Organic Adoption of Field Crops Low Despite Opportunity


An article published by USDA on November 2nd takes a look at why—despite strong interest in organic food and potentially higher returns—organic adoption of corn, soybeans and wheat  in the U.S. remains low. According to the article, the main reason could be a lack of information about the relative costs and returns of organic and conventional production systems on commercial farms, and the performance of farms choosing the organic approach.


In USDA organic surveys, producers reported that achieving yields was one of the most difficult aspects of organic production, due in part to the lack of effective weed control. Interestingly, survey data also shows operating costs per acre for crop production were generally less for organic than for conventional farms. For example, conventional corn growers had significantly higher seed, fertilizer and chemical costs than organic growers, but lower costs for fuel, repairs, capital and labor. Organic producers had higher fuel costs because they used more field operations, particularly for tillage. Labor costs for organic production were also significantly higher.

According to USDA, from 2011 to 2014, organic crop premiums were generally above the estimated additional economic costs of organic production for most crops. Net return estimates per acre for organic versus conventional production showed positive economic profit for organic corn and soybeans relative to conventional crops.

Yet, despite potentially higher returns from organic production, adoption of the organic approach among U.S. field crop producers remains low. USDA says it may be because organic farmers still have a harder row to hoe: securing organic seed; learning how to manage soil fertility, weeds and other pests through natural methods; and finding their own markets to sell crops.

Climate and market variations also make a difference. For instance, organic production is more attractive where crop pests are fewer, such as the northern States.

Read the full article here.