Organic Economics In A World of Industrial Agriculture: Applying the Power of Nature

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In order to understand how we arrived at today’s food system and the opportunity to expand into organics, some history is in order.

Prior to World War II the food economy in the US was typified by organic market gardens and small grocery stores that carried fewer than 500 items. Self-sufficiency was a necessity as the economic grip of the Great Depression remained. The food supply was local and the average farm size was 157 acres.

World War II changed everything, laying the foundation for today’s industrial food economy. With the need to feed millions of soldiers, packaged food production went into high gear. K-rations, a soldier’s staple, were the precursor to post WWII packaged foods. We went from K-rations to TV dinners.

And the manufacture of ammonium nitrate used in making bombs was redirected into making the synthetic fertilizers widely used today throughout our chemical-based system of agriculture.

Organic sales have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to over $40 billion today.

The debate is raging about the safety of Glyphosate (Roundup) and GM foods in general. Research has been mounting about how GM crops and associated farming practices have sickened our soil and contributed to climate change. A new understanding is emerging about how poor soil health impacts both our health and our wealth.

Organic farming is the only farming practice regulated by law, prohibiting the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified seeds. Organic farming succeeds by working with nature to restore healthy soil and re-establish the symbiotic relationship between plants, soil, water and sunlight. To put the organic seal on a crop, a farmer is held to the strict letter of the law and re-certified annually.

Sustainable living is key to our future. The three covenants of Sustainability must benefit People, our Planet and be Profitable.

The innovation in organic farming is in applying the power of nature.

Beginning in 2010 in NW Iowa, my family farms began the transition of our first farm from conventional GM corn & soybeans to organic corn & oats. The financial impact was dramatic. Our net operating income averaged an increase of 290%. At the same time our input costs fell by as much as 40% without the need for expensive patented seed or synthetic inputs. The overall asset appreciation of our farmland outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). From 1994 to 2014 the DJIA grew 464% from 3,834 to 17,823. Iowa farmland value grew 586% from an average $1,356/acre to $7,943/acre.

Read more from Harn Soper, founder of Sustainable Farm Partners, LLP, Harn also serves on the board of the Organic Farming Research Foundation and as an industry advisor to the Non-GMO Working Group under the auspices of Green America in the June issue of the GreenMoney Journal:


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