June 11, 2014 Pat Beaujot
Organic Promises Falling on Deaf Ears of Wise Prairie Farmers
For the next topic in my series leading up to the World Congress on Conservation Agriculture June 22-25 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I was reviewing an insert that came in the Western Producer titled “The Organic Advantage.” It was a 16- page color brochure trying to entice farmers into going organic. Not surprisingly there has been a follow up article in the May 1, Western Producer on page 77 again attempting to convince farmers to go organic but basically the publisher of the organic information is saying he can’t understand why there has been muted response to this 16 page document. He was expecting his phone to be ringing off the hook?!
This “muted response” doesn’t surprise me at all. Farmers are well informed and understand very well what the Science of Agriculture has done for them. There is a lot of pride in growing a healthy weed-free, disease- free crop. The majority of us see this goal as an ideal to work toward. I can’t imagine why a farmer would want to swallow that pride to get a few extra $/bu. And watch your soil get depleted and land grow to weeds? My hat is off to our Western Canadian farmers for not getting sucked into the misinformation of the organic industry. Farmers have seen the myths promoted by the organic industry enough to know not to trust them. I wish I could say the same for our counter-parts in the city.
The reasons I feel organic farming can be harmful is that tillage is often used to control weeds and break down organic matter in the soil so nutrients are released. This was common practice from 1920s-70s and millions of acres of prairie soils were almost destroyed because of it. This is not necessarily recommended by the organic industry but the temptation for farmers to use this method in order to get more money for their grain causes organic farmers to do it. This mining the soil for nutrients is not sustainable and very destructive.
Even the recommended ways of organic farming are not sustainable. They talk about growing deep rooted green manure crops that bring nutrients from lower in the soil profile to the surface but eventually that will run out also. It is simple: if you are hauling nutrients off of the field you will need to replace those nutrients. Green manure is good but it doesn’t replace nutrients.
This notion that you can farm organically with no-till is also not true. With no weed control the fields would soon be so weed-infested that yields would be practically wiped out. Unless people are prepared to hand pick weeds like they do in the garden it is not possible.
In the same issue of the Western Producer, on the same page, is the headline Walmart trims organic food prices. Walmart is known for its low prices so their strategy is to sell organic produce for under their cost to get more people in the store. The article quotes them as saying “removing the premium associated with organic groceries is an attempt to boost grocery sales.”
This concerns me not only because if I buy something at Walmart I am now paying a little extra so misled people can buy below-cost organic food. This will only cause more good land to be taken up to produce low-yield, low-quality food for misinformed people. Well, now I can’t shop at Walmart, or buy junk food at A&W. Oh well, I won’t miss either one of those places!
This is becoming a dangerous situation. The article goes on to say that all of the big stores are increasing their organic offerings! If these stores start giving away organic food to get people in their store what will that do to the modern agriculture industry? What will it do to global food production? What will it do for our soils? What will it do for our food security? I urge you, as readers of this blog, as friends of agriculture, or as producers yourselves, to speak out on this issue, and attempt to raise awareness of this problem.
Everyone who is involved in Modern Agriculture knows this is wrong, and we are all trying to do something about it, but I don’t think a bunch of small actions is going to be enough to change the direction of this ship. It is so mainstream to have distaste for modern agriculture in the well fed developed world that I think we will have to do something BIG. A big ad campaign is the only thing that will change this mainstream thinking. I believe changing this thinking is more important to the human race than climate change.
My next blog topic: Organic marketing causes unwarranted fear and stress on the misled public. Something should be done.