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20 Oct 2013 - Organic Farmers Respond

In this column last week I asked the question “Why is organic food so expensive?” It was prompted by an e-mail from a single mom in Chicago who said she would really like to feed organic food to her children but she couldn’t afford it and why is organic food so expensive? So, I asked you to help me answer her question and thanks to all of you who responded with your thoughts and ideas.

I can’t print all of them but I am going to share excerpts from one...a three-page e-mail sent me by an organic farmer who made his points very well.

He said...“As a small meat producer without a processing facility, about 20-25% of our retail dollar is spent on processing. We process 50 to 70 100%-grass-fed beef cattle a year; 200 hogs; 6,500 chickens; 300 turkeys and have 1,300 laying hens. We don’t have economies of scale or the distribution networks like the large producers, so those costs aren’t spread over a large volume.”

In another part of the e-mail he said . . . “We use crop rotations to promote diversity, raise some of our own nitrogen, and do not use herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. Our fertilization comes from mined sources or animal manure. This means more management on our land is used, which means our prices musts be higher to compensate for the amount of effort going into preserving the land.”

Many of you listed the cost of organic certification and heavy government regulations as being very costly and time consuming. Several of you claimed that most of the government subsidies for farm programs went to conventional producers and very little to organic producers putting them at a price disadvantage.

Back to my 3-page e-mail from the organic farmer. . . “The conclusion I have come to is not that organic food is expensive, it is that conventionally produced food is cheap as all the costs are not accounted for.”

The one answer I didn’t get from anyone to share with the Chicago mom is what can be done to bring the cost of organic food lower so she can afford to feed it to her kids. That question is still out there waiting for an answer. It seems to me if the prices were lower, the market demand for organic food would be much greater.

Thank you all for responding and sharing your thoughts on...

Samuelson Sez.