> SYSTEM!!!!! But it has negative baggage i.e. high fuel usage, higher
> prices for food (low income folks can't afford it), culitivation and
> tillage induce carbon loss and soil erosion, is more labor intensive, and
> is generally not receptive to new technology that might be
> environmentally friendly . There is no system in agriculture that is
I'm not clear on the evidence for most of the above assertions.
1. Fuel usage - perhaps, although this is a commodity-specific
issue. In our analyses of dairy farmers in Ontario, I could see
little or no evidence for increased fuel usage over the whole
rotation - individual crops perhaps. More passes for cultivation in
vegetable crops - fair enough. But the cereals and forages -
probably not. the whole point of rotation is to shut-off the niches
that allow weeds and other pests to proliferate.
2. Higher prices for food - why? The analyses I've seen (granted, a
few years old now) found that the main reason for higher prices to
consumer was a much higher mark-up at the retail end. Price received
by the producer was little if any higher. In our dairy analyses,
again, they marketed directly into the bulk pool for many years
before finally getting permission to segregate and market as organic.
So, they got no premium and did fine - actually, our analyses would
suggest organic made more money than conventional. So, depending on
"why" the prices are higher, this is a situation that could very well
settle out over time, as organic produce occupies a larger and more
consistent share of the produce on offer at grocery stores. This
leaves aside, of course, the issue of whether the prices received by
conventional producers are at all fair - which they aren't - but
that's another story.
3. Tillage and carbon loss - NO. Pretty well every analysis I've
seen on this shows that organic farms have higher - not lower -
levels of soil OM and much reduced risk of erosion. Tillage does NOT
translate into erosion and degradation when done in a sensibly
designed rotation with narrow-row cereals, perennial sods/plowdown
crops/cover crops/manure in the rotation. Fair enough in a standard
corn-soybean rotation, but evidence does not support generalizing
this to all tillage.
4. Labor intensive - again, a commodity specific issue. The dairy
analysis found almost precisely the same amount of labor per unit
milk produced. The same, I'm almost positive, would pertain on many
livestock-based farming systems, where the animals do most of the
work. Much - although granted, not all, of the "labor", in my
experience on an organic or well managed "management-intensive" farm
(e.g. IPM) is in thinking and planning to capture the natural
synergies so that you don't have to do the manual labor.
6. Not receptive to new environmentally protective technologies?
What would you be referring to here? Roundup? GE crops? Perhaps
some elaboration is in order so I can respond in a more focused way.
In general, however, most of the "technologies" that are touted as
protecting the environment are a pale reflection of technologies long
established and effective on organic farms.
So, I'm having a little difficulty accepting your points and would
like to hear more from you on how you justify them. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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