Cross-post in response to George's letter.


>Date:         Thu, 28 Feb 2002 21:55:06 -0600
>From:         RDH <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
>Subject:      Re: Low input vs. high input organic systems
>To:           [EMAIL PROTECTED]
>I can add some insight on a couple of points.
>One is that farmers generally are terrible book keepers.  For someone doing
>conventional farming to realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture, it
>takes much thought, some good records, and a bit of math.  Many farmers rate
>their success in bushels and not in net profit.  Often the net comes in the
>mailbox in the form of deficiency payments.
>The question about the nitrogen content of manure:  Cattle grazing crop
>residue can produce 63 pounds of manure / day with a combined urine and
>feces nitrogen benefit of 0.3 lbs / day.  Adding sheep will increase the
>nitrogen return without taking from the available forage for the cattle.
>Worm casts (if not killed by chemicals) can generate almost 5 tons per acre
>per year.  Worm casts can increase the available nitrogen in the soil by
>35%.  Clover at 40% cover can add approximately 250 lbs. / acre per year in
>available nitrogen.  Often the missing link in nutrient cycling is the
>livestock.  It is important to plant so that you can let the livestock
>harvest and manure for you.  Interseeding legumes in most any crop and
>grazing crop residue after will provide adequate and sustainable nutrients
>for subsequent crops.  The unseen missing link is the pharmaceuticals
>(ivermectin) that kill the dung beetles, the chemical fertilizers (unlisted
>fillers and salts) that destroy the balance of bacteria and fungi, and the
>herbicides that destroy the photosynthesizing flora of the soil that make
>the transition to organic painful.
>Crop pests are more often a result of inadequate nutrients in the soil, i.e.
>sick plants.  Pesticides on top of the rest of the chemicals take care of
>any beneficial insects that help to balance the system.
>Organic production isn't so much a method as it is an understanding of the
>natural processes and learning how to adapt one's needs to the capabilities
>of one's land.  Harmonic agriculture might better describe the intent of
>most organic producers.
>P.S.  There are some x,000 organic corn growers in the Midwest and plenty of
>less informed organic livestock producers willing to feed it to their cattle
>and goats.

>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
> >

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