also fell.

What do farmers say?

The Quenaults say the reason they switched came down to simple economics. “Cattle feed costs were excruciatingly expensive and we just couldn’t absorb them,” says Julia. “We’re saving £1,800 a month. We couldn’t have continued, we would have had to put up prices significantly, and we didn’t feel we could burden consumers with an extra 12 percent on the price of milk.”

Interviewing farmers also has turned up revealing patterns in what farmers adopt, reject or abandon organic farming. Jeff Murray, a marketing professor at the University of Arkansas, and his colleagues found that significant numbers of farmers were resisting organic farming, despite the supposed allure of premium profits. In the study, they found that ideology, especially among conventional farmers, was the primary driver to switching to or rejecting organic:

  • Conventional farmers saw themselves as better planners, more scientific, and embracing minimal tilling and “chemical applications” to increase yield.
  • Meanwhile, organic farmers saw themselves as farming like their grandparents, spending more time in the field but seeing soil as an ecosystem.
  • Conventional farmers saw organic farmers as unscientific, and following “an organic crop guru.”
  • Meanwhile, organic farmers perceived conventional farmers as lazy, “leaving it all up to the co-op to make decisions for them.”

Aside from these perceptions, conventional farmers said they’d consider some organic practices if they paid off.

For many farmers, organic practices as a whole do not always translate to higher profits. One of the obstacles is the same thing faced by conventional farmers, including those who use genetically modified seeds: what farmers see as over regulation. A study by the University of California found that 38 percent of organic farmers listed regulatory burdens as their chief challenge.

“These included paperwork and record keeping for certification, inspections, finding a third-party certifier, and the cost of certification,” the study said.

The certification process is quite involved. Under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), any applying farm must go through a transition period of three years, during which it cannot sell any product as certified “organic.” However, the farm is supposed to be changing its practices to organic during this time. Once certified, a farmer has to pass inspections, and document that his or her farm is following all the rules governing organic farming.

Input costs are not cheap, either, sometimes exceeding those for conventional farming. Labor costs can be significantly higher for organic farming. For example, many conventional farmers grow GMO Bt crops, which require almost no insecticide spraying while organic farmers with pest problems must spray their crops regularly, which requires extra labor. Any conventional farmers growing herbicide tolerant crops have to weed far less, another labor saving innovation over organic farmers.

One organic farmer in a California study told researchers “This is all labor. I’ve had a few partners that backed out once they saw they had to spend $1,800 an acre weeding spinach compared to $150 an acre in conventional.”

Meanwhile, an organic farmer in Ventura County, California, told the researchers that “when I farmed conventionally, I had six employees on 300 acres. Now that I’m farming organically, I have 15 employees on 30 acres.”

Too much woo?

Other farmers have abandoned organics because they see the movement as more like a religion than focused on agricultural science. Mike Bendzela, a former organic farmer in Maine, recently likened the philosophy of the organics movement…

…to a barrel raft covered in loose planks. In trying to justify their beliefs, the pile on the claims (planks), each of which rests on a different assumption (barrel). And when one claim is questioned, they simply jump to another plank on the raft and try to hold it all together.

Bendzela recounted attending a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association fair, and encountering “Whole Life Tent,” replete with “reflexologists, naturopathic doctors, homeopaths, Reiki practitioners… I was unsure what any of this had to do with agriculture.” What they were: “a necessarily evil to get non-ag types of attend. This disorder is not limited to the fairgrounds.”

Prices don’t stay the same

One looming question is whether the organic price premium will last. According to the Washington State University report: “The actual premiums paid to organic farmers ranged from 29 to 32 percent above conventional prices. Even with organic crop yields as much as 18 percent lower than conventional, the breakeven point for organic agriculture was 5 to 7 percent.” According to the researchers, that means that organics could still be profitable even at much lower premiums.

However, if adoption of some organic practices (crop rotation and multi-cropping in particular) are adopted by conventional farmers, the “yield” gap between organics and conventional crops, already significant, grows even wider. It’s not even clear that current premiums are even covering the higher costs of organic farming (while the Washington State group notes that premiums have held steady for 40 years, organic food has only been an organized entity for less than 20). In fact, genetically engineered foods are largely responsible for the ability to yield more crops on less land, according to the USDA. With changes in supply and demand come changes in prices. At least, farmers are more than a little skeptical of the sustainability of profits, much less products.

Andrew Porterfield is a writer, editor and communications consultant for academic institutions, companies and non-profits in the life sciences. He is based in Camarillo, California. Follow @AMPorterfield on Twitter.

  • Warren Lauzon

    I never buy organic just because it is organic (I may buy if it looks better/fresher), and locally I have noticed that the price gap has been getting larger and larger. Which mean that I basically buy no organics any more.

    One thing I have not seen addressed is how water usage compares between conventional and organic.

    • First Officer

      Interesting, I’ve actually seen the difference drop for a number of items, but still quite significant.

      • Warren Lauzon

        Seems to depend a lot on the item. Might be seasonal also.

    • Deplorable Enzeee

      Theres a 30 year study done by the rodale institute, that I have not seen anyone really mention.

    • Deplorable Enzeee

      Also don’t be fooled by how it looks, if you want something fresh, go to a farmers market, as opposed to going to a supermarket, where most products are ripened with Ethylene gas. As for where I stand, i prefer organic, but from what I see, everyone seems to take everything to extremes from both sides. People see it as, only conventional farming, or only organic farming.

  • First Officer

    Other factors that might play into the equation are that,
    1) due to lower yields (18% lower seems generous compared to the 25% lower I’ve seen elsewhere) the farmer going organic is making a conscious decision to feed less people from his/her land, regardless of the premium paid. This is in both people fed per hectare and in people fed per farmhand. I’ve seen little accounting on the part of organic farming for the increased use of our labor resources, which is also a finite resource and has an environmental impact as well.

    2) The increased hours the organic farmer must spend in the field are that many hours less with his/her family. It’s really hard to make that up with a premium.

    • Warren Lauzon

      From what I have been able to find out, yields for different crops can vary considerably – one chart showed a 5-8% difference for green onions, but a 40%+ difference apples.

      • First Officer

        I’ve seen 25% for a catchall. The grains seem to pull the average down too. I do believe, under certain circumstances the organic farmer can exceed the conventional fro certain crops, but they tend to be under the unusual conditions, like during a drought. But the conventional farmer can merely adopt the particular practices responsible and still use GM seed, synthetic fertilizers, etc.

        Berkeley reports an overall 19.2% yield reduction from organic.
        I do wonder, though, if those studies also include some portion of the land that the animals producing organic manure must graze upon (or the crops thereof). Currently, organic farming, as a whole, gets a huge Nitrogen input from conventionally fed animals.

        • J. Randall Stewart

          There are a few other considerations to Certified Organic production.

          I’ve been talking with a buyer about selling Certified Organic product, and we’ve evaluated how we’d do it.

          Here are things we have noted:

          1) Certain of my fields are more likely to be a success at Certified Organic production. What this means, is that the more Organic acres are in production, the law of decreasing returns will apply.

          2) I have readily available compost and manure available. We can only cover 10-20% of our inputs with what acceptable organic inputs we already have. This means it will not be going to where it will do the most good, but instead will go to where the organic rules say we must apply it.

          3) I’m wary of cheaters in the system. I don’t think this would be domestic farmers, but imported items. Having an allowance for banned pesticides gives an open door for cheating. For example, I’m pretty sure I could raise conventional crops with allowed organic residue levels of banned pesticides. I’ve done it before (farmed and sold as conventional crops)

          • First Officer

            I’m not sure what you mean by #1

          • Cairenn Day

            Maybe his best yielding fields?

          • J. Randall Stewart

            I have less pest pressure, less blight, less problems on certain fields. It might be soil type, environment, wind, whatever. Some fields simply have less pest pressure, and some are simply easier to get a yield without as much input.

            (Edit: when I’m looking for weevil or aphid, there are always places I’ll go first–I know from experience those are my problem areas. Some fields–year after year will be the least likely to have that pressure)

          • I inspected over 500 organic farms during my time as a USDA-contract organic inspector, and heard anecdotal evidence precisely as you describe. But no one has ever proven what you’re saying. Indeed, if it was true, why would any farmers have switched over to modern, science-based farming in the first place? Were really they duped as urban organic activists claim?

            I support organic farming, and believe it has its place in the marketplace. But it involves harder work, greater risk, and much-more fuel consumption per-acre and per-bushel. As such, it can never replace conventional farming, only complement it.

          • JoeFarmer

            And your item 2 is what would really limit organic production if it got very popular – not enough fixed nitrogen available and no way to fix that limitation.

        • Without intensive pest control being carried out on 99% of the farms across America, organic yields would be at best 50% of what conventional yields are, and at worst 0%, i.e. total crop failure.

          It’s like herd immunity when it comes to vaccinations. Those who reject technology still benefit from it.

  • There are other studies showing a 40-50% yield difference. The US government estimates about 35-30% which is probably most accurate.

    • First Officer

      deleted by me

    • First Officer

      Do those estimates also include the land that is used to produce the manure they use? (Also for conventional)

    • Sadly, as explained in my comment above, the average yield difference between organic and conventional is more like 50%.

    • Farmer Guy

      Cotton is 50-65% lower yield and can only be achieved in the driest, most inhospitable parts of TX and CA.

  • William

    Interesting article.

    TYPO BELOW (is 16,525 – remove)

    While the consumer demand for organic food is rising, there are only 16,525 organic farms in the U.S. is 16,525, only 0.8 percent of all farms.

    • Stuart M.

      This has been a pet peeve of mine here at GLP. There doesn’t seem to be any proofreaders. I think typos and editing errors really make a poor impression.

      Another annoyance in this article: many of studies/articles on declining organic farms cited are from 2010 or earlier. The Guardian article is very recent, but the others from 2009, 2007 and 2005 are somewhat stale.

  • hyperzombie

    Do you not read what you post? the study that you cited states that Organic ag has a 20% lower yield on average.

  • Martin Greenleaf

    I have a neighbor with 2 farms, one organic, one conventional.
    He says he is running on average 30% lower on organic. This is a person with no agenda to push.

    • This is a farmer who benefits from all the pest control being carried out by his neighbors.

    • Wackes Seppi

      Depends on the crops.

      And then you have to know whether yields are expressed in per crop year or over the rotation.

  • All studies on organic yield are deeply flawed and cannot be believed.

    For starters, reduction in pest pressure by neighboring conventional farms is never taken into account. Think of it like herd immunity when it comes to vaccinations. As long as 99% of American farmers are killing pests with pesticides, they thereby make life a lot easier for 1% of organic farmers.

    Then there’s the massive issue of fraud. If just 20 percent of organic farmers cheat by using synthetic ammonium nitrate and pesticides, thereby doubling or tripling their yield, this handful of charlatans will rival the productivity of the rest of the organic movement, and raise overall average yields.

    • First Officer

      Any idea what the cheating rate is?

      • Imagine if we were debating whether or not the cops could use radar guns to catch speeders. There’d be no possible way of knowing how many people were speeding unless we let them use radar.

        That said, I estimate it to be well over 50%.

        • hyperzombie

          I think it is higher than that. Think about it? If you have a serious weed or insect problem, the organic farmer could spend weeks or even years dealing with the problem, or bam, a shot of banned insecticide and or herbicide and the problem is minimized, and nobody’s the wiser. And they can continue with their self righteous beliefs, by conning themselves that it was just an emergency this time.

          • JoeFarmer

            How would anyone know?

            I posted a soybean insect control scenario elsewhere. But generic Silencer insecticide costs about $2.00/acre. And it’s a pyrethroid, which is pretty close to a organic-blessed pyrethrin.

            Who would ever find out if someone was cheating?

          • hyperzombie

            Yep, and not only that, What if you were an Organic farmer growing corn and beans. What would stop you from swinging by your conventional neighbors place for some “feed” and just add it to your harvest? No one checks and if they do you can just blame it on pollen/herbicide drift, and walk away with 3x more money. Easy money.

          • JoeFarmer

            But…organic is a philosophy!

            No one would ever cheat, right? ‘Cause everyone wants pure food for the people.

            It’s like being part of a commune. Everything belongs to everyone else for the good of the people!

            The self-absorbed urbanite people, but people still the same, right?

          • Quite right.

      • Warren Lauzon

        Probably depends on what the definition of cheating is. I have personally seen a nearby 20 acre organic farm use glyphosate on the weeds – especially Bermuda grass, which is insidious – around the edges of the crop.

        • First Officer

          I’d call that cheating but i don’t know the details of the rules.

          • Warren Lauzon

            Same here, does not seem like it would be, as here in AZ there are a lot of regulations about keeping weeds down due to fire danger.

          • hyperzombie

            The county can fine us here if there is any noxious weeds in the ditches adjacent to your property. And they do inspect them, I received 2 warning letters a few years ago for Scentless Chamomile, the Evil daisy.

          • JoeFarmer

            One of the noxious weeds that’s near the top of the list here is Canada Thistle.

            So, thanks for that one, I guessl

          • hyperzombie

            O crap, Once again we export our best stuff to the US, Our super weed was supposed to stop at the border. LOL.
            BTW, I haven’t seen any Canadian thistle in field in a long time, it was really bad here back when I was a kid.

          • JoeFarmer

            Ya, thanks for that.

            Alan Thicke, Captain and Tenille and the thistle that can’t hardly be killed.

            I’m pretty sure that chlamydia was a Canadian export, too…

            Rick Perry wants to seal the U.S. border with Mexico.

            I think we need to keep you hosers in check…

          • hyperzombie

            Captain and Tenille, I think that they are both Americans, Alan Thicke is Canadian, but you let him in so you can keep him.

        • JoeFarmer

          I don’t doubt what you’re saying, but what can be used in ditches versus what can be used in fields is pretty different in organic production.

          Actually, the same is true in “conventional” or “modern” production.

          I have an obligation via Federal and State law to control noxious weeds. Actually, our county even adds a couple of weeds to that list. There are herbicides that are labeled for use in crops and there are herbicides that are labeled for use in non-crop areas.

          So products like most of the Tordon formulations are not approved for in-crop applications, but they are useful for controlling weeds in pastures and ditches.

          Weed control is a complex issue. There are people with PhDs that dedicate their entire academic careers to weed control. It really is that complicated…

  • Kevin Mallborg

    One big reason conventional farmers don’t do organic is simply they can’t.

    To go organic would be just impossible with the additional labor and equipment that would be needed. Most farmers don’t even own cultivators anymore unless it is the one sitting in the weeds rusting.

    • RobertWager

      And thats a good thing for soil conservation.

      • Quite right Rob.

        The organic movement failed in its bid to develop organic min-till farming techniques back at the turn of the millennium. As such, organic farmers are condemned to pulverize their land year-after-year, causing massive amounts of erosion.

        And yet, no one in a position of authority ever points this out. Except you of course.

        • JoeFarmer

          Not only soil erosion itself, but nutrient loading of waterways (nitrate and phosphate) due to erosion.

          Also, denitrification losses due to tillage weed control. Nitrogen leaving the field in the form of N2O and NO are not good.

          And then there’s damage to the soil microbiota due to tillage. Kind of ironic, the urban organic cheerleaders condemn herbicides, but don’t care about the natural bacteria and fungi, I guess.

          • Quite right Joe! And let’s add one more issue to the list…

            Organic activists are fond of pointing to the dead-zone in the Gulf of Mexico which is caused by nitrogen run-off from conventional farms. For years it was assumed there was no such thing as nitrogen run-off from
            organic farms, but as you correctly point out, excessive pulverization of the soil causes massive amounts of nitrogen run-off from organic fields. And it all ends up in the oceans where it is wasted.

          • JoeFarmer

            There’s some reasonably good research that shows that there’s been a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for thousands of years.

            That said, I think we should try to reduce our nutrient loading as much as possible.

            But organic farmers that are flinging cow manure on the surface of their fields because manure is the only fertilizer choice aren’t helping matters.

            Farmers that use modern technology can reduce nutrient loading. Much more difficult for organic farmers to make the environment better. How do you split-apply Nitrogen to an organic corn field? Raw hog manure sidedress?

          • The science of genetic engineering will provide the solution when cereal crops that fix their own nitrogen are developed.

            Of course, this will set the fertilizer industry back a bit. But that’s progress.

          • JoeFarmer

            Not really agreeing or disagreeing with you, but could you elaborate?

            Modern corn hybrids harvest 95% to 96% of available light. That’s due to breeding methods that shape the plant’s morphology to be about as efficient as they can be for now.

            But the photosynthesis processes of modern corn hybrids are only about 3% efficient. A modification that that would bump that to 4% would be a game changer. Will that change be GM or gene editing or some other breeding technique? I dunno.

            What I do know is that my great grandpa was getting about 25 bushels of corn/acre in the 1920s. He used methods that would be organic-blessed today. No synthetic fertilizers. Today, I plan on 230 bushels/acre. 10 times the yield, basically.

            The family farm didn’t become a viable business until the advent of modern corn hybrids (think Henry Wallace and Pioneer Hi-Bred Seed Company) and mechanization. Dumping the draft horses who consumed about 35% of the farm acreage in oats, plus hybrid corn, and a few years later, synthetic fertilizer turned the operation from just getting along into a real business. And all that happened before they had a telephone or electricity.

            Point is, my great grandpa and grandpa embraced new technology. And I do, too.

            This whole, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature” thing is complete nonsense, and is only endorsed by selfish urbanites that have never been near a working farm.

          • First Officer

            To those who say, don’t mess with Mother Nature, i say, move out of your home and wait for Mother Nature to make a cave for you.

          • JoeFarmer

            Honestly, every advance of the human race has been a disturbance to nature.

            If the goal was to not disturb “Mother Nature” we’d be living in caves and croaking in our early 30’s.

            But urbanites like to tell me I’m doing it wrong, when they have no clue how to do it right.

            I’m grumpy enough to propose a 6 month moratorium on movement of agricultural products. I’ll guarantee I can go 6 months without income better than d-bags from NYC can go 6 months without meat or poultry.

          • First Officer

            I rec’ed you up and i’m born and bred from Brooklyn !

          • JoeFarmer

            Sorry, not trying to bin everyone by where they live. But I sure get tired of people that haven’t ever been near a farm in their lives slagging me and telling me that I’m doing it wrong.

            So, I’m going to paste my favorite farming quote, and it’s not directed at you:

            “You know, farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
            President Dwight D. Eisenhower

            Address at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, 9/25/56

          • First Officer
          • hyperzombie

            They wouldn’t last a week in Nature, there is no Starbucks, electricity, everything wants to kill you. They just don’t understand that in “Nature” around here, “They” are the food.

          • Nitrogen is free. But thus far, only legumes can absorb it. The science of genetic engineering will someday allow cereal crops to do what legumes do, thereby eliminating the need for synthetic ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

            And yes, you’re quite right, the idea of “not messing with nature” is an urban fantasy. Farmers have been messing with nature for the last 13,000 years. And God willing, we’ll continue right on doing so for the good of all humankind.

          • Wackes Seppi

            « The science of genetic engineering will someday allow cereal crops to do what legumes do »?

            That, if it ever happens, will come with a cost… and, assuming all other things being equal, you get to the question of profitability (not just economic) of the new option.

          • First Officer

            I don’t think so. I think it will be developed but having your crop self fix comes at a price. There’s at least one study pointing to a roughly 20% energy drain on the crop to provide the bacteria the necessary energy to fix the nitrogen, which is a fairly endothermic reaction.

            Given that, this would translate to a yield drag compared to the same kind of crop getting fertilized. For areas of the world where fertilizer is plentiful and, particularly where land is dear, it would make more sense to fix your nitrogen synthetically than to make up for the lost yield with more land use.

            However, where fertilizer is dear or unavailable, then this would represent a yield gain over un- or under-fertilized crops, while costing nothing more to the farmer in that situation.

          • Very interesting points First Officer.

          • JoeFarmer

            And farmers like me in the upper Mississippi River watershed areas are under the EPA microscope with respect to nutrient loading.

            I have a lot more options for preventing nutrient loading than organic farmers that are flinging cow manure on top of a field with an old-fashioned manure spreader.

            And I’ll guarantee that using modern fertilizers and equipment to split-apply nitrogen is much more environmentally-friendly than the organic guy who’s flinging manure on top of his/her field.

          • Agreed.

    • And don’t forget doubling or tripling the fuel bill.

      • JoeFarmer

        Yep, weed burners use lots of propane and dragging field cultivators around uses plenty of diesel.

        Not to mention the cost of crop damage from those two methods of weed control…

        • First Officer

          But isn’t that how they raise organic popcorn?

          • JoeFarmer

            Too bad Orville Redenbacher isn’t around to set us straight!

  • familyfarmer

    As a livestock producer, I find organic to be inhumane, when treating an animal for an illness means that animal has to leave the herd, treatments are often delayed. There are no functioning organic dewormers and losing animals due to internal parasites is inhumane and unnecessarily cruel. The same can be said for fly control. Animal welfare must come first.

    • First Officer

      There also the antibiotics verboten use at all costs. Once given, that animal can no longer be used for organic purposes, regardless of the time passed from administration.

      • JoeFarmer

        And there’s a whole lot of incentive to delay treatment for an, “organic” animal.

        • hyperzombie

          I know that is just sad, as a farmer you know that you have a treatment that will work, but you cant use it, because a bunch of city folks are insane. Batsh!t crzy.

          • JoeFarmer

            Show me one livestock producer that doesn’t understand that happy animals are good producers,,,

            I remember when I was young and the hogs were outside except for the little hoop houses.

            Ya, hogs with worms hanging out their rear ends, hogs dying from hypothermia, hogs dying in the heat. Because they didn’t have good nutrition and housing then.

            But they would be considered heritage breed organic hogs nowadays.
            City people would pay extra for their suffering.

          • hyperzombie

            I bet no city person has ever seen a hog with severe sunburn, where their skin is all inflamed and they look like a zombie hog. or when a sow tramples and lays down squashing all the little piglets. Nature is freaking cruel.

          • JoeFarmer

            See, that’s the thing. These people think farming is all sunshine and rainbows.

            I’ve been on the handle end of a come-a-long at calving time trying to turn a breech calf around. Not that I knew anything about livestock, but I was strong for my age and could pull on cue.

            So, yeah.

          • Farming is all about dominating nature. Yes, as farmers we certainly work with nature. But our productivity is a direct function over the extent to which we exert dominion over God’s Good green earth.

          • hyperzombie

            God has nothing to do with it.

          • Arguable, certainly. But name me the literary work that grants humankind dominion over the earth and all living things upon it.

          • hyperzombie

            Reality says “Man” not god.

          • God resides in all of us.

          • hyperzombie

            Did you use the 100% organic method? You know talk to the calf and convince it to turn around? Then no come along needed, it would be all natural.???
            With the vets help I have done c sections on cows, not pretty but it works and after 2 weeks cow is back to normal.

          • JoeFarmer

            I don’t do “organic” anything.

            But when I rebuilt the outflow of the pond 15 years ago, I planted river birch and willow trees and riparian plants like cattails because it was marshy useless ground. No CRP, no NRCS payments.

            And last fall, beavers started to colonize the outflow and began to cut down trees.

            It’s totally awesome, my little one gets a first-hand education of nature in action. She’s pretty fearless, she turns over rocks and finds mudbugs, which would be called crawfish if they had commercial value. And the beaver family is building a dam. Which is like having a live Disney nature movie, except you can show your kid. They’ve built their hut and she wants to put on her swim mask and check out their hut.

          • hyperzombie

            They’ve built their hut and she wants to put on her swim mask and check out their hut.

            Careful, beavers spread “Beaver fever” Giardiasis, don’t drink the water, but swimming in it is fine.

            Are beavers not considered a pest where you live? Like rats or mice? Are there any trees left? Beavers breed like rabbits, and the baby beavers “kits” are so cute and totally fearless. Almost a cute as a baby porcupine.

          • Michael McCarthy

            “Beaver fever”
            I thought that was the name of the disease Tiger Woods and Michael Douglas have?

          • JoeFarmer

            Beavers here are fairly common, but not plentiful. Not many beaver predators here, though, to keep the population in check.

            Thanks for the heads-up, though.

            If we get too many, that would be a good learning experience for the little one. Learning how to control the population with my Win 1894. She’s fully competent with the 62A, was hoping to move her up to the 52A with old school peep sights, but maybe the jump to center fire is better…

          • hyperzombie

            You got to watch them beavers, everything is good, then “blam” there are are 100s of beavers. They breed like rabbits.
            I don’t know much about rifles, but hey whatever works.
            But isn’t the jump from rimfire to center fire a big jump? I went from a 22 to a 224, it is a big difference for a kid.

          • JoeFarmer

            I kinda like to remove recoil as a distraction while the kids are learning marksmanship, so I’m big on years of .22 time. Fundamentals.

            I like to move them up to the 1894. .30-30 with no recoil pad and they learn about the kick. But by then they are grounded in fundamentals well enough to adjust. Same sight picture, same trigger squeeze. Too much gun too soon makes kids anticipate recoil, they tense up and forget the old, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” mantra.

          • Michael McCarthy

            “Did you use the 100% organic method? You know talk to the calf and convince it to turn around?”
            You’re keeping the cow calm and warm while Enya plays in the birthing room, right?

          • hyperzombie

            LOL,,,,,Yes and I gave her some nice warm Organic green tea.

          • hyperzombie

            I have actually bent a calf jack, trying to save the calf.

    • hyperzombie

      I find organic to be inhumane

      Yep, this is my number one reason that I am against Organic farming, plus the constantly bash conventional farming.

  • Ag Scientist

    One size does not fit all in agriculture, and organic production of animals agriculture has always been sketchy. Note also who the author of this article is associated with:

  • JoeFarmer

    Why would I voluntarily restrict myself from using modern technology just to support an ideology-based food production system?

    Let’s take soybeans, for instance. This is the time of year when soybean aphids start to show up. Left untreated, soybean aphids can cause 50% yield loss, and that’s no exaggeration.

    If I’m growing organic soybeans, I have very few options to control aphids. About the only organic insecticide choice that is even remotely effective are pyrethrins. And pyrethrins are non-selective, so they will kill the beneficial insects like ladybeetles which are natural predators of aphids. So basically, I’m going to pay $30/acre for an “organic approved” insecticide that doesn’t work very well and kills the good bugs in the process. How environmentally-sound is that?

    If I’m growing soybeans using modern technology, I can use a selective insecticide like Dow Transform. It kills the aphids, but it doesn’t kill the beneficial predator insects. So I can spray to knockdown the aphids, and the ladybeetles live to finish the job. That means only one application of insecticide under normal circumstances and it only costs about $7/acre. It’s a win-win-win – more effective so I get better yield, more on a cost basis, and it’s more environmentally-friendly.

    This is just one of dozens of examples how organic rules are, in reality, counterproductive to the “nature-friendly” intent.

  • Wackes Seppi
  • And not once have I seen any one here talk about the health issues that come from conventional farming, how pathetic.All i see here is excuses for greed and laziness.

  • August Dunning

    its not about organic, its about not using toxic chemicals on the foods. you can avoid toxic chemicals by re mineralizing the soil after harvest to prepare for a strong growth and high yield by restoring the soil mineral content. no one talks about this mineralization bit…i wonder why.