Organic Farmers Make a Lot More Money Than Conventional Farmers

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CC BY 2.0. Suzie's Farm

It's good for the world, good for our health, and now it's also good for the bank account. The results of a new study will hopefully encourage more farmers to make the switch to organics.

There are many great reasons to buy organic food, such as reducing one’s exposure to pesticides, mitigating environmental pollution, improving soil quality, aiding pollination, and eating more nutrient-rich produce. It turns out there’s yet another reason to buy organic – it is a bigger money-maker for farmers, meaning your purchase directly helps farmers to make a better living.

The study reporting this newfound economic incentive for organics was just published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Its mission was to analyze the “financial competitiveness of organic farming on a global scale” by looking at 44 studies covering 55 crops grown in 14 countries on five continents – North America, Europe, Asia, Central America, and Australia.

The study concluded that organic farming is 22 to 35 percent more profitable for farmers than conventional agriculture.

This comes at a time when North American farmers are in great financial distress. Civil Eats reports that, in 2012, 56 percent of American farmers reported earning less than $10,000 from their farms alone, while 52 percent said it was necessary to maintain a primary job away from the farm. If organic can provide farmers with significantly more income, there’s more incentive to switch over from conventional practices.

“This makes the clearest, strongest argument we’ve yet seen in a reputable publication like this for adopting organic practices,” states Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association.

Organic food is sold at a premium, as most shoppers know. Interestingly, however, the study found that premiums only need to be 5 to 7 percent higher to match the profitability of conventional agriculture; so why the 22 to 35 percent increase? Are customers getting ripped off at the grocery store?

John Reganold, a co-author for the study and professor of soil science and agroecology, doesn’t think so. He encourages shoppers to think about all the things they’re paying for, in addition to the food they’re bringing home. “Straight economic figures don’t take into account a dollar value for ecosystem services.”

From Civil Eats: [Straight economic figures] are more difficult to project, partly because the benefits are often measured in terms of what is not happening – like adverse environmental and health impacts – or practices with indirect benefits, such as crop diversity.