Demand for organic farming has been rising year after year, the rise of whole foods in the last two decades reflects how consumer concerns have changed. What’s actually going into the food we’re eating as well as the treatment of animals, has sparked a surge of organic farming and whole foods.
Consumers are jumping on the organic bandwagon but farmers are far less inclined, organic farming is great for customers as well as the grocery chains. Sadly the benefits of organic farming stop at the farms. It’s the main reason why there is far more demand for organic produce than there is supply in the United states.
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Organic improves long term sustainability
Conventional farming works best for feeding large populations, while it’s highly effective. There are concerns it slowly erodes soil quality. Since production is a priority. Soil is never rotated or given a chance to re-incorporate organic matter.
Erosion of soil quality, given no time to heal. Forces conventional farmers to use unnatural ways such as heavy mechanical rotations as well as fertilizers.
It is estimated that one third of the world's soil is now degraded. If the problem compounds, it will come back to economic factors. Which is cheaper? Choosing organic, or finding another artificial alternative.
It’s understandable many people choose to shop non organic products due to their prices. If a piece of fruit is double the price, is it really worth it? You can buy the same piece of fruit that still tastes pretty good.
Organic can still be called niche, animal welfare on the other hand is far more prevalent and movements such as Veganism have skyrocketed in popularity. Although these diets can be a little extreme. Supporting animal rights is something just about everyone can get behind. No one is saying stop eating animal products. Simply shop for organic or free range meat and dairy.
Commercial farms that supply the majority of super markets, keep their animals in hideous conditions, feeding them hormones to quicken their growth. This is purely for financial interests. The more animals you can harvest in the least amount of time, equals greater profits.
It’s not farmers being greedy, milking every last profit. it’s that greater society demands the cheapest prices. Naturally, supermarkets offer the cheapest priced products by putting pressure on local farmers. These farmers have no choice but to innovate and look for ways to reduce their costs. These cost reductions equate to huge animal rights violations as well as pesticides that even cause harm to the farmers themselves.
This demand for the cheapest prices at any cost is what’s fuelling commercial farming and puts a huge hindrance on organic farming ever gaining real traction.
Organic farming requires specialized skills and knowledge
Organic farming isn’t like conventional farming. It requires far more knowledge of the land and is a more specialized skill. The vast majority of conventional farms focus on commodity crops such as wheat, barley, soybeans and corn.
This allows organic farmers to specialise and grow specialty crops that will command a higher price in the market. There’s opportunity for organic farmers to provide crops that commercial farms can’t meet due to their priority on mass production. While the market for these crops will be smaller, their increased prices can make up for the smaller demand.
Negligent government subsidies
Industrialized countries provide subsidies for farmers, to make it easier to stay in business as well as attract new business. Sadly the majority of these subsidies are focused on commercial farming and commodity products.
It’s not the farmers fault that financially, they’re better off producing commodity produce. Until governments make changes and create incentives for organic farming, farmers will be inclined to continue conventional farming methods.
Supermarkets taking advantage of organic farms
For any supermarket, organic products and produce is a unique selling point they can leverage. While organic products are more expensive to produce, super markets still improve their profit margins on top of the original costs compared to conventional products.
A french study found that profit margins on organic products are 96% higher than non organic counterparts. Only half of the price difference on organic products actually reaches farmers.
One of the major problems of organic products is that they’re significantly more expensive to produce. Supermarkets compound the problem, but the added costs for farmers don’t justify the returns. This means the majority of farmers are wary to begin organic farming due to the time and effort required for maybe the same or less returns.
In the end Globalization will fuel or cap organic advancement
At this moment in time, for many farmers. Organic farming is not a viable business model. it’s a shame but it’s the reality we’re living in. While consumer demand has grown for it, organic still makes up a small percentage of overall consumption.
Vast majority of the population want the cheapest products possible. This puts farmers in a tight spot where demand decides what they can produce.
Hypothetically, if the majority of consumers decided animal welfare and what goes into their food was a major concern. Organic product prices would become cheaper, farmers would scramble to start producing whole foods. Although this scenario doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.
This means unless organic farming becomes more efficient than regular farming and economically viable for a global market, organic will continue to take up the corner section at the supermarket.