Hi George

Before some list-cop starts yelling "Off-topic", I believe it's 
on-topic enough. Is this a way to dispense with all the huge 
petroleum inputs in food and ag commodity production in the US (and 
other industrialised countries) that Dana's just been talking about, 
and that skew the energy equations of biofuels like biodiesel and 

Short answer - Yes.

You're not really talking about organic farming, you're talking about 
input substitution - chemical farming without the chemicals - and 
it's usually doomed to failure. Organics is a management system, and 
proactive, not just a matter of a different set of inputs to achieve 
the same reactive aims. It looks upstream to determine why the 
problem exists in the first place and then determines how the system 
should be managed to avoid having the problem at all. Most organic 
farmers in the US don't use any pesticides at all, whether approved 
organic ones or not - they don't need them. They don't use 
"fertilisers" either, to feed the crop, and they're not too 
interested in nutrients. They're interested in humus-maintenance, in 
building and maintaining very high levels of soil fertility, and in 
integration. It's an integrated system, not just an extractive one - 
"organic" in this sense doesn't really refer to the source of the 
inputs (whatever the "standards" might say), it refers to a system 
characterised by the coordination of the integral parts; organised. 
It's a different approach, not just a stepping over to 
business-as-usual with different ingredients.

To borrow a couple of useful terms from another organic farmer, your 
comparisons are with "organic by neglect" farms - low-input 
low-output - rather than "organic by design" farms - low-input 

Many organic farmers equal or better their "conventional" neighbours' 
yields. There are many large organic farms that do indeed run at a 
healthy enough profit - but no, they tend not to grow a thousand 
acres in a monocrop. But I tend to agree that very large farms aren't 
suited to organic management. I'm not quite sure what they are suited 

"Small family and part-time farms are at least as efficient as larger 
commercial operations. There is evidence of diseconomies of scale as 
farm size increases." -- "Are Large Farms More Efficient?" Professor 
Willis L. Peterson, University of Minnesota, 1997.

Re your statement that "organic farming cannot feed the world", 
there's now a lot of considered, studied, expert opinion and evidence 
that not only can it do just that, but it's going to have to. This 
isn't just a bunch of dewy-eyed idealists talking, these are 
scientific studies from reputable institutions, the findings 
published in reputable journals and widely reported. (Full references 
available on request.)

There's also mounting evidence that it's so-called conventional 
agriculture that just doesn't cut it - not even economically: one 
"very conservative" study found that the hidden ("externalised") 
costs of British farming almost equal the industry's income. Other 
industrialised nations are not much different. The high levels of 
fossil-fuels inputs are obviously not sustainable - it's hard to find 
anything about it that is sustainable. Why grow all that corn? A 
billion tons of it went unsold last year. And in spite of it all, the 
US (like all the other industrialised nations) is left importing more 
food than it exports. (References on request.)

I guess you disagree with all this very much.

Rather than a long argument about it here, I'll forward your post to 
the Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group (SANET) for 
comment and relay any feedback to you, and perhaps we can summarise 
it for the list later, if that seems appropriate.


Keith Addison
Journey to Forever
Handmade Projects
Osaka, Japan

George wrote:

>I would say that is a very fair question. If it was possible I would.
>I know several organic farmer and they don't laugh all the way to the
>bank. That is just an image they would like everybody to believe. In
>order to reach the production goals required by today financial needs,
>organic don't cut it.  Not even close.  Zero Input Sustainable
>Agriculture (name used by the US government) is just a dream of the
>extreme left wing enviromentalist.  Looks good, sounds good but not
>feastable. You need to draw a clear line between those that do organic
>farming with an acre or so and those who farm on the x,000 acres plus.
>To grow a couple of hundred corn plants on 1/2 acre and then petal the
>roasting ears to people who you meet on the street is probably very
>profitable but your going to need a job on the side.  With a 27,000
>population per acre and 1000 acres of corn that's 27,000,000 roasting
>ears. This is but one big problem. The places that broker organic food
>are not capable of handling large volume. The market just isn't their yet.
>Do you have a clue how much manure it takes to equal 250 pounds of NH3.
>The average amount of nirtrogen put on an acre of irrigated corn here in
>KS. Or how many cows it would take to produce enough manure to fertilize
>1000 acres of irrigated corn. The reason I say irrigated is that dryland
>corn here in KS is a "iffy" crop at best. This doesn't even touch on the
>labor required to load, haul, and spread the manure or the costs
>involved. To use manure would not only be labor intensely, but terribly
>costly as well.  I would lose my butt big time to use all manure. They
>say rotate your crops.  Yes, alfalfa does put a little nitrogen into the
>soil.  But not nearly enough to grow 200 bu per acre corn. I do rotate
>my crops, especially my dryland crops but I do rotate my irrigated as
>well.  To keep the chemical costs to a minmium. On a very small farm, an
>acre or so, organic is the only way to go.  Their are organic farms up
>to 100 acres or so.  But their not profitable, just diehard, stubborn
>"Gonna do it organic" types.  They would do it even if they were
>starving. If I can't produce in the 175 and up range then I won't be
>here next year. Someone else will be farming my farm and he won't be
>For chemicals their is no organic replacement.  They simplely let the
>bugs chow down.  Diease is uncontrollable except by rotation. In bad
>years like we had last year they don't raise a crop.  If organic was
>suddenly required by all governments in this world.  No one would be
>able to buy enough food to live on.  It would simpley be a severe food
>shortage.  As long as organic has conventional farmer to produce for the
>masses then they can produce for the few (and growing) who buy organic
>only. If everybody tried to buy organic only, their would be one hell of
>a long line everywhere they sell food.
>The simple fact is, organic is not ready to replace conventional
>farming. Except on a small and local scale.
>One last comparision.  I'm sure you don't like to buy gasoline for your
>car or truck, whatever.  I'm sure you don't like to buy tires, oil, and
>repairs or that you don't like the idea of being a part of the pollution
>that is generated in the world every day. So why don't you walk to work
>everyday.  I'm sure their is people out their who do, but is it
>feastable for everybody to walk.  Cut down on the gas comsumption of the
>world, cut down on air pollution and get a lot of good exercise in
>addition but it's just not workable for the vast majority. So it is with
>American agriculture. Organic farming cannot feed the world. For me to
>switch would create such a severe income loss that it is not even a
>remote option. Conventional ag needs the ag chemicals to produce the
>crop big enough to pay the bills by as few people (per farm) as possible
>To close, I'm sure their are places in the world where organic farming
>on a larger scale than I am portraying here is possible, but they are
>labor intensive. They just are not possible on a large scale and today's
>agriculture is growing larger and larger on that scale.  It has to, our
>fixed costs go up every year and the only way to cope is to get bigger.
>  It is a vicious circle. Remember that question about "How many cows
>would it take to fertilize 1000 acres of corn"  How many ton of poop can
>you scope in a day?  While your scoping poop, who's going to be pinching
>I hope I didn't bore you
> >
> >      So why don't you? There's plenty of totally organic farmers who are
> > laughing all the way to the bank. You
> > too can end your chemical dependancy -- "Just say NO!"
> >
> >
> > --
> > Harmon Seaver
> > CyberShamanix
> > http://www.cybershamanix.com

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-->
Buy Stock for $4.
No Minimums.
FREE Money 2002.

Biofuel at Journey to Forever:
Please do NOT send "unsubscribe" messages to the list address.
To unsubscribe, send an email to:

Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/ 

Reply via email to