For many organic farmers, adopting safe and sustainable methods of cultivation has long been a choice centered on conscience and principle. Now a new study indicates that doing the right thing has also become financially rewarding for these organic pioneers.
The study, published earlier this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that organic growers who charged a premium for their harvests were 22 to 35 percent more profitable than their conventionally-farming neighbors.
Organic agriculture, writes Chelsea Harvey in the Washington Post, “is often touted by environmentalists as a more sustainable alternative to conventional farming. And now, new research shows that it’s financially sustainable for farmers, too. … These bigger profits are good news for conventional farmers who are thinking of switching to organic agriculture. According to [study co-author David] Crowder, making the transition from conventional to organic is a long and financially risky process. There’s a ‘period of time where you have to document that the land was managed according to these principles of organic farming,’ Crowder said. ‘During that time, you’re not allowed to sell your products as organic, so you don’t get those price premiums.’ …
“A global expansion in organic agriculture could be good news for the environment in many ways. ‘There’s been other meta-analyses on organic agriculture that have shown that it enhances biodiversity of ecosystems and also helps promote the quality of nutrient cycling,’ Crowder says. ‘And it’s also been shown, of course, to have lower pesticide residues.’”
Author Harvey sees the higher profits for organic farmers as an example of market forces dovetailing with the needs of the planet and the interests of political elites: “With a growing body of evidence pointing to the environmental damage inflicted by large-scale agriculture — from rainforest clearing and other forms of habitat destruction, to high carbon outputs and the ecological impacts of pesticides — exploring more eco-friendly farming systems is a high priority for environmentalists and policymakers alike.”
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