>most of the organic farmers I talk to *do* tend to import N in the form of
>off-farm compost, off-farm manure, etc. Their goal is always not to have
>to do so, but this goal seems difficult to achieve."
Why should their goal be "not to have to import N onto their farm?" If they
have a reasonably productive system that results in ample N and P exported off
their farm as part of food or feed, then they must either import N onto the
farm--or include an N-fixing crop in their rotations--or suffer the problem of N
and P deficiency in their soils. The later in turn can lead to breakdown of the
soils and the loss of organic matter. Why does sustainability have to be
defined in terms of the individual farm? Why can't it be defined in terms of
the watershed or other geographic unit provided that inputs and outputs
equilibrate? From an environmental perspective, it doesn't matter. From an
economic perspective, it may make perfect sense to be somewhere in the middle
of the continuum between total specialization and total independence of the need
for imported inputs--and still be sustainable.
Dennis Avery's criticisms gain legitimacy the more that the sustainability
movement adheres to restrictions on farming practices that cannot be justified
by science or common sense.
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