A new study by two Washington State University professors shows that organic agriculture can be “much more profitable than conventional as long as price premiums on the crops are high enough.” The research, conducted by David Crowder and John Reganold, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Crowder and Reganold analyzed several dozen earlier studies to assess the economics of organic and conventional farming. They then analyzed the financial performance of organic and conventional systems of crops grown across five continents.
“The goal of an organic farmer is not to break even with the conventional farmer,” [David] Crowder said. “Just like any business, they’re out to make a profit.”
[John] Reganold said the environmental benefits of organic farming — less soil erosion, pesticide use and nitrates leaching into groundwater — make up for the price premium.
“I think that as long as that is happening, we should pay the premium, and I think people are willing to do it,” Reganold said. He added that the growth of companies such as Whole Foods, plus expanding organic sections of regular supermarkets, show that consumers are willing to pay more.
Crowder and Reganold conclude that organic agriculture can expand. This is from the abstract of their research study:
“With only 1% of the global agricultural land in organic production, our findings suggest that organic agriculture can continue to expand even if premiums decline. Furthermore, with their multiple sustainability benefits, organic farming systems can contribute a larger share in feeding the world.”
Both the news article and the PNAS abstract are must reads.